Friday, June 29, 2012

Keeping cool, llama-style

Pequena soaking her feet
Llamas like water. They like to stand out in the rain, they like to stand in ponds and if you don't have either, than the water trough will do just fine. Pequena-llama has been banned from the sheep pen for the summer because she wants to stand in their water trough. The best way to help sheep handle the heat is to make sure they have lots of fresh, cool, clean water. Stinky llama feet kinda sully that up.
Llamas are smart, too. We finally got smart enough to give Pequena two water barrels. She soaks her feet in the same one every time, leaving the other fresh and clean for drinking. That's when she has her own water pans. When she is in with the sheep, she'll soak in both troughs. 
Right now we are scrubbing troughs and giving everybody fresh, clean water twice a day. It takes a while, but it is helping them handle the heat. I just hope we don't have to start rationing water.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Potato harvest

Dinner - new potatoes and onions from our garden, boiled in
milk from our goats. Best served cold the second day when
it happens to be 106 outside.

When I wrote about making my potato hoops, I warned everybody not to try it until we saw if it worked. Well, it's been a hard summer, and yet I am very happy with what the first hoop harvested. I wiggled about a dozen potatoes up earlier this week for a quick dinner of potatoes boiled in milk with onions and peas. Then Lena harvested the rest of the bed last night. We have a good 10+ pounds of red potatoes from the first of three beds. 
Washed and ready to store, and make potato salad for
dinner tomorrow night!

Right now we are working in the garden in the late evening, starting about 9:00 after chores and working for about an hour, wrapping up in the light of a flashlight. I also go work a bit in the mornings about 5:30 before I go do chores. It really is too hot to be out in the sun during the day. And it's still June!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Task Cloud

I had the last four days mostly off work. I had a huge list of things I wanted to get done. I also wanted to relax and not be frustrated.
Task Cloud 6-22 to 6-26

So, I decided to try a new method of remembering, planning and scheduling tasks. I created a Task Cloud.

You all know tag clouds, right? They are the little boxes that show up on web sites with clickable words in fancy fonts. They're a sort of pretty way to put out information.

I took my big planning sketch pad and started writing everything I could think of that I needed to do. Every time I though of something else, I added it to the Task Cloud. If I did something that wasn't on there, I added it. (Thanks for the suggestion Dad!). I crossed out things as I did them and doodled as I looked over the tasks. I also wrote some of the outcomes I wanted. Like, I don't really want to clean the bedroom, I just want a peaceful, good smelling place to sleep. Then I wrote some of the steps needed to achieve the outcomes.

I'm not sure what I think of my Task Cloud.
It's certainly an interesting experiment. I may repeat it.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hoop garden harvest

Chard, basil, goat cheese quiche, with whole wheat crust.
Note the fancy Ozark quiche pan.
I'm really liking my little garden circles. The fresh produce right next to the house makes the minimal work well worth the time. The only things that the bugs are currently eating is the rhubarb. I'm not sure it's going to survive. But everything else is doing great.

 I'm getting chard, tomatoes, potatoes, beets and onions right now. Somehow, I forgot to plant pole beans this spring and it's way too hot now. It is taking me about an hour a day, three days a week to water everything. But that's fun harvesting and weeding time, too.

This week we've had new potatoes and onions creamed with our own goat's milk and peas. Last night I made goat cheese with pesto and sliced tomatoes over whole wheat pasta. The night before, we had an awesome goat cheese quiche.

I made a whole wheat crust with whole basil leaves from our garden. I used a dozen eggs from my friend Kathy Jensen, as our little chickie girls aren't laying yet. I served it with sliced Black Prince tomatoes, warm from the vine. The cheese was a crumbly unsalted farmers cheese, out of the freezer as the goats are not milking much in this heat. I decided to make it in the cast iron skillet  and it worked great. It's my new favorite quiche pan!

Rainbow chard and goat cheese quiche

Heat oven to 475.
In a 15-inch cast iron skillet, melt 1 stick butter.
Add two cups whole wheat flour to butter in pan.
Add 1/2 tsp salt
stir well, will be crumbly
add 1 egg and stir in well.
blend in one large handful of fresh basil leaves and one clove chopped garlic.
Pat around bottom and up sides of skillet. Prick with fork and bake for 10 minutes.

Farm fresh quiche served with tomatoes sliced fresh from
the garden.
2 cups soft goat's cheese
10 washed and shredded rainbow chard leaves, dice stems
12 farm fresh eggs
1 tsp corriander
1 tsp marjoram
1 clove garlic, diced
1 tsp salt

Blend this all together in a bowl and pour into crust in skillet. Bake at 475 for 10 minutes, then lower oven temp to 250 and bake for 1 hour.
let sit for 10 minutes in oven before slicing.

Serve with fresh sun-ripened sliced tomatoes.

Sure makes watering the garden worth it!


Saturday, June 23, 2012

Drought, again

A local friend recently posted on facebook, "One inch of rain does not a drought break." He's now cutting trees in his woodlot to feed his cows. We've had one one-inch rain storm since April. That's it.

There is no grass, no graze of any kind. So, the honeysuckle, briar and wild roses are next on the grazer's menu. The deer are coming down into town looking for gardens. The trees are hanging in there, their roots go deep, but for how long?

