Tuesday, November 8, 2011

East-Friesien-Texel lambs for sale

Add milkiness and meat to your flock with these seven month old ewe lambs exposed to ram and ready for breeding. 225.00 each or all eight for 1500.00. call 613 649 0239.

ewe lambs for sale

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Farewell farmhouse on the hill

So here I am, in exile once again, surrounded by boxes and chaos in this gigantic flyridden house while my own sweet unassuming farmhouse on the hill in donegal is ripped open and renovated to suit the tasteless young. they took out the kitchen windows overlooking the orchard...too old fashioned they said, those tall windows that brought the morning sun and the dawn and the apple blossom vistas of June. 
More counterspace and more cupboards are needed for this family who dines more often than not, on take out French fries and burgers. My kitchen was a country cooks kitchen, used to can and preserve and stew and knead and puree and stir. The wood stove used for rising bread dough, simmering soup, rendering lard, drying apples, and warming chilled lambs.
Who can blame them, the tile was dated and less than pristine, the old hardwood floor worn and dull, the cupboards less than functional. I was happy with it this way, from my house I know what it might be like to love one's old and shabby spouse with no desire to remake or replace with someone new. 
I went with good graces, leaving most of the final moving to Tom and our helpers, mike and Amal. I really prefer to recall it as I left it, before the gaping holes and shiny new fixtures appear. I came back once to load dressers and cabinets and to say goodbye to the injured calf and to pour iodine over it's infected leg. 
On my final Thursday evening last week, I went out in the field with the sheep and sat on the flat rock in the setting sunshine. The trees blazed scarlet. Fall coolness in the air. I will miss this most of all: this astonishing summer as a shepherd, my life among the sheep. Normal life seems barren somehow, preoccupied with dish washing and floor sweeping and meals eaten sitting down at the table. I miss my hastily packed lunches of nuts and seeds and garden tomatoes and orchard apples and hard boiled eggs. My late afternoon wine spritzers on the stone pile.
My dinners eaten in the truck or on the wagon. I miss my ever active interaction with the ewes and lambs...little lamb swarmings, the girls nosing around my lunch bag, the nibbling and licking and chewing at my clothes and hair and my book and my chair. I miss the drama of the coyote and the yosimite Sam comedy of my gunfire. I miss the life and death struggle to haul Penelope injured,  into the shelter of the barn, the wild sudden rainstorms with the wind tossing branches and a seething hostile lightening sky. I miss the bird flocks swooping and settling, the big buck crossing upwind, the Canada geese in the wet dip....

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

our wwoofers (helpxers) summer 2011

we are mostly moved to Bulger Rd with the sheep safely? enclosed by over a thousand dollars worth of movable electronet fencing...and none too soon as I heard coyotes right behind the corral two nights ago. The meat bird chicks are growing and eating ravenously and we just brought the laying hens and settled them into a wired enclosure in the big barn. They'll get their very own chicken coop very shortly but priority now is bringing the piggies over. It has been a hectic two weeks and I don't know how we would have accomplished all we needed to do without Mike and Amal who worked tirelessly alongside us as we all moved furniture and livestock and feed barrels and freezers and frozen meat and books and fences and cheesemaking equipment and so on. We had a lot of fun with them, great meals and were able to take a day off last week to visit the fall colours in Algonquin. Earlier this summer, our lives were made easier with our first two helpers, Elsa and Etienne from France who were fabulous shepherds and spent hours in the field with the flock, and then our cheerful Australian Isaac who also put in his time in the field as well as digging post holes at the new farm, moving bales and baking a darn good apple pie. Thanks to all of them and wish them luck and fun in their future travels.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

And another happy diner.

 Had a chance to sample your lamb this weekend; delicious!

Some reactions to our tasty lamb!

I just wanted to say a big thank you for providing us with the lamb for our event. Everyone loved it

