Sunday, December 30, 2012

NYR and Grain Sprouting

Every year one of my New Years Resolutions has the health of my sheep and goat girls in mind. After countless hours of research..this year, I'm getting my feet wet in sprouting grains. Besides the fact that it's Winter and it's our farming slow time, there's also not much of anything green and alive coming out of the ground the time for this project seems to be now.
soaking grains

The goal being good for them and great tasting, while also keeping our grain purchases local and lowering the grain intake of the lactating girls. Lowering their grain intake but not sacrificing nutrition - instead we'll be increasing it. The down side..because everything has a down the WORK. There's soaking and multiple rinsing of grains a day and lots of planning ahead. The grains can and will grow mold if you're not careful. Anything that looks or smells suspicious around here goes to those with the iron stomachs..the chickens. Goats and sheep have the sensitive bellies. So for us, this is a serious undertaking.

the family kitchen / grain mill
While in my research I came across a resourceful site on sprouting grains for livestock Land of Havilah . I'm using some grains they recommend and a similar ration amount. I've also included kelp, chickweed, quinoa, peanuts and some lentils to my sprouting. The grains and herbs that have inspired my mix have mostly been for their health benefits and because I can find it locally (without GMO's). If anyone has any wisdom or inspiration to share on sprouting grains for livestock and humans - I would love to hear them. This is rapidly becoming a new passion in my kitchen!

from Rags to Rugs

If you have some left over fabric laying around or some old sheets or both. You don't want to pitch them out but don't know what to do with them..well here you go. I actually have neither of the above taking up space anywhere so I went to the Goodwill and picked up some sheets for $2 a piece. A big thank you to those that do the donating!
To keep things as simple as possible - my rugs are the no cut type. I rip the material/sheets into strips, the strips are knotted together instead of sown. To eliminate as many knots as I can - when I'm ripping a sheet from top to bottom, I don't rip the strip all the way to the end. Instead I stop ripping about an inch or so from the bottom - flip the sheet over and start with another strip. This way we have a continuous long strip instead of many single strips (hope this makes sense). The strips are then rolled into balls of material and then crocheted. Depending on the width of the strips is what determines the size of the crochet needle I use. But I tend to like the big stitch/braid type look for rugs, so I use a rather large needle. I also have never followed a pattern or instructions of any kind so every rug is unique - in shape, size and color pattern.

strips of material rolled into easy to use balls

completed rag rug
 There apparently is a politically correct face-up side to a rag rug..but of course my side of preference to face-up is considered the under side. After lots of use however..the clean side is my side of preference :) We are discouraged to wash rag rugs - give them a good shake and just flip them over. I have some old rag rugs that are considered antiques and are literally dry rotted, I really shouldn't be using them. But if it doesn't get used doesn't belong. So I use them and absolutely love to sink my toes into them and a bit of history each and every day. There will come a time when washing them is a necessity - so below is a bit of care advice from another rag rug fan. I've also heard laying them in the snow and patting them until the snow is no longer brown is a simple, safe way to clean maybe once a year I'm able to do this for mine. We need more snow! I also line dry my rag rugs and they always have to be reshaped a bit when throwing them back on the floor. I started making rag rugs when I young teen - rugs have always fascinated me. I have several that were made with yarn too, these also have stood the test of time but my favorite by far is still the beautifully unique, repurposed rag rug.
top side of a completed rag rug

under side of a completed rag rug

Rag rugs were popular from about 1890 to 1910.
Influenced by the "Arts and Crafts" movement.
Then during the depression of the 1930's
rag rug making gained interest.
Once again rag rugs are making a come back.
With all the beautiful cotton fabrics available these rugs add
a delightful touch as an accent to any room within your home.
Fabric is cut into strips, tri-fold, ironed, sewn into connected strips
and hand crocheted into a beautiful rug.
Rag rugs are very durable, yet they become softer with each washing.
They can be machine washed on the gentle cycle in cold water
using a mild detergent. (Not much detergent is needed).
When a dark colored rag rug is purchased, it is a good idea to soak the rug
in cold water with a least 1 cup of vinegar within your washing machine in the largest amount of water. (X-Large or large load).
Agitate for about a minute or so.
Then, let your machine do the rest.
Your rug can now go into the clothes dryer on a low setting until almost dry.
Remove and lay flat on top of the dryer or on the floor to finish drying.
You may need to give your rug a tug or two to reshape.
If you see any strings, do not pull, simply snip them with a pair of scissors.

