Archive for August, 2007

Of bees and high leaps!

August 29, 2007

On Thursday last week I was digging some pink turtlehead for my neighbor, and apparently disturbed a nest of ground bees (hornets?). This was not fun. I was only stung once, but it was enough. These are little maybe l/2″ long streamlined looking yellow bees, who don’t leave a stinger and who sting so fast, it’s over before you know you’ve been stung. Fifteen minutes later I knew I’d been stung! My index finger swelled up like a sausage. I put ice on it, my hand started swelling; I put more ice on it…it seemed to help a little, at least with the burning and itching. Woke up in the middle of the night, with all my fingers swollen: quickly removed my “empress” ring (John calls me “Queenie” when I get imperious; for our 25th anniversary, he bought me a lovely saphire (sp?) and diamond ring, and I suggested it was my empress ring, since I used to flash my engagement ring at him when he called me “Queenie”. ), no mean feat, iced it again, took more benedryl and went back to sleep. Next day it was starting to swell at the wrist. I gave up: went to ER, just to make sure I wasn’t doing anything I should be doing, or vice versa. They were unimpressed, reassured me, and I went home. Today the itching has finally totally stopped, and the swelling is almost totally gone. I’ve not been knitting: my Irish Aran sweater sits in four pieces waiting for my hand to return to normal so knitting doesn’t hurt me or it. Here’s the border in front of the porch, where I met the bees in the turtlehead, front right.

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The hand didn’t stop me from checking out Robert and Lasell Bartlett’s Lasseau (plural of Lasell? Just a weird thing I noticed…I know, I know, two s’s instead of one. Here’s a photo of their flock:

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Relative to the hole in the head mentioned in the previous post, I purchased two of these lovely ladies, whom I have named Maple Hill Benjie Lasseau and Maple Hill Jacqueline Lasseau after Benjie and Jacques Lasseau.  I had them barricaded in an 8 x 8 pen in the shed to acclimate. Today, they ate grain out of a scoop I was holding, and they’ve come over to smell my hand without stomping at me…so I thought, maybe I’ll just let myself in the pen and check their teeth to try to determine the age of at least the younger one.  Carefully, I pulled aside one 5′ high panel, got in, and replaced the panel, turned around, took one step toward them, and whoosh!  Both girls jumped from a standstill over the 5′ high panel.  After a little cursing, I got out of the pen, and slowly walked behind them, moving to the left if I wanted them to move straight and to the right. (Years ago, I would have spent hours chasing them and trying to catch them. I’ve smartened up some.)  We slowly made our way to the house, around the dooryard (side yard to most people), out onto the back pasture, and around to the lower pasture, where the rest of the sheep are.  I closed fencing and opened fencing, and finally got them into the adjacent paddock to the flock, then opened the gate between them (yes, I did remember–this time–to turn off the electronetting before touching the fence!) and moved them all into the paddock I wanted them in, taking a total of maybe five minutes.  I was so proud of myself, and grateful to them, I gave them all an extra measure of grain.  The new girls went around smelling the old ones and vice versa, there has been a lot of baaing for the last l/2 hour, which has just recently stopped, hopefully because they are enough used to each other to think about eating grass, and NOT because they’ve broken through the fence and are on their way down to a neighbor’s yard. (These new girls are not used to electronetting, which is a psychological barrier rather than a physical one.  The netting is there, but if you’re willing to take the shock, you can walk right through it.)  I went back out and took their photos to show you: Jacqueline is on the left, Benjie on the right.

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Jacob folks will notice these girls have black pigmented noses and white legs, something I usually try to avoid, but it is good to get this particular line of sheep, which seem mostly to have white legs and pigmented noses instead of big black muzzles and black socks and knee spots.

Allan is coming with another 120 bales of hay at 9 a.m.  Then, I’ll have 500 bales in the shed…which means I need to get from 41 sheep down to 24 or 25 tops sheep real soon!  Or else spend lots more money on hay. Hay was $2 a bale 12 years ago when I started this. It’s now up to $4.50 a bale, mostly I think because of the rise in fuel costs.  Makes it much more expensive to raise sheep.  Sheep prices have not risen accordingly, even though it takes twice as much money to feed them!  Why is it that prices rise all along the way, until they get to the farmer!?

