Friday, February 28, 2014

Hens + alfalfa = eggs

Here's the beautiful dried alfalfa "salad" that I've been feeding my hens.  The  girls are wishing for spring as much as I am, and their dissatisfaction with a lack of green to nibble or some bugs to spear and gobble down has them frustrated says me, the Mother Hen.  There's been nothing but snow and cold most of the winter, and the hens have been literally cooped up.  I like to think of my hens as "free range" because most of the time they are out grazing and eating a natural hen's diet, but this winter they've been cooped up more days than not.  The egg supply began to drop due partly to the cold, but I think also due to the desire for a change of diet.  The past couple weeks or so I began to feed them a slab of alfalfa hay every day along with their corn, wheat, and layer pellet, and I'm seeing the results in increased egg production.  Yay!  

 (the girls picking through yummy green alfalfa)

 Hens + Alfalfa = Eggs (aka: happy hens)

We're getting a new layer of snow once again and the temperatures are going sub-zero tonight.  We're all growing weary of this especially cold winter weather, but we know -- yes we do -- that spring will come.  It's getting closer every day.  Look what I did -- I bought some seeds!  It's far too early to really think about planting seeds, but hey -- a girl can dream.

The drop bunch is getting smaller and smaller -- only a few ewes left to have lambs.  We've had 4 sets of triplets this past day so that means more bum lambs.  The goat mama's cannot take in any more "kids," but Dr. Liz, the vet, says she can take ten bottle lambs.

We sorted heifers yesterday and the girls who are closest to calving are being put in the sheds at night just in case a baby calf comes.  Night checks continue at both barns now -- sheep and cows.  We expect to get a calf or two this weekend.  Stay tuned.

"No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn."
~Hal Borland

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Buns and bums...

Look at these Boston Brown Bread Muffins.  My bloggy friend, Anna from Thimbleanna shared the recipe, and let me tell you, these babies are scrumptious!  I could eat a whole panful by myself.  If you like a good bran muffin, you will love these.  The sweet, whole grain buns pair nicely with a savory meal or can be eaten as a breakfast muffin or snack.  I reduced the sugar and molasses to 1/4 cup each and they were still plenty sweet enough.  I didn't have rye flour, but just used more whole wheat flour instead.  I'm going to be making this recipe quite often.  They are easy, quick, and nutritious.  

Boston Brown Bread Muffins

1/2 cup (2 0z/60 g) rye flour
1/2 cup (3 oz/90 g) yellow cornmeal
1/2 cup (2 oz/60 g) whole-wheat (wholemeal) flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) buttermilk
1/3 cup (2 oz/60 g) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (3 fl oz/80 ml) vegetable oil
1/3 cup (4 oz/125g) molasses
1 egg
1 cup (5 0z/155 g) raisins (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Butter standard muffin tins.
In a medium bowl stir and toss together the rye flour, cornmeal, whole-wheat flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside. In a small bowl whisk together the buttermilk, sugar, oil, molasses and egg until smooth. Add to the combined dry ingredients and stir just until blended. Stir in the raisins, if desired.
Spoon into the prepared muffin tins, filling each cup about two-thirds full. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Cool in the tins for a moment, then remove.  Makes about 12 standard muffins.

I calculated the nutrition info as follows:
176 calories, 8.2 g fat, 8.9 g sugar, 3.4 g protein, 23.8 g carb. 
Weight Watchers points:  2

OnlyDaughter and her two girls came for a few days while their Daddy was out of town.  We had a good time together and the girls loved going to the lambing barn and fiddling with the newly acquired bum lamb.  This one lived in our mudroom for a few days before getting a goat mama in town.  It's been very cold and the weatherman says there are even colder days and snow yet to come.  We're almost done lambing (30 head left) but these next days might be challenging with the deep cold we're going to experience.  Poor babies in the cold barns.  We're doing our best to keep the barns well-strawed and warm.  It sounds like many of us in the USA are going to get another cold blast.  I hope you'll all be cozily tucked in your warm homes.  Take care!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Of skies and sheep...

