We're Still Here


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I apologize for the - what, 4 week?! - hiatus there!  For the first week, I wasn't doing a whole lot besides cleaning, carding, and spinning fleece and knitting a couple pairs of slippers someone ordered.  Then, the next few weeks were surprisingly busy with a variety of activities and I just never had a chance to write anything!  We've hosted 2 different groups, conducted a goat roundup, got our beef back and sold most of it, and gotten the sheep sheared!  And I just now finished kintting those slippers, but I still need to felt them and sew on the leather soles.  Whew!

I think the oldest news that I've been meaning to post about is that we FINALLY got our grain mill hooked up to a bike!  We moved it to the new basement, and have it connected to Caleb's old mountain bike via a belt to the flywheel of the mill, and ta-da!  We have bike-powered grinding!  It is a higher wheel ratio, as well as a larger muscle group being used, so it's much more efficient than before - and I have a bit more counter space than I used to :)

On the 6th, we hosted our third visit over the last couple of years of a group of Northeastern University grad students, who had an extensive farm tour and then got to participate in a goat rodeo.  We caught all the goats, trimmed hooves, checked eyelid pinkness for anemia and gave supplemental iron if necessary, dosed with copper for both deficiency and as a worm preventative, and gave all expectant mothers a dose of selenium, vital for preventing early delivery (we had a few two years ago).  The students had a good time and pitched right in, taking turns doing everything from writing down info to dosing meds, trimming hooves, and grabbing goats.  I also catered the event, with almost entirely local (although not necessarily Solace Farm) ingredients - chicken soup with our own chicken, carrots, broth, and homemade noodles and local shiitakes - mmm!  Also winter squash soup with our squash, cilantro, pesto, roasted garlic, local sausage, and my feta made from local milk.  We topped it off with a neighbor farm's salad, homemade blue cheese dressing, and some homemade garlic bread.  It was all a hit, if I say so myself - although the students did attest to that themselves as well :)  Overall, it was declared the best meal any of them had had in at least a year - and that's not really a statement on my cooking abilities so much as on the quality of the ingredients.  Fresh, real food is just so good!

Last weekend, the 12th, in addition to a visit from the Massachusetts grandparents and our Knoxville aunt (a wonderful visit, always too short!), we had the sheep sheared.  It was our first time watching the process for sheep, and it's quite different than with alpacas.  Sheep don't get tied down, for one!  The shearer has almost a dance, keeping the sheep either on her side or butt, with a foot under her so that she always thinks she can't get up, and when done right, she really doesn't even try!  Also unlike alpacas, the fleece is sheared off in a single unit.  Sheep really have no distinct neck or leg wool to cut separately, so it's just one huge wad of fleece - I couldn't get one of them more than 3/4 into the garbage bag!  The fleeces off the 4 Tunis girls is not very good this year - great quality to the fiber itself, but since they never got sheared last year (we bought them in late September, it was too late then!), the outer half of most of the fleece is matted and felted, and some parts are impossibly full of stuff - sticks, hay, sticks, sticks, leaves, sticks...  I have cleaned up one so far, and ended up throwing out some that was just too full of trash, and just cutting off the top half of a lot of it with scissors!  It's long enough that that still leaves me a 3-4" staple, which is plenty.  Next year we should have some really nice fleece, though, I was impressed with how fine and soft it is!  Juniper, the single East Friesian ewe, had a much nicer fleece, both non-felted and cleaner, although her texture is not nearly as fine and delicate as the Tunis.  It'll still work great for slippers, though, Once I get around to processing it.  

In sad sheep news, we are down to one lamb - Alder fell into the water tank and drowned last week, the day after I pulled Hatchet out of the tank!  We haven't had an animal get into the tank in probably 3-4 years, I couldn't believe they both did it within hours of each other!  So frustrating, too, that it's the only female lamb.  An entire gestation period has passed since we bought the sheep, so the other two girls apparently weren't bred when we bought them after all, so this is actually very good news for Hatchet.  Wee'd been planning to butcher him and any other male lambs this fall, but I'd also been assuming I'd have more purebred Tunis girls born.  Since I now have none, we're thinking to keep him for breeding this fall, to get one round of pure Tunis babies, and then breed next year to something else to keep the genetic pool a bit more diverse.  Vertical line-breeding is better than horizontal, but I'd sitll rather not do it very much.

The talk of wool leads into the final big project of the last few weeks - we hosted my first fleece and yarn workshop yesterday!  We had group of 20 or so homeschooled kids plus mothers out for a look at the animals, horse rides for everyone, and a start-to-finish demonstration of how to turn a pile of wool into yarn for the interested older kids.  We looked at how to clean both sheep and alpaca wool, card them on both the hand cards and the drum carder, pre-drafting the prepared fiber into rovings, and then spinning on the drop spindles as well as the spinning wheel, and plying into actual, usable yarn.  It was a lot of fun for everyone - both the older girls fascinated with the yarn and the younger boys buried in the sand box - and as usual, riding Fiona was probably the biggest hit of the afternoon.  I'm hoping to do a few more of these afternoons projects for the group - probably soapmaking and papermaking, then who knows what else!

Finally, we got our beef back a couple of weeks ago, and I'm very pleased to report that the ground beef from a 12 to 20-year-old (we're really not sure, but based on his plummeting physical ability and the longevity of Highlands, I lean towards the upper end of the age  range) and intact bull is absolutely delicious!  We were a bit apprehensive, but we did a side-by-side comparison between him and Quinn the 2-year-old, and while there was technically a discernable difference, it was not really quantifiable and if pressed I would have to vote for Fergus the ancient bull as my preference!  The color of his beef was actually better than Quinn's, a beautiful deep red - when I opened the package I momentarily wondered if I could have mixed them up.  It had great texture and flavor, I will not hesitate to butcher an older animal again, even intact as Fergus was.  After a bit of research, we made sure to wait until a couple of months had passed after the last cow appeared to have been in heat, and before we introduced the new bull to the herd, to keep hormone flow to a minimum and it looks to have paid off.  Now we just have a few more months to wait before the beginning of the last round of Fergus' babies start arriving.  


Love the idea of these workshops!

What an unforgettable and instructive experience for the kids you provided! Great job as usual, Amy!

so much happening

Great to see you last week, be a very tiny part of the events. The sheep-shearing was, indeed, amazing, so glad we were able to take it in. And I too can attest to Amy's cooking skills, gourmet food for our entire visit.


Thanks y'all, that's really sweet :). We really do like sharing our farm with others, especially kids who are so enthusiastic about their enjoyment!

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