I feel silly!

I had a laugh when I fed the chickens and checked on the sheep today; one of the lambs investigated the chicken feed bucket a bit too closely. That is the way with animals, there is always something either going awry or a source of amusement.
A few weeks ago our son was taking a bath and he heard footsteps on the stairs. Knowing that the rest of the family was at the Sunday market, he was a little alarmed, but it was ok, he peeked around the corner to see both goats climbing the stairs to check out what he was doing! The goats are quite intelligent and had quickly learned that the front door latch is just a lever that you push down to open the door.
That reminds me of another episode with the sheep. In the summer I had the rams and a wether in a separate paddock from the ewes. One day the the gate separating the rams and ewes was wide open! I coaxed them back into their separate paddocks but pondered how the gate had mysteriously opened, since it was not a gate we typically use. This gate has a latch that opens by pulling a pin upwards while pulling the gate towards you - not an easy feat. Well, a week or so later it happened again only this time we witnessed the wether stand on his hind legs and with his mouth pull the pin upwards to open the gate! His name from then on was 'Gate Opener'. According to our son, after todays escapade this lambs new name is 'Bucket Head'.

Lamb, Fresh Thanksgiving Turkeys, Pumpkins and Squash

We butchered several batches of lambs this year. The first batch in May sold out quickly at the farmers market. We have a variety of cuts available from the fall batch and will also soon have lamb Italian sausage meat (not in links) that we are eager to try. We are also raising turkeys again this year with a planned butcher day of the Tuesday before Thanksgiving and free delivery of your fresh turkey. This year we are raising a heritage breed (Bronze) and still have a couple available.

Lamb loin, rib and sirloin chops (4 / pack) - $12 / #
Lamb Leg roast (boneless) - $7.40 / #
Lamb Leg roast (bone in) - $6.60 / #
Lamb Shoulder roast (boneless) - $7.40 / #
Lamb Shanks - $6 / #
Lamb Bones (soup/stock) - $2.75 / #
Bronze Heritage Turkey - $4.65 / #
Whole Chicken - $3.95 / #

We also have several varieties of winter squash at 65c / # and pie pumpkins 55c / # for sale.

Squash: Acorn, Buttercup, Butternut, Red Kuri Hubbard, Green Kabocha and Spaghetti.
Pumpkins: New England Pie, Baby Pam and Rouge Vif D'Etampes.

Our onions were a big hit this year at the market. While we have sold out of the mini and red onions, we do still have Sweet Onions for sale at $1 / #.

And lastly we do have a limited quantity of greens; Winter Red Kale, Parsley and Sorrel at $1.50 / bag. I have more greens (kale, bok choi, arugula and mustard) started in a low tunnel but with the low light intensity at this time of year it will be a while before they are ready.

Please email (nutsaboutberriesfarm@gmail.com) if you like to visit the farm to make a purchase or even just for a tour.

Market Stall

It has been a while since my last post - just so much to do. We nearly doubled the area cultivated for vegetables and with the wet spring the weed pressure was intense. This season I purchased a wheel hoe which really helped weeding the beans, melons, squash and corn which are planted on a wide spacing. However the early spring plantings were a bit too close together for the wheel hoe so those weeds had to be hand pulled, very time consuming, consequently it was a struggle to keep the weeds in check.

Debra took this photo last Sunday at the farmers market (Orenco Station). Up front we have six different varieties of bush beans - yellow fillet, purple, green (2 types), yellow wax and Italian flat pod. We also have a pole bean growing up the corn and scarlet runner beans that we haven't picked yet. On the left the orange Sungold cherry tomatoes are a big hit - such intense flavor. We planted seven varieties of basil in our moveable greenhouse, two sweet Italian and five flavored varieties.

I've already started planting fall crops, lettuce and chinese cabbage under shade cloth and several rows of beets, kohlrabi and spinach.

Lambing and shearing

The lambing season was a challenging one this year. Out of twelve lambs we lost six! Butterball lost one of her lambs, but that seems to be a mothering issue, she had twins again this year but was only interested in the first one. This happened last year too but last year we got to the second lamb quick enough to force the ewe to bond with the lamb but it wasn't to be this year. Two single lambs were born during the bitterly cold spell late in February. The newbie ewes, Stripes and Athena, chose to lamb in the field rather than in the relative shelter of the sheep barn. No matter what we were unable to revive them. Another newbie ewe, Hestia, gave birth in the barn, however the lamb was still born possibly with a broken neck. All of the newbie ewes did their best to clean off the lambs and were very upset when we had to bury the lambs. Next came Marina's twins, they seemed to do well for a week but then became bloated. We removed the lambs from the ewe to intensive care (our family room) and treated for scours. We also had the vet do a stool sample which didn't show up anything. Their appetite was very good but they seemed to be unable to absorb any nutrients from the ewe or from two different brands of milk replacer and succumbed after 1-2 weeks.
For us the end of lambing means the beginning of shearing. This year we've decided to shear all of the lambs ourselves including the meat lambs. We are very slow using scissors, but doing it ourselves is allowing us to better gauge the characteristics of the fleeces and the temperament of the sheep. We will use these factors in deciding which ewes to keep and which ones to cull from our flock. Using our electric shears with colored sheep causes too many nicks to the sheep and second cuts on the fleece. The skin of the colored sheep is dark along with the fleece and so it is very difficult to differentiate between the two.

This year we will be looking for a new ram to broaden the genetics of the flock and increase the quality of the fleeces. We have found that Mel, our CVM Ram has too much crimp when mated with the colored ewes which makes fiber processing especially difficult on a drum carder. We are extremely pleased with Paris' line, Hestia, Zeus (Ram) and this years twins. Paris is a Romeldale with long lustrous locks. Butterball and Colossus are white Romneys with regular length fine locks.

One more lamb

Butterball (Romney) gave birth to twins this morning, both were female however only one made it. The second was fully formed and was either still born or died soon after, Butterball had made no attempt to clean off the goup from birthing. We think that Zeus, Paris' male lamb from 2010 is the father. Butterball, the ewe, only seems to bond with the first lamb. Last year she had twins and bonded with the female and then rejected the male even pushing him away when he tried to feed. We helped him along by supplementing with a bottle and eventually she accepted him. We had thought that Butterball was mentally challenged, but we now think that Butterball may be blind, although she copes remarkably well if she is.

Black Lambs

Mini (Romeldale) gave birth to a black lamb on Wednesday afternoon in the walnut orchard, the father is Mel (CVM). Mini is quite a nervous ewe and took a lot of coaxing to get lamb and ewe in the barn. They both are very content now warm and safe in the barn stall.

The following day, Ruby (Romeldale) gave birth to twins, the father is Mel (CVM). This is the third year that she has produced twins, Mini and Morris were her first. She is also quite nervous but a very good mother.

They grow up fast though, Paris' twins after a week are very lively, constantly investigating and curious. Even trying some of mom's food.

Magazine photo shoot

A Flair For Fiber
Debra's fiber appeared in the Hobby Farm Home magazine article - A Flair For Fiber (March 2011 issue). The article by Cherie Langlois profiles three fiber artists from across the US. The lead photo is a close up of one of Debra's shawls and custom blended ball of fleece. Photographer, Rhoda Peacher, visited our stall at Orenco Station farmers market in October to capture the wonderful images of Debra's yarn and felted fish. Later on, Rhoda visited the farm, camera in hand, and our sheep always oblige to have their photo taken when offered some grain (we call it their candy).
Place mouse over small photos to see expanded image.
Photos used with kind permission of Rhoda Peacher.

Place mouse over small photos to see expanded image.
Photos used with kind permission of Rhoda Peacher.