 Beautiful skies today and snow squalls passing through.

 Mama ewes and their babies.

 Don't sheep sometimes have human expressions?

Proud mama and her hungry lambies.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pieces of my days...

Busy days.
Little people visiting us.
Us visiting little people.
Baby smiles.
Playing with hot wheels.
Ice skating.
Painting on paper and on walls.
(I'm painting a bedroom.)

Lots of lambs.
Singles, twins, triplets.
Mucking jugs and middle of the night checks.
Bummies to feed,
Bummies who now have goat mamas. (Yay!)
Wet gloves and muddy boots.
Alfalfa hay and water buckets.
Naps on the couch, sleeping hard, waking early.
Hubby's birthday - 52 years.
It's all good.

Saturday, February 08, 2014

First lambs born...

First, let me reintroduce my everyday helper, Sue.  She always accompanies me to the lambing shed.   She knows when to sit and stay and when to help me get the sheep in the shed.  Today I had Peach and Toodles too, but I promised their mom and dad that I wouldn't put their photos on my blog.  (sorry)

 These are the ladies in waiting....waiting for their lambs to come.  In the meantime, they're enjoying a good helping of ground hay to pass the time.

 Here's the first ewe to lamb.  She had twins.  She especially liked the lamb in the foreground, but the lamb in the back she mostly neglected.  After a couple of hours of checking on the little thing, I decided to take her out and bring her home to warm her up and see if I could get her to take some milk.  She was one chilled lambie pie. 
Each year we try to save a little colostrum from some of the old ewes who have lots of milk.  I pour their milk into ice cube trays and save them for days like this when I have a chilled lamb who needs a little extra help.  I warmed a couple cubes of colostrum milk up in a glass jar and then fed her by using a syringe until she had a little down her throat and in her tummy.  She really perked up after about a half hour and began bleating for more milk and she took milk from a bottle.  Yay!  The girls and I took her back to her mama at the shed, but Mama Ewe wouldn't have anything to do with her.  If Mama Ewe had lambed by herself on the prairie, there's no doubt she would have walked off with the first-born lamb and left this one to die.  That's how nature is sometimes, and that's why our life's work is called animal husbandry.  So tonight this li'l girl lamb whom Peach named Anna Lamba, will spend the night in my mudroom.  We'll bottle feed her with hopes that eventually we'll find a new mama for her when another ewe gives birth and has just a single lamb.  I hope that's how it works, anyway!

It's still cold here.  We had 12* for a high today and then some blasted wind which made it feel much colder.  The little girls really wanted to go ice skating so I gave up saying "we'll see" and took them to the pond  bundled up in snow pants, coats, mittens, hats and skates.  They were walking puff balls.    Papa scraped the snow off the pond with the tractor (God bless him!) and we slid around for a few minutes and then decided it was just too stinkin' cold and went home for hot cocoa and a cookie.  I'm hoping that you are staying warm where ever you are!

Friday, February 07, 2014

Suppertime and sheep tally...

Creamy Sausage Stew is a hearty, simple supper that satisfies on a cold, cold day of work.  Leftovers are just as good as the night before.  If you're in need of a supper that really sticks to your ribs, give this one a try.

Creamy Sausage Stew

1 or 2 lb. German sausage (or your favorite), chopped bite sized
3 or 4 large potatoes, chopped
1 red or orange or yellow pepper, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 big handfuls of chopped kale (opt) or parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt & Pepper to taste
1 tsp. thyme
2 T. olive oil
1 c. heavy cream (or more)

Preheat your oven to 420*.  In a 12" cast iron skillet or cake pan, add the chopped sausage and veggies (except kale).  Pour the olive oil over all of it, generously salt & pepper, and add thyme to your taste.  Stir to lightly coat with oil.  Slide the pan into the oven and bake for about 40-45 minutes or until potatoes are tender.  Add kale and cook just a few minutes, then pour heavy cream over the roasted meat and veggies and stir.  Slide stew back into the oven and allow the cream to heat through and thicken slightly, just a few minutes.  Serves 4.

