Tag Archives: sheep

Farmtasm

It’s officially been two weeks! It feels like so much longer though… I’ve started milking the sheep on my own in the mornings. Usually the same person only milks the sheep maybe two days in a row, but this week I did three and when you’ve seen that many udders so early in the morning everything can start feeling a little crazy. You’re by yourself with sheep in a cold milking parlor for about three hours… what can happen, right?  DSCN0366

You can name a sheep Madonna because of her crazy-shaped udders. I mean, c’mon look at those things! Just look back to my other post about sheep udders and you’ll see how they’re supposed to look, essentially it’s really unusual that their teats point straight towards the floor from pyramid-esque udders.

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And this udder/tail combination looked like a droopy nose face to me. Do you see it too? I giggled for a while when I was milking her… it looks so sad!

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Tressa came out to help me feed the piggies and collect eggs from the hen house the other day. She brought one of her babies just like her Mommy does but it got pretty cold so we went inside before her little fingers dropped off. DSCN0382

And I’ve got a wood stove! It’s called the “Intrepid II” and it’s a teeny, sturdy little thing. It’s not hooked up yet because we need a super insulated pipe so that it doesn’t melt the yurt bits. It’s going to be so nice. My Aunt Carol gave me some extra blankets and I’ve been camping out under them and staying nice and toasty when I do. But whenever I pop my head out in the night I can see my breath so the wood stove is coming none too soon.

I baked an apple-zucchini bread and made some applesauce on the stove this morning. It’s a good day to be huddled in the apartment, out of the rain with a new bunny and the warm smell of cooking apples.

One Day

It’s been one week since I started at Bonnieview and I’ve gotten to milk sheep, make cheese, harvest sunflowers and potatoes, collect eggs, feed chickens and pigs and live in a yurt. It doesn’t sound like much… but it adds up to a long, happy week. I found my camera yesterday so I took some pictures throughout the day yesterday so you can get a glimpse of farm work in rural Vermitt.   DSCN0288

Liza and I milked the sheep yesterday morning at 8. I start milking them on my own next week. These sheep are a mix of several breeds, one of which is a Tunis (I only remembered that because one of the Tunis rams is named Tuna and has one of the coolest faces I’ve ever seen).DSCN0290

Here are twelve sheep standing on the milking stand. You can milk six at once with the setup we have. The sheep put their head in the headlocks where the grain is and the whole thing slowly (oh so slowly) pushes them back to the railing so that we can reach them. We wipe their udders and then stick the cups on and then spray them with a disinfectant after wards to keep their udders happy.

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Here’s an udder before it’s been milked. Liza and were joking that we should make a memory game where you have to match the pictures of their udders to the sheep’s faces because we know them all by their udders but there’s no way we could recognize who is who when they’re staring us in the face. DSCN0293

And here it is post-milk squeezing. Saggy baggy udders…DSCN0294

After milking I herd them back to their field about 1/4 of a mile away on a dirt track. You can see the guard llama in the background there guarding his sheeps. DSCN0298

Everything you see here is Bonnieview farm land, it’s so pretty and rolly out here. After I herd them down I head back up to the farmhouse for breakfast (which usually turns into an extended lunch) and then out to do the piggies!DSCN0334

Penny and Roger eat everything that we don’t plus the whey from the cheese making process and a wee bit of grain. I try to avoid them at all costs because they’re very tall (up to my waist) and I’m more than a little afraid of being eaten.

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Penny was trying to suss out whether my camera was food or not… turns out it wasn’t.DSCN0308DSCN0312

One of my other chores in the afternoon has been harvesting sunflowers. That looks like me attacking them one at a time with a pair of hand clippers then gathering in bunches of about ten and tying them together with bailing twine then hanging them in the greenhouse to mature and dry. They’ll use them to supplement the chicken feed in the winter.DSCN0314

These are all the sunflowers I’ve done so far. It’s about three afternoon’s worth of work and about 1,000 sunflowers. There’s still 1/2 a field left to do and it’s so overgrown with weeds that it can be a little tough to negotiate.DSCN0320

I found this spider when I was tying up a bunch of flowers yesterday. I have no idea what kind it is but it looks very much like a mushroom and a spider were amalgamated together to form a wicked cool little critter.DSCN0333

And here are the babies! These little guys just reached their official birthdate the other day and they’ve been so cute and squirmy that it’s been hard not to sit there and stare at them all of the time.DSCN0340

And here’s their older sister, Tressa helping us harvest three bushel baskets of potatoes from the garden. She’s been so helpful and sweet, you’d never know that she just gained two little sisters and one brother just a few weeks ago. DSCN0345And my favorite chore of the day is collecting the eggs from the henhouse. I usually get about 20 every evening which then get washed and sold at the farmers markets in the area. There are about 50 chickens but some have gotten out and successfully made several batches of baby chickens. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’ll be one of my jobs to round up the chickens for winter so they can roost in the greenhouse where it’ll be warm.

