Monday, December 21, 2009

Cold Feet?

"Why farm?" We get that all the time.

We have full time plus jobs, three young children, long commutes, crazy expenses, a house that requires the chopping of wood for heat and a hundred other chores, all sorts of creative, political and social obligations etc, etc and I can't tell you the number of times folks, hearing about our jam-packed lifestyle shake their heads and call us crazy.

We used to laugh it off. Sure, well. Yeah...

But lately, we are wondering if perhaps we ARE a little crazy. Too crazy.

It all started with the hay. We don't have any. Our farm is small, and so, like many other unfortunate farmers we are forced to buy our hay from those with the land and equipment to produce it. $4.75 a smallish bale-- if we take the seats out of the minivan, load it ourselves and drive it home-- untold extra dollars if we have it delivered. This year, due to other obligations-- kids' birthdays, family, etc etc-- it snowed before we got the hay in. Now the driveway down to the barn is an ice slope with little hope of thaw, and we are stuck with 70 bales of hay (about a month's worth) in our garage. And many trips to pick up hay ahead.

In addition, Dan spent precious time he should have devoted to grading finals on fixing the fence Charlie bashed in trying to get a few more ewes "under his belt". And the water hydrant in the barn broke so we have to tote buckets a little farther over the treacherous ice. And it is cold, in the single digits in the mornings.

All just everyday stuff. But it's stuff that might seem more worth the trouble if we could eke a little profit out of the livestock. We can't. Haven't. And won't in the forseeable future.

You see, the jobs and kids and other obligations keep us from focusing on the selling part. We should be out there pushing yarn and pelts and meat and every other scrap of "by" and "value added" product". The selling needs to happen in order for "farm" to be more than the landed equivalent of "boat" (as in: a hole in the ground you pour your money into.) As it stands, the money we pour into the livestock could be our childrens' security or education or maybe just a breather in our constant financial juggle.

Part time farming really is a losing proposition.

I don't mean to sound grouchy. Or whiny. Or even glum. I don't feel any of these things. I am just coming to the realization that maybe... just maybe... I will regret that I haven't had time to teach that felting class with my kids after school or concentrate more fully on the half written novel or just play a few more rounds of "Fundomino" without having to truck on out to take care of the animals. Also, there is all the money to be saved.

On the other hand. Our sheep are family. I would miss the expensive little beasties, and mucking around out there in the cold, too. And watching newborn lambs. And figuring out breeding groups. And all the shearing days and unintentional "sheep rodeos". I would also miss feeling that deeper connection to the seasons and cycles and the inimacy with birth and death, joy and sorrow, that farming sort of is.

It's winter on Maggie's Farm, and I guess you could say, I've got cold feet.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Belated Thanks

While Thanksgiving has come and gone, I am still very much in "thankful mode".

Our group (16 strong, this holiday!) sat around the table and created "Thankfulness Pictures" to share before dinner. (This is a tradition that took on a life of its own a few years back.) And aside from appreciating the family connections, the aspects of place and plenty that are a consistent theme, we thanked the animals that made our meal possible.

We had a very real sense of gratitude to the critters in our lives, owing to the bounty before us: The 30 pound turkey that had been free ranging about the orchard just a week before, the ham from our very own pigs, the sausage apple stuffing, homemade cider, blueberry pie, & apple pie-- all harvested with our own hands. These things felt different somehow, owing to our relationship with them.

Honestly, I am still wrestling with that relationship. Thoughts of the pigs (our three affable "Daves") continue to give me pause and-- although the ham was absolutely deliscious and I was very proud to provide it to our friends and family-- I ate it with reservations, with each bite totally mindful of the sacrifice it entailed.

The kids don't have the same reservations. At the holiday table, they thanked "The animals that feed us" and meant it, but to them, it seemed the natural way of things. Is this better than my agonizing and introspection? I just don't know. But I do know that time will give me more perspective on this, and time (relentlessly) marches forward.