Monday, August 1, 2011

shepherding summer 2011

So far this summer I have protected my flock from the coyotes and wolves and yesterday I had my first visit from a big black bear. He stood on the stone fence surveying the flock and then started advancing toward them. For once, I was darn thankful I was in the truck (it was drizzly and raining and early morning). I drove toward him but he kept coming. I tooted my horn. He kept coming. I finally was no more than fifteen feet away from him, shouting out the window and blowing the horn before he reluctantly shambled back into the fencerow, where he took up his post on top of the stone fence and sat watching me and the sheep. I rounded them up with the truck and pushed them closer to the house then drove like hell to yell for Tom to come with the gun. (which of course, i did not have with me). By the time we returned, bear was gone. Now my favorite spot for reading with my back up against the fence rocks has become a possibly dangerous location. I am not afraid of wolves and coyotes, but I am very wary of bears.
The rest of the day passed uneventfully. Last night, after I finished my delicious steak dinner and glass of wine surrounded by my sheep, I looked up and saw a beautiful buck step out from the fence. I've seen him a couple of times before but this time he continued walking right toward the sheep and me. I was sitting in the grass surrounded by fat lambs who like to come by and nibble on my hair and clothes and I guess the deer didn't notice me at all. He came closer and closer and I was wishing I had my camera...just like the gun, it is never with me when I need it...a beautiful huge rack of antlers and so calm and stately. He crossed right in front of me and went over the fence and started eating grass in Wingle's just mown hayfield. I went for the camera and he was still there but by then it was too dark to get more than a grainy shot.
This morning, hot and brilliantly blue, a huge raptor circling just overhead. Creamy white with some brown markings on the underside of his wings and mottled brown on top. Wonder what he was.

our new farm location as of end september

We discovered earlier this summer that this farm will no longer be available for us next year so we have had to go in search of a new home for ourselves, our flock of sheep, laying hens, pigs and meat birds. I sat down and envisioned what we wanted and then put all my intention in place that we would find the farm of my dreams. As well as trusting the universe and the goddess, I also did my share of the work

by phoning up all the farm landlords I knew in the area we wished to live. In particular, I phoned the owner of a place I had always admired, which is actually right next door to my sister's farm. Although the landlord always rented the farmhouse, he had not been renting the barn and the land. As it turned out, his current tenant was leaving end of July. I told him what we were looking for and suggested we might rent half his gigantic barn (he uses the other half for storing his boat and workshop tools) and that we could perhaps also rent about 20 acres of pasture for our sheep. He thought about it and called us back...and voila: thus we will be moving to 1083 Bulger Rd Eganville, next door to my sister Chris, just down the road from my sister Henrietta and two doors over from my sister Mary.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

East-Friesien-Texel lambs

Organically raised lamb now available

Our lamb is now available for orders, large and small.
whole (approx 45 lb) or half lamb(approx 20-25 lb) , cut and wrapped $8.50
per lb. You choose the cuts or we can have the butcher do the standard cut.s for you which includes leg of lamb, stew, rack of lamb, chops and minced lamb
Lamb by the cut starting at 8.50 lb.

Order now for delivery from mid-August to mid September. We can arrange to deliver. We also attend the Pembroke Farmers Market on Saturday mornings.

Monday, July 11, 2011

summer 2011

Moving our farm

Long time with no postings as life on the farm has been, well, farmish. Up till now, we've been playing at farming, pretty much free of the real "keep you awake at night" stresses that plague real farmers. Such as suddenly having to find a new farm.
Long story, but crux of the matter is that as tenant farmers, we have no real control over what the landowners plans are...and if those plans change, as they did in this case, we are in the hayfield without a wagon or whatever is the agricultural euphemism for "up shit creek without a paddle".
We have been looking for another suitable property to rent and just now have found a place that meets most, but not all, of our essential criterion. Location is excellent but price is twice as much as we pay here. Barn is gorgeous but we will have to build all our pens and corrals and infra structure from scratch. Mega amounts of work...work we just finished doing (including all the work Henning put into this place) and now have to do again. Not a great set up for our cheese making and aging room. House is large and stately but shabby around the edges and will be hellish to heat. Kitchen is old and unrenovated and devoid of the charm of my dearly loved kitchen here. Yard, large and shady and private. Driveway, flat and picturesquely lined with tall trees and about a third the length of this funnel for wind and drifting snow. Sisters live just down the road. Will be able to have a farm stand at the gate. Many pluses except that it just ISN'T MY REAL HOME.
So it is with truly mixed feelings that we begin to pack up this farm and begin the long series of "what if" discussions. What if we sell our Navajo-churro sheep so we need less space. What if we raise meat birds only in summer. What if the pigs could go on that side of the barn. What if we turned the summer kitchen into the cheese room. What if we closed off the cold front bedrooms and only use the back part of the house. What if we sell all the livestock and take a cheap one way flight to Spain!!!
We did the same thing for years at the cafe as we figured out how to run that business effectively and efficiently given our initial insanity in opening a restaurant-gallery in a village of 200 souls plus a three month influx of tourists. The difference then was that we were 13 years younger when we plunged in and our boundless energy for renovating and creating and orchestrating has worn thinner now.
But the biggest difference is that now er have our livestock. We were really just getting to the point here where everything was efficiently in place and so we could spend time concentrating on the small details that make all the difference in animal health and well being. We had time to go around picking up all the loose wire and half buried binder twine in the pasture. Time to cut down burdocks and thistles. Time to commune with lambs!!
So now we go back to wrestling with fence posts and feeders and pig pens!

