Rain or shine, farm chores must go on and sometimes, in spite of the conditions, something wonderful happens.
Observing a mother and her new born is a heavenly site. We respond based purely on emotions, whether we've actually "mothered" or not. At the moment you lay your eyes on this site all the world around is a blur and all that matters is the true love that halos around them. It is such a pure connection that under no circumstances one should want to come between them, right?
A lot of the methods used in sheep farming are about "management" of the flock. The larger the number your trying to manage the harder it is to keep "order". Orderliness becomes a goal for efficiency. Efficiency adds to profits. Follow me? This is a slippery slope.
Weaning is one of those "management" tools. According to reference books, lambs should be removed from their mothers at 8-10 weeks old. The reasons are mainly that the needs of the lambs for maximum market potential are different then the mamma's. Growth of the lambs requires richer, higher protein grasses or grains which the mamma's don't need. The only way to accomplish such a task is to separate them. The other argument we found (didn't read it in a reference book) to support weaning is the mothers will give and give until they are basically spent. We find the heat of the summer, coupled with the very selfless nature of mom's takes everything out of them and begins to compromise their own health.
For these reasons one might wean.
Wean:accustom (someone) to managing without something on which they have become dependent or of which they have become excessively fond.
Now that I've given you a bit of knowledge about weaning I'd like to share our journey with this decision.
We began this farm knowing we would make choices about the care of our animals based on our experiences, not just because everyone said so. Many topics of care and handling were researched and we found enough disparaging information that we felt strongly our decision to observe first was a worthy one.
Many of our farming practices were established by observing, educating ourselves, then we'd established our way. Weaning the lambs was one really challenging task. Now 8 years later, after going back and forth, this year, we're not weaning again. The first three years we didn't wean. I wish I could tell you why we decided to wean the 4th year but I'm betting we succumb to the "text" book ways. Most other shepherds around us weaned which made us question our decision even more. Our farm was growing and as often happens after you've immersed yourself in something you loose some of your "curiosity" or better yet, the luxury of time to remember to be curious and ask questions.
So, we spent a few years weaning. It is a very difficult task, not physically challenging, just heartbreaking really. They cry and baa for easily 48 hours. The mothers also. Eventually they all settle in but gosh it never felt right. As often I'm guided on this farm, if it goes against nature my heart cannot find peace with it...this is one of those lessons.
With most industrial farming models, maximum growth of the lambs became the shepherds primary goal in order to get those lambs to market fast and efficiently. Is fast and efficient our ultimate goal. Those that know this farm know our answer to this question is NO. We strongly believe you sacrifice so much in order to achieve those fast/efficient goals. It is this very reason that so many breeds of livestock are in danger of being lost for good...they don't meet these industrial models!
In summary, we've have some of the best looking, healthiest lambs ever, happily growing on mothers milk...there must have been some divine wisdom in that!
|This is an example of where most grocery store meat comes from.|
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!
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:
- 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.
- a sock, either mens cotton tube sock or a womens trouser sock will work
- rubber bands
- washer& dryer
- laundry soap
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.
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....
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"?