We've had the year's first "snow day" and are moving headlong into the holiday season.
We were unable to harvest the TONs of apples out in the orchard this year and although we invited every friend, neighbor and acquaintance to load up, peeled and froze bushels full, made cider, brought apple crates to work and school, fed the sheep daily snacks, and donated a bunch to the food pantry, our orchard is still a mess of unpicked fruit. The deer will enjoy them at least... And Luka will enjoy barking at the deer and running them off with gusto.... And we will enjoy (not!) rushing out into the snowy night to call our bravehearted little dog back home. And so it goes...

The farm seems so quiet without the pigs and turkeys. The sheep are in their breeding groups and the chickens snowbound in their coop. Maggie-- although she'd sit hip-deep in the snow all day for the chance to watch over her flock-- is in the house much of the time.
The kids are building snow forts and perpetually losing gloves. Dan is plowing snow and chopping wood and worrying over hay bales.

Winter has happened.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Considerable Pathos

Last week our three pigs were slaughtered for food. This was the plan and we did indeed see it through. Though I feel like a bit of a cheat as I happened to be at work when the local guy came to shoot, skin and butcher them. I didn't mean to be away. In fact, I’d been steeling myself for the hard reality of slaughter as I stood by the pig pen through the increasingly cold days of autumn, trying to fathom how these three affable “Daves” would become bacon and pork chops and ham. I felt I owed it to the choice I had made, the choice to get to know my food on a personal level, to be there to see the thing out. But John, the “pig processor”, could only make it on my working days and so Dan helped out instead. I returned home that day to a pile of pig skins, a few puddles of blood and a heavy heart.

We tried to raise and slaughter these pigs as humanely as we could, arranging for them to stay home rather than be stressed in a slaughterhouse somewhere. We gave them plenty of room and pig goodies, gave them no reason to stress or fear up until this day. The night before the slaughter, I even went down to town and bought the largest cheapest bottles of vodka in the liquor store (The clerk had a good laugh when I explained they were for my livestock) and Dan made the pigboys “White Russians” with the last few cartons of milk. Even so, when I returned home the day of, Dan was pretty tight-lipped. So I am left to imagine that even with the pigs drunk as skunks, it was not a thoroughly an easy passing.

These days, I've been avoiding the pig pen, and I do not quite look at the drying hides in the barn. BUT, I must also admit that when the meat arrived a week later, wrapped neatly and in such amazingly plenty—enough to feed us and several other families for a good long time-- I felt a sense of pride. We had done what we set out to do: Provide for our family in a sustainable way, provide for our pigs a healthy, free ranging environment where they could root and graze and eat healthy whole foods, work hard from May to November, recycle loads of organic groceries that would have filled landfills rather than swine bellies. (Pigs are the ultimate in recycling…) And be part of the food chain again.

But How does it feel? You ask.

Hmmmm…… so, so.

On one hand, pigs are curious, trusting creatures (At least compared to sheep, who fully expect that you will eat them every time you so much as glance in their direction) and this makes the idea that we would violate the “trust” and actually eat them all the more awful.

On the other hand, the Daves were gobbling close to 20 gallons of food a day, an untenable situation. I could not imagine standing out in the lower barn an hour a day plunking frozen yogurt out of frozen 8 ounce tubs with frozen hands to keep the boys plump and happy. The cost of their feed skyrocketed towards the end there. And they were eating vanloads of donated food a week. Not easy to fit in between ferrying kids and playdates and work responsibilities and hay for the sheep. Owing to the confluence of weather, school and size, three, 300 pound pigs began to feel like one thing too many.

On the other hand, the pigs were pleasant and sweet and so easygoing compared to the nervous flock of sheep. They were fun—if stinky—to have around. My oldest had taken to riding them! And they could be counted on to eat every kind of table scrap—much more efficiently than the chickens. I didn't mind the half sandwiches left in the kids' lunchboxes when I plopped them into the "pig food" bucket on the counter.

