Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hard water

"I hate hard water," said Shawn this morning, as he broke ice on the sheep trough at the sheep house. Every winter, we have the same complaint, the water gets hard. It has something to do with the really cold temperatures.

The sheep will stand around their water trough in the morning and look at us like we really should know how to keep this from happening, I mean, it really does inconvenience them! I often ask them what they would do if they were wild sheep and they look at me like, "Duh, do we look like wild sheep? We are smart enough to have human servants."

The horses don't have the hard water problem, they have a tank heater in their trough. But the sheep and goats are divided into their small breeding flocks this time of year, so everyone has smaller 10-30 gallon water containers and when it gets cold at night - their water all gets hard.
The thing that seems to bother the sheep and goats the most about the hard water is, though, that while the humans are dealing with breaking the ice on the troughs, they, the sheep and the goats are not getting fed! After all, everyone knows that the first most important thing is that the animals get their hay - NOW.

Tonight we went to my parents for a lovely Thanksgiving dinner. We had a great time with my parents, brothers and a friend. We ate too much, visited not enough and got home late for chores. All the animals were fine, but rather miffed. "We thought that we had you trained better than that," their many cries seemed to say. "Humans just can't get it right!" They are all fine, tucked in to stall and barn and happily munching now... silly critters... What would they do if they were wild?

May your water always be soft and your hay always arrive on time - Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Fall burnings

My life seems to revolve around fire right now.

Every morning, when we take the feed truck down to the sheep pasture, we stop in the middle pasture and gather enough fire wood to heat the workshop for the day, or the night, as the days are still pretty comfortable. We always plan to cut and stack wood over the summer, but we are always too busy doing what needs to be done then. Summer is our busiest season. So now we take the time to wander the wood and collect fuel for the fire.

And then there is the whole process of keeping the fire going overnight. Really, any more, it's just a system of starting and then banking it and remembering to go out in the cold and check it one more time before going to bed. Keeping the fire in our evening awareness.We have left summer, when the world has its own heat, and now us humans are having to create our own warmth.
We have also developed a cross between a pit barbeque and a bath tub smoker. We are smoking a lot of meat to share with friends and so this strange contraption is demanding a good bit of fuel. Like the stove in the shop, it is a matter of learning to work with the fire, feeding it, banking it, controlling it. Taking the time to learn how to coax it to just the right temperature to smoke a succulent roast. Kind of like learning how to feed, nourish and dampen our own passions. Taking the time to know and understand the uses and the best ways for them to fuel our lives.

An then there is the burning - getting things cleaned up - clearing the weeds, leaves, ditches and old stuff from last year. I spent yesterday burning weeds off of the fencelines and piles of debris in the compound area. I spent the same time reflecting on the last year, cleaning, clearing and sorting the debris in my brain. Some of that needs to be cleaned out and burned, too! And as life indoors reflects the natural cycle of real life out-of-doors, we are cleaning up the office, the shop and the bookkeeping part of the business. Clearing out the old year to make room for the new.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Changes - going with the flow

This is the season when the earth gets some rest.

Two weeks ago, I took a wonderful, golden picture of our sentinnel trees in all their fall glory. Last week, I took a sunset shot of their sillhouettes. They were stark black and naked against the setting sun. In just one week, our skyline had changed drastically.

But these changes are a normal, predictable part of the flow of the year.

We put the rams in with the ewes the first week in November. The frantic breeding, sorting and shuffling activity made feeding times pretty exciting for a week or two. But now, for the most part, everybody is bred and calmly eating and building babies. We'll see how many girls re-cycle over the next few weeks. I don't think we'll have too many, the rams were pretty active.

Other changes are unpredictable, and because of their unknown, possible consequences, they are stressful.

We are trying to make our life into our way of making a living. So many people tell us that you cannot make a living farming anymore, and certainly not farming on a small scale. But, we think we can. Combining business and farming, keeping costs down where we can, marketing our products ourselves, working hard - these and so many other pieces are woven together into what we are trying to do here on the Laffing Horse Farm.
Opportunities sometimes come along, and we have to look at them, and our commitment to this land and wonder - are we doing what is right? Is this dream we are living - and sharing with so many people - worth all the struggle?