Friday, March 30, 2007

Shearing day

Shearing came off without a hitch, it was a beautiful day, high 40's and calm. We got the sheep gathered in the big barn, got their coats off, got their regular barn cleaned and stocked with water and hay for their return. The shearer arrived just in time and we began shearing at 9:30 and were finished by 11:30. After David left, Jack and I re-coated most of the sheep. I had a few coats to clean and so I did that during lunch and we put the rest back on by 2PM. Most of the sheep dropped down 3 coat sizes after shearing! We took them all back to their barn where they spent the afternoon lounging around in the sun. I do believe they feel so much better with their fleeces off. Crystal, as usual, was the big winner fleeceweight-wise; her fleece weighed in at 17.5#! Most of the rest weighed between 7-9#, with the exception of a few in the 10's. So begins the skirting and prepping of each fleece for sale and show by the end of April. I also need to get fleece samples from the yearlings to send to Yokum-McColl for micron tests.
Regretably I can't get these pictures in the right order but here they are top to bottom:
Charlotte, shearing complete; Half the flock sheared; David bringing a ewe out to the shearing area; me bagging a fleece; flock heads back to the barn after shearing; David Hinman, the shearer upon arrival, caught him just before a smile!; David setting up the shearer; Getting the blades set in the shearer; the flock just before shearing started; Peach getting sheared.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Be careful what you baaa for

I took a few extra minutes this morning after chores to get the shearing area ready for tomorrow. Our sheep are sheared in the big barn; they are always excited to see us over there; mostly they sense a change. I opened the barn doors today, cleaned the floor area where the shearing will take place and so forth and all the while I heard the baaas, on and on. Every sheep has their own voice, hard to believe I know, but it is so true. We have a couple of "fog horns"; Daisy and Georgia for sure. If our Sheltie barks, even once, one of those two sheep is at the ready with a big old vocal sound! So this morning as I got things set for shearing tomorrow I muttered to myself...."be careful what you baaa for girls".

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Sugaring ~ part 3

As you can see, it's peak week for maple sugar producers. Sunday Jack and I went to Lyle and Sandy's in the afternoon to visit and spend a few hours at their sugar operation. They have a great sugarhouse with a wood fired system, and just enough room to squeeze 12 people in and around the boiler! On a chilly day it makes for a very warm atmosphere. It was great fun, listening to stories and jokes as the sap boiled away. They too are having a good run and putting up a nice stash for sale and personal use. Pictures top to bottom:
The sugarhouse; Lyle getting ready to feed the fire; Lyle filtering some syrup through; Drawing off the syrup; you can tell two things from this last picture, it's mud season and most of us drive pickups/ 4-wheel drive vehicles!

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Sugaring ~ part 2

Saturday we went back to Ted and April's with the intent to help them gather sap. Saturday morning was spectacular....40's, sunny, real nice spring weather, and perfect sap running. Weather report said a front was coming in for late day; it was hard to believe. We went to their farm at 2:30 but by then the clouds had rolled in, not a good sign. April, Jack and I drove out to recheck tanks while Ted and a few friends stayed to keep boiling. When we got to the sugar bush the sap had stopped running. The run in the morning, according to Ted, was one of the best he'd seen in years....guess that was the gift for Saturday. That night we got an inch of wet snow. You can buy syrup from Ted and April, online at
Pictures top to bottom:
Ted and April checking consistency before drawing off syrup; a customer and son sampling the syrup; bringing back more sap to biol; TJ Ferguson headed into the holding tank to scrub it out, there is already a teenager, Spencer, in there! It's actually a retired milk tank, all stainless and great for sap storage.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Mud season ~ part 2

I drove the roads around our farm today to get some photos of mud season....not too bad based on past years.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Set to shear

Shearing day is set for the end of next week. It is a fleece farmer's most exciting event! Before the shearer, David, arrives, we prepare the barn with a clean floor area where he can do the shearing. David shears electrically so we have a pole devised where he can hang his machine from, good lighting and by the time he arrives we have them all in the right pen with their coats off, ready to go. We put all the sheep in one pen adjacent to the shearing area (shown in top photo) and then one by one they are brought out, sheared, the fleece gathered, bagged and labeled, the sheared sheep then put in a separate pen with other shorn sheep. The one management issue is to shear a mellow sheep first and also last so there isn't chaos for the one at either end in a pen alone. Sheep have a natural flocking instinct that comes on strong in situations such as this. Good old mellow Crystal ALWAYS is first or last and I am thinking Wetherby(shown at last year's shear) may be the other this year. Jack and David will manage the sheep and I do the fleece gathering, bagging and labeling. I will also weight each fleece and record it on the labels. It is fast work for all, probably 1 1/2-2 hours for the 16 sheep. It's fun though; lots of jokes, catching up on the year's events, and at the end bags and bags of fleece to review! Many of the fleeces are already reserved and so begins my job of sorting, skirting and preparing for sale and judging. Yahoo, the day draws near!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Cut, split and delivered

Sunday we took a load of firewood down to family friends in MA, Priscilla and John. Although we told them we would unload and stack the wood for them, they insisted on helping and my goodness, they were quite hearty! Priscilla is 86 and John is 89 and they are avid walkers, sometimes 3-5 miles a day, which certainly keeps them fit and agile. After we got the wood stacked we enjoyed a visit with coffee and some snacks they had set out for us. It felt good to know they would be sitting by a fire in short order!