On the other hand, I truly believe that death is a natural part of life and that by removing ourselves so thoroughly from the food chain (Many folks get squeamish just thinking about the “cow” in their burger) we have created a sort of strange new taboo. Yes it is scary and awful and I have experienced death on many very personal levels, but it is real.

On the other hand, it is much harder to look at a pork chop when you remember the pig it came from happily slurping up gallons of milk and grain, its stubby tail waggling.

On the other hand, as barrons (Castrated Males), the Daves had no other “purpose” other than to feed us.

On the other hand, do ANY of us have a "purpose"?

Will we do it again? I’m not sure yet.

I believe that it is natural and right to have a personal relationship with your food. But it is also a whole lot harder.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

To Dye For

Ta Dah!!!!

This yarn makes me wish I knew how to KNIT!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Fall Farm Update

It was in the 30's last night. Definitely cold enough to talk fall, a busy time around here. (Actually, every time is pretty much busy on Maggie's Farm.)

Here's what's happening:

The little turkey poults of late June are now full-fledged adolescents, wandering about eating windfall apples and clover and whatever else they can get their beaks on. We have two narragansetts and a chocolate turkey in with the more common white and bronze varieties. Maybe we'll keep a breeding trio this year. We'll see.I love how turkeys take the idea of "flock" seriously. They stick together. Chickens, by contrast, are much more individualistic.

Speaking of chickens, Mighty Hera's batch of "sink chicks" are all grown up: Two roosters and two hens. They continue to live in the barn and may attempt to overwinter there. We'll see how that goes. Our second set of chicks (The kids have named them "Basketball", "Soccerball" and "Pearl") have moved from the temporary "broody coop" into the main coop and are now part of the flock. We've been waiting for the rooster on rooster on rooster violence to start up, but so far, it's been relatively peaceful.

The ducks have gone on to new homes. They were too panic-stricken for us. And messy. I've heard it said that there is a reason that ducks are called "fowl" :) That is definitely the case. So, no more ducks.

Speaking of messy, the Daves (Our trio of GOS X Tamworth pigs) are really big now, and so friendly and easy-going. I am having a hard time imagining eating them. Every day, during feeding, I stare at those "6 nice-sized hams" and tell myself that I will be able to do this thing. And I will. I have to. There is no way we can keep up with the feeding and care of these guys as they grow to top 500 pounds. But for now, they are settled into a more weather-tight pighouse (Dan made it by modifying the duck house) and enjoying lots of windfall apples and school cafeteria leftovers.

All of this year's ewe lambs are sold, but we still have 4 ram lambs available for sale: Dodge, Drac, Data and Duncan

Dodge and Drac are really magnificent rams-- already big and broad. Dodge has a great, square build and color. Drac has a truly amazing fleece and horns that will someday rival his sire, Charlie. We'd love to make you a deal on these guys, if you are interested. It will be a shame to eat them. A serious shame, but this farm ain't big enough for the both of them (+ Charlie + Rahm)

A twin born in Mid-May, Data is still smaller than the other boys, but he has great parasite resistance and is from those wonderful Jager Farm, Bambi and Rektor lines. He will look just like our herdsire Charlie one day. ...And he is available at a substantial discount. I don't have a current picture, but this is his sire, Charlie, and likely what he'll look like as an adult:

Duncan has quite a lot in the way of build and genetics. He has a very white-white fleece and the potential to throw moorit color or even spots.

And the apples are just getting ripe. They are magnificent this year, due to a preponderance of rainy days. It has been fun to share them with neighbors and friends. But somehow, we have yet to bake a single apple pie.

The Franklin County Fiber Twist is happening next weekend. Our yarn will be available at the "Metaphor Yarns" booth. Check it out!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Breed 'em or Eat

As summer draws to a chilly close, we find that our thoughts must also turn a bit chilly. Dan and I look at this year's lambs-- 5 rams remaining!-- and make some very real life-or-death choices. Who will we retain for breeding? Who will we eat?

