Friday, October 30, 2009


I put Charlotte in with her breeding group yesterday. Since she had triplets this spring, I was thinking about giving her a year off. Well, maybe not. She produces such nice lambs. Needless to say, she was NOT PLEASED about the situation! Can you see her glaring at me? She is one of those ewes who is very particular about their ram, and she wasn't thrilled with young Grady! they immediately began bashing heads, but he quickly put her in her place, though she easily outweighed him by 75 pounds or more! She's a big ewe. She didn't like the ram I chose for her for 2007 lambs, and she remained open. This morning when I went out to feed, she came right up to me to show me there was a problem. She somehow managed to rip out her eartag! Was she that desperate to get out of that pen? She knew I had the camera, so kept pestering me. "Look at my poor ear! I'm in so much pain! Please let me go back with the ewe lambs in the barn! I don't like Grady!"
Charlotte, I think you'll be fine...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Promoting your farm

I have been giving presentations about our farm/sheep for the last few years. We've had many groups out to our place to visit, and I've gone to several schools, nursing homes, etc. to talk about our wonderful Icelandic sheep. When I was contacted to do a presentation for a Chicago spinning guild retreat, I decided it was time to do something a little more professional. So, these past two weeks I've been engulfed in putting together my Icelandic Sheep PowerPoint presentation. I also designed new labels for our products. It has been great fun. I love putting together brochures, business cards, etc. Graphic design was my profession, well, before children and sheep! Thank you to Gretl for the invite, and to the Fox Valley Knitters Guild for being such a wonderful, laid back, and gracious group of knitters! You nearly bought me out! Thank you, thank you! and of course to my faithful and tolerant husband, for his technical support and enduring trust. I'm sure he had no idea what was in store for him when he bought me my first Icelandic sheep for my 40Th birthday seven years ago! It's been quite a trip!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Compleat Squash

We devote a large section of our garden to winter squash every year. They truly are, one of the most beautiful and useful things in the garden. "The Compleat Squash" is a must have book for any pumpkin or squash devotee. Gorgeous photos and recipes, too. I spend many a cold winters eve paging through the book, making my wish list for summer planting.
What other vegetable has such a variety of color,
sizes and shapes?
When a hard frost is expected, we go out and load the pickup with squash. The less mature ones get tossed in to the sheep paddock. The sheep adore them, and the seeds are said to be a natural dewormer. The chickens love them too, and they get their fair share. We set a few around the doorsteps, and the rest go into the basement .
With proper storage, some will keep for over a year!
During the winter, we enjoy pies, breads, muffins, souffles. I occasionally toss a few out to the sheep for a mid-winters treat. Can you tell, we love squash?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Shearing Day!

The autumn wool harvest is one of the most anticipated events on the farm. The October wool clip tells the story of a years hard work. Icelandic sheep are typically shorn twice per year, with the fall shearing being the most valuable. Days spent grazing on lush pastures keeps the wool clean and fresh, compared to winters spent at the manger eating hay. The sheep are breathtakingly beautiful in the fall. I take as many photos as I can. I almost wish I didn't have to shear them. I make frequent stops at the grocery store, picking up boxes for the fleeces.

The sheep go into the barn the night before, off feed and water. With the Icelandic's huge rumen, shearing on a full stomach makes them incredibly uncomfortable (think about bending over to tie your shoes after a huge Thanksgiving meal). The shearing station remains clean as well. Our shearer David Kier arrived, followed by a number of friends, some who helped and others that watched. We had 12 people here, so it was a great help, and shearing went so smoothly. Two friends captured the reluctant sheep, Randy my husband brought them out to David, who sheared. He is so calm and gentle with the sheep. He takes his time with our small flock, yet each sheep is finished in under 3 minutes.
The sheep barely realize what has happened. David skirts out the belly wool as he shears. I scoop up the warm fleeces as he finishes,as another friend shoos the sheep out of the barn, and another sweeps the board clean, and the whole process begins again. As he shears, I quickly lay out the previous fleece on a skirting table. The wool is fragrant, full of lanolin and life. I love the smell. Second cuts fall out, I pull out any contaminated parts, then push each beautiful fleece into a separate box, labeled with the date and the name of the sheep. These fleeces go into the Wool House, and will be fully skirted this winter. Then I'm ready for the next fleece. The day goes by too quickly.
We are finished! I prepared a big meal for post shearing. I made the mousaka recipe from the October issue of Saveur. It was everything I hoped for. Also some fresh bread, corn from the garden, and a nice Syrah. Then, apple pie with apples from our orchard and coffee. It was a fun and relaxing meal, full of laughter and sheep talk. David has has many years of sheep experience, which he graciously (and modestly) shares. I so enjoy him, his grace and vast wisdom. A good shearer is priceless!