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Town Meetin'

Just after the mud starts to loosen making travel a real challenge on the back roads, the annual town meeting happens. In our town we do all the voting for selectmen, town clerk, librarian, constable, and the moderator; that's the person in charge of keeping peace at the meeting! At 7:00PM tonight the town will gather to discuss and vote on the annual warrant which entails a number of items from raising money for a new town history book, to bridge repairs, to refurbishing one of the fire trucks. We usually have a couple of "hot" topics which is where the "lively" comes in. New England is the only region in the US to have town meetings. In the 1800's I can only imagine getting to town for the vote and town meeting was a all day event. The road we live on has always been dirt and until 1997 it was a small windy road with no real gravel base so it must have been damn near impossible to get to town and back in the 1800's.

Update: Bob Moore didn't make the seat for selectman; Marjorie Marena won. Good luck Marjorie! And we voted down a bridge and road repair which took a couple hours of deliberation and two ballot votes. Town meeting this year was LONG. We finally closed the meeting someplace after 11PM, which on a work night has a number of us yawning big time!

Picture: Bob Moore, speaking on behalf of the budget commitee about the road and bridge repairs. I forgot to take more pictures; too much yak and controversy going on!

Maple Sugaring

All over New England the smoke is pouring from sugar shacks where maple syrup is being made. Life just isn't right without a jug of real maple syrup at the ready for pancakes, waffles, ice cream or even when you need a fast and powerful sugar boost straight from the jug! Today I stopped by Ted and April Ferguson's sugar house here in Westmoreland to see how things are going. Ted said the sap isn't running like it should. In fact the man that taps our trees, Bill Sargent, came by to collect sap here today and said the same thing. Our sugar bush tends to be a bit later to yield as it is down in a grove where the sun doesn't melt the snow as quickly, so maybe we'll get a better yield this next week, but the sugaring season is coming to an end, so all fingers are crossed. The temps have to be below freezing at night and above freezing during the day. It takes a lot of time, expenses and energy to turn maple sap to syrup. Pictures top to bottom: Ted checking the consistency of the syrup before drawing it off. Matt brought his young team of oxen to help gather sap, good experience for the team and a help for Ted. These are the four sections of the boiling process, as the sap thickens it travels through the channels from left to right, the channel on the right being where the syrup is drawn off. Last, Ted draws off the syrup into a bucket, making sure the consistency holds as it leaves the channel. It is then sent to a final tub where it will cool and be bottled. If you are interested in buying some syrup from Ted and April log in at where you can contact them for more information!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Get out to vote!

Today is town voting day in Westmoreland, as in many other New England communities. Our town votes on Tuesday and holds town meeting Wednesday evening. We have a race for selectman this year and each candidate got a lot of backing from townspeople in the days and weeks before today. It's a great social occasion, sliding down out of the hills into town, through the mud, which is deepening by the day, to vote at the town hall, maybe buy a raffle ticket for the quilt offered by the Ladie's Aid, and just chatting before and after voting with friends and neighbors. Top to bottom: Bruce Smith with Evelyn Hunter, Bob Moore, Peter Heed, our moderator and Fran Clapp of Ladie's Aid.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Mud season cometh!

I can feel it in my bones, sure as anything ever was, mud season is just starting to stretch his legs and yawn, realizing the days are warming and it's time to do his work. This is our road this morning, pre-mud. Followup in a few weeks. Logging operations are suspended until the earth dries up, later in the summer or even next winter depending on the rainfall. The town closes the roads to heavy trucks this week in anticipation of the mud. What some call spring we call Mud Season. But on a sweeter note the maple trees are tapped, some 400 taps, and the sweet sap is flowing!

Monday, March 05, 2007

Morning mystery solved

I went to the barn this morning and the first thing I do is scan the sheep and the scene to make sure all is well; everyone alert, their coats intact, nothing seemingly in disaray. You know leaving a flock of animals unattended for 12 hours can prove problematic at times. This morning I instantly spoted this area of blood in the snow. My heart skipped a bit...with no real reason, blood just does this! The flock was quite chipper and happy. So as I fed them and cleaned I kept thinking what could have caused it. Did an owl swoop in on a bluejay? No feathers. The area itself was not broken down as if a sheep had laid blood on any hind ends or noses. No one coughing or sneezing. hmmmm. I took the dogs for a walk and on the way back there were a few sheep eating snow. We have a nice crust now after the rain storm this past week. I went back in and watched as some ate the snow. Low and behold Wetherby, for one, had bleeding gums. Akin to a dog chewing on a rawhide bone, I decided this was not life threatening and even perhaps good gum therapy. Certainly one thing I know for sure, there is nothing that I can do about it! After Wetherby ate some of the snow he went right back to the hay rack to eat. On with the day!

Thursday, March 01, 2007


We just returned from a trip to the Great North Woods of NH snowmobiling. Unplugged! No cell service or computer connection. We rode 400+ miles from Colebrook to Erroll to Pittsburg and Diamond Pond. The trails were smooth, there is plenty of snow up there! Off trail it was hip deep. We enjoyed meals at The Balsams and the Rainbow Grille, both great destinations in NH. The Balsams is located in Dixville Notch which is the first town in NH to vote at election time. They vote right at the inn as it IS Dixville Notch! These are a few of the incredible views we saw on the trip. Happy trails!