Who will we eat????


It may seem a callous, brutal question, but reality is: We have no room for 7 grown rams. Come cold weather, they will pummel each other. And they will cost an arm and a leg in hay... and arm and a leg and the rest of the farm perhaps as well. So it has come to this: a difficult choice. A lot of hemming and hawing and second guessing. But it's early in the season yet, and there is time for all that.

I don't think I appreciated the cyclical nature of the farmer's world before we began living it. Sure, every children's book makes mention of the seasons, Halloween and Thanksgiving, leaf piles and sledding. But as farmers, our tasks, even our preoccupations and worries are so specific, so predictable and seasonal, that season itself takes on a different sort of resonance. Nearly five years of farming and I could tell you month by month what my worries will be, what the little annoyances (^%*&&#$# wandering, wrong roosting turkeys!) or joys will be. I could tell you when I am going to be banging ice out of water buckets or clipping maple branches to sustain the sheep through the sparse late fall pasture, shooing a forever broody hen off her nest or checking on heavily pregnant ewes through the long night hours, skirting fleeces or dyeing yarn.

And so I can tell you that before the celebratory and Thanksgiving-y time of "harvest", comes the time of year when I look at the lambs-- the lambs that were once so cute and big-eyed twiggy who now look like everybody else out there more or less-- and make life or death decisions.

Once it's decided and done, I will not be able to look at pictures of these lambs for a while. It will be like any other loss... only one we've engineered ourselves. But there will be food in our freezer and enough hay for winter. And in the spring, I will run twenty times a day out to the barn to check on ewes with bulging bellies. And the cycle will begin again.

Death shadows the seasons on a farm. Fear of it (or of hurt, illness or injury) to your livestock informs much of what you do throughout the seasons of winter and spring and summer.

Then, in autumn, you cause it.

I like to think that farming has taught me to hold death a little closer. Itwas easy for me to forget how much a part of life-- how very normal-- death is when I was shielded from it in the suburbs, buying my meat from Stop and Shop. I chose not to think about the many deaths that enabled my lifestyle. Quite a far cry from my ancestors, who probably had an intimacy with death that I cannot even fathom.

And so, like the seasons, I guess I have come full circle as well.

At any rate, we still have some wonderful ram lambs for sale....

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Skein Central

We just got a new shipment of yarn back from the mill, and it is beautiful! We tried something new this year and mixed colored in the same skein. The effect is a sort of tweed... or zebra. I love it!

We also a lot of white this time around (Our white sheep are super hardy and just keep propagating...) But the white ranges from slightly gray to oatmeal colored to glossy and warm. More variation than you'd expect from "white"

Varied the size this time around as well. Some of the yarn is 2 ply sport, some a beautiful fingerling.

Fresh off a seminar in dyeing yarns and roving, I will be dyeing some of the white skeins. This is a first for us. Other than a kool-aid and one-color dye experiments, we've offered only naturally-colored yarns. look for the results (whatever they may be) here on the blog.

So now, the question shifts from "When will the yarn show up?" To "What the heck are we going to do with all this yarn?" (Have I mentioned I don't really knit-- well? In truth, I have been "learning to knit" for three years now. and may never progress beyond this point due to a lethal combination of work, kids and ineptitude...)

The yarn is expensive to produce, but we love the magic of these skeins, remembering, as we do, all the way back to when they were on the backs of our well-loved sheep.

And it is for sale, of course. Soon to be posted on our website and on Etsy as well.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


In between kids, farm and work, Dan managed to make 18 cans of Plum and Plum Pepper Jam this week. (Yup, he's pretty amazing...)

We are set for about 500 Peanutbutter sandwiches, very important with school fast approaching.

