Farming

It's hard not to project

As shepherds we think we know what’s best for our sheep. The benefit of years watching and learning from these creatures has helped me realize that most of the time, they do know best and don't need our interference. If we’ll listen to them and not try to “project” our human interpretation, we can see that. Sure, we have to get involved from time to time but I’ve found if we trust their instincts and get out of their way, they’ll often take care of things.

Like the ewe that insists on having her lamb in the woods, we let her. Is it the safest? Probably not but that’s what she wants to do. It makes it harder on us once she’s had the lamb to get them to safety but I believe allowing them to have those moments and make those decisions gives us a more mutually respectful relationship.

I’m sure there’s a shepherd or two out there ranting at me right now, “we must be able to manage them and that requires some degree of doing things in spite of their natural instincts.” Like I said, I realize there are times we need to step in and I realize my way isn’t going to align with most others…it’s just my desire to let them be as true to their natural ways as I can. I might pay for it with a little extra effort on my part but I believe I gain by raising sheep that are in touch with their intuitive ways.

The Girls!

The Girls!

The other day I was rehashing a decision to want to keep one of our older ewes back from breeding. She has given us plenty of beautiful babies. She deserves to rest, I thought. So, I did just that. She went to spend her time grazing in green pastures with the teenagers. What a glorious gift, or was it?

Well, to shorten what could be a very long tale, Willow, that’s her name, ended up pregnant anyway. How? We’ll never be 100% sure. Through a fence? Could be, but boys were not in adjoining fences except for short stints while moving sheep? Could she be that fast? One of our lambs might have been more mature then we thought? Like i said, we’ll never know for sure.

A funny thing happened on that day I realized she was with lamb, as I walked away from her pasture something beckoned me to look back. There went Willow trotting away from me and kicking up her heels.

She was mighty happy.

It’s as if she was saying to me, I love being a mom! You don’t get to decide.

I believe I had just been reminded, we’re not necessarily smarter then mother nature!

Willow

Willow

Cucumbers Galore

A garden offers so many wonders.  Whether growing a patio tomato or the whole produce department, you know the feeling.... sitting down to eat the bounty from your plot of earth, big or small.  There is nothing like biting into something that you nurtured day after day to it's maturity.  Sharing the gardens riches with friends is another of the garden perks.  Pickles, preserves or baked goods made from what I've grown and nurtured are a true gift of love... to give and receive.  

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One vegetable that I adore growing is the good old cucumber. That good old cucumber gives us pickles, dill or sweet, whole or sliced and relish.  How about soups; gazpacho and chilled cucumber with yogurt, YUM!  How about some raita served with grilled unleavened bread?  I could eat that duo for every meal!  As kids I remember eating marinated cucumber and mayo sandwiches!  Last but not least, how about that ever popular, never a southern summer table without, bowl of sliced cucumbers with a bit of dill, a pinch of sugar and vinegar? 

  Because there are so many things a person can make with cucumbers, size doesn't really matter BUT if pickling is your intent, it can be tricky harvesting cucumbers.  Since the very best pickles are made from cuc's right off the vine you want to be able to pick enough of the same size all at one time.  Unless you have quite a few cucumber plants it's not likely you'll find the quantity needed in one picking.   When a few cucumbers are ready to be picked the others are still coming.  That is why I love this  DILL Pickle recipe from a previous blog post...all you need is enough cucumbers to fill one quart jar at a time. 

Alas, you invariably end up with some cucumbers that sit on the vine too long.  And, as those of you who've grown them before know, there is always that one hidden cuc you discover that has been growing for goodness knows how long.  Yikes!  A great option for those cucumbers is my Cinnamon Pickles from a previous post

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This ongoing struggle with my cucumber harvest has probably been the source of my love of them today.  I do not like to waste anything so no matter the size or shape; I had to create!  I'm loving a pantry full of edibles for my table, gifts of love for family and friends and what better then a homemade gift for a host/hostess.... straight from your kitchen!

Today, I'm talking relish!

This was my first attempt and I can't say enough about the ease and results.  One thing that did jump out at me was the color of the results...why wasn't my relish green?  I now know they add blue dye to relish, EEK...no need, just change your expectation...it is so worth the small effort.

I adapted this recipe from Genius Kitchen

Tangy Pickle Relish

makes 6-7 1/2 pint jars

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 lbs cucumbers , peeled and seeds removed
  • 2 -3 sweet onions
  • 1⁄4 cup pickling salt
  • 3 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dill seeds
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons celery seeds
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon turmeric
  • red pepper flakes to taste

DIRECTIONS

  1. Finely chop cucumbers and onions. I use a food processor and do smaller batches to be sure not too fine.  Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt, stir well. Let stand for 1 hour.
  2. Drain mixture in a colander, rinse under cold water and drain again, pressing out any excess moisture.
  3. In a large pot, bring vinegar, sugar, garlic, dill seed, mustard seed, celery seed, and pepper flakes to a boil.
  4. Add cucumber mixture, bring to a boil again, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat, add the turmeric and mix well.
  6. Pour into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal with lids and rings. Process in boiling water bath in canner for 10 minutes.

 

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Mother Nature's Way

It is with a heavy heart I say good bye to my beloved Ares.  Of all the happenings on a farm, dealing with death and loss is the most difficult.  It happens often in a farmers world.  We are careful to watch over the sheep, chickens, and llamas but sometimes you just don't know what might happen.  Often it's a predator but sometimes they just go down with some unusual affliction.  Very often, it's sometime before your vet can get there and you have to do the best you can.   From the raccoon eating chickens, the snake stealing eggs and eating chicks, the buzzards coming in on your lambs or the parasites that take the weakest sheep...each death is sad.  

Some just hurt worse then others.

This boy got me.

Towering over me, this gentle llama stood with majesty and grace. 

Towering over me, this gentle llama stood with majesty and grace.