Sustain a Whataby?

I don't know about you but the term "Sustainability" seems everywhere.  

According to

sustainability.com,

(yes, there is a website)

sustainability is...

...in the simplest and most fundamental is "the ability to sustain" or, put another way "the capacity to endure".

Sustainability is an idea, a philosophy.  Sustainability could apply to the economy or society.  It's sustainability of our environment that I am most often focused on.

As a farmer, my day to day is spent in and with nature. Mother Nature speaks to me with visible signs. Don't get me wrong, I don't think I'm special (don't ask my husband that though) I believe her signs are all around all of us.  Working, immersed in the great outdoors, I am highly exposed to those signs.  Nature is so sensitive to everything we do and her responses are so obvious.  

If we pay attention, she will tell us when she doesn't like something.  

The real challenge is honoring her requests!  

Sometimes the required action goes against our normal way of doing things. 

As farmers and more specifically livestock farmers, we're dependent on the grass.  I have seen with my own eyes how grass responds to chemicals used to kill it and chemicals, readily available and highly marketed synthetic fertilizers, used to make it grow.  When those practices are used grass grows green, grass grows fast and grass grows tall or grass dies, as you wish.  

When synthetic products are used the natural cycle is interrupted.

 I've seen many a farm that has applied synthetic fertilizers for so many years that the grass will no longer grow unless those synthetics are re-applied.  I've seen many a fence line saturated with

Glyphosate

better known as RoundUp, that we know requires us to become dependent on more RoundUp in order to achieve that "manicured" look.

Which one of these isn't sustainable?

Our fence line

 "Manicured" has become the norm  for most of us. We have practiced it for so long it's difficult to see the beauty in "out-a-control" growth but,  we must.

I have learned I must change the way I think and see. 

This didn't come to me overnight.  I too have had to wean myself from the "old" habits.  It takes time to change a habit and we become accustomed to a familiar look. 

Along the way I've also been enlightened to some facts that support my observations.   When we mow our pastures and take the grass for hay each year, we remove nutrients that cannot be recaptured.  The natural process of grass going fallow in the winter actually feeds the soil.

I did not know this!

We luckily had the required "need" for successful grass production that made my observations possible.  We realized the long term success of our grass depended on mother natures natural cycles and processes.  We realized our dependence on the products to make the grass grow faster and taller and greener or not was not only financially unsustainable but environmentally not so either.

Honoring her requests requires action on our part.  

Often, the requested action is uncomfortable.

The easiest (but most expensive) thing we could do on our farm is apply synthetic fertilizer.  We realized how

UNSUSTAINABLE

that decision would be for the long term success and health of our operation.  

We are now doing what our ancestors did before synthetic fertilizers existed...we compost and give it back to the soils.  It's not an overnight solution but it is the only

SUSTAINABLE

solution. 

And this folks is a perfect example of SUSTAINABLE practices in play; environmentally, financially and I would argue socially. 

What I know now....


Before I begin the real content of this post I want to dedicate this to a couple that came to our farmers market booth last week-end.  I had the perfect opportunity and a willing audience and so the discussion began.  They were looking through our coolers for some lamb.  As it happens from time to time, she looked up at me and said, 
"how can you do it?" 

here it comes, get ready for it, the predictable yet perplexing comment..........

"I could never eat an animal I raised."

Before farming,  I never really thought about how food got to our local grocery stores.  Through that  plastic wrapping at our local SUPER market I felt confident I had enough experience to spot freshness, what else should matter?  




Now, as a farmer growing sheep, pastures, eggs (no worries, I'm not laying eggs), and vegi's I have a whole new perspective.   I truly didn't have any idea what was involved. I didn't have to know how the food got to me,  the choices were provided and available to me and I knew no other options. 

 My bet is many of you can relate.

 I remember once my family was in England for the holidays and we decided on prime rib for our Christmas dinner. We went to a local butcher because that's often the way they still do things in England.  He presented Bessie, photos; family photos, and all. The butcher and his family loved Bessie. Needless to say I couldn't eat Christmas dinner.  



