Saturday, January 31, 2009

Long Ridge Farm's recognition

Long Ridge Farm received February's "Farm of the Month" from Hannah Grimes !
I wish I could link to the article however the recognition comes out only in an email newsletter. Suffice to say our farm is showcased and proud!

Hannah Grimes Center is a successful venue for NH artists, farmers and producers allowing us to showcase our products both on the internet and in the wonderful marketplace shop on Main Street in Keene, NH. In order to be a member we need to be a NH farm, craftsman or business.

So! Our month in the sun! Hooray!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Memphis' turn

And now it is Memphis' birthday. Get a cup of coffee, glass of wine or what have you and enjoy the story.
Memphis is the queen of our flock and has been the great teacher of all things sheepish. Memphis is the face of our farm logo. She is the absolutely most feminine ewe, from her gentle personality to her thin and lovely legs! Memphis is always at the back of the flock but moves right up front and center once visiting begins. She is incredibly photogenic and as I look at these pictures across her eight years, she is ageless, never looking less than beautiful.
Below is the photo I was sent before I purchased her in 2002. It was love at first sight.

Below are photos of Memphis just after she arrived here. The top picture is stunning. The lower picture makes me smile with those ears and full face shot!

We bred Memphis that fall to a CVM ram that we also purchased. Memphis had twin ewe lambs (a shepherd's dream) and so began our first lessons. First, lambing, which she did with complete grace, and second, one of the twins (Trooper) was born with a nerve block in her spine making her unable to coordinate her brain to her back end with regularity.We named the twins Savannah and Trooper. As with Charlotte, Trooper was born an absolutely perfect little CVM with regard to color and markings. And her personality won us over despite her struggle. Here they were with Memphis on their first day, Savannah on the left, Trooper on the right.

After an unsteady start, Trooper gained strength and was able to romp and play and nurse just like Savannah. After they were adjusted to the barn, warm weather arrived and they went out to pasture to run and jump and sproing! Notice how much smalller Trooper is and how her back is not right. We felt though that if she could make it we just would let her be a fleece bearer and friend, never to breed her, of course.

But after 6 weeks as Trooper got larger, she lost control of her hind end more and more and Savannah wanted to play harder and it was just too much for Trooper. We made the gut-wrenching decision to put her to sleep. And I can tell you, once again, I will never make a tough old shepherd. I cried for days for that little Trooper who fought so hard to survive. We laid her to rest under the maple tree in the pasture behind the house which is now one of the summer shed areas where the flock stays cool in the summer months. And that shed has a tiny little plaque on it "In Memory of Trooper~ May 2003". Lessons from Memphis that have to be learned.

Memphis has taught us other lessons. In 2004 she managed to get something lodged in her gum line and it eventually worked it way out to her cheek when I noticed the abscess. That was another toughy as it had to be lanced (the vet came, thank you!) and she did not enjoy that at all. Then every day for a week we had to hold her while I drained the wound and flushed it and then gave her shots of medication. That was my first try at injections and that took some doing. I am a bit squeamish but have managed to do them now although I will never enjoy it.

Another lesson I learned from Memphis occurred the fall of 2004 when she started to hobble on pasture. She would actually graze on her knees. Not being aware of the issue or what to do, again, I called the vet and they jumped to the conclusion we had foot rot. No way! I said, and started to read everything. Low and behold in the simple little book by Storey Books "Raising Sheep The Modern Way", I read about the toe gland which is located just above the hoof area on the front of the foot, shown below.

It secrets a waxy substance and from time to time the gland can get plugged. Then pressure builds in the foot and it is painful for the sheep to walk. Here I am paying Memphis a visit on pasture to help clear the gland. It can take a few times if the situation gets aggravated but clears quickly with no medication. Memphis actually would hold out her leg and let me help her. She knew what the problem was an taught me what to do.

