Monday, February 22, 2010

The Season of Rest

Farmers work hard in the summer, but they get the winter off.  Or so I once thought.  Maybe that's true for farmers who don't deal with livestock.  After a very busy spring, summer, and fall last year, I was looking forward to a bit of R&R, sitting in front of the woodstove, reading about all the farming stuff I should know already, and maybe fixing up the house a bit if I felt like it.  For some reason, this leisurely winter has yet to arrive. 

I've been a bit lax lately in updating the blog, but have been spending plenty of time on the computer, working on the new business website for our farm.  A domain squatter wants $1500 for "", so we added the "andorchard" part to the domain name a bit prematurely (our fruit trees are all about as thick as my thumb).  We're now officially open for business, and are listed on as well.

"Hayman Road Farm" just didn't have a ring to it, being a leftover name we used to differentiate this property from others before we bought it.  Bluebird farm sounds a little generic, but it does have a special meaning for us, as the bluebirds really like fenced pastures.  They returned to our farm when we returned the former cropland to pastures and put up our fences.  They're always out sitting on the fences in the middle of the pasture, waiting for a bug to fly by.  I'm not sure how many bugs fly by at this time of year, but they still hang out in the same spot.  Our bird book says bluebirds shouldn't be wintering this far north.  Guess we need the new climate-change updated edition.

We've got a third addition to the bovine barnyard brigade - Maggie.  She's a full blooded brown swiss, which makes her much larger than our other cows.  She's well aware of her size, and immediately assumed her role as Queen of the Barnyard.  The Queen is always first into the barn for milking, and she also gets to push everyone else out of the way at the hay feeder.  She arrived at the farm already pregnant, as evidenced by a large "P" painted on her elegant behind. 

Our sheep were sheared a couple weeks ago, and went from being overheated to shivering.  Yeah -- I thought it seemed a little strange to shear at this time of year, but the woman we bought them from swears by it, saying it's easier for the lambs to snuggle against the ewes.  Having the ewes give birth in February gives the lambs a head start before they're out on pasture where they'll invariably pick up worms, which are especially hard on them when they're younger. 

The morning the shearer was to arrive, I noticed that Bruce (our lead draft horse) had an owie on his foot.  We brought the vet out, who found an abscess that just needs to work its way out of his hoof.  I liked that diagnosis, because I had awful visions of sending him to the glue factory. The vet needed Bruce set up in the shoeing stocks, which happen to be upstairs in the barn. Next to the shearer and her victim, the vet and Bruce, and the two remaining sheep, one of our hens decided to come in and lay an egg on the hay bales, which she announced to the crowd. The barn is a very happening place.

Not knowing a thing about shearing before ours were sheared (sheep are a neglected reading subject for me), I turned to my trusty Youtube for guidance, where there are several videos of shearing competitions. I learned there that sheep have an off switch. Flip them on their back, and they give up and go limp. Armed with my new-found knowledge, I headed out to the barn to try it for myself. Sure enough, ours do it too. The tough part is catching them first, as sheep are always certain that us humans are out to kill them (maybe they're just really smart).

After they were sheared, I noticed Thunder (our ram) sniffing the ewes' behinds as if he hadn't previously noticed that they were female. Later I caught him displaying his manly appendage as he shuffled accross the stall all hunched up. I worried that he was just now discovering his sexuality when he was supposed to have done that about 5 months ago, but it appears now as if my concern was unfounded. One of the ewes is starting to "bag up" (her udder is getting ready for action), so she'll be lambing soon. Hopefully the other ewe will follow suit shortly.

Rachel and her mother are quite excited for our own wool, and are waiting at the ready with their new spinning wheel.  These definitely take some skill to use;  I tried it, and the results weren't pretty.  We'll still send it out for processing, but it is neat to think that we could grow and manufacture our own clothing.  Stay tuned for some exciting fashion statements.

Though there's still plenty of snow on the ground, we've had a few nice days lately, with temps climbing into the upper 30's.  We have an old woodstove/kettle combination that I bought at an auction, hoping to use it for condensing maple syrup.  I cleaned it up this morning, and then went to see if the maple sap is flowing yet, which it is.  So all three of us visited each of the maple trees near our house and have about 15 buckets up now.  We collected a few gallons, which are condensing on the woodstove in our house for the time being.


Marshall said...

so does it really taste good to hit the sap straight from the tree?
And I will take 2 dozen eggs sent express mail to San Cristobal, Mexico please.

David Veale said...

it starts out as about 2% sugar, so it's more like water with just a hint of sweetness. Henry seemed to think it was pretty good though.

Those eggs should arrive tomorrow morning.