If I knew then what I know now! 

Through my journey I have concluded, we as consumers are so disconnected from the whole dang process.


 Every time we take a few lambs to the arbitrator to be processed, we shed a tear, we hold hands and say a prayer, then we bless them ...it never gets easier.

I have really wrestled with this.  I've contemplated my options. We could stop raising lamb and I could become a vegetarian. For a variety of personal reasons I won't go into, vegetarianism isn't for me.  So, what would I do if I stopped processing our lambs because it was difficult?  If I didn't give up meat would I go into the grocery like most of America and buy those hermetically sealed packages of meat from animals pushed through a food chain living uneventful lives with no tenderness or compassion for their uniqueness on this earth?  

This is an example of where most grocery store meat comes from.


It would certainly have been easier to do.  

And that... would be so hypocritical.


If folks had to engage in the process there would be a much greater respect for the animals and the food on their tables.

If folks would engage in the process or at least be aware, they couldn't eat meat raised in the horrible conditions so many are raised in.  

If folks would engage in the process and be aware, fewer people would be eating meat.

In our house, if we are going to consume meat/fish it will be humanely raised which I also believe is difficult (not impossible) to do if not from a small farm and definitely not from a factory farm. 

Because of our new found respect for meat and how it gets to our tables, we don't eat a lot of it.  
When we do eat meat it is only from healthy happy animals and farms that strive for that.  Yes, it's more expensive and that is part of the reason why we eat less.


Regarding the interaction with the customers last week-end, I followed up her comment sharing the content of this soon to be realized blog, in a few less sentences of course.  They were so thankful that I shared the experience.  I truly believe they will be more respectful of the process.

I want to thank them for reminding me there are people out there that want to know....




Who's the boss?

Farm animals are portrayed to most people through children's books.  We all have an image of what they each should look like, usually cute and huggable right?  You'd be surprised how many folks know what a lamb is but don't know what a sheep is.  Many don't have a clue that a lamb is a baby sheep.


There is a lot about sheep folks don't know.  For one, did you know there are over 200 different breeds of sheep worldwide.  The difference can be dramatic.  Some sheep have wool, some don't.  Some sheep have horns, some don't.  Some sheep have no horns, some have 2 horns, some have 4.

Wild looking you say?



  This is a perfect example of the 4 horned genetics in the breed we raise, the Navajo Churro.  The 4 horn genetics are not unique to the Navajo Churro. There are other breeds that carry the gene.



What has fascinated us about these sheep with 4 horns is watching their personality develop.  
They must navigate their way a bit differently.  
They are different then the other sheep.
It's almost as if as wee ones they have a special crown on their heads and they know not why. Eventually they grow into them and understand and respect them.

The horns are so dramatic and cannot be ignored by you or the other sheep.    
We've concluded by observing these guys early on in their life, 

...they learn to own these horns. 


I wonder, is there a message from mother nature?

It has been said, it's our very differences that make us stronger.


As we prepare for our new lamb crop this year we feel sure we will welcome at least one ram lamb with four horns.

As a final note of interest I read somewhere that the Navajo culture prized the multi-horn sheep as a spiritual gift, while the South American cultures believed them to be a "devil" spirit and eliminated them from a flock.  

Felted Chicks

adorable, right?

You have no idea.  the picture only shows a few examples of their cuteness.  

Each chick comes alive depending on the combinations of color and the amount of time you spend.

Like so many of my best ideas, these were the result of a mistake.  

Had one or two of those yourself?


I had a large number of wool dryer balls that just got too small, they felting too tightly. 
So, what are we going to do with a large basket full of felted wool balls?
The holiday's were approaching and I thought, hmmm, a great base for ornaments.  
Being a farmer, selling at farmers markets I concluded... farm animals!

So, grab your felting needles, don't worry about which number or size needle, any will do for this very easy project.  Get some colors of wool roving, (you'll definitely need orange for the beak) hopefully from your favorite sheep farmer.  You can even buy your favorite sheep farmers wool and easily dye your own. (Future Blog) using things from your kitchen pantry, cool aid,  turmeric, or onion skins to name a few.  Very small amounts of wool will go along way with these felted ornaments.