Okay, so that is my allotment of whining about the situation and from here on in, I will be the optimistic cheerful person I normally am. Hard work will keep us healthy and youthful and in the grand scheme of things we are still among the most fortunate people on earth.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March update

I don't seem to be updating my blog regularly and I haven't figured out how to import photos onto my iPad so am behind in my missives to the outside world.
It finally feels springlike by times. Yesterday twelve fat robins were hopping around the apple trees and there's more familiar birdsong in the morning. The waterfowl in the sheep yard thawed yesterday. Carrying water to 29 pregnant east Friesiens was becoming a major chore!  We let. The hens out into the yard and they raced madly between thawed patches. They are laying well and have recovered from their encounter with the owl.
My darling Blossom had two tiny lambs outside in the alcove by the back barn and somehow one wandered off just long enough for her to decide that she had only one lamb. I have all three in the maternity pen in the main barn but had to screen off a protected corner for the second lamb as she bunts him away quite viciously with her big horns when he tries to nurse. Poor little tyke looked so forlorn and he was getting hungry and bleating piteously. I managed to wedge her into the corner and distract her with some grain and got the lamb latched on so I know he's had colustrum for the first two days. And just for good measure, got some colustrum mix at the depot and have supplemented him with a couple of bottles. So five times a day, I go out, wrestle blossom into the corner, shove the grain bucket under her nose and jam the lamb onto the teat for at least a couple of minutes and then give him some more by bottle. Tomorrow, I'll have to let her out to rejoin the flock so that'll be the end of the nursing for the lamb unless he's gotten smart and canny enough to sneak in when she's distracted by hay or grain. But he's doing well so far and each day I've been taking him out into the main yard so he can get acquainted with his 24 cousins and his aunts and his grandma Friendly.
The saddest thing about these little bottle babies is that they bond with the person who feeds them and not with the other sheep so they are little loners in the barnyard. Especially if you bring them inside as I made the mistake of doing the first few times. Banishing them to the barn after they've been in the house feels just like sending your preschooler off on the bus for the first time!
One thing I am learning in my reading about dairy sheep is that udder confirmation is so important and when I look at my three Navajo churro ewes....Friendly and her two daughters, Blossom and Betty, I wish I could get that genetic into my dairy flock!!
I am going to keep Friendly's ram lamb this year. He is grey and has bluish eyes and is gorgeous. I'm going to breed him to a couple of my dairy ewes and keep the daughters and see how they milk. Friendly has always had wonderful lambs, she has a huge udder, tons of milk even for big triplets, she's calm and can be hand milked with no problem and her two daughters are just the same. Blossom let me hand milk her even when she doesn't want that second lamb. But that's a fluke because of circumstances.
We are feeding four round bales a week (about 350 lbs each). Excellent second cut and the sheep love it.  We're down to seven young pigs, two sows, the boar and a litter of three week old babies. Two headed for the abattoir next week, sow and boar sold, young pigs also sold and then there'll be no one but Esmeralda and the remaining four young ones. And then my major barn cleaning out begins as I need all the space for our mid April lambing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

February almost over...days now with the hens freed to run in the patchy snow, sheep still lying contentedly by the feeders in the late afternoon sunshine. We had a chimney fire last week which necessitated an early start to my spring cleaning and a flood in the barn that more or less dampened the evening of Family Day.

We have reclaimed our childhood farm home for our family use and this was the first gathering since last summer. We intermittently gathered to clean and polish over the past three weeks and one evening my two brothers showed up like repo men and loaded the family couch, table and lamp on their trucks so it could be restored to it's rightful place in mother's living room. Various other bits of furniture and dishes made their way back and finally mother herself rehung the Holstein cow picture in the kitchen and all was once again safe and familiar.

We pot lucked our way through 104 chicken wings, several pounds of ribs,some fried pickerel,half a dozen cold side salads, a vast crockpot of fried rice after consuming a table full of appetizers such as nacho bean dip, spanakopita,veggies and fruits with dip and heavens knows what other carb loaded morsels. Dessert was restrained with only a "mud pie" serving forty, two cakes, a couple of pies and a tub of

After this largesse,we drove home to discover the now thawed tap spewing water onto the barn floor and Esmeralda in her maternity ward watching the rising water level with piggly trepidation. Three hours with push brooms and shovels and shavings and sawdust managed to removes most of the damp.