Entering a few jars in the Fair this year!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Hoggy, Soggy, Sickly Days

The weather's been brutal this month; rain then rain, heat and humidity, more rain, followed by more heat and more humidity. It's the perfect storm as far as parasites and stress are concerned. Maggie's Farm Forecast says "80% chance of livestock disaster." And we've had it.

Stubby Dave (One of the three porcine "Daves" hanging out in the future sheep pasture in back) was hit last week. We knew something was up when he declined dinner. We knew it was serious when he was not tempted the next morning by a juicy wad of leftover pizza. All day Stubby lolled in the mud, his teeny-but-cute eyes following us as we moved along outside the fence. He was definitely out of sorts.

A day later with no change, we called our vet. Now, Dr. S is a typical wonderful country vet. He was swamped (Weather related no doubt) and suggested-- after a short phone conversation--that we give Stubby Dave a shot of our fancy new one-time-only antibiotic.

Sure, Okay....

Stubby was so lethargic it seemed at first that the task would be a snap. But as soon as we put on our boots and filled the syringe, he grew instantly alert. He gave a few inquiring squeals as I straddled him and pressed his shoulders into the mud. The needle went in and Dave-- lethargy forgotten-- exploded into the far corner of the pen, the tip of the needle riding along on his hip. We sloshed after him, trying to snag it, which we did, then started all over again.

Dave was sick enough to slettle back down in the mud after a slow-motion chase, and we tried again. Same result (Minus the needle coming apart). We tried again, and again.... By this time, we were stinky and sweating and thoroughly done with hanging out in the pig pen.

I remembered the woman who sold us the Daves telling us that the only way to hold a pig was by its back legs. Dan gave that a try. Not such a good idea once the pig is 150 or so pounds... he received a serious splattering of mud for his trouble (The most odoriferous, disgusting mud imaginable, mind you) before releasing Dave for another slow pursuit.

Persistence paid off in the end, and Stubby Dave finally consented to treatment. A few anxious days later he was back tussling for scraps with his brothers.

In the meantime, we had to treat a ewe for parasites and just today, Dusk, one of our youngest ram lambs, succumbed quite mysteriously. The stress of the constant heat and rain couldn't have helped. This is the first death we've had in 3 years of sheep, and it is worrying, especially as there was nothing obviously wrong with the little guy. He was hot and a little lethargic yesterday, but still feisty and fine. Today: gone. I've heard late season lambs struggle the most and this one was late... and small, and born to a yearling ewe. But it hurts nonetheless.
In truth, every time we have an animal illness or set back, I begin to think about giving the whole farm thing up. In the sadness of the moment, anything seems better than facing another sick, miserable, hungry or otherwise needy animal and not knowing exactly what to do about it. But the next day, I am up at dawn (or thereabouts anyway) pausing in my chores to "take stock" of the peaceful flock, and it all seems okay again.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

SOMEbody's Got to Do It.

Luka, our little Icelandic sheepdog, has taken on a new role around the farm. She is The Enforcer, with an ego the size of Texas (or perhaps Iceland) and a zero tolerance policy for extraneous critters... and there have been quite a few extraneous critters of late.

You see, it all started with pigs.

Ever since "The Daves" squealed into our lives we've had a varmint issue. It's not their fault, but pigs are, well... pigs. And they eat. They eat quite a lot. To feed the pig guys, we collect left over produce (almost all organic!) and other tasty items from a local grocery store, and all these goodies have to be stored. Plastic tubs are hardly a deterrant.

The Daves have attracted a following. We've found the footprints-- all sorts of footprints all over the broad surface of the storage tubs. We've also found bitten milk containers and gallons of spilled milk.

As so often happens in farming, one thing (pigs) begets another (pig food storage issues), begets another (varmints!). Hopefully, this will not beget the deaths of many well-loved hens. So far (Knock on wood) the poultry have been left alone. But we worry about them come fall, when the the Daves have "moved on" (Yes, another Maggie's Farm euphemism for slaughter). We also worry about bears, which stop by from time to time even without the added lure of pig food.