Take a very small amount of the orange roving and fold it in a triangular shape, hoping to see some resemblance of a chickens beak, now place the soon to be finished beak on a felting foam surface and  "poke" it with your needle to firm it up.  Keep "poking" until it holds its shape.  Admire it for  a brief moment, then "poke" it to attach it to the wool felted ball.  Now you have the beginnings of your chick!
From there, let your imagination GO

Have fun...there is no wrong .

Be careful, you'll have so much fun watching these critters come alive you might find yourself making pigs!


For those about to ask me why a sheep farmer isn't making sheep....I did.  They all sold.
I am too lame to make more before posting this...sorry.

Maybe before I have a chance to replenish my inventory you can make a few and share your creations with the rest of us?

Happy Felting 

Lamb Ribs


I can almost hear those lips smacking...

Who can resist finger lickin, napkin grabbin, fall off the bone, sticky ole ribs?


 All the talk of fabulous food bites for the upcoming Super Bowl got me motivated.

How about something that might, just might, draw the attention away from the big screen for a bit?  



potato skins, chips & dip, wings...how about something different? 


Today I'm sharing a recipe for the yummiest, easiest, most impressive little morsels...EVER

LAMB RIBS!

Think you don't like lamb?  Think again.  I have gained lamb lovers over this recipe time and time again.  I'm convinced anyway, folks that think they don't like lamb have either had a bad preparation or an older sheep.  If you consider yourself a foodie you need to give these a try.  If you want to impress your guests, this will do it, I assure you.


Finding lamb ribs will not be an easy task. I would suggest you find a lamb vendor at a farmers market, they'll have them!  Not only will they have them but lamb ribs are a very economical cut...double bonus!  As is often the case buying direct from farmers, you'll have access to cuts of meat you'd never find in your box stores.  

So enough discussion...Here's the recipe!

Lamb Ribs


ingredients: lamb ribs, spice rub, BBQ sauce


Spice Rub lamb lends itself to so many flavor profiles, Asian with soy and ginger, Mediterranean with coriander and oregano, Mexican with cumin and chili...and always garlic!  If your not feeling very creative Old Bay seasoning works great

your favorite BBQ sauce  I like a honey/molasses/mustard based sauces but I usually create something that marries well with my rub.  I'd recommend one of your ingredients be honey, molasses, syrup or even a jam you have sitting on the shelf.  Again, if your not feeling too inspired, a store bought sauce will do.   It is honestly hard to go wrong.

Remove as much fat as you can from the ribs.
Rub the ribs with dry rub and refrigerate over nite or at least 8 hours


First, we'll cook the meat.  Remove ribs and place on a foil lined baking pan.  Cover and bake at 250 degrees for 1.5 hours.  Sometimes I place them on a rack and place about 1/4 inch any fruit juice (i.e cherry, cranberry, apple, blueberry, grape) in the bottom of the pan and follow the same cooking.  







Next remove the cover and cook for another 1-1.5 hours.
At this point you could place the ribs on a grill but my oven method works great

Next, baste with your sauce every 10-15 minutes  for the next hour.  

Remove from oven.

Do you see the GOOEY?

Voila!

Too easy? 


Printable Recipe


DIY Wool Dryer Balls




On this farm, we raise sheep. 

You'd never know from my blogs that we raise sheep, would you?  I write about farming and such and occasionally show pictures of our sheep.  I do talk about farming chores but I haven't spoken of wool, our wool specifically, the many attributes of wool in general, or the many fun and useful things you can do with it.

I think I'm way over due for a blog about wool, don't you?

I have pondered and pondered the topic of wool.  Where to begin?  I've thought about the many phases and facts regarding wool.   I get so overwhelmed with the possibilities for a blog that I put the idea away thinking I'll get back to it another day.  I read a post about knitting from a friend over on Google+ ,  Lynne Knowlton. As Lynne described getting out those knitting needles again I was quickly reminded it's the very basic stuff that folks would enjoy. 