In 2006 Memphis lambed a single ewe lamb, Charlotte. Jack had gone down to the barn early AM to see what her status was as she was showing signs of lambing the day before. Nothing happening so he came back to the house. At 8AM we went down to the barn to feed the sheep and tend to the ewes and lambs in the big barn where Memphis was awaiting her special day. We arrived to Memphis having lambed and Charlotte was in the middle of the barn with the other mothers and lambs all around. We quickly gathered Charlotte and Memphis and got them to their private jug (a small pen with feed, water and a warming box where the ewe and lamb spend a few days so they bond).
The following day we noticed Memphis had a swollen teat , bright red and Charlotte was not well. Vet call. He came and found that Memphis had injured her udder in the lambing process and the udder got blood in it. That blood had infected Charlotte and because she was in her most important 24 hours of life needed immediate help. The vet gave both Memphis and Charlotte injections and left us with the following instructions; twice a day we needed to milk out the blood from Memphis' udder (about a quart would do) and give her some pain meds for a few days. Charlotte had medicine to take each day for three days. Well, that was a ball. Jack goes to work at 6:30 each day so we got up at 5, milked Memphis, did meds, retaped the teat and then each night we repeated the course. It went on for 11 days before finally the milk was clear enough for Charlotte to drink again. We taped Memphis' teat shut each time so Charlotte wouldn't be tempted, and miraculously it stayed on! And thank God Memphis has two teats! If we had not treated Memphis she would have developed mastitis and could have lost the proper function of the udder. As it turned out she came through beautifully and Charlotte used both teats thereafter. Little Charlotte was so good, she felt great after a few days but had to stay with Memphis in a private but spacious pen for the eleven days when all her lamb comrades waited to play with her. We would get them both into the jug for the treatment and Charlotte would lie down under the heat lamp while Jack milked Memphis. To this day I wonder if it is why Charlotte is so mellow. She never runs away or jumps from fear at all. Another lesson taught by Memphis. Here they are in the jug the first few days and you can see the tape on her teat.

Later in the spring this is Memphis with Charlotte. Memphis is the only ewe we have whose lambs still lay with her as adults. Savannah will lay next to Memphis and lay her head over Memphis' back while they rest.

And so this is the story of Memphis (So far!!). Here she is enjoying her birthday. See how little she has changed? I am sure there will be more lessons to learn from her and I will never tire of listening to her. She is a grand ewe and will be with us for the duration. Heres to you, dear Memphis, on your special day!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow day

Snow is setting in today. Maybe 10 plus inches for us which is just great.
Sidney is in heaven! Here waiting for me while I did the sheep and hen chores this morning.

And then we took a walk and he ran and ran and ran. He just loves the snow which is good thing because we have plenty of it!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Daphne's Day

And today we celebrate Daphne's 6th birthday! I have a feeling I will be saying this more than not as I go through all the birthdays and describe each sheep....Daphne is just so sweet and mellow. She is not a stand-out sheep for personality....very low key. But if ever I need a gentle conversation and am willing to listen she will be there. Sheep like for humans to get down so they are at eye level before they are willing to commit to any real discussion. Daphne's style is to put her head down and just hang out and if I cup her chin in my hand and hold her cheek to cheek with me she will stand there for hours. She loves it. I have had her snore while holding her that way! Here she is just after we bought her in 2003.

One thing Daphne is proud of is her fleece. She can win a ribbon every time. So convinced I was, I saved it to submit in the fall of 2007 to be judged at Rhinebeck. Some of you read this story after I posted it here in October 2007, I was so upset. But it goes like this.

I took three fleeces to Rhinebeck and was at the door at 8AM to enter them. That went great (so I thought) and I went off to open my booth for vending. At noon my friend Maryann went over to the sale barn to see what the results were. She found Daphne's fleece gone and Joe and Judy Miller, the people who run the sale/judging, had no idea where it had gone. When Maryann returned and told me I roared over there, as you can imagine. After a lengthy go-round they basically put up their hands and said "must have been stolen". I was fit to be tied and somehow it didn't ring true. I had labeled it and it was 7 pounds, a bit tough to steal. But there was nothing I could do. This is the fleece before I took it to Rhinebeck.