Friday, December 14, 2012

..not just soap sale

Open house Simply Soap Christmas Sale:

When: Saturday, December 15, 2012

Where: the Farm House at 3655 Nutbush Rd Victoria 

Time: 9am-11am

What will be there besides my fabulous milk based bar soap: milk lotions, vegan heirloom creams, sugar scrubs, lip balms, room misters, candles, cedar soap dishes & soap crates, body powder, laundry soap & the debut of my new sheep themed products labeled ShabbySheep, which includes things that are felted. 
Come on out ~ I will have the coffee on!

Friday, November 9, 2012

little shop of sheep stuff

When I'm not blogging, rest assured there is something else I'm working on..(drum roll please) and here it is folks my little Etsy shop of sheep stuff. 

There could be an entire blog post on what it takes to run an Etsy store. Or maybe I'm just not Etsy savvy..which is extremely likely. But for the Holiday season I'm going to do my very best to keep this little shop stocked with an array of sheep stuff. So check it out. And if you see some things you can't live without - use the coupon code FIRESIDE25 to get 25% off each product. But hurry! The coupon code expires on Sunday (11/11).
of course there are felted acorns

..and some Twisted Sister candles too

Soon to be added! Sugar Baby - organic products for the wee babes

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Flocks and Herds

If you've ever tried to move chickens or sheep from point A to point B, it's possible that you understand why these particular groups of animals are usually referred to as flocks and not herds. If you've learned the herd language first and try to practice that with a will undoubtedly not end well. If you're not a patient soul while learning the flock will also quite likely not end well. Moving flocks happens on a weekly basis here and for us it's been a learned art, once we learned to speak the language the flock has followed. It's a beautiful thing really and nothing compares to the satisfaction of a successful yet simple flock move.

No herding dogs needed here..we speak flock :)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Felting Soap

 When you have a flock of wooly sheep, naturally there is going to be a fiber pile that is never ending. And since I hate to waste anything, I'm always looking for something to do with all the wool. If you don't have a flock of sheep to supply you with a pile of fiber, don't fret. There's plenty of shepherds and fiber folks out there that can supply it for you. And there are lots of fiber variety to boot..Navajo-Churro is by far my favorite wool to work with. But all of it seems to have it's place in the fiber world. Wool is wool and I love it all.

saving every fiber from Scarlet - her wool is gorgeous!

If you're looking for an easy felting's a couple of video's to get you started with soap. I made these bars of soap with sheep's milk but any old bar of soap will do. 
Roving, warm water and a cured bar of soap:



drying the soap
packaged & labeled
Happy Felting!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The season of chaos

Siddy telling Dolly who's boss today

A few very welcomed days of cooler weather and all the goat girls get excited. They know it's almost time to visit BamBam and there's not a moment of peace. Of course he is equally excited. BamBam is an exceptionally sweet and gentle buck. He was a bottle baby and still thinks he is one. On occasion I still sneak him some milk, I love making him happy. Especially when it's so easy.

BamBam the ladies man
The girls on the other hand..they're on edge, fidgety on the milk stand, pushing and shoving over who stands where at the hay rack and at any second a knock down drag out fight will break out if they even look at each other wrong. Not only is there chaos in the barn but as the girls' cycle their milk levels tend to drop too. And when a farm thrives on milk, the lower milk levels tend to put a wrench in everyone's day. But it's just another season..
and probably the hubby's least favorite season ;)

Sunday, September 9, 2012

And then there are the pigs..

