THE BIG FARMSTAND
THE BIG FARM PROJECT
May 12, 2013. Large Hadron Collider Look Out.
|To avoid being considered backward-thinking or retro, THE BIG FARM Creamery is moving forward with new technology. In fact, our research and development team, has bypassed Twenty-second century technology and is moving right on to 23rd century technology.
And so, with pride, I unveil our latest development, Very Large Pot Technology (pictured above). Without getting too technical, Very Large Pot Technology allows me to make the same superbly delicious sheep's milk cheese as I have in the past--but in larger quantities! Whereas before I could make a 5-pound cheese in a day, now it is possible to make four 5-pound cheeses in that very same day!
(And who doesn't like more cheese.)
April 15, 2013. Wow!
|What a week!
The better part of it was spent getting ready to put on the first cheesemaking class here at THE BIG FARM. I was hoping for the best, but really expected the worst, or some variation of the worst. There were really dozens of things that could have gone wrong, the most likely of which was I would stink.
But Saturday came. Students came. We made some cheese together, had some lunch, made some more cheese, visited the livestock.
It was fun.
I'd been saying it would be for a couple of months while getting it all set up, mostly to convince myself. And if I stunk at times, I think people were distracted enough by the cheese making not to notice. One of our visitors, Donna Wren, has a neat blog at
The Canning Doctor which has an entry describing the day, and including some nice pictures. It's inspired me to tackle harvesting my ricotta and making cheesecake. Thanks, Donna!
The next morning I went out to feed and milk the sheep, and I was greeted by one, two, then three newborn lambs. I sorted out who belonged to who, coaxed the first-time mothers into their private maternity pens with their lambs, then sat down and took a couple of breaths.
My wife is right. The first-time moms really are shell-shocked by the whole lambing experience. After the first year they are much more savvy and casual about the whole affair, but the first timers are totally surprised by what has happened to them. They look at lamb next to them, look around for the lamb's mother, and when no one steps forward, they can't believe it is theirs. And if the poor girl has twins, and the second comes, and she finds that one, she looks around, doubly appalled, "And you too?"
But the biggest event of the week was at the beginning. Ginger and Sarah both have jobs they can do in the milking parlor, but Ike, who is out there with me the most, and is not yet two, had not figured out anything he could do to contribute. That is, until this week. Below is a link to the YouTube video of Ike performing his first job on the farm.
Ike's First Chore
February 26, 2013. Weaning Pen.
|I'm hoping to stoke another breastfeeding controversy. Feel free to copy this image and forward it to your friends under the subject line: "Farmer Tries to Curtail Breastfeeding by Penning Son with Weaning Baby Lambs!"
The truth, unfortunately, is less fantastic. Ike and I had a nice couple of mornings in the barn last week setting up the weaning pen and the creep feeder right next door. He was a great help with the hammer and the nails and the staples, and pretty good company, too.
The creep feeder is an 8'x8' pen where I put out grain and hay for the younger lambs. It has a little Z-fold opening that the lambs can go in and out of without their mothers breaking in and hogging all the feed.
The weaning pen is exactly what it sounds like.
With a sheep dairy the question inevitably arises--If you are milking the sheep, what about the lambs? What about the lambs?
It's a good question.
I almost always start by answering the question with, "Well, you know, those big outfits in the midwest, they take those lambs off their mothers the very first day..." Etcetera, etcetera. Head shaking, gentle moaning. Those poor little lambs. "But me," (sound heroic farmer trumpet) "I keep them with the moms for at least a month. By that time, they're eating hay and grain and..." Happy, happy, happy, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
Warm fuzzy lambs; warm fuzzy farmer.
As a self-serving diversionary tactic, this is an A-1 strategy.
The truth is weaning lambs at any age is unpleasant. After I've tossed a small group of them into the pen, they explore a little, check out the food situation, run around a little--then start looking for their mothers.
The mothers start calling back and rush over to the pen. The lambs start calling and crying, calling and crying; hurling themselves against the pen wall. As I said before, it's unpleasant. This carries on day and night, off and on, for about 36 hours or so. Then the lambs seem to forget about nursing, or resign themselves to their situation, and get back to doing cute lamb-y things with their brothers and sisters.
Ike is not yet weaned. I'm not sure when he will be. But when the time comes, I'll show him this picture if I need to. Remember, it could be worse for you, son. A lot worse.
January 22, 2013. Spring Training.
|I needed a little clean warm water for a veterinary task in the barn; unfortunately I grabbed the most handy container--this nice, glass quart milk jar, and left it behind when I was finished.
I have gotten more accustomed to the extreme cold in New Hampshire since we move here from the temperate Northwest, but I don't think it's ever going to be right. For folks who live in warmer climates, think of the difference between 90 F and 60 F. That's the difference between freezing and another beatuful day in New Hampshire when the temperature dips down close to zero.
