On The Move
April 29, 2014, 4:43 am
Filed under: April 2014 | Tags: , , , ,
Here they come!

Here they come!

April 29, 2014

Our flock has been increased by double. The baby lambs have all been born. We lost a few in the bad winter storm ten days ago, but the rest are doing pretty good. There are always a few weak ones that die along the way, but so far so good 😮

We usually lamb in mid May, but this year are about a month early. We raise grass-fed lamb. The lambs eat our good pasture and mom’s milk. They grow fast and are ready for “freezer camp’ in four to five months. Lambs raised in this manner, make mild and tasty meat.

The grass in May grows quite fast, keeping up with the hungry ewes. April grass is a bit slower, so moving the flock often is necessary. Yesterday, we made our first move. It went well. The babies got a little scared at first, but the moms restored order in no time.

Once all of the sheep got the idea of what was happening, they followed along just fine. Once we got to the back lane, the mothers knew exactly where they were going. They walked right past me, paying me little attention… the babies? Well, they go where mom goes, at least for now. Independence will rule the lambs in a few weeks, but for now, they know that mom has all the answers and all the milk!!

And there they go!

And there they go!

Mom’s Place
April 22, 2014, 8:51 pm
Filed under: April 2014 | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
Mom's Final Resting Place

Mom’s Final Resting Place

April 22, 2014

Who doesn’t like to go to mom’s place? There are many happy memories there. I remember the smells of dinner cooking, fresh-baked cookies and Estee Lauder perfume. I remember hugs, comfort and a certain look…a look that could stop traffic, or at least a teenage boy from doing wrong. I remember love above all.

All of us have memory triggers that will fill our minds with thoughts, both good and bad. I am pleased to say, that most of my memories about mom’s place are happy ones. Now, since my mom has passed away, she rests here on my farm on a little hill next to the sugarhouse. I visit this place often.

Sometimes I talk to mom as if she were sitting next to me. Other times I just talk aloud complaining about some trivial thing that doesn’t matter in the big picture of life, but I feel better after I vent awhile. Often is the time when I simply sit quiet listening to the world around me. The peacefulness that surrounds me is as comforting as a hug.

My dad rests on this farm too. He lays under a hickory tree in my pasture. I discuss all things farming with him. I enjoy the time spent there, but I do wish that I could spend a few more hours with him, listening to his stories and corny jokes. I am sure that both he and mom are proud of my accomplishments and I take comfort that even though they are both gone, they are still very close.

I get to visit my parents graves without leaving my farm. I have had countless cups of coffee with them as I work out a problem or pour my heart out when life kicks me in the teeth. When I am depressed, cranky or heart-broken, I always feel better after visiting mom’s place. Some things never change I guess, and for that, I am very grateful.

The little hamlet where mom rests, is a spot she picked out. I chose the spot for dad. I know he would like to watch the animals, walk the furrows with me when I plow and feel the lines in my hands as I drive the horses. My mom loved maple syrup time, but I think it is more the laughter from the children who visit and the fact that I spend a lot of time in and around the sugarhouse, that caused her to pick her place.

My lambs are being born right now. The mother’s are doting over their babies. They keep them close and bleat when they get too far away. They nurse them and rest beside them. The lambs don’t stray too far…at least for now. The babies will grow fast and like all babies, will one day leave mom behind…we all did. Mom, will watch them go with a special sadness in her heart, as they make their way in the world.

Then comes the day when mom is gone, life is forever changed…A longing for the “good old days” will smack us in the head now and then, when we stop to remember her. The bond between mother and child is never broken. It might get bent sometimes, but a mother’s love is pure and everlasting … that is why, she is never really gone… just absent.

My mom has two places here on my farm. One place is that quiet place by the sugarhouse. The other place is deep in my heart where only goodness is found…..which according to some…is buried pretty deep. I hold her dear, remember her often and always feel pleased when I take the time to visit Mom’s Place.

Enough Already!
April 16, 2014, 10:34 am
Filed under: April 2014 | Tags: , , , , ,
April 16 snow and cold

April 16 snow and cold

April 16, 2014

Okay, I like winter, perhaps even more than most people, but even I have had enough. It started snowing last October…I think 6 months of winter is enough. I am ready for spring and all that comes with it. The peepers have been singing. I am sure they have been “frozen out” twice already, so according to local folklore, one more freeze for the peepers and it will be spring! I am soooo ready!

Lambs are starting to hit the ground, but mother nature is being pretty rough on those little fellows too. They just need a day or two to get their footing and then they are very hardy. Being born on a rainy, sleeting night, is hard on any creature. I don’t know if it is the full moon signaling the mothers to drop their babies or simply that it is time, but the babies are coming, ready or not.

The weather is supposed to turn more towards normal in the weeks ahead. I am sure that before I know it…I will be complaining that it is too hot! I am just hoping for a return to normal in the weather department. A drought year followed by a very wet year, then a long cold winter…is sure stretching farmers to the limit… at least this one 😮

The good thing about the crazy weather is, that it gives us country guys plenty to talk about at the barbershop and feed mill!