Well the months passed and come early spring of 2008 a woman contacted me to reserve a fleece. She said she had bought one before and loved it. You know where this is going, right? I asked her where she had bought before and she said Rhinebeck. Ah ha! So through the course of emails back and forth she said she picked Daphne's fleece out early in the AM before judging and then waited in line to buy it at the appointed time. She told me I had won 1st place in natural colored fine wool class! I had a ribbon! And she was so psyched to have purchased the winning fleece! She sent me pictures of all the tags that came with the fleece. But of course the ribbon was not there as it would be given to the owner of the!

At that point I was relieved to know it had sold and that I had won a ribbon! So I contacted the head of the Rhinebeck Festival, Bob Davis, and told him my story and sent all the pictures. I told him about the Miller's inexcusable negligence with the whole situation. He appologized and eventually after many months I got a check for the fleece. But I never got the ribbon. To this day I write Bob Davis, who had told me he would get the ribbon to me, but he will not reply now.

So I have resigned to just knowing Daphne won the prize and resolved to never show at that venue again. What would you do at this point?

Here is Daphne today, a lovely face and a lovely fleece. My Daphne doll, happy birthday!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Bea's Birthday

So here is Bea this morning. I just gave her some cubes of alfalfa and she loves me! Don't you just LOVE her name? I will never be one of those hard core shepherds who never name their sheep, just ear tag numbers. I would never want so many I couldn't distingish each one from the next.

We bought Bea in July 2003, she was born 1/26/01. I saw her photo and thought "boy, not the greatest looking ewe. Split ear, funky looking face, but I just LOVE the name!" She was a proven good lamber and mother so I thought why not. And she also is half sister to Memphis who has her day in the sun tomorrow. She and Memphis came from a farm in Washington state, darn good stock. That split ear bugged me!!! And you can see that her neck is shaved? I was told she liked to eat grass on the other side of the fence and had done it so much she had a perpetual bald spot! So I had this nagging she one of those ewes that is always getting into trouble?

Here is Bea a few days after she arrived with two other ewes we bought, Daphne and Mila and a wether, Wetherby (white lamb laying on the ramp). Daphne, Mila and Wetherby were just 4 months old and had assumed Bea as the mother figure. Bea is one heck of a mother. Very protective, attentive and alert at all times. If there is a movement or an issue at the field edge or in the woods she will stare it down. She is up front and strong. One windy day a green plastic trash bag had found it's way loose and into the field, catching on a fence post. I watched here react before removing the bag. She stood and snorted at it from across the pasture, just like a deer. She wouldn't let up on it and I like that about her.

Here she is later that summer with Daphne and Mila and Memphis to the far left, just chewing and grooving.

She is a joy to have here, and gives me the most incredible hugs...I call them Bea Hugs and I am going to get a photo taken of one soon! She comes at me head on, puts her head over my shoulder, we are chest to chest and she just leans into me. It is a great reward for taking a chance on her in 2003. Happy birthday Bea! 8 years old today.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Happy Birthday to Crystal

We have a flurry of birthdays in the barn this week beginning with Crystal's today.
She is now 8 years old and I can't believe where the time has gone! She was one of the first ewes we purchased, a twin, stemming from a flock in Washington. She traveled across country that spring of 2002 all the way to us here in NH. I didn't have a digital camera back then so I don't have the cute lamby pictures (and she was cute!) but this is her a year later at one year old.

Crystal is probably our steadiest, mellowest ewe, always has been. She rarely has a issue and always loves a hug.

Here she is this morning, enjoying cake with her friends!

Friday, January 23, 2009

an FO!

Many moons ago and I mean MANY moons, we owned two beautiful Oxford ewes pictured below. They were our first sheep that we bought in 2000. I was soooo excited and boy did we spoil these girls. Pearl (left) was named after my maternal grandmother and Viola (right) for Jack's childhood family nanny.

Here they are running out from the barn to the hay feeder, about 4 months old and feeling good!

Oxford wool is great for outerwear, blankets and socks. And at the time I didn't even know how to knit, I just had to have some sheep.