Luka has no use for worry. She's decided to take matters into her own paws when it comes to the varmint issue. In the last few weeks, she's cornered a possum (Dan snapped this picture of the event)
treed a large and very noisy racoon (Who knew they could screech like that???) and killed two snakes and a young skunk.

Now, we know we are supposed to be tough and unemotional when it comes to the bottom line. Farmers have little sympathy for harmful hangers-on, but the dead skunk got to me. It was adolescent at best and left belly-up beside the barn, its pointy little teeth bared.

Here's another thing about the skunk: It got a bit of revenge on Luka and the rest of us. we've had a pretty ripe few days here on Maggie's Farm.

Luka, however, wears her new perfume like a badge of honor. Here she is looking just a bit too proud of herself...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Drac and Dodge

I promised to put up a picture of Dracula, Leela's humongous lamb, and here it is. He's the one on the right. Pretty ginormous boy, eh? Leela has the most wonderful fleece, and Drac shares this trait. He really did end up looking a bit like his namesake monster with and enormous rough of fleece around his neck and those arching "eyebrows".

He's a tough one to photograph. Here he is walking away from the camera:

And because the shot of Dodge was so, well, dodgy, I thought I'd put another one out there. Dodge is also honkin' HUGE. With a gingery moorit gray fleece.

One of these boys will go to a new home. one will likely stay. Let us know if you are interested.

Poultry Outtage

Around here, the arrival of turkey poults can only mean one thing: a power outage. Last year, as you may possibly recall, the arrival coincided with a 4 hour outage, visit from cousins, and two lambings. Now THAT was tough.

This time around, the poults arrived later in the year. (Love those "COME GET YOUR BIRDS OUT OF HERE!" calls from the post office.) We set them up in the brooder (They need close to 100 constant degrees) and, right on schedule, the power went out. Oh, and it was 60 degrees and rainy.

The power is pretty steady here in Colrain, which makes these poultry outages all the more baffling. We usually have only two or three over the course of en entire year. But their timing is impeccable (ImPECKable???).

Anyway, I knew what to do this time around-- fill as many vessels as I could before the water from our well seeped irretrievably back to earth, and get busy making snuggly water bottles out of every spare container on hand. (I didn't get pictures this time around, but the poults snuggled up to those milk jugs and muddle through.)

I spent a couple hours warming the poults this way before order-- and power-- was restored. Luckily, reports of poult frailty (in relation to chicks) seem greatly exaggerated.
All of them made it through and they are doing just fine, thank you.

For those who like to have their goofy story with a side of useful information: The batch is 1/3 Giant White, 1/3 Bronze, and 1/3 Narragansett. We also have one "Chocolate Turkey" (for dessert. Well, not really for dessert.)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Hog Habitat

After a crazy lot of effort (on Dan's part) and kibbitzing (on my part) the pigs are finally out on the range.

Pigs are still pretty new to us-- new, but cool. Really cool. We are enjoying our swine venture tremendously. These guys are so friendly and personable. A whole lot easier to keep than sheep-- though not half as elegant. It is a challenge to keep the food aspect in the foreground. But we are working on that...

"The Daves" (as we call them) started out as smallish piglets in a seemingly ample sheep stall. The idea was that they would churn the stall into compost, saving us a lot of time and effort. I'd seen this in action at West Elm Farm a few years back-- when pigs were just a sparkle in this shepherd's eye-- so I knew it was possible. But after a couple of weeks, the pigs were still trotting around on a foot an a half of used hay.

Then we met an old-time pig farmer on the loading bay of a local grocery store (As "pig farmers", ourselves, we've discovered the joys of raiding the unwanted food--with permission of course. The Daves have feasted on everything chocolate milk to organic spinach, tubs of potato salad to fancy Greek yogurt... but that's another story.) Anyway, this old time farmer, told us to bury kernels of corn in the hay and this did the trick. The Daves spent countless hours bulldozing out kernels with their crazy-accurate noses.