Have a lovely day!  For Christy, my “mentee”, it’s back to school day. (Personally, I think it’s sinful to send kids back to school before Labor Day, but I guess that’s just because of what I’m used to from N.Y. state and N.J.

Women’s Work is Never Done…

August 24, 2007

Especially, FARM women’s work! But, hey, it keeps me healthy, right?

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Yesterday, the baby meat birds arrived: Kosher Kings from Clearview Hatchery, in Gratz, Pa. I’ve gotten this type of birds each year, after the first year of raising meat birds with those awful white mutants, eating machines, that eat too fast for their heart and legs to support them. These kosher kings are a compromise: they grow faster than the average “heavy breed” chicks and not as fast, nor are they as “breasty” as the mutants. (Cornish crosses?) They have white pin feathers, even though they are barred, and they are very tasty. I keep them 10 to 11 weeks, and they are about 5 pounds each. For the first two weeks, they will be in my “brooder” in the garage, otherwise known as a plastic child’s swimming pool, covered with a piece of wire fencing. At that point, hopefully, John will have finished my brand spanking new wheeled “chicken tractor” and they’ll go out in it, on pasture, pulled each day, with lights to keep them warm at night. At four weeks, the lights will be removed, and they will go out further on pasture, into the sheep pasture, poultry netting will be put around the whole area, attached to the electric fencing, and the door to the tractor will be opened, so they can wander wherever they wish to within the poultry netting, and come back inside at night. Early November, portable chicken killing man (who really DOES have a name, Ray Garcia of Cabin View Farms) will come with his trusty pull behind slaughtering/butchering facility, and “do in” the chickens and the turkeys, which are now almost three months old and making my life interesting by (at least two a day) flying over their six foot high pen and wandering back and forth, wanting to get back in with their friends. My morning routine is to feed a bit of grain to the rams, way down the pasture, and run back to catch the turks and put them back in their pen (which is within the ram pasture). Keeps me young, right. I keep repeating this to myself every morning at 6:30.

Yesterday, I also dug a row of potatoes…early, you say? I thought so, too, but the vines are all dying or dead ( I think we must have some kind of blight or something). There were only 2 to 3 potatoes a plant, which is most unusual, but they were big well formed, healthy potatoes. Interesting. I was going to dig the other row this morning, but it seems we’ve returned to humid-ville, with heat expected, and I just don’t function well in those kinds of conditions, so it will probably wait til Sunday, when we are promised a return to the lovely cool weather we’ve been having. (40 low, 65 high: my kind of weather, with no humidity to speak of.) I don’t get much done in humid weather. Never could abide sweating…and this a.m., at 60 degrees, one half hour of chores, and I’m soaking wet. You’d think, being a pisces, I would LIKE water. Oh, well…don’t much like swimming either, or taking showers or baths (but I do, rest assured! I just don’t enjoy them, it’s like doing dishes: necessary, but annoying and takes time I could be using doing something I like doing.)

Okay, now the plan is to get out of the wet, sweaty clothes, and into clean ones (yes, with shower!) and head out to two yard sales and to the kitchen shop to see if they have a meat grinder for my kitchen aide mixer. (I have one for my 1932 Kitchen Aide but the grinding plates are missing, and it’s hard to find parts for a 1932 machine! Then, home to make Italian sausage and another load of sauce to freeze up for those cold winter nights I don’t feel much like cooking. (Which, incidentally, uses up all last year’s left over canned tomatoes, before this year’s come in by the droves, which I expect to happen sometime in the next two weeks…so the canning begins again.)

Also, I just heard about a possibly interesting and genetically valuable flock of jacob sheep for sale which I need to go check out some time this week. The stock is originally from the Lasseau line. The Lasseau sheep which were still at the Lasseau farm died in a fire many years ago. It was part of one of the importations in the early 70’s. This flock I’ve just heard about has been diluted somewhat by the addition of non-Lasseau rams, but perhaps that is okay. I need to go see them, take photos, and check with the breeders who are up on such things. (By the way, I need more sheep, like I need a hole in the head…I’m supposed to be cutting back this year…I guess my idea about perhaps reducing the shetland flock is going to become a reality. Anyone out there want some really nice shetland ewes at some really nice prices? With or without papers?)

