I don’t know why it took me this long to start using marking sticks on my sheep. I’ve always known they existed, but before didn’t see an application for me. This year, for some reason, it dawned on me how useful they are. You see, whenever I do any kind of of operation on the sheep, like hoof trimming, blood sampling, de-worming vaccinating, I do a gate-sort to keep track of which sheep are done. Simple enough: use the dogs to pack the sheep into a corner. Vaccinate a ewe, kick her out the gate, into the “done” side, move onto the next sheep.

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Welcome to today’s episode of Amateur Autopsy. (Warning, graphic biology photos ensue.)

Mama with twinsLast spring, I had a ewe pregnant with triplets. At birth, the first one was mal-presented with head forward, feet back; so I assisted. He was dead, the other two live and healthy, everything looked fine. A day or two later, I noticed the ewe seemed very subtly off. I realized she was anemic, and figured maybe she lost more blood than normal during the delivery assist, and was just stressed. I brought her into the barn for a few weeks, de-wormed her, gave her alfalfa and vitamin B, and she seemed to perk up. So, I turned her back outside. Her lambs seemed to be doing well. Triplet lambs are always a little small, but they were vigorous and happy.

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To everything, there is a season…

I’ve always loved this verse, even though I’m not a biblical person. There is a reason it’s so often read at funerals, as it just reminds us how everything in life is this way, things come and go, and we have to be accepting of it. It helps me view events on the farm with perspective, where there is always a lot of coming and  going of all kinds.

It came to mind again to me the other day, as I drove past the location of The Art of Milk dairy. Which has had to close. I’m sad selfishly, because I loved the milk and it was very convenient for me to pick up. But I’m also sad because over the last two years, I’ve gotten to know Art and Nancy Groeneweg, and they are really neat people. So, I am sad for them.

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This summer, I ended up bringing in ewes from four different farms, all in a week’s span. Interestingly, the out-of-towners all got some kind of “big head” or facial eczema reaction. They are fine, but here’s what I think happened.

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Canfield Farms

Somewhere in the middle of lambing last spring, I mentioned a funny story about a small crew of Edmonds Community College students and staff who came out here to do a video. They are working on a grant-funded project to educate consumers about local farms and local produce; and these videos are destined to be part of materials used by Food Revolution Snohomish County.

The day they came was a crazy day where, just as they started filming, I had to do a rather major birth extraction, there was a dead lamb (boo) but two more live lambs (yay), and I was a mess and had to change my clothes just to complete the interview. Though the camera was rolling during the entire lambing assist, they chose to exclude the more gross parts and just show some clips of the cute newborns trying to stand.

It took them the rest of the summer to finish producing their videos, and now, here they are. Above is the video they did of our farm, and below are links to the other videos they produced. I think they all turned out really great!

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imageA few notes from a meeting I attended in early August, on the newly-forming farmers’ cooperative, North Cascade Meats (also on Facebook here). We have very limited options for USDA slaughter in our area, which makes it nearly impossible to sell meat by the cut to consumers and restaurants. This group intends to change that, by creating a cooperatively-owned USDA slaughter option.

Currently, I only sell lamb on the hoof, to either customers who have it processed by a local custom-exempt butcher, or to customers who can do their own processing. This works for me right now, as I don’t produce that many butcher lambs, and they all sell out. But looking ahead, I am interested in other channels in which to sell lamb, as I increase the size of my herd. And, it would be nice to be able to give out, or sell, samples to people considering buying my lamb. Thus, I have been watching this group with interest for quite some time.

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Here it is, late August, our hottest and driest part of the year, and our grass is still soaking wet each morning from dew. That is the blessing of living so near a river, where the cool fog rolls in every night and drenches the landscape. This morning I moved some fencing, and my sweat pants were sopping wet up to my hips by the time I was done.

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