So I sent the raw wool off the following spring to a mill to be spun to yarn and a few blankets. I knew nothing about good mills from bad mills and this was not a good experience. The yarn came back single spun with massive amounts of slubs (for you non-fiber people that means areas of the yarn that are unspun). But when I say slubby this was awful. I couldn't market it at all. So I kept it for us to knit up. It would make fine barn sweaters and heavy socks.

In 2002 we sold Pearl and Viola to an farm that raised Oxfords so we could make room for the beginning of our CVM/Romeldale flock. Secretly we have felt badly ever since as they didn't get the life we had hoped. I know Viola has since died and I suspect Pearl has also. In the summer of 2004 I decided to knit a pair of socks for Jack from their yarn as I reminisced about them. But I also wanted to try my hand at dyeing and so I used some synthetic dyes to paint the yarn. It was so exciting, having never dyed before. And then I began knitting the socks in the fall of 2004.

This project fell off the face of the FO list when I realized I didn't have enough yarn to finish them and also the first sock came out too short for Jack's measurement. I stashed the project, fell in love with natural dyeing and never looked back. I'd pull the project out of the UFO drawer look at it, sigh and close the drawer.

But then whilst in the middle of my block a few weeks ago, I decided "I can do this!" So I dyed (with the synthetic dyes) another skein of yarn, tore out the finished sock back to before the toe decrease, remeasured Jack's foot and off I went. It was so easy once I made up my mind to finish them!

I was captive in the truck for a day last weekend while Jack ran radar for our local snowmobile club's annual radar run and I was able to wrap them up.

Webster was thinking they might make for an interesting bed.

Jack wore them to do the chores this morning and I am happy to report they don't slip down in his boots, they are warm, he loves them and they are DONE!
For all my friends who knit inspire and amaze me!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Familiar territory

Today Jack and I enjoyed a local snowmobile we have done many, many times and we never tire of it. We trailered to a dairy farm in Westmoreland, Windyhurst Farm, where we began the ride. It is without a doubt one of the prettiest farms in the state and has earned the NH Farm of Distinction award. Windyhurst Farm is a working dairy farm, milking holsteins. Owned for many generations by the Adams, they also operate the best pancake house around, Stuart and John's. Starting February 15th the pancakes are once again on the griddle along with unbelieveable waffles, french toast and Grampy's homemade donuts. Stuart Adams and John Matthews started the business as teenagers and it is now a thriving business. They have a large maple syrup business and so as you can imagine the pancake house serves all that great food smothered in pure NH made maple syrup. Oh my it is the best!

So we took off from Windyhurst and wound our way around Westmoreland and up into Walpole across some of the prettiest farmland the state offers. This is a view of Derry Hill in Walpole. We stopped on top of a huge field to take in the view and way down below the County Road winds through the fields. An old pickup drove along the road and from so far away gave a big toot on the horn to say hello as we waved back. Nice.

Winding down from these high field we came to the Graves Farm in Walpole. Also a working dairy farm, milking holsteins and raising some beef cows also. To the right and out of view was another group of cows around a feed bunk and there was a huge flock of wild turkeys with them, eating the left over feed the cows didn't eat. Tranquil.

And yet another field just off from the Graves Farm. Beautiful. I can also visualize a summer day, the grass so green and a breeze out of the Southwest, cows grazing and bees buzzing.

We continued down to the railroad bed and rode up to Diamond Pizza in Walpole for a refresher. It was a busy day there...the place was packed with snowmobilers enjoying the day on trail.

Heading home we traveled along a huge corn field owned by the Malnati Farm in Walpole, also a working dairy milking holsteins, and another NH Farm of Distinction...just beautiful.

The trails travel through field after field after field....this is the Chickering horse farm in I stopped to take the picture, the horses were all so frisky. Was it my presence or were they having some fun themselves?

And finally we arrived back at Windyhurst Farm....such a pretty spot.
We felt so fortunate to live in such a beautiful town and area, still steeped in farming and the lifestyle it offers.

Friday, January 16, 2009

No such thing as having too much fun

Just a bit chilly this morning but the sun was bright and strong so it felt reasonably good for a winter's day!