Cute Times Two
March 14, 2013, 9:17 pm
Filed under: March 2013 | Tags:
Little black ewe and her lambs

Little black ewe and her lambs

March 14, 2013

We are caught up on the maple syrup right now. The sap is not running, but the weekend looks pretty good for it. Today , I caught up on farm chores, ran a few errands and visited a little while with my friend at the feed mill. I also got to spend some time checking up on the sheep flock and the new born lambs.

The black ewe in the picture has a set of identical twins. They are cute times two. Their mother has been a pain in my hindend for a whole season. She doesn’t like me. When I want to move the flock, she takes off the other direction and usually takes half the flock with her!

I have tried getting close to her to convince her that I am not the bad guy. But I think she sees me as the guy who dumps worm medicine down her throat or sticks her with a needle to vaccinate her on a yearly basis. I don’t want her to get tetnus or be bothered with internal parasites, so the “vet” work is necessary…. BUT not to her!

One of her lambs was by itself today sleeping. I was afraid that it was in some kind of trouble. I went into the pasture to check on the little fellow. It jumped up, started bleating like crazy and ran straight to me. His mother was not pleased. She hates me and would not come near me even to get her baby.

I finally convinced the little lamb to stay near a couple other sheep and to quit following me. Once I was a ways off, mom came running to get her baby. I am sure she was scolding it and telling it all about me. I will probably not hold either one of them until worming time …. but wait! The little one has to get castrated… that should cement their disdain for me 😮

Maple Syrup, A Family Affair
March 11, 2013, 7:44 pm
Filed under: March 2013 | Tags: , ,
Teamwork !

Teamwork !

March 11, 2013

We had an awesome weekend of everything maple 😮 We gathered sap, we boiled sap, we burnt wood … LOTS of wood. We tasted the fresh syrup several times for quality control measures … of course!

We had lots of help and many visitors. On Sunday, I thought we would just gather what little bit had dripped over night. I wasn’t expecting much, so I didn’t line up much help. Sunday turned out to be one of the biggest days we have seen for gathering.

On that very big day, my hired man brought his mom and dad and his sister to watch and experience the maple process. They had a great time even though they worked like dogs due to my lack of help. They did have fun. They did learn a little, but the best part was the memories that they will have forever.

I know all about those great reflections. My life is full of them. I am very thankful for each and every one. It means that someone took the time to share their life with me. They cared enough to make a special mark upon my heart. I am doing my best to make those kind of marks too.

We had a pair of brother-in-laws who brought their children out to the farm. I had not met them before, but we are now friends. The children are city kids from west of Cleveland. Their eyes got opened to a whole new way of life. They even got to see my horses working … a sight not seen much in the big city. They tasted syrup and stood in the steamy room, breathing in all that they could.

Today, rain fell softly as I boiled the last of the sap from the weekend. The steam vented the sugarhouse, but then was directed downward filling my little sugar valley with the sweet smell of the maple season. Lambs jumped and played in the warm rain as I watched out of the sugarhouse window. Today, I once again drink from the saucer …. because my cup runneth over.

Making maple syrup, at least on this farm, will always be a family affair. I know that no matter how far away my friends and famliy get, when the sap runs … their thoughts will run back to the little sugarhouse in the valley, right here at Riceland Meadows.

Cute and Sweet!
March 8, 2013, 9:26 pm
Filed under: March 2013 | Tags: ,
Coasting after a day of boiling

Coasting after a day of boiling

March 8, 2013

Hello everybody! I am back at the blogging thing. Our computer was very sick with a bunch of viruses (56) that I got , from of all places … Craigslist!

Yesterday evening we gathered sap until dark. I was unhooking the horses from the sap sled by the barnyard lights. We gathered about 750 gallons. I boiled for seven hours today and the maple syrup is beautiful. The wood is holding out well and it was a perfect day 😮

The picture above shows the last of the fire going out. The sap is almost gone. I quit firing the arch and just sit and wait, as the whole process coasts to the end of the job. The sap quits boiling as the fire goes down. The hot firebricks evarorate a little more, but the job is done. It is a peaceful time to reflect on a great day!

The sap ran again this afternoon. The weatherman says it should run tomorrow too. I am glad, because this was only the third time this year for boiling. It has been very cold and the sap doesn’t run until the weather warms up. We have a long way to go to break even, but I love this job!

Now for the cute part of the BLOG … We are having baby lambs. The rams got in early and I don’t know how to “unbreed” the sheep…so ready or not… here come the lambs! The mortality rate is higher than we have ever seen due to the weather. We still will have a nice crop of babies, but this year we are seeing the effects of Mother Nature’s … “Only the strong survive,”

We plan our baby lambs to come in May. The weather and pasture conditions are perfect then. The cold spring rains are mostly over and the mud is fleeting by then. This is not the case in March. I am doing what I can for the good of the flock, but nature can humble man’s best intentions. The ram’s “escape and date” stragety was great fun for them… but not so much now for me!

The babies are cute as they can be. Already they are playing and jumping about. They grow very fast and are just fun to watch. I am hoping for the best as the little ones grow. The warm weather helps them too.

So our spring season is both cute and sweet … just like me 😮