Eureka! The Great Pig Experiment!

August 20, 2007

Friday, Thelma and Louise went to the butcher.  Getting them into the trucks was interesting. Lucas (friend) said, “Oh, just don’t feed them the night before and they’ll go right up the ramp to get food in the truck.”  Hm…well, it didn’t exactly work out that way.  They had no interest in going up the ramp into the truck, even for milk and eggs and green beans with their pig ration.  Luckily, Lucas brought his “pig box” and we did convince Thelma to get in there, though she stopped 3/4 of the way, and he had to give her a push to get her to go the rest of the way.  Louise finally went partway up the ramp, and he shoved her the rest of the way. Once in the truck, she had a ball eating all the treats.  We lifted the pig box into Lucas’ truck, so it turned out to be a small caravan (two trucks) to Claremont, where Boz (Ron LaClair) did his magic slaughter/butcher/cut and wrap thing.  I picked them up today, took the hams and bacon to Green Mountain Smokehouse, and brought the rest home.  We had pork chops for dinner…scrumptious.  Perhaps not quite as tender as I’d like, but we can modify our cooking routine.  Very tasty, however.   I can say without reservation that the pig experiment was a success!  I  miss the girls but take comfort in knowing they had a wonderful life, and I didn’t buy pork from pigs who never saw the sun or ate a blade of grass, or had the opportunity to cavort around in the woods with a friend.   Rationalizing, I would guess, BUT it is true, nevertheless.

It has been such a full and busy summer that I’ve not had the time or energy to work on this here blog!  Sorry!  Grands were here a week. We were away a week in N.C. for the Jacob Sheep Breeders Association Annual General Meeting, which was a lot of driving but a great day of seeing old friends, meeting new ones, talking sheep.  And, of course, whenever there’s company or an away time, the chores mount up, so we get home and work like crazy to catch up, which is what I’m doing this week.

Knitting-wise, I’m still working on my Irish Aran sweater, though I have front, back and l-1/2 sleeves done.  Hopefully, I’ll finish it soon. I’m also working on a poncho out of the jacob yarn I’ve had made up.  Sometime this week I need to send some of that yarn to a friend whose fleece it actually was made from.  It was very expensive to have done, but I love it.  And I’ve been working on two different shawls, one with lace weight yarn, one with a little heavier yarn, actually, sock yarn.  I don’t have photos yet, but maybe when I’m a little farther along.

The pastures are getting pretty depleted and I’ve been searching the perimeter of the woods for good stuff for the sheep to eat. It’s that time of year, where a good stand of raspberry or blackberry bushes is good for them, strengthens their reproductive system and helps them get ready for breeding.  The first lot of hay came today: now there are 150 bales in the shed.  Before we’re finished, there will be at least 500.  Now, I have to decide who gets sold, who gets culled, who gets bred.  I study the lists for about a month before I actually make up my mind!

Today, I weeded the front garden, which yielded an overflowing wheel barrow full of weeds, which John took into the woods to our compost pile.  I also mowed about an acre, switched the little boy sheep to a new pasture, did the butcher/smokehouse run, went to the bank and the supermarket to get the proper spices for Italian sausage, which I’ll make in the morning, and then put a few pots of tomato sauce with sausage on to simmer all day.  It’s been a good day.  Hope you all have the great weather we’re having: 70 and clear and not humid at all. Yesterday it was only 60!  Hooray!  I hate heat, another reason for not doing much in the summer: heat turns me antisocial, and energy-less.  With the cooler weather, I am a much nicer person.

Don’t forget the Vermont Sheep and Wool Festival at Champlain Valley Expo on Sept. 8th and 9th.  I have to get my sheep vetted, for I’ll be bringing some.  I am in charge of the animal barn so, if you go, please stop by and see me.  I’ll undoubtedly be in with my spotted sheep!  I’ll be there that weekend, and the following, I’ll be at the Tunbridge World’s Fair, another interesting weekend!  I’ll only be there the Thursday and Sunday, spinning and talking sheep with all comers.  Should be fun.