But this entry isn't about the weather. The weather is what you talk about when you don't want to talk about the other stuff--which right now is the new season starting.
Today is the first possible day for lambs to come. More likely they'll start next week. And keep coming through the middle of February. Which is all very exciting. Like hearing that pitchers and catchers will start practice in just a couple of weeks. It means somewhere in the U.S. the ground is not frozen and covered with ice and snow.
The tide has turned. I'm excited to see how many lambs come and which gender they are. I will pick out 2-4 of the most promising ewe lambs to keep in the herd. Nineteen, 007 and Beacon are yearlings born here at THE BIG FARM in 2011, and they will have their first lambs this month, which is exciting. I'm interested to see how milky they are which will give me the first inkling whether Ivan, our ram, will have a positive effect on milk production.
Milking will start in March, which means more cheese! I am close to being satisfied with a cow's milk cheese recipe I've been working on. It will be a creamy, cheddar cheese, which will be a nice complement to the sheep's milk Manchego, Romano and the Oswald West.
And I've been thinking for a while about making salami. I love salami. And I think it would be a nice product to carry along with the cheese, so I'm going to work on that this spring, which is also very exciting, in a slightly uncomfortable/intolerable way. Like being at the starting line ready to go. Stand there, shake it out; first one leg then the next. Crouch, stretch it out. Stand back up. Shake out your arms, roll your head around on your shoulders. Wait.
Which, of course, brings us back to the weather--below is a link to the National Weather Service forecast for Madison, New Hampshire--and a reminder I could have used this week: Don't let water freeze in nice glassware.
NWS forecast for Madison, NH
04/13/2012. Morning Milking
|I have two orphaned lambs as sidekicks from house to barn every morning.|
|Rudy has 2 Thanksgivings under his belt so far. Teresa is in the background.|
11/30/2011. Babies love sheep's milk cheese.
|Our youngest child has just started eating solid foods. Here, he's a natural with a slice of cheese from THE BIG FARM Creamery.|
Sheep's milk cheeses are a great first food for children--easier for children to digest than cow dairy products, and a great tactile and flavor
10/09/2010. Piper on the watch.
|Our 2-year old Border Collie Piper has excellent instincts, but I have not provided her
training to actually do any herding. Even still, she does a nice job working around our little herd,
finishing them through the gate when I ask her to; and is generally a joy to watch out in the fields.|
04/11/2011. Sarah with cleaned wool drying.
|Processing wool is an intensive process we have not kept up with. Here, Sarah poses with a couple of fleeces we've
just washed and have set on racks to dry. We have 10-20 times as much still dirty (filthy, really) waiting to be cleaned. I use
Dawn dishwashing liquid and very hot water. The next step--the card it out into batts--will have to be sent out.|
10/06/2011. Ike with Sweetie
|This was a busy day. We'd had some rain and warm weather and there was a good bit of grass down in front of the house
so the girls and I put out the portable fencing and moved the sheep out for a mid-afternoon snack. While we were out, we picked up
some black walnuts that had come down, and made the rounds drenching the sheep (giving them oral medication). I grabbed a sheep and administered
the garlic and molasses solution with a syringe (the garlic helps keep their worm
counts down) and the girls would follow behind with pink chalk to mark the ones who'd had their due. Ike is just 5 months here--not really sitting
up, but able to hold his own in a milk crate lined with a Pendleton blanket. The sheep were very interested in him, particularly Sweetie, shown
here investigating. Sweetie was her name when we got her from The Vermont Shepherd--a sheep's milk outfit in Putney, VT. She was orphaned and
bottle-fed, and as you would be safe to assume from her name--a sweetie.|
08/02/2010. Turkey chicks in the rose garden.
|As an experiment in 2010, I bought a handful of turkey chicks by mail--Bourbon Reds, Narragansetts,
and the standard type growers use (the name escapes me). They are super cute little animals (see photo), and very manageable,
though a little difficult to care for in their infancy. They forage well and are entertaining, but quite a bit more
to handle in preparing for market than a 4# broiling chicken. |
09/09/2011. School project
|Ginger and Sarah provide here photo illustrations of the first poem they learned in school this year:|
So much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
--William Carlos Williams
02/09/2011. Ginger and an orphaned lamb
|Ginger provides personalized bottle service to a lamb whose mother has rejected her. All of the ewes were first time mothers
that year and a couple did not take to motherhood. |
07/06/2008. Family Photo.
|Paul and all of the girls!|
12/06/2008. Bunny Slope.
|Plenty of early snow on the slopes in front of the farmhouse in 2008. December snow has been a little sparser since then.|