Mama & piglets at Twin Gap Farm

Meet Pork & Beans
 I don't know how long I have wanted a couple of pigs..but it has been at least years of wait. We finally found a couple of Hampshire boys at Twin Gap Farm in Abingdon and our good friends, Pete & Karen picked them up for us. I don't know if I've ever seen a cuter piglet! And their happy snorting sounds are always putting a smile on my face. So far the boys are getting fed all the left over goats milk and whey. On occasion we've also thrown in a little cracked corn and sunflower seeds and of course veggie scraps from the kitchen. They're able to browse but their favorite is rootin'. They are without a doubt the happiest critters I've ever fed and are always ready to eat. What's not to love about that?!
It was a great day for watermelon
 We will not be breeding so castrating was necessary and both boys were castrated by hubby and son, Derek here at the farm. There's a short video if you're interested in watching and learning. The video does not show this but the area was scrubbed down with iodine before and after the castration - which is crucial if you plan to do this yourself. I'd also recommend gloves..but hubby does what he likes :) He did wash with iodine before cutting however. Thankfully castration is one of those things that when it's's done and doesn't have to be done again. Relief..for me and the boys!

 Here's a video of them having breakfast after the castration ordeal. Thankful for the fresh goats milk and that this morning is now behind them.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

another love story

Flynn the sheep guardian

Now that we're entering into Fall it's time to start thinking about lambs. The ewes have had a fantastic Summer! We did things a little differently this Summer and the girls benefited well from the change. Even though the temporary net fencing is a pain to move around all the time - the poles also break after awhile and the netting gets torn. It's pretty high maintenance but it does work beautifully for temporary pastures. We purchased our fencing from Premier 1 and every 2-3 wks this Summer, the girls' paddock was picked up and moved. We rotated continuously and they did very well without shelters. If the girls are in a paddock that has a shelter, they tend to camp out in it which in a hot, damp climate it seemed to be doing them more harm than good. With a few shade trees and at one point we even moved the cattle trailer in for some extra shade, the girls only used the shade during the hottest times of the day - the rest of the time they grazed or sunbathed. And we have been completely impressed with their fecal counts and high immunity. No one has needed deworming or any other type of treatment over the Summer. A definite success!

 So we're entering into our breeding season this Fall with fat, healthy ewes - which makes the Shepherdess very happy :) Our 2 rams this year are Apollo and Gemini. This is our 2nd year using Apollo, his dam and sisters are heavy milkers so we are hopeful he will continue to add lots of creamy, delicious milk to the flock. He's also a small, snow white ram so he's easy on the girls but in no way is he passive. When Apollo is sent in to get a job done, we consider it done :) Gemini was born here this Spring, so he's brand new to this and is very gentle and shy. He's a lovely little spotted boy. His dam is the matriarch of the flock, so his future lambs will be carrying on her legacy as well. There's always a story behind every flock and in 5 short months the lambs will be here and there will be another chapter to add to the love story. Beautiful isn't it :)

the girls waiting for us to send in the boys
Gemini the ram lamb with his ladies

Sunday, July 29, 2012

the baby goat saga continues..

nap time..they hate naps

 Just when all the baby goats are weaned and the majority have found new homes and we are feeling a little more like farmers rather than goat nannies - Honeysuckle delivers triplets! And so the consistent flow of bottles and potty clean ups start all over again. Honeysuckle is a Boer/Alpine cross doe and has the sweetest milk I've ever saying I can't wait to get her milk into my fridge, is an understatement. After all, the milk is what makes our farm life go around. So for this reason alone, baby goats are always a welcome sight. Then we clean up these little long legged, big eared, hairy creatures..take them in and experience each of them in all their cuteness and then that's really when we all fall in love. I was especially thrilled that Honeysuckle gave us a little doe this year. She's as pretty as the moon and so naturally I'm calling her Luna and am very much looking forward to the day when I can put her milk into my fridge!



and playing!

the goatlets: Luna, Buck 1 and Buck 2

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

tis the season of grooming

So I am one of those farmers that has an actual day that pays the bills :) Fortunate as I am though, it's a job I dearly love! There's a long story how I got started with grooming, I can't recall every detail but I do know it's one of the few things I was born to do. Grooming is probably one of those professions that one can't really do either like it or you don't. Possibly one of the things I like most about it, is making a difference. Sometimes it's for the owner but it's always a difference for the dog and sometimes I get lucky and a difference is made for both owner and the dog - I love that! Creating a place for harmony.

