Monday, December 28, 2015

looking back at 2015

With a pot of soap on the kitchen stove, newborn lambs and their mom to check in on and kiddos on holiday vacation from school to herd around the farm..and here I sit down to write. After all, if I kept waiting for a better, less busy time to blog..I would likely never write again!

Our fall and winter season has been the busiest on the farm, since..I can't remember when. We switched things up this past year and had 2 separate lambings - 1 in February and 1 in June. The goal was to keep the milk on the farm flowing longer while also keeping up the yield too! But with 2 lambings, I burnt out. And quick.
shaving udders

bottle lambs in the house

tube feeding weak lambs

 I ended up bottle feeding lambs for a better part of the year and also had trouble with fly strike in our summer lamb crop, something we never face with our winter born lambs. The newly freshened summer ewes also experienced more lactation issues in the hot weather then in the cold..they then ate less and produced less. On the plus side, we sheared twice. We called in our first professional shearer who took over the 2nd shearing, while the hubby and I did the first shearing early in the year. Fleeces were thick this year and we had lots of yarn and roving that yielded from their fleeces. This was the first ever year that we sheared 2 separate times. These dairy girls sure can kick it out! Overall I'm proud of them. As their shepherd and as the profit and loss manager - they're prolific producers in several ways and I'm proud.
pro shearer - man was he FAST

charcoal and ecru yarn from my woollies

youngest daughter Holly helping package roving and wool dryer balls
 From their milk, we had raw sheep milk and cheese shares. Thousands of pounds of milk yielded plenty of raw milk cheese for shareholders.
Spanish Queso



We also attended a couple different farmer's market while sealing in a booth space mid summer at The Farmer's Market at St Stephen's on Grove Ave in Richmond. Besides the other producers who attend this market with us - feeling next to family, it has proved to all around be a wonderful market for my milk soaps and fiber. We can be found there year around - the 2nd, 4th and 5th Saturdays of every month. I never expected my milk soaps to take off the way they have, I sure am thankful. At the end of every year I total up the quantity of bars from the year and this has been my biggest year to date, with thousands of handcrafted sheep milk bars heading off the farm and into homes world wide. The family pitches in when and where they can but for the most part, I'm a one woman show. And that's alright by me.
Fiber at the Farmer's Market

Milk Soaps - Farmer's Market

Felted milk soaps
 I took in several rescue Pyrs again this year - last year I also took in several and those were all successfully adopted out. This years Pyrs are all still here and working. It's a daily thing. Full of ups and downs. But we're hanging in there and the guardians are hanging in with us. I've always felt a big responsibility for dogs in particular. And with that constant thought in mind, at times it does feel like a Great Pyrenees farm around here too. I no more lightly take on a Pyr and think, I will get them trained and adopted out in no time. I somewhat remember the days when I used to think a bit that way. Boy have I learned! The rehabilitation, bonding and retraining is a mountainous amount of work. I used to wonder why those that take on this role are so few and far between..I no longer wonder. It's a calling however and I heed it as best I'm able.
2 new Pyrs on their way to Cedar Springs Farm & Dairy

new Pyrs on the farm
 December through February is usually my down time. Time to dig out the spinning wheel, write and catch up on other duties that have been put on the back burner through the busy February through November season. Usually is something I say a lot around here..
soft neck garlic from my 2015 garden

This winter is proving to not at all be like the last. With record amounts of rain and warm weather, it still feels like fall here. I have actually had trouble getting my winter garden in - the garlic, sugarcane and onion harvest will be late, late, late next year. One thing that farming has for sure taught me, you can make all the plans you want but until you seal the deal, they're just ideas. You gotta just go with it and see where it takes ya and not stress about it all in the meantime. It can zap your joy if you let it. Speaking of joy, on Christmas day twin lambs were born to a first time mom - right out in the big field near the wood's edge behind the farmhouse. It sure was a sweet sight..and surprise. I knew she was coming along and her due date was approaching soon, there is another ewe too that got bred when a ram plowed through a fence earlier this summer. But I wasn't expecting these lambs in December. So in a sense we have had 3 separate lambings this year. No wonder I'm tired!

December lamb


We also sold the most meat lambs we've had on the farm yet, this year. And they also brought in the highest prices we've experienced yet as well. Our late spring and early summer live weight for lambs is hard to beat and even surpasses our restaurant and market by the pound sales. That I never imagined happening. We had a good lamb crop this year and that sure helps makes things feel like they're working. When we have a bad week or a bad month, it helps a bunch to go back and look at the progress. The big picture is a grand one.

It takes all kinds of farmers to make this world go around. Things change yearly and sometimes monthly on this little sheep farm..but it gets done. It's a way of life that teaches me continuously how to adapt and how life isn't at all about staying the same. It's not the destination at all, it's that beautiful ole journey along the way.