That’s it for now. I think we’re making cheese on Monday so I’ll try to get some pictures of that. Until then you should close your eyes and imagine all of the smells and adventures with poo that you’re missing because you’re not here with me.

From Here to There: A Small Eternity

So, I moved. Yep, I’ve mentioned it before but now it’s suddenly become real. The bags were packed, the car washed and there was a map created. YES! A map! I went from Sandy, Oregon to Salt Lake City, Utah over to Omaha, Nebraska up to Champagne-Urbana, Illinois on up to Rochester, New York and finally over to Craftsbury Common, Vermont. It’s almost been a week since I got here. I’ve gone out to Bonnieview Sheep Dairy twice to milk sheep and make some cheese and I’m moving out there into the yurt officially tomorrow morning.
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This is the dairy… or at least the majority of the outbuildings and the house.DSCN0270

And this is the yurt! It’s perched way up on a hill (I think it’s about 1/4 of a mile from the house up to the yurt which means it’s very very quiet and pretty).

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This is the inside. It’s less bare-bones than I thought it would be… but there’s no running water, electricity or outhouse so it’ll be an adventure living there.DSCN0272

And this is the view! You can see the farm house peeking out through the tress down there… that’s how far away I have to trundle in the mornings. Not too bad.DSCN0263

And this is one of a pair of ox that live at Sterling College. I don’t know what his name is but he has managed to wrap his tongue all the way from one side of my face, under my chin to the other ear when I wasn’t paying attention. I’ll definitely get some pictures of the farm, the sheep, milking and cheese making and post them eventually. The internet has been incredibly spotty and I get no cell phone reception here. But I do have a PO box and some sporadic internets so we’ll see how that goes. Oh I’m so excited!

Moving to Music

What have I been up to in the short short days since camp ended and I re-entered good old shiny civilization? I’ve taken a few showers, unpacked, eaten real people food and then started to contemplate repacking. Why am I repacking, you may ask yourself? Well… before I tell you I want you to sit down, put your head between your knees and take some good, deep breaths. Hah, I just wanted to imagine a small group of people doing that in awkward places like coffee shops or on their couches. Anywho I’m moving to Vermitt (that’s how I’ve been pronouncing Vermont lately) in about a week and a day (oh deary that sounds so soon!).

WHAT?! I know. I’ll be working at a place called Bonnieview Sheep Dairy in Craftsbury Common, VT. I spotted this farm in the WWOOFing book I ordered a few weeks ago and I immediately started to do my happy dance (you’ve probably seen this dance… it breaks itself out fairly often). I e-mailed them and it turns out they have an opening through the month of October. I’ll be living in a yurt, working with sheep and doing other farm-like things. Want to read a description? Yeah you do…

“470 acres of rolling pastures and fields surrounded by woods. Fresh water pond on the farm for fishing and swimming. description of organic activities: organic pastures, cropland, garden, 2 cows and 50 laying hens; 300 sheep and 7 pigs fed small amount of commercial grain. April- Oct we milk the sheep and make cheese on the farm. We feed the whey from the cheese plant to the pigs. Large farm garden feeds us and supplies vegetables to on farm dinners. Out door clay bread oven for pizzas and bread for farmers markets. Sheep are all rotationally grazed on our 100 acres of pastures. We heat only with firewood gathered from our land. All of the hay we used is harvested from our fields. Suggested length of stay is 2 week, months of year April-Nov. Two farm stay rooms when available, coming in June 09 24? Yurt or accommodations in hay loft expectations 5-8 hrs/day 6 days/wk Transportation available: on a limited basis. languages spoken are English and a little French, can host children no pets, special diets on a limited basis, we grow a majority of our food.”

Oh I’m so excited! Yes, I know it’s going to be cold and no, I think I probably won’t die from being to cold. I’ll just stop those comments right there. If you want to chat about how cold it’s going to be you can talk to my mummy and have a long, fascinating discussion about it. Boooorrrriiinnnggg… where’s your sense of adventure!? Anywho, I have some other motivations but I think that working on this farm is a pretty good one. Plus I’ve never lived outside of the Pacific Northwest (and really never been in a real winter) so this should be a pretty neat little adventure, no? I’ve wanted to live in a yurt and work with sheeps for a while and this kills both wants with one stone. I’ve been following a few blogs about suburban farming, living in yurts, gardening etc. that have made the whole idea sound glorious… curious about which ones I’m talking about? Well here’s a very short list then:

Mayaland – I love how this lady writes. She lives in a yurt with her family, they have goats and they have been adding a series of recycled buildings to their little compound. If I could fastforward ten years this is where I want to be and what I want life to look like.

Little House in the Suburbs – WHOA! She lives in Portland, has two goats, some chickens and a garden in her backyard AND she made her own bee hive? Yes, it is possible to be that wonderful.