It hit me, yes, let's make    wool dryer balls!

Stoney Mountain Farm Wool Dryer Balls

What the heck are wool dryer balls you ask?


Well they're just the coolest laundry alternative out there, of course and I am biased!

wool dryer balls:
....replacing those chemical laden dryer sheets, one household at a time ... we should all be happy about that.  


This is not intended to be an ad so please don't be offended if I send you to our website for more details about the many benefits of wool dryer balls.  Here, we're going to roll our sleeves up and make our very own felted wool balls.

If your not inclined to use them as a laundry alternative they make great pet toys, juggling balls, pin cushions, and even the base for more felting projects.   I even have one customer that adorns her home with bowls of these natural felted balls of wool, quite nicely too.

So, take this project as a crafty one...that is the intent after all!


Grey wool roving

I am going to show you how to make them...the best way!  There are alot of folks making them out of yarn and that's fine but they won't last as long.  We're going to make them from wool roving.  Roving is the wool, after it has been washed and carded.  Roving is the stage just prior to spinning the carded wool into yarn.

Maybe you have a stash of yarn on hand you'd like to use?  Whether yarn or roving, the process we are about to engage in is felting.

For this project all you will need is:

  1. wool,  I would suggest 2 ounces of roving for each ball, totaling 6 ounces. I would also suggest you make 3 wool dryer balls as the desired affects from the wool balls require a minimum of 3.  You can purchase roving from a variety of craft stores, our farm, our shop on Etsy or many others, and many other places.  I would encourage you to buy it from a farmer or someone that knows the source of the wool and how it is handled..  Like food, wool is being treated in ways you would find criminal...at least I hope you would.  Do you know 80% of the wool grown in this country is being sent to China for processing because the chemical restrictions are lighter there?  The wool then returns to you, the unsuspecting buyer.  On our farm we only send our wool to U.S. mills that do not use chemicals in any stage of the process...that's hard to find. If you want colorful wool dryer balls you can find roving that has been dyed.  We don't use any chemicals or dyes on our wool...just au naturale,  only the shades of the sheep.
  2. a sock, either mens cotton tube sock or a womens trouser sock will work
  3. rubber bands
  4. washer& dryer
  5. laundry soap
Lets Begin:

First, divide your roving into 2 ounce sections.  Don't be afraid to pull the roving apart.   We are going to roll each 2 ounce portion of roving into a ball.  If you are using yarn, the process is the same.   If your roving tears, do not fret, just pick up the next piece and keep going.
As you roll the roving be careful to always keep a round shape.  If your "ball" gets lopsided you need to focus on the underdeveloped side.  You want the ball to be taut but not tight.  Do not be afraid.  Regardless, you will have a felted ball at the end of this process.

Just keep rolling until the full 2 ounces of wool roving is used.  Round and round, trying to keep the roving from twisting as you roll.
You will want to feed the end back through your final pass.  If you are familiar with needle felting this is where you would felt the end down therefore leaving a smoother edge.

Now, your ball is ready to place in the sock.  Sometimes I put my hand in the sock first and grab the wool ball with my sock covered hand, then pulling the sock over the ball.  Tie off the sock with a knot or the rubber band,  Repeat the process until your sock is full with the 3 balls.

Now, place the sock in the washing machine in a hot soapy cycle.  Remove the sock from  the washer and run them through a dry cycle.

Remove them from the sock.

Voila!
your very own wool balls....

So easy!  

You'll be so impressed with the ease and quality of your results,  you may just become a wool junkie!


Ready to try some felting?



Let the New Year Begin

Another fabulous holiday moved to memories!  Another beautiful tree down and all the bits of Christmas to be packed away until the next year.  I adore the holidays so its always difficult to take it all down and pack it all away.  I felt this years tree was especially beautiful.  As I began the process of undressing the tree, winding up all the lights, removing all the adornments from all the corners,  I told my husband how sad I was.  His reply, "you always say that"!  There you have it, drama over!