The Day Job :)

Pampered Milly

This is the time of year where lots of harmony is being made :) Phone is ringing off the hook, appointment book is full, making house calls & grooming till I fall into bed at night. If an owner is patient and willing to dog is turned away. Since there's that soft spot for livestock guardians and working dogs, they are put on the top of my priority list. I have and will groom in a field, the woods, in the back of a truck or on top of a dog house, wherever they are is where I'll go.

Farm calls

So there's pampered grooming & necessity grooming...and it's an honor to do them both. I may be a bit scarce around the farm this time of year because grooming duties cheese, soap and all other things milk take a quick back seat to the needs of my dog world.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Made wonderful with Herbs

Beautiful Chives

 I've always loved herbs but over the past year I have become somewhat passionate about cooking with them. If I'm not able to cook with fresh cut ones, I use ones I've flash frozen or dehydrated myself. I wouldn't know where to begin with comparing all the differences in herbs you've grown yourself over store purchased I won't :) But once you try the difference, you'll get a taste of why this is a newly discovered passion for me!

Whipping up a simple potato/milk based soup - I added fresh parsley, chives, the blossoms & celery that I dehydrated. If you haven't tried chives blossoms won't be disappointed when you do. They add a completely different taste/texture to your dishes than the chive itself and that touch of color is stunning!

Here's my simple little soup recipe made wonderful by herbs:

5 large potatoes - peeled/diced and put in a stock pot. Fill with just enough water to cover the potatoes. Cook until potatoes are soft and water is nearly gone. 
1/2 - 3/4 gallon of milk (I use goat milk of course) - add to the pot
3 tablespoons of butter (I've used sheep milk butter & ricotta - whatever I have) - add to the milk
On low heat, stir often and simmer for 20-30 minutes while adding your herbs: I used parsley, chives, chive blossoms, celery.
If you like a heartier soup, you can thicken with a bit of flour. Garnish with a few chive blossoms and serve!

Herb & Chive Blossom Soup

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

house dog to farm dog..

From childhood till now, I can never remember a time where I was not completely owned by a dog. I know that animals are what I was born to journey along side through my paths of life...and I am very grateful for such a calling. Animals have taught me more than I could have ever learned without them.

So there are farm dogs, house dogs and house/farm dogs! Libby is a champion bred Lhasa Apso. I had her and her long pedigree flown in from Oklahoma and convinced, even myself, that maybe I would show her at some point. That was over 5 years ago and Libby is still no show dog but she is one very happy farm dog! All the dogs tend to be my shadow but Libby is the one that is under my feet with every the house or at the barn, Libby is in sync with my feet. Farm life means her gorgeous full coat is now a short practical do! She used to be all about the fuss and muss of her long blond locks but now its fresh warm milk, hanging out with the hens and long walks. She can also find an egg nest faster than anyone and is my number one cheese fan. There's so much to love about Libby and she always loves unconditionally in return.

Libby the champion sired house to farm dog :)

There's always a little milk left over for my shadow

She firmly believes this is why I have legs!

Making do with napping in a basket when my lap or legs are busy

Dogs & humans equally loving our walks

My goal in life is to be as good of a person my dog already thinks I am.  ~Author Unknown

Sunday, April 8, 2012

milk and plenty

New paint!

Did you bring coffee?
New parlor


With labor, delivery and all things prenatal all behind us, we find ourselves quickly filling up our days with a few other things and taking full advantage of the beautiful Spring sunshine! The veggie garden is also underway, as well as the weeds. Tommy's planted some blueberry bushes,  fruit trees and a WONDERFUL little blackberry patch! I can for see this little patch of briars becoming one of my future favorite spots for me and the canines to unwind.
My newest hatch - what's Spring without a few baby chicks?!

Most of the girls are still nursing babies but the weaning process has begun. So morning milkings are busy and the milk pails are overflowing! With plenty of milk to go around, our Share season is in start up mode. And where there's milk...there's marvelous cheese! Our retail shops are also now stocked with my luxurious Sheep's Milk lotions. The season of milk & plenty has arrived!


Triplets :)

Happy Easter!