Luckily, we aren't short of ground water, here on our farm, yet, but I do have friends who are starting to worry about their wells. Maybe I worry too much because of the extreme drought I've experienced in Colorado, but I don't think so. I think my worries are realistic.

One aspect of this drought, which is now in its second year, is the lack of hay. Last year, we were tight on hay in this area, but had enough rain that it grew. And, the people in Texas, Oklahoma and Mexico, who had no rain and no grass, bought the hay that was grown here in Arkansas, driving the prices up as high as $10 a bale for small squares and $120 a bale for large rounds. The flock that we had then ate two small bales a day or a round in less than a week. We drastically cut flock numbers, selling many sheep, most of the dairy goats and more than half of the angora goats. With the new lambs, our flock still eats two bales of hay a day.

Now, the hay growers are looking at the ankle-high crispy brown stuff in their fields. I do have some friends who cut early first cutting in May, getting 29 bales off a pasture that usually yields 700. The fear is growing that there will not be any hay, at any price. And the drought is spreading. I still read the USDA crop progress reports, a hold over from being an Ag publication editor, or maybe from being a sheep farmer... and the number of pastures moving from poor to extremely poor is frightening. South of us they still have good pasture and way north. Maybe we'll be driving to Alabama to get hay.

We drove out to Wynne, Arkansas earlier this week to get some really good hay from Mr. Fred Spann. We brought home 42 bales. And yesterday I managed to snag 23 small squares out of a load from Kansas. We have our names down on 4 large squares coming in a load from Oklahoma. I'm going to keep getting what I can, when I can. With our flock at current levels we need 500 small squares to get us close to through the year. I don't see finding that many, not at a price we can afford.

The next sheep and goat sale is this Thursday. Sheep prices are still holding. Its not the first time I've sold some to feed the rest... it's just that I really thought we'd culled down to the best breeding stock, and now I'm going to take some really good sheep to the sale. I've advertised them locally at only $75 each, but with hay being such an issue, I've had no takers. I know I'll get far more than that at the sale. It's a hard challenge to balance farm pragmatism with modern heartstrings.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Start of the LHF 2012 Sheep Sales list

Hodge Podge, 2-horn, 2/2012, triplet ewe, $75.00

LHF Fiona, 2H twin ewe, 3/2010, Dapper Dan X Basil, $75.00

Frannie, 2H ewe, had twins in 2012. $75.00
 I'm starting to put together the sales list for 2012. We won't have any angora goats or dairy goats for sale this year, we sold those flocks way down this spring. We do have Jacob sheep for sale.

In addition to a few ewes and lambs, we have some older fiber wethers who could go to a good fiber home for a very reasonable price. These boys are pets and they are used to being fussed over, but with hay being such an issue this year, we are looking at further reducing the flock size.

Leave a comment here to contact me, or call or email if you are interested in any of these sheep, or any others we might have for sale. I'll be working on listings the next several weeks. The sheep listed here are ready to go to new homes now.
Frannie's 2012 2H wether, $75.00

Friday, June 08, 2012

Little Sheepie con artists

Higgledy Piggldy and her big sis Hodge Podge,
2/3's of the Elizabeth's HP triplets. They are
practicing their begging looks.
Every year our lamb crop has a unique personality. We've had marauders and roof runners - this year the little darlings are con artists.
Hocus Pocus was the first one who discovered that if you come close to the humans and make a "cute face", the humans will give you a treat. Suddenly, we have at least nine little puff balls standing in the milk barn trying their own versions of cute. 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Chicken watching

The baby Silver Laced Wyandottes now look like chickens,
I've been fascinated by my inclination to "Chicken Watch" lately. When I go feed the chickies in the morning and evening, I'll just stand outside their tractor door after feeding and watch them for 10 minutes. No thinking, no story lines, no plans - just watching. It's relaxing, but it's not something I do consciously, I just find myself doing it.
Now, I appreciate chickens for what they do on the farm. They eat bugs, they eat kitchen scraps, they loosen topsoil and they lay eggs when they get old enough. But (and I know it is my own shortcoming here), I've never named them or thought of them as much more than useful, functional and sometimes pretty.
I know many people do, in fact, a good friend became a vegetarian about a decade ago after coming to our farm and helping us move chickens to a new chicken house one night. The hens had been roosting in the horse barn and we built them their own home. They are easier to catch at night, so we were out in the dark, gathering the hens and tucking them into our arms to quietly carry them into the new chicken house. She said that after she carried them and felt their beating little hearts, she could not eat meat any more. Now one of her dreams is to retire to a bit of land and build a chicken castle.
I just want chickens to eat bugs, kitchen scraps and give me some eggs - and, apparently now, provide some mindless meditation focus.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Sheeps is real life

Came home after work very stressed. Management issues and worrying about potential changes had me all twisted tight. Ranted to Shawn and Lena while Lena quietly baked frozen pizza for dinner. Felt guilty - that's not food and the garden is doing well.
Worried more, email myself some ideas to present. Worried more.
Gathered up the milk pail and went out to do chores. Lena and Shawn helped treat the three sheep with "crud-head". Lena fed hay. I grained, took care of the chickies, milked and checked waters. Talked with the little lambs, checked Frannie's boy, he's a bit thin.
Came in to the house, put away a gallon plus of milk and sat down to spin more of Glitch's mohair fleece.
All is right with the world. Sheep is life.
Life is good.