 So, if you are feeling the emotional pull of the holiday past and have no outlet worthy of your drama,  just think forward to the year ahead...that's what I did.


What are New Years resolutions all about anyway?  A new year, new start?  Organization?  Planning?  Goals?  I imagine all the above would be considered sound reasoning.


According to Wikipedia a 2007 a study about new years resolutions involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail, despite the fact that 52% of the study's participants were confident of success at the beginning. Men achieved their goal 22% more often when they engaged in goal setting, (a system where small measurable goals are being set; such as, a pound a week, instead of saying "lose weight"), while women succeeded 10% more when they made their goals public and got support from their friends.

I have always been a big new years resolution gal.  I haven't had much success with them but each and every year I proclaim a few more.  I proclaim I will clean more, eat less, work harder, exercise more, be more grateful...it's a wonder I have time for everyday living.  Truth is, as the year moves forward, everyday living kicks in and all those grandiose plans are forgotten...at least until the next new year.

We set out each year planning for our farm too.  We have the same goal setting approach but try to be a bit less casual about the results, it is our livelihood after all.  In the business environment it's referred to as forecasting.



                       Forecasting is the process of making statements about events whose actual 
                        outcomes (typically) have not yet been observed....wikipedia

Sounds like "resolutions" to me


In 2014 we plan to grow our flock.  Calling it resolutions or forecasting matters not,  our motivations are the same. We established a goal, based on previous results.  We simply recognized that demand exceeds supply.  We did some forecasting and set a goal.  Our goal was achievable because our farm, our acreage to be exact, can support more sheep.  





At the core of our mission, always, is to raise healthy happy animals and that means providing the proper conditions. Plain and simple, there needs to be enough good quality grass for the number of sheep.  

Our goal:doable! 

Truth is each year on the farm we make lots of plans.  We plan not to have any noxious weeds in our pasture, each year we do.  Each year we plan not to loose sheep, each year we do.  

Each year I am made very aware that we are not in control here.  Each year I am reminded, no matter our desired outcome, mother nature will preside over the results.  

Whether in our personal lives or our businesses, we set each new year in motion hoping to create some modem of control, yet it is not to be....

Maybe if we were willing to recognize there are influences beyond our imagination we would be more inclined to tolerate different outcomes to our goals?


















DIY Heat






 This past fall we began gathering wood for our winters heat.  On one particularly beautiful fall day my husband and I headed out to gather the split wood from trees he had already dropped for one reason or another.   







Immature Sweet Gum seed pod


We choose trees that are nuisance trees like sweet gums.  I hate to call any tree a nuisance but sweet gums drop seed pods that get in our sheep's wool and create major havoc.  We choose trees that might have been hit by lightening, or others that if we don't take them down they're coming down on their own.  An amazing tid bit of information I've learned through my  recent wood burning experience is that each tree variety produces a different quality of heat.




My right hand is on the gas lever





We have a great system working together.  My husband John uses the chain saw and cuts the logs.  I place each log into the wood splitter.  The gas powered splitter feeds the log into a steel wedge that splits the log.  Each log gets split in two, then each 1/2 gets split in 1/2 again.  So, each log is    basically split into 4.  

                 Shall we say it is then, a "pretty log"?


After the logs are all split we are ready to transport and stack them in one of the buildings near the house where they can dry and age.  This way we have easy access to the wood at all times.


 I realized as we gathered our wood how much I appreciate our heat.  With each crackle of the flames, the scent of  smoke and ash, and last but far from least, the increase in our  indoor temperature...I am so appreciative.  

I am not criticizing anyone's enjoyment of their automated heat systems.  I have sure enjoyed them over the years.  I  certainly appreciate the existence of an automated heat source as I clean up the residue from our wood burning stove.  I appreciate the automatic response of the temperature control panel...heat on demand!

I also appreciate knowing the difference.  I appreciate being in a place in my life that I am reminded that warmth didn't always come so easily.  


Do you think being able to realize the difference(s) helps us appreciate what we have?