That was Monday night and now, on Friday evening, Esmeralda still hasn't farrowed. It has been a busyish week with vacuuming soot and cobwebs and finishing up the research and reservations for my brothers European trip slated to start next Monday. February went by effortlessly, because I spent most of it in Spain and Italy in spirit!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Finally, my darned poky Internet connection is taking forever today to let me do anything online. This makes me grumpy and I am feeling as if Internet is more an albatross around one's neck than a wonderful connection to the world outside my rural life.
The past few days remind me that I do not deal well with February! In fact, I deal with it so badly that thirty years ago in my "first life" on this farm, I dashed off an essay on the subject, sent it off to the Ottawa Citizen, and was most pleased and surprised to get a call from an editor who wanted to use it AND to send me a cheque for 250.00. That improved the month tremendously.
My distaste for this short but bleak and seemingly endless month has actually resulted in many good things in my life. My February malaise has seen us in Texas, in Bermuda, in Portugal, Spain and Mexico for up to two months at a time. My reasoning is...if you have to spend all that money on airfare and drain the pipes anyway, you might as well stay long enough to make it worthwhile. That is why the goddess invented credit cards!
But now, having had the brilliant idea to take up farming at an age when most sane people are perusing retirement living condos, I find myself lock, stock and feed barrel tied to a rura Ontario february.
Today, I am tired of it! I am tired of forking hay in one end and manure out the other of my sheepish darlings. I am tired of endless stoking of wood stoves and furnaces and the sweeping of dust, bark and ashes. I am particularly tired of the endless dressing and undressing in layers of outerwear each time I have to gather eggs, water sheep and chickens, do chores, bottle feed cindyloulambiekins etc etc. I
I have been helping my youngest brother plan a trip to Europe in less than three weeks. Being on European websites has reminded me how much I love to be by the blue Mediterranean while the snow whirls in Ontario. I have a solution but Tom won't hear of it.
Surely there is a cortijo for rent somewhere in southern Spain where I could graze a flock and make cheese and sell it to the gringas in the mercado. Andalusia, sunshine, sheep, it could all be mine! Seems outlandish but I know it really could be possible. I'll hold onto that vision for five years or so and see where it ends up.

Sick and tired of Winter!!!!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Reassessing, more writing, preparing for spring

Where do the days go?
Our winter life this year is pleasantly peaceful, interspersed with the small tasks of rural survival. We feed and water sheep and laying hens, we take livestock to the abattoir, load meat into freezers, fill orders for the food co-op, go for feed, haul wheelbarrows of manure out of the barn and wheelbarrows of firewood out of the bush, light fires, take out the ashes, snowblow the lane way, wash and box eggs, unroll round bales, bottle feed the lamb, sweep, dust,clean and maintain a reasonably pleasant household in a milieu of livestock, hay, shavings, manure, slush, sawdust, wood ash and dog hair.
Every now and then I dress in something other than old jeans and have Tom drop me off in Ottawa while he carries on to berwick for a load of feed from homestead Organics. I usually start off in the byword market where I collect outstanding cheques from restaurants to whom we sell our organic pork and if that is accomplished quickly, I have time to browse books at chapters or wander through the rideau centre. The novelty of all those retail possibilities usually wears off within the hour as there truly is nothing I need or want to buy in aLl those glamerous shops.
I have my iPad and when I need clothes I go to value village. I like my comfortably worn furniture and Household possessions. The things I do desire are more prosaic and not available in shopping malls anyhow. Things like shiny new green farm gates and sturdy rolls of page wire fence and a compost pile thermometer and bright red chicken feeders. There...it,s not thatnI am devoid of needs or wants...it is merely a different sort of shopping mania!

Monday, January 3, 2011

A new year....

The Christmas season has come to an uneventful and pleasant end. We've had amazingly mild weather which has certainly facilitated our unexpectedly early lambing with the Navajo-churro flock. I'd expected a few early babies as Alfie was romancing a few of the girls in mid-summer but I had no idea of the full extent of his diligence until the lambs started arriving. Regular as clockwork...mostly twins, three singles to the youngest ewes....and then...a grand finale on the final day before New Year with two sets of twins and Friendly (who had been big as a house and my bet for first to lamb) came in dead last with a set of sweet little

Aside from some difficulties with blaze #4 who could't manage on her own and had have her lambs pulled by moi....first time for me...everyone had uneventful births and we have 19 bouncing black and white cuties racing around the barn.