In a few weeks our pigs were twice as big and the "more than ample" stall was small, stinky and mucky as all get-out. I doubt the Daves lost any sleep over this, but I did. We'd started this pig thing to supply ourselves with ethically raised, well-treated meat and the pen, while palatial by factory farm standards, started to feel pretty lousy to me.

The new pasture was taking a loooong time-- owing to our busy work schedules and a slew of baseball games, social events and kids birthday parties. And while the postholes were dug and fenceposts set in concrete, while Dan strung woven wire and I detangled our (terribly annoying) electric tape and ran it along the bottom of the pig enclosure-- all in a month of constant, drenching rain punctuated by moments of sun(shower) and cataclysmic storm-- I fretted.

But yesterday, the Daves had an Independence Day of their own. We'd created an alley of fences and plastic bins and eased them out of "old stinky". Dan and I expected they'd trot along in a group, ending up in their new area.
And yes, this is the way it would have happened... if they were sheep. But they were not sheep; they were pigs. And they didn't much care to hurry anywhere. Our drove split up and snuffled along in whatever direction their noses led them. No amount of pushing or shouting deterred them. They had grass under their trotters and they were not going to be hurried. This incensed little Luka (super herding dog, extraodinaire) who set about barking and pushing at the fence. If Dan and I were going to be the "good Cops", she was fine and dandy with the bad cop role. But the Daves paid no attention to psycho herding dog either. (Again, we are all used to SHEEP. Sheep pretty much flow together and run away from humans and maniacal herding dogs.)
Pointy and Stubby Dave eventually strolled into the new pen-- mostly because they wanted to go in that direction anyway. But Scratchy Dave thought the inside of the barn looked pretty interesting, and he did NOT like it when I tackled him around the middle to keep him from busting out into the open. (Note to self: Pigs are really, REALLY loud when you tackle them.) Dan hurried over as I lay on the ground with my arms around Scratchy's back legs and Luka barked and Dave screamed bloody murder, and finally we got him turned around and eased into the new pen. An adventure and a half it was.
Luka thinks this pig thing is crazy...

Once inside, the Daves were more than happy to lend a helping snout in the construction of their new hang out.

The end result is a great place. I keep wanting to call it a "habitat" as if we are some sort of farm animal zoo. It has wallows and high points, weeds and brush. And we are hoping the Daves will set to work turning the place upside down so that we can ready it for the sheep next spring, a sort of "pig tractor". Another amazing thing about pigs (or at least our pigs) is that they took to the wide open, leafy space as if it was exactly what they expected.

The Daves are happy as pigs in a brand new, cool and fun pig habitat.

(Yes, that's genuine Icelandic wool-- part of their cool new bedding material-- they are snuffling in the picture.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

This Year's Crew

At long last, we've got reasonable pictures of MOST of this year's lambs. Now that they are on the big pasture next door, they're not much interested in us. Oh, the little families trot down to the barn now and then for a lick of minerals, but the siren call of fresh grass howls in their furry ears, and mostly, we see the tail ends of these little guys and gals.

That said, we have managed a few recent photos. All these lambs are for sale-- Ewe lambs $325 and ram lambs $275. We'll make you a good deal (Offer ya can't refuse....?) if you are interested in a breeding other type of group. Please call us for details (413-624-3070) or to plan a farm visit.

The picture is a bit fuzzy, but this is Acorn with her huge ram lamb, Dodge. Sired by Charlie, Dodge is moorit gray and horned (Acorn is polled but with a tendency to throw scurred lambs, so we thought we'd try her with a strongly horned ram this year.) Dodge was 12 pounds at birth (giganto!) He has continued his stunning growth as you can see in this picture. He is chunky, with a beautiful fleece. Dodge has a very bold personality with the other lambs, and we have not handled him much because Acorn and her offspring are our friendliest sheep and we don't want to encourage this little ram. Dodge would make a wonderful breeding ram. He is over 1/4 AI (Rektor, Heli and Pettir) with a very nice meaty structure and a good (great!) size. He has a lot of color in his background-- solid moorit and black gray. If you are interested in breeding sheep for meat and/or colorful fleece, Dodge may be your ram.