I got home from work early and we took a snowmobile ride into Keene (25 miles). The trails are splendid! After 2 feet of snow, an ice storm, more snow and now frigid temperatures the trails are hard and smooth as glass.

On trail today we watched a flock of turkeys crossing the trail. You can see them to the left of Jack, just crossing into the woods.

We rode to Chili's in Keene for a refresher. I must say as we rode the railroad bed into town at 55 mph, with the air temp at 0 and the wind chill factor at 55 below zero we were warm as toast! It is really miraculous if you are dressed accordingly!

Yup, this is me, hanging out on such thing as having too much fun! Be warm!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Can you feel it?

The cold?

Sidney and I braved a walk across the fields this morning at zero degrees with a wind chill factor of 25 below. Almost froze the water in my eyes!

This is the railroad bed on a snowmobile trip we took this past Sunday....water frozen in suspension and an ice climbers delight.

The Love?

Jasper and Tybee, two of our wethers are fighting for Ashley's attention during breakfast today. Ashley, in heat, is tucked in against the wall, trying to grab a mouthful while Jasper(left) stands attentive. He seemed to have won out over Tybee(right). Little do they know they are not virile! Love conquers all.

The warmth?

The hen house (far right little building) is cozy as can be today...the snow on the roof is insulating so much that there are icicles forming on the back side! I keep the bedding good and dry and with the warming bulb in there it is running 30 at night and 40 during the day in this wretched cold!They get treats to entertain them from a fresh pear to timothy hay and alfalfa. And in return 6 eggs a day come forth.

Be warm!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

A creative block

Do you have these? I love fiber, knitting, dyeing, felting, spinning....all of it. But I am blocked on making anything happen right now. I look at knit patterns, look at my stash, can't make the two meld, think 'oh, maybe tomorrow' and it doesn't come.

What do you do to get out of this funk? Do you ever get there at all? I have friends who are immersed all the time in fiber projects, producing beautiful results and I marvel of late.

Looking for the way back in! Help!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

A happy start

We ended 2008 with a bitter wind overnight and the thermometer reading zero. The sheep got the royal sleeping quarters beginning yesterday and through tonight. We have a small barn attached to their freestall area which is bedded with straw and sleeps 10. For those less inclined to battle the dirt floor of the barn on a cold night this suite offers plush accomodations.
This morning the birdfeeder was a hoppin' with loads of finches....Webster was in heaven watching them from the warmth of the kitchen window!

After feeding, the sheep enjoyed stepping out into the bright sunshine to bask. The wind had died down and the day, although frigid, was great sheep weather.
Memphis has had a bit of an intestinal disorder....not uncommon and most likely the result of the ups and downs in the temperatures the past few weeks. Sheep are very sensitive to any changes in their daily routine (aren't we all!) and the weather can be the culprit quite often. The symptom is loose stools. The bug is coccidia, brought on usually by stress. She is on day 2 of a three day treatment with an oral sulfa drench and a dose or so of Pepto Bismol. The sulfa drug attacks the bug and the Pepto, as for humans, instantly attacks the loose stool issue. She was quite friendly this morning as if to thank us for noticing. Memphis is an awesome ewe. She has taught us many things about sheep care across her years with us and never failed to thank us for the care. She is the face on our logo and a true lady in every way.
While Jack plowed from yesterday's snow storm, I washed all the sheep coats that had piled up after the last coat change. Greasy, dirty job, but necessary. Now clean, I have a few repairs to make in the morning and the pile is replenished for the next change.
The hens were not allowed out today...too darn bitter cold. So I brought them some treats. First some alfalfa cubes broken up and added to their grain feeder...they loved it! Then two tubs of snow. They love to eat snow! I left this tub for them and checked on them in a few hours and it was gone, empty. We have been leaving the warming lamp on 24/7 of late just to keep the coop at 20. Although they prefer dark at night I don't want to risk the coop getting too cold. Spoiled they all are but you need not wake in the night wondering if the animals, wild birds and hens at Long Ridge Farm are uncomfortable. Sleep well and Happy New Year!!!