A dear friend sent us some lovely citrus from Arizona.  
We had orange slices for dessert; they were so sweet.
 We spent the entire day cleaning the lambing barn and bedding it with fresh straw.  Then we set up the jugs and pens for the new mothers and lambs.  After lunch we worked through all the sheep, sorting the yearling lambs from the herd and sorting off the bucks and the open ewes who won't lamb.  We paint-branded all the sheep since their former brands were sheared off.  We applied an insecticide to each of them as they leaped out the gate.  We counted sheep as all good sheep herders should.  All were tallied and marked in the book.

Stats:  190 ewes to lamb this month
             85 yearling ewes to lamb in May
             11 bucks
             35 possible open ewes            

Yearling ewes, open ewes, and bucks take a ride in the trailer to another pasture where they will spend the rest of the winter.  Some of them smeared their paint brands and some applied it as lipstick.  Tonight we'll check the ewes before bedtime and see if there might be an early lamb or two born.  One crippled ewe lambed a few days ago and lost her twin lambs.  We think they were premature.  More to come soon!

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Time to order chicks...

I stopped in at the feed store yesterday to pick up some layer pellet, wheat, and oyster shell for my chickens and J., the Crazy Chicken Lady Orderer, as she calls herself, reminded me that it is already time to order chicks for April delivery.  I was so glad she reminded me because last year I got chicks rather late in the year because I didn't think about it early enough.  I'm suspicious that there must be an uptick in new backyard chicken ranchers who are ordering early, and it throws us Old Lady Chicken Ranchers off.   Ah well, at least J. was on the ball and took my order then and there.

This is what I'll be looking forward to in mid-April. 
 I'm planning for the chicks to arrive here before Easter.  
(I'm thinking about the grandkids....always.)

The bountiful results of ordering chickies in February.

It's snowing again today and the temperatures are plummeting.  So far the high for the day is 6* and the temps are supposed to be taking a dive into the negatives for Wednesday and Thursday's highs.  I'm staying indoors and stitching on some embroidery pieces, but as always, I will venture out to the chicken coop to fetch the eggs and feed and water the girls.

Saturday, February 01, 2014


From woolly and warm... sheared and shivering.


We postponed our shearing after a snowfall which caked the sheep's backs with ice and snow.  We got them thawed out using our lambing barn to warm them up and get the ice melted off.  Today the shearers showed up at 7:00 and began to buzz off the wool.  It was a cold day too.  Just 10* for a high and a brisk northwest wind.  I helped load sheep down the chute for a while in the morning and then charged back home to finish the after-shearing-dinner I had planned.  Everyone came in at about 1:30 and chowed down on beef stew and biscuits.  It sure did taste good after a cold day of outdoor work. 

The sheep are feeling the cold, but it will also stimulate them to eat more and produce more wool.  They will be in a more protected area with shelter belts and stockades and they will be allowed to go into the barn every night now.  It's a good ritual for them since we will begin lambing in just a week or so and they will need to go into the barn each night so baby lambs aren't born outdoors in the frigid cold.  I sure do hope the weather starts warming up as the lambs begin to come.  If it stays cold, we'll be watching the ewes round the clock day and night.

Some of you might like to know why we shear now.  Since we will begin lambing, it is important that the lambs are able to find their milk source.  When the heavy wool is still on the ewes, it makes it more difficult for tiny lambs to find the teats, but when the ewes are sheared, it's a clear shot to the warm teats, and warm milk makes warm lambies.  It is also much easier for the shearers to shear a ewe that is heavy with lamb(s) since they are less apt to fight the shearing process.  The sheep just lie on their backs or sides and let the shearers manipulate them around without a fight.

Stats:  320 head sheared
             8 bales of wool
             1 bale of bellies
             1 bale of pieces


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