That list is shorter than I remember it being… I think I’ve lumped in there the random assortment of books I’ve read about things like gardening, sheep, knitting, spinning, cooking and general do-it-yourselfness. Anyway, I’ve started packing and while I’ve been doing that silly nonsense (who needs to pack if you’re going to drive across the country? You could just shove is all in a car because, really, a car is like a giant box and boxes are what you pack things in and if I were to just pile things into the car they would naturally protect each other. Clothes would be like eco-friendly packing peanuts and everything would probably fit) I’ve been listening to the 61 again. What music has been on repeat, you might be asking? I was just getting to that, so you should really just be patient for a second, ok? Ok, good.

Sheep’s Clothing

So. I unpacked my funky wool package and sorted the baddies from the goodies. If you’re going to start sorting wool, why not start right after you wake up? Preferably while you’re still in your jammies? No reason not to. So the baddies are in the trash can to my right and the good bits are piled into the TWO trash cans to my left. I tried to wash a fleece in the bathtub upstairs yesterday… turns out it’s very hard and it never really get clean… just wet and soggy. So, that being said, I called a lady at From Barn to Yarn over in Boring who specializes in cleaning wool fleeces. Lucky day! I can take it to her and in 8-10 weeks (I know, that’s a hella long time to wait) I get it back clean, carded and ready to be spun. It would probably take me an entire year to do all of that by hand and it’s only $8 a pound to have her do the heavy, dirty work. Unfortunately I have about 40 pounds of wool that I’ll be taking in. Sigh… that’s quite a dent in the teeny tiny bit of money I have scrooged away. I think I can sell whatever I don’t want for enough to make that back, so that’s good.
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By the time I was finished sorting and picking the bottoms of my feet were black (shoes would have been a good idea.. but really, who has time for shoes?) and my hands were covered in oily lanolin. It’s a very good thing I don’t mind that smell.

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Have you ever smelled unwashed fleece? It’s a tangy, musky, fetid smell… especially when they’re as dirty as these are. The guy who owns the sheep isn’t doing it for the wool, so they’re not very clean. That’s where the $8 a pound comes in. The fleeces have been airing out on the porch all day, hopefully they’re a little dryer and a little less smelly. Now I’m going to stuff them back into their trashcans for the night.

Piles of Wonderful

My neighbor Andy had a friend with sheep, but no reason to keep the wool. The lady he usually gives his fleece to didn’t want it this time. This all came up in casual conversation and I almost passed out when I realized that maybe, just maybe I could get my hands on this fleece. A month went by before I saw Andy again to ask him about it and when I finally did he said he’d look into it and bring them to me if his friend still had it. There were a lot of ifs and maybes so I didn’t get my hopes up. A whole fleece could fetch $30 or more raw and much more if it’s been processed into something you could spin right away so you can probably understand why I got a little excited.

I went on a camping trip this weekend on the coast, had fun and came home dirty and tired. My first stop was Monty’s cage (which has been relegated to the back deck now that the weather is nice). I had to step around this big blue tarp squatting on the deck to get to his cage and I thought “Well now, that’s a lot of disgusting insulation… I wonder how long THAT’S going to be here. Hurumph…” and didn’t think about it again until Mom and Dad came home. “Oh, so did you see your fleece out there?” Dad asked when they walked in the door. What I thought was a pile of nasty insulation was, in fact, a pile of skanky wool. Six fleeces, to be exact.

Now, I’ve never carded or washed a fleece before… and all I have is a little hand spindle for spinning it. I walked up to the tumorous mound very very carefully… I didn’t want to startle it in case it was really some sort of dead mountain beast hanging out on the porch. I opened the tarp and started picking through the pile, trying to determine where one fleece started and where the next ended. I couldn’t really, so I just pulled a large hank out onto the table. Underneath the… stuff… is some really really nice wool! I did a little research to figure out how exactly to go about making that huge pile into a nice, clean pile, and I found a nice little description on Fuzzy Galore. I went around the edges, pulling off the especially nasty bits and stuff about four pounds of fleece into a mesh laundry bag. Now I’ve got it soaking in the upstairs bathtub and hopefully, it’ll turn out well enough to card, spin, knit and then wear! How COOL would that be!? For free!

I don’t know what kind of sheep they are, or how much is here, but it’s probably just under 50 pounds.

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I swear, it’s not a tumor.

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This is where you can see the part of the wool that was closest to the sheep’s skin (the whiter half) and the part that was exposed to the elements and… other things less pleasant (the darker portion).fleece_17
Look how crimpy the fibers are! So cool. Everything is covered in lanolin and a little bit damp but after I’m done washing it all (which will take all darn summer if I do it in the tub like I am now) it will be a big fluffy cloud of wonderful. Oh I’m so happy!