THE BIG FARMSTAND
THE BIG FARM PROJECT
I have a broom system.
When I buy a new broom, the new broom is assigned to the kitchen closet for use in the house, primarily the kitchen, dining room, mud room. The old kitchen broom is sent downstairs to the creamery where it does service in the milk room, the milk processing room, the bakery and the cheese aging room. The retiring downstairs broom, which is still in pretty good shape at this point, is sent out to the barn where it is used primarily in the spring and summer to sweep out the milking parlor twice a day.
It can also be deployed to clean cobwebs out of the rafters, knock out nascent wasp nests, swat at angry roosters, etc. This is where the wear and tear really starts to kick in. By the time the handle breaks in half and the bristles are worn to a nub, the usefulness in the milking parlor is just about nil. This particular broom earned extended assignment to the garage, but I looked at it yesterday as I tried to sweep the hay out of the truck with it.
It was time to let go.
I've driven by that old farm two other times since, and both times that old Farm Grandpa was out. One time, in winter he was hammering at something on the front porch, and another time in late summer, he was in the side yard standing out under an apple tree, taking a break, just out of reach of the sun. After I noticed my first Farm Grandpa, I saw them everywhere I went--little old men at other little old family farms doing chores and keeping an eye on things.
These are not General Store Porch-Sitting Grandpas, these are Farm Grandpas. Farm Grandpas have a number of high-level roles, mostly general oversight and supervision of the farm property and the comings and goings. They are usually engaged in some sort of homesteading activity.
It took me a while to connect these other Farm Grandpa's and my very own Farm Grandpa--my wife's father, Sepp. He's an unconventional Farm Grandpa, which I think made the initial connection difficult for me, but he's a Farm Grandpa all the same--whipping the woodpile, tending the bees, fixing broken furniture, providing high-level oversight and supervision.
Sepp took this picture of Ike.
Ike likes to come out with me and do the morning chores. When this picture was taken it was early and pretty cold. When I stuck my head out of the barn to check on Ike, Sepp was out on the driveway in front of the barnyard snapping away. He was in his slippers and green bathrobe.
I like my Farm Grandpa, and I know my wife and children do.
One warning though. Farm Grandpas are difficult to buy for. I'm giving mine food--a BIG FARM Christmas gift box: One bag of BIG FARM crackers, two quarter pound wedges of delicious BIG FARM Creamery cheese. (If I made salami, it would be in the gift box, too; but I don't--maybe next year.) All packaged in a nifty little wooden re-usable box: perfect for loose screws, playing cards, drill bits, whatever else your Farm Grandpa would like to tuck away for another day. Check THE BIG FARMSTAND for price and availability.
Posts have been fewer and farther between since we've gotten into the routine of summer. Milking, moving the sheep around on the pasture, making cheese, making bread and crackers for the Farmers Market, and, as you can see, riding our bikes--up to the road, down to the barn, back up to the road, around and around the garage.
Good times, summer.
One of the questions most asked about the sheep is how do you milk them. The children and I endeavored to answer that question. Use the link below to see the result at THE BIG FARM's YouTube Channel.
THE BIG FARM Channel
Two hundred and seventy-five chickens later, the season was over and I'd learned a few things about raising broiler chickens.
In the beginning of that first summer of 2009 I kept grain in front of them around the clock. They had plenty of grassy pasture to go to, but their instructions said keep feed in front of them at all times.
Numbers 2-7--Prestelle, Gail, Gil, Linda, Lillian, and Rusty--came without any trouble. Last week, Richelle's daughter, Linda, was still wet and warm from birth when I came across her in the morning and she was already up and jogging around and nursing.
Number 8 came Sunday afternoon. I could hear the bawling from the house, and I went down to the barn expecting that an older lamb had gotten herself stuck somewhere away from her mum. But it was a just-born lamb all by himself towards the front of the barn—no ewe in sight. I started looking for her. Moving through the barn, checking all the ewe's ankles for blood from the birth, I found her in short
That first lamb is growing like great guns, but has not learned to read yet. Which is creating a little situation for the poultry. With no playmate and no reading material to while away the winter days, “Buck” has taken to chasing the turkey hen around the hay feeder, and sneaking up on the laying hens and mounting them.
But neither of those things are acceptable outlets for me, so I've just finished Melissa Coleman's memoir of her childhood on her parent’s homestead in Maine. She is the daughter of Eliot Coleman, who is well-known for being in the vanguard of the 70s back to the land movement. Interestingly enough, he started his farm on land purchased from Scott and Helen
I decided to make “washed rind” cheeses. Washed rind cheeses include Muenster, Limburger, Port Salut and some others, and you will recognize or remember them from their natural ochre-colored rind. Washed rind is sort of a queer name for a cheesemaking method. All aged cheeses are “washed” in the sense that they are wiped down to keep surface mold in check. Here, however, the salt solution for wiping down the cheese is weak—3% salt v. 18% typically used*. With less salt to retard surface growth, the brevibacterium linens
By the time I got out to do the morning chores the lamb was dry and nursing and the two of them were sitting back by themselves taking a little rest.
A bleak, slate-gray late afternoon. Not much happening.
(An exciting project so far, eh?)
We are all in the waiting place. Me, the sheep, my wife and the children; well, less so my wife and children—with school to attend to, music lessons, play dates, etc. So, really, it's just me and the sheep. Waiting for lambs to be born. Most of the ewes are in the last month or so of a 5-month gestation period—the human equivalent of heading into the 7th month of pregnancy. Their udders are starting to fill. It's hard to tell how “heavy with lamb” they are with all of the wool they're wearing, but they are all getting around pretty well so far. No signs of poor health or trouble.