Dracula. Dracula comes from our best fleece lines. His dam, Leela, has a consistently soft and luxurious fleece-- even as a mature, nursing ewe. He is sired by Charlie and is a moorit gray with an interesting (if slightly diabolical) badgerfaced pattern. He really looks his name these days :) Dracula was another big single (10 pounds!) He is 3/16th AI (Rektor, Pettir, Prestur). We'd hope this pairing would produce lambs with the best qualities of Leela and Charlie. Dracula has his sire's big, broad frame and his dam's beautiful fleece. He should carry black or black gray as well as the badgerfaced pattern. Leela and Charlie are both cautious, sensible sheep and this ram should have a similar personality as an adult. (Dracula is the only lamb we were unable to snap a decent picure of... we'll put one up soon!)

Data is a line bred white twin. His sire is Charlie and dam is Daisy. These two are among our most parasite resistant and healthy sheep. Both have great structure as well. Daisy's progeny may be of particular interest to felters as her fleece felts very well-- sometimes too well :) Data is almost an exact replica of his full siblings (Coraline and Caroline) from last year's pairing. He has phaeomelanin spots (a trait from Grandma Copper's line) and is very growing well. This line carries on the best traits of Jager's Solee-- hardy, easy keepers, competent lambers and great mothers. Data will likely resemble his sire as an adult ram. He is over 1/4th AI (Rektor, Bambi, and Pettir). Data likely carries the moorit and/or black gray pattern. Daisy is a friendly and talkative (read: loud) ewe. Charlie is a little more subdued, a nice thing in a ram. We'll see how this guy develops.

Daffodil is Data's twin, a beautiful moorit gray ewe. Much of what was said about Data will be true of Daffodil. Plus she is a real cutie.

Here are the twins out and about. This picture gives you a sense of their chunky builds.

Dots and Duncan. This breeding combined our broadest, most meaty animals, and Penny's twins have structure in spades. They are sired by Rahm and are a whopping 10/16th AI (Langidalur, Heli, Flekkur, Solon, and Dalur). Both are long bodied and wide with a capital W. They carry their sire's meaty (to the max) build. Both boys do have scurs. If you are interested in meat production, these boys might be just the ticket. both are shaping up to have nice thick fleeces as well. (Another trait of their sire, Rahm). Dots definitely carries spotting (a recessive trait) and possibly moorit or black gray as well. Duncan may carry spotting, and moorit or black gray. Their scurs are small at present and we are keeping an eye on the situation.


Diamond IS a diamond. Sired by the chunky Rahm-- and with quite a similar look to half-brother Duncan-- Copper's ewe lamb has all the best traits of her dam (good structure, good growth, parasite resistance and health) and her sire (meaty, long bodied build and thick fleece). She is 1/2 AI (Langidalur, Pettir and Dalur). Diamond has her mother's calm and good sense. (Copper is our flock leader and matriarch.) She may carry spotting or black. At present, Diamond is still polled (!) Time will tell whether this is a fluke-- due to Rahm's scurs-- or just slow to develop horns.

Dusk and Dawn black baderfaced twins from Carmen, a black badgerfaced one-winter ewe. Carmen has done a fantastic job mothering these two; she required no help birthing or nursing. Carmen hails from West Elm Farm-- she arrived as a bred ewe, adding to our gene pool here at Maggie's Farm. She has great fleece genetics and a calm nature. She herself was a fast growing, fleecy lamb just a year ago! Her twins carry the badgerfaced pattern and also possible black gray and spots. They are hardy (and adorable) and, from very fleecy lines, they should have great fleeces.
Here's Dusk: