Whispering Pond Farm

Whispering Pond Farm

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Produce to Saburba, September

I took 35 chickens, all the lamb chops, and two legs of lamb to Saburba. Within the last week I've made several trips to Ada actually. Arriving at the back door of the resturant with coolers, bags, and containers filled with vegetables, herbs, and Goat's milk, Chevre and Gouda. Sarah jokingly told me to stop bringing produce to Saburba. What a great feeling, being able to bring the majority of what we started, what we planned on bringing. Planning from September of last year. Planning, breeding, feeding, cleaning, lambing, kidding, milking, weeding, watering, making, pressing, flipping, worming, inoculating, stool running, dehorning, vet visits, c-sections, burying, egg collecting, picking, roto tilling, canning, freezing, tomato worm picking, watering, watering, and watering. Taking produce to Saburba has it's benefits as well, great coffee and the corners from oohy goohy bars. Ahhh....Carmen

Tomatoes and Salsa, September

There are soooo many tomatoes. I've made sooooo much salsa and canned sooooo many tomatoes. Enough is enough. Anybody want tomatoes, need tomatoes? Bob did a fabulous job trimming, picking tomato bugs, keeping the fungus at bay. Too fabulous. The peppers will be as prolific as the tomatoes when they are finished.....which will be after the wedding. A few are available now but not enough for the pepper and goat cheese appetizer. Peter will have to think of something else. Peter did make pepper jelly with some of the peppers I gave him. It is sweet and hot at the same time. The lettuce will be ready and there will be plenty...more than enough. Arugala, spinach, butter crunch, and mixed greens. Carmen

Last Lambs to the Market

Bob took the last three lambs to the market. These three were smaller than the first group. Two were LuLu's. She had mastitis and the two never really caught back up. Leila's single lamb was really stressed during the weaning period. She hung out with LuLu's two lambs but always seemed alone. She also never was very interested in the grain I gave them....what! I know, how could she not be interested in grain. She got shoved out of the feed trough when the bigger lambs were around. When they left she picked at what I gave the other two, preferring the alfalfa hay to the grain. CeeLo Green is lost without his friends. He tried to strike up the same relationship he had with the lambs with the goats. The goats thought his attention was a great game and turned his advances onto a game of chase. Not to be turned away, CeeLo tried being in the goat stall with them. He ended up under the divider gate, stuck. I rescued him, finally breaking the news...it is not the same and the lambs are not coming back. I did not tell him there was no Santa Claus, I'll save that for another day. The information given to him today was enough. No use in completely crushing him. With CeeLo Green out of the game the goats turned there attention to the hapless John McEnroe. Bob had opened the stall door to the chicken area and the younger hens and John Mc. had been enjoying their first day in the outside world. The goats chased John McEnroe, caught his tail feathers in their teeth and, after pulling them out, ate them! Katelyn was not impressed with the goats....how could they do that? Quite easily actually. They had great fun. John Mc was not worse for the wear, just minus tail feathers. Bob opened the middle pasture gate for the goats allowing them to roam into that pasture. They now spend the majority of their time there munching the thistle weed. Thistle must taste like chicken feathers. Carmen

Monday, October 8, 2012

Lamb Mix Up, August 2012

Bob picked up the lamb order from the market. As he was leaving he realized something was wrong with the order. He went back inside and discovered that the two largest animals, LuLu and the largest lamb had been processed as the wedding order. The second largest lamb had been ground into burger and stew meat. The two smaller lambs had been processed correctly according to our order. The ewe and the largest lamb were combined into one order box making it impossible to determine mutton from lamb! I was devastated! All this effort to provide lamb for the wedding and it was sabotaged. We can't serve mutton and the beautiful second lamb in burger and stew meat! Emotions were running high. Bob contacted me at work with the news. He said that when the error was discovered Mr. Geukes was very disappointed as well and wanted to make the situation right. He offered to give us two of his lambs from his farm in exchange for the ewe and the largest lamb. These would be processed the last part of August and would be available for pick-up the first part of September when we brought the last three lambs in. This solution was the only viable solution. We accepted his offer, still uncertain as to wether we would use this lamb for the wedding or try and use the two smaller lambs. Would there be enough meat with the smaller lambs? After several discussions, Bob and I decided to try and use the smaller lambs for the wedding. The whole premise was to use food from the house. If Peter didn't think there would be enough we would make more chicken and possibly use some rabbit. Don Jones and Al Valk were willing to buy two Geuke's lamb halves instead of our halves so we could use our's for the wedding. Jordy Whalen decided to wait for several more weeks and purchase our lamb from the second batch of lambs to go the the market. You don't realize the emotional investment in this project until something like this mix-up happens. Hopefully there will be enough and if not, we have a plan B that is acceptable. Carmen

CeeLo Green and Market Lambs, August 2012

CeeLo Green immediately adopted the three remaining lambs after the four oldest lambs and LuLu went to the market. Geukes Market in Middleville has a distinction from the State of Michigan for being a humane market. The receiving area is clean and comfortable for the animals, there is always fresh water, they do not accept ill or injured animals, and their method of dispatching the animal is quick and painless. Bob took the four largest, oldest lambs and LuLu to the market. The two largest lambs will be for the wedding, the two smaller lambs will be sold to friends, and LuLu will go to Mel Trotter ministries as stew meat and burger. LuLu is the ewe that had mastitis. It was Paul Shetterly's opinion that we not rebreed her but send her to the market. Paul also took the other two ewes to his place for breeding. They will stay there and I will get several lambs in trade for them in the spring. Bob and I decided to get lambs from Paul to finish out instead of breeding our own. Hopefully this will mean getting more sleep in February during lambing season and not having to worry about castrating, worming, tail docking, or medication administration. CeeLo has resumed his debugging duties and the three lambs have graciously accepted his attention. We decided not to tell CeeLo that his new friends will be making their own trip to the market in about a month. Best to just wait for an opportune moment. Carmen

Second batch of meat chickens, August 2012

Brian the Chicken Guy, brought his chicken processing operation to the house and processed the second round of meat chickens. He has a small trailer that he loads with his killing cones, propane tank, water dunk tank, table, and defeathering tumbler. Quite the operation. He was able to humanely dispatch, defeather, and process the 25 birds in a little less than two hours. Amazing considering it would have taken Bob and I at least 6 hours to do the same job. His feather remover tumbler thing is pretty slick, removing all the feathers in mere seconds. That probably was the worst job when we did our own chickens, removing the feathers. Feathers seemed to be everywhere, the birds never were completely defeathered, and the question always was if they had been dunked long enough in the hot water. Too hot, the skin tore. To cool, too many feathers remained. Arghh! Did I forget to mention the smell of warm feathers and chicken manure? As Brian was processing the chickens I made a single cut down the back bone, opening the carcass so it could lay flat. I then vacuum sealed the chickens. Sandi was unable to assume her duties as chief carcass cutter, something about being out of town for her mother's birthday. What some people will do to get out of a little honest work. At any rate, her knife wielding skills were sorely missed. Brian did have miserable weather to work in. It rained the entire time he was processing the chickens. How nice to have him come to the house though. The stress on the chickens is nonexistent and we don't have to scramble to get them to him and then pick them up. I can say this as I watched him work in the rain through the front room window of the house. Nice and dry. I think I'll make a pot of coffee while I wait for Bob to bring me another batch to seal and freeze. Carmen

Bug's horn sites are infected, August 2012

I knew it. Bug's dehorning sites on his head are infected. In other words, green pus is pouring out of his frontal sinuses. Sigh. Thankfully the scabs came off the burn sites creating an opening for the pus to evacuate from. I called the vet and they suggested using a dilute Betadine solution to irrigate his head, twice a day. The finishing touch is to spray the sites with the blue antiseptic/fly spray. Initially I got a lot of drainage out of the openings. This must have relieved the increasing pressure in his frontal sinuses. He was not excited initially about having this wound irrigation done, crying desperately. After several days he seemed to almost enjoy the procedure, realizing the pressure in his head was going to be reduced by the process. Dahlia's dehorning burn sites did heal nicely, no sign of infection there. Once again, it is imperative to properly debud the kids in the first place. You think you are burning the buds long enough when in reality you are not. It is harder on them to go to the vet and be dehorned than it is to burn the buds adequately in the first place. Did I mention that I am the one to take them to be dehorned, care for the initial burn sites and then the subsequent infections. Did I mention that? Carmen

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Potatoes and Salad Greens

Bob dug the remaining potatoes yesterday and stored them in the empty stall in the barn. They will cure in the dark, warm barn for several days and then be moved to the root cellar. The crop is huge and the potatoes look great. We ate a couple that had been missed ad subsequently run over with the rototiller for breakfast yesterday..delicious! After the potato plants were pulled I weeded and rototilled the rows, prepping for planting salad greens. Bob put down organic fertilizer along the rows. The rows were marked, staked, and planted with mixed greens, arugula, spinach, butter crunch lettuce, and kale. I must say, this area of the garden looks great! Weed free...amazing for this time of year. I'll have to get a picture for posterity!

CeeLo Green, Cuban Cock Fighter

Bob found a picture of a chicken that looks like CeeLo in his book about Cuba. The chicken in the book was a champion cock fighter. CeeLo will never be a cock fighter but, Bob thinks the title will give him stature amongst the other chickens. For now, he continues to roost in the spare stall at night, and follow the lambs around during the day. eating bugs and enjoying the protection afforded by the lambs. We haven't broken it to him yet that his new found friends will be heading to the market soon. Better to let him think that he is a cock fighting chicken for now.


Bug remained droopy after his dehorning until yesterday. I finally caved in and gave him his own grain bin. Violet was pushing he and Dahlia out of the way at feeding time. Their heads are still tender from the dehorning and they can't push their way in to get their share of the grain. I was also concerned that Violet would make herself sick eating too much grain. Violet, who usually gets shoved aside, is enjoying the turned tables, shoving the others put of the way without difficulty.

Season of the Tomato Worm

It is the season of the tomato worm. We are picking and squishing tomato worms everyday. They are disgusting, fat, green worms that squirt green juice when you step on them. They also cling to the tomato plant and then your fingers when plucked from the plant. I have resorted to wearing gloves when picking the worms off the plants. That way, if they curl around your fingers, you can't feel their small legs grasping your skin. I do derive great satisfaction from stepping on them. Green juice squirts like a stream of water from a hose! Ha! Take that you, you...sorry, I got carried away. At any rate, I think we are keeping ahead of them. The plants are large and lush with fruit. Carry on worm crushing troops...continue the good fight...the thrill of the hunt. Accept nothing less than complete annihilation. Geez...

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Kid Dehorning

It was my turn this week to make the vet run to Ionia. I took Bug and Dahlia to be dehorned. We were unable to burn their horn buds adequately this spring and they kept getting larger, to the point where Bug actually got his head caught in the hay manger. It was the proverbial goat rodeo getting them both into the horse trailer, each going in different directions. They are very strong for small animals! The whole dehorning process took about an hour. Each got sedation and local medication around their horns. The vet used a scalpel around the base of each horn and then a hack saw to remove them at the base. He then cauterized the area with an electric iron. Each got pain medicine and a reversal for the sedation. Getting them out of the trailer and back into their stall, once we were home, was much easier. A little grain for enticement works every time. Dahlia perked up immediately, I am once again her friend. Bug, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with me. He'll come around, it just might take until next year! I've been on vacation this week. Katelyn was here for the first part of the week for yet another dress fitting. The bridal shop seamstress just can't seem to fit the dress to the woman. She may have to think about a different dress. We did succeed in ordering supplies for the reception and made many phone calls to finalize some plans. The rest of the week has been spent on the garden. The rain finally came this week, a blessing. Today I have been in and out, working around thunderstorms. I am going to have to inspect the damage once the rain stops. Hail accompanied the rain during the second storm. Tomorrow I want to work in the front flower bed, weed bed is actually a better term. The weeds survived the drought very well and found great comfort in the front bed. Carmen

Heat, July 18, 2012

How naive I was several weeks ago. The heat did not stop, the drought spell has continued. This is being reported as the worst stretch of heat with drought since the 1980's. Everyone is miserable. The lambs do not seem to be losing weight but I don't think they've grown either. Bob had last week off. He did all sorts of glamourous things with his time such as watering the garden, filling water tanks, weeding, and best of all....running stool samples to the vet in Ionia. Running stool across county lines is a thankless and dangerous job. Well, not either one of those things, just makes it sound more intriguing. The first run was made Tuesday morning. One of the ewe lambs was droopy, meaning she looked like she'd lost weight, was moving more slowly to the grain trough, and her mucous membranes were very pale. Flashes of Lucy's illness and death came flooding back. The verdict was nematode worms. Thankfully not coccidiosis! Still dangerous, we wormed each lamb for three days with a worm medicine more specifically for nematodes. The initially afflicted lamb is holding her own but is still not interested in grain and has not regained her lost weight. The second stool run was made Thursday morning. Violet, one of Sweet Pea's kids had diarrhea. The diagnosis this time was coccidiosis. We treatment course for the three kids was five days of oral medication. Last year we treated four lambs for 14, yes, 14 days with oral medication. A 50 pound kid is much easier to catch and treat than a 100 pound lamb, and a 5 day medication course beats 14 days hands down. I've picked blueberries for several weeks. A hot and sweaty job. The yield has been remarkable considering the crazy weather this spring. I found a recipe for blueberry BBQ sauce....unreal! Maybe everything should be slathered in blueberry BBQ sauce for the wedding dinner. Bob thinks this is a great idea! Carmen

Heat, July 6, 2012

The weather has been incredibly hot, ninety degrees and warmer for the last five days. Today will be the last day for a day or two. Bob and I have been watering the garden twice a day and the plants continue to be stressed. The water pressure in the garden is better since Mike Dyer from Dyer Drilling came and deepened the well by eight feet. He replaced the original pump and installed a smaller reservoir. He did not have to install a new well! We still cannot run the garden hose full blast, as Bob would like. The water stops completely, but the pressure is maintained enough to run a sprinkler. The cost for the adjustments is significantly less than a new well. The increased pressure and volume are adequate. The grass across the road seems to be holding it's own. I did set up a sprinkler and will start to water over there tomorrow. It does need to be reseeded. I would like to do that within the next week so new grass will be ready by September. The animals are suffering in the heat. Bob enlarged the chick area and set up a fan for them. The plastic was removed from their area so a breeze can get through. They all pant but none are sluggish, moving away from stimulation easily. The pastures are turning brown and are becoming bare, eaten to a nub by hungry sheep. I have resorted to feeding more hay. Katelyn was here for the weekend. We made a kist of people to contact and things to do. Minutiae, as Bob would say. Better to do now than rush around closer to the wedding. Katelyn picked blueberries on Sunday in the heat, a rotten job. I have since picked twice. We now have enough for ten pies for the wedding. She also helped me get hay from Bob Roth. He had many questions for her as he always does. I have started to dehydrate the herbs. The chamomile did not survive the heat so I don't have any for soap for next year. Unfortunate. Maybe I can use carrot greens with the chamomile essential oil. Hum.....Carmen

Monday, July 2, 2012

CeeLo Green, June 30

CeeLo Green has escaped the horse stall! I found him roosting on the gate in the goat stall no worse for wear. I decided to let him have his freedom come what may; cats, rooster, kid goats. After all, his continued efforts to escape should not be taken lightly. With such determination he might just have the gumption to survive. In the evening I returned to do evening chores and found him sitting on top of the lambs picking bugs out off their wool. The lambs seemed to enjoy this, actually seeking him out. Gently touching him with their noses, pick me, pick me! CeeLo has made great alliances with the lambs, he removing the bugs, they protecting him from outside forces. Who knew? Katelyn and I took Ruthie and Sweet Pea to Lisa's last night. Lisa will have them to milk. Ruthie will come home in September to contribute more milk to the wedding cheese making effort. As we pulled out of the drive Ruthie ran along the fence following the truck down the road. Sigh, she will be back soon. The kids were distraught as well. They calmed down some by late evening. It will take time. Carmen

New Chicks, June 24

The new chicks arrived today. We ordered 25 meat chicks and 10 Buff Orpington egg chicks from the hatchery in Iowa. The exotic chick has yellow down with a tuft of yellow down on it's head. It looks like it had an athletic sweat band on too tightly and the band pushed the down up into a pompon. CeeLo Green got moved into the empty horse stall to grow a little larger before he gets released into the barn yard. I got meal worms from Tractor Supply as a treat for him. He enjoyed them immensely. My way of helping him adjust to being alone. I also filled in the hole he was digging under the stall door, his valiant attempt at making a run for the outside. I felt sad for squashing his flight to freedom. Soon enough little bird. Carmen

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Chickens, Jam, Watering, June 17

Monday, June 11, was chicken D-day. Bob loaded the chickens in the truck and took them to visit Brian before work. I wish I could have seen it! Ah well, the mental images I had were probably more fun. I picked them up around 4:30pm, later than expected. This extra time was filled with making a batch of strawberry jam and pasteurizing milk. Sandi came and helped freeze the chickens. The process included making a single cut down the backs of the chickens, filleting them open to lay flat, remaining in one piece. Sandi was a filleting machine! Cutting all the chickens and removing the necks in no time. For a small women, perhaps 95 pounds on a good day, she can wield a large knife with the best of them. With Sandi filleting and removing necks, I manned the food sealer. Making bags, packing birds in, and sealing. We moved so quickly the sealer could not keep up, eventually refusing to work for the last three birds. These birds were placed in two gallon freezer bags and the air removed using the Ric method. This scientific method of packaging is performed by placing the bird in the bags and squeezing all the air out by placing your hands and entire body around the bag. Sandi is an expert at this and will provide an instruction manual to follow. Our new chefs made a visit to the farm on Tuesday. The 9th Bridge chef felt the size of the reception was too large for her to handle. Sara and her friend have their own local first catering business and are excited to take on the project. We discussed the menu and produce available. I then introduced them to the animals. The kids kept trying to chew Sara's skirt. No manners! This last week was spent watering and watering again. So hot and dry. Last night the rain finally came. The grass for the wedding tent and the garden got a much needed drink. The heat will come again but, at least for today, everything is wet! Carmen

Gouda and Strawberry Jam, June 10

The second round of Gouda took three hours. Quite a reduction in time. The rest of the process, pressing, flipping, chilling, and waxing took the same amour of time, another 24 hours. Bruce Ford, a co-worker of Bob's, made a prototype wooden cheese press for us to try. The cheese was much easier to press with the wooden press than the two smaller presses we used for the first batch. The wooden press did not allow the molds to wiggle as much creating a more uniformly shaped cheese, unlike the misshapen first attempt. There still is some sway causing slightly crooked molds and cheese. Bob is making a plexiglass and bolt tower to reduce the sway, always an experiment. I picked enough strawberries for another batch of jam. The strawberries are not as plentiful this year. Perhaps a result of the early warmth and following hard freeze. Bob loaded the bed of the truck with rabbit cages to transport chickens to Brian's tomorrow. A mass of wire and bungee cords, stacked on top of each other. The truck looked like the chicken trucks you see in the movies, feathers trailing behind like a snow storm in June. Ha! I offered to throw a couple of beer cans in the bed of the truck and have Chico ride shotgun, head hanging out of the window, to complete the picture. Bob graciously declined, stating that this was a high class operation and should not be mocked. Bob caged all the tomato plants and mounded the potatoes yesterday. After a slow start the potatoes look great. Katelyn and John planted the initial sets in April with Bob replanting several weeks later....Carmen

Gouda, June 5

Bob and I made Gouda cheese this weekend instead of Camembert. The Gouda takes several months to age so better to start now. After eight hours we ended up with two two pound cheeses. The process should go faster next time considering our now, vast experience. We started with four gallons of milk. After pasteurizing, adding culture, letting the milk rest, adding rennet, cutting the eventual curd, stirring, maintaining the temperature, stirring, stirring, placing the curd in molds, increasing the weight and pressure on the curd in the molds, flipping, remolding, pressure, flip, re-mold...you get the idea. It was great fun! I waxed the cheese yesterday after it spent the night in the wine chiller. I found a great chiller at Lowe's on Thursday, we picked it up on Friday. The finished cheese needs to be flipped every couple days, remaining in the chiller at a balmy 56 degrees. We'll have a coming out party for the cheese August 4 and let you know how it tasted. The kids received their CDT injections and worm medicine Sunday. Nobody objected too vigorously. They are growing like weeds. Bug's horns are slowly growing...open frontal sinuses and blue fly spray sprayed in them is not something I want to experience again. The chicks are gaining weight, they go Monday morning to see Brian. Bob will take them along with freezer bags for processing. We could have dropped them off on Sunday night but wanted them to experience the least amount of stress possible. Cee-Lo, the exotic chick will remain behind, waiting for the new batch of chicks in the chick area in the barn. He, I am assuming he, is too small to fend for himself outside with the laying hens, cats, and rooster. The cats can see him through the chicken wire... they are way to interested to release him. The garden is planted, root-tilled, and strawberries weed. Some strawberries are ready, enough for a batch of jam, waiting to be picked....tonight? Carmen

Katelyn's Visit, Memorial Day

Katelyn visited for New Jersey for the holiday weekend. We worked on wedding plans, logistics mainly. We were fairly successful. The garden is now finally planted and replanted. The weather remained warm, to the point of being too dry. I became a gardener at that point and watered everything. The grass across the road, planted for the wedding tent sprouted. Evidently, part of that area will have to be replanted. Uncle Alec is having the basement of the barn cemented and the trucks will be driving over that corner of the lawn. The strawberries and raspberries need a good weeding, with both gardens requiring roto-tilling. My flower beds around the house are in dismal shape, maybe this weekend order will return. Bob and I are going to try Camembert cheese this weekend. We've made twenty five pounds of Chevre, plenty for now. The goat kids need their final vaccinations and worm medicine this week. I'll pick that up at the Tractor Supply when I go to the feed store tonight for chick feed. I also, want to investigate wine chillers. The hard cheese we want to make needs to age at 56 degrees, too warm for a regular refrigerator. Oh, I need to select carpet for the family room and gazebo. A garden shed would be nice....Carmen

Thursday, May 24, 2012

May Vacation

For the last several years I've taken a week of vacation in May to plant the garden, clean up and plant flower beds, and generally do a spring organization. The gardens end up orderly, to a certain extent, not slap dash, maybe. I have been able to take advantage of this time this week and get the large garden planted for the most part. A day was spent weeding, again, and roto-tilling both gardens. Then planting the large garden yesterday. Bob will plant the tomatoes this weekend, they are his project. I did see a yellow and black stripped squash bug on a small volunteer squash plant. I immediately squished it, with great satisfaction I might add. It is annoying to see them already. We must remain ever vigilant and not miss a bug. They destroy the plants so quickly. The baby chicks are huge. They are on schedule. The exotic chick we received with them is quite a bit smaller and gets trampled upon occasion. The question for them is heat lights on or off? The weather yo-yos enough this time of year, it seems as though they are either too hot or too cold. A guessing game. The lambs are growing. One got his head caught in the hay feeder this morning, too big to go forward too big to go back. It is the same lamb who sticks his head through the woven wire fence to eat the grass on the other side. He keeps the fence line looking trim. Hopefully it won't be his demise, desire for something on the otherside. The kids are growing, horns as well. We burned those horns on two separate occasions! Cheese making, we have about 30 pounds of Chevre, enough for the wedding I think. Time to try something new. The Gouda molds and culture are coming in the mail. Gouda sounds great! Carmen

Friday, May 11, 2012

Last Lamb, April 6

The last lamb was finally weaned this weekend. It has been two weeks worth of very sad lambs and ewes calling to each other over the fence. Leila and her single lamb were the last pair to be weaned. Leila's lamb doesn't quite understand how yummy grain is and gets shoved out of the way at feeding time. Bob repositioned the feeders under the overhang in the barnyard to make sure everyone had room to eat. Lulu's two lambs have recovered their weight after we treated her for mastitis, they still are significantly smaller than the older lambs however. Hopefully the new feeding arraignment will help them catch up. I planted parsnips, parsley root, carrots, beets, and arugula in the small garden on Saturday. These seeds were planted in between the rows of garlic. Until the garlic is harvested in six weeks the weeding will be tight. I replanted the Swiss Chard. A few scrawny plants isn't adequate. The broccoli and garlic are growing well. Brocolli takes up a lot of space and takes a long time to mature. The onions are poking through the soil in the big garden. A few potatoes have made their way above ground as well. The potatoes do take a long time to get started. Patience. The plants Bob started in the tack room are huge. Tomatoes, marigold, eggplant, and peppers will be planted later this month. Patience....it can still frost around here in May. It's a lot of work running around, covering everything up. Better just to wait...plant a little later. Carmen

Saturday, May 5, 2012

First Cheese, May 1

WooooHoooo! Finally enough waiting, enough discarding. Ruthie's two week moratorium on milk is over! Goat's milk cannot be used for two weeks after the goat has been given worming medicine. Sweet Pea's milk cannot be used for another week because of the antibiotics she received after her c-section. But....Ruthie is ready! We made our first batch of Chevre today. It was a day of firsts actually. Bob purchased a pasteurizer. It will hold two gallons of milk at a time. This will be a great time saver. No more hovering and stirring over a pot of milk, thermometer in one hand spoon in the other. It does have a slight learning curve. The instruction manual, all four pages, is minimally detailed. This is a great frustration for Bob, mister by the manual, steps 1 through 8, in order, do not deviate from the plan. We got through it without too much difficulty. Next, measuring culture. Upon closer inspection, Bob realized the scale we have does not measure in small enough increments to weigh the culture that he purchased correctly. Plan B was immediately put into place. Off to Scisaliano's for a thermometer; yes, we didn't have the right one, and a scale. We called and the sales clerk thought they had one that would work. They had a thermometer but not the correct scale. Plan C was implemented. Purchase pre-measured culture..done! Despite all the running, all the plan changes, this first batch of Chevre was very successful! The Chevre will be used in several items for the wedding dinner so several batches will be made and frozen. The next cheese experiment after that will be Gouda, or maybe Mozzarella. How about Camambaer? Ricotta? I could do Swiss... or a nice Cheddar......the possibilities....Carmen

Rabbits, April 28

Bob dispatched the rabbits this morning. They were several years old and past their prime service. Each doe had a litter this spring, Reba Louise had one and Wanda had three. They both abandoned their litters. Once a doe abandons a litter she will not accept future litters. We will raise rabbits again, probably getting stock this fall for spring litters. Presently there is enough rabbit in the freezer for rabbit pot pie for the wedding. Carmen

Friday, May 4, 2012

Lucy, April 27

Lucy died today. She was a gentle soul, dying the way she lived, quietly and without pretense. Lucy was one of the first ewes Bob and I purchased. She was four. Bob and I weaned her babies along with Pinky's twins on Wednesday the 25th. Lucy looked thin and seemed droopy, moving more slowly, the last to the grain and hay. We thought it would be good for her to take the lambs off, let her rest, catch back up. She remained in the far pasture Thursday afternoon, not coming to the fence for feed. I did the chores, grain for everyone, milked the goats, filled water tanks, collected eggs. She remained in the far pasture. I walked out and sat with her while the far water tank was filling. Not seeming in distress; eyes clear, nose without discharge, no diarrhea, normal respiratory rate. Just watching. Thinking she would be more comfortable I left she and Pinky outside for the night. Bob did bring her in the barn this afternoon. He gave her grain, hay, and water, and called the vet. They thought maybe a neurological wasting disease. Paul Shetterly didn't know either. Try some antibiotics. Okay, antibiotics. I sat with her again in the stall. Eyes clear, deep brown, knowing what I didn't. Bob and I brought the antibiotics to the barn after dinner. She wouldn't need them. Peacefully on her side, grain and hay untouched. Carmen

De-budding, April 22

The de-budding iron and kid box Bob made make the whole de-budding experience much easier. Lisa came and helped Bob and I de-bud Sweet Pea's two kids, Dahlia and Violet. The kid is placed in the box so only their head is exposed. This allows one person to hold the head only, not worrying about legs and wiggling bodies. The other person can hold the iron on the kid's head over the horn bud. Hence, de-budding the kid. The iron needs to be in contact with the base of the horn bud for approximately 8 to 10 seconds for a proper burn to occur. In other words, a lifetime. I trimmed the hair away from the base of the bud with small scissors. This seemed to increase the contact area of the iron and create a better burn. We purchased a new, fancy electric iron this year. No guessing on temperature or fooling around with a blow torch to heat a non-electric iron. Does a blow torch in a barn sound like a good idea to you? It didn't sound like a good idea to me either. The process of de-budding is not a pleasant one. It, however, is much more palatable than watching the vet de-horn the kids. The horn is actually a continuation of the frontal sinus. When the horn is removed a hole is created and the frontal sinus is exposed. It's not fun spraying antiseptic fly spray into their frontal sinuses. Better than getting flys in the sinus....I guess. Carmen

Katelyn and John Visit, April 20-23

Katelyn and John came for the weekend and were a great help! They drove from New Jersey, arriving Friday afternoon in Michigan. This trip was made to help around the farm with wedding preparations and met with Matt Stoll, the minister that will be presiding over their wedding ceremony. I attended a hard cheese making class on Saturday. While I was in Kalamazoo, Katelyn and Lindsey found fabric and a designer for the bridesmaids dresses. Yeah! Bob and John started cleaning out the storage area under the north overhang of the barn for the chicks in anticipation of their arrival on Monday. After church on Sunday Katelyn, John, and Bob rototilled both gardens and started planting potatoes. While I was shopping at Meijer the post office called, the chicks had arrived. So, the work in the garden came to a screeching halt and the chick area preparation swung into action. I picked up the chicks at the postal annex in Kentwood and everyone else completed the chick area, hung a heat lamp and thermometer, filled the waterer, and made a cardboard ring enclosure. The ring is approximately 6 feet across and can be adjusted as the chicks grow. When the chicks first come the temperature inside the ring needs to be in-between 85 and 90 degrees. Bob has the heat lamp hanging from a hook with a chain that can be adjusted up or down depending on the need for more or less heat. Very scientific. The chicks all looked healthy upon their arrival. Katelyn and I dipped their beaks in water teaching them how to drink and showed them the grain feeders. A great BBQ pork rib dinner was enjoyed on Sunday night. BBQed ribs are one of Katelyn's favorite things so we try to have them each tome she comes. The recipe is really easy, one of those that works every time. Just remove the connective tissue along the bone side of the ribs and place in the oven on a rack bone side down at 300 degrees for 2 hours. Cover with foil. You can rub the meat with a dry rub before putting it in the oven. I usually just sprinkle the ribs with lemon pepper. At the two hour mark uncover the ribs and smother them with BBQ sauce. Place the ribs back in the oven for another 1.5 to 2 hours, depending on the size of your cut, uncovered. Cook until the meat falls from the bone. Remove the ribs from the oven and allow them to rest before serving. Monday Katelyn and John met with the minister. This was the first of several sessions. Future sessions will be done on line. They left early Tuesday morning. It never gets easier watching them leave. Katelyn will be back in May, a small consolation. Carmen

Monday, April 23, 2012

Goat C-section continued...

As I stated in the previous entry, everything changed around midnight. Sweet Pea started her labor around 8:30pm. An amnionic sac didn't appear until 10:30 with it finally breaking around midnight. Small hooves, pointed in the right direction, appeared and then disappeared with each contraction. Lisa and I drank our coffee, discussed plans for making cheese and future goat breeding. A quiet barn is the perfect place for making plans and reflecting on past experiences. Sweet Pea's progress however, was moving way too slowly. She did not seem to be progressing. We decided to give her a break, go to the house, have a snack. We were sure we were disturbing her. A good plan. Unfortunately, this plan didn't work either. Returning from the house it was obvious nothing had progressed. Sweet Pea's labor had intensified, the contractions stronger. Sill no movement foreword. We knew the small hooves were pointed in the right direction, maybe the head and neck of the kid were turned, not allowing it to enter the canal. Lisa held Sweet Pea and I reached in cautiously, not wanting to cause bleeding or pain. Two legs and a nose all belonging to the same kid were in the canal! Great news! With Lisa holding Sweet Pea again, I attempted to assist her by pulling the legs of the kid with each contraction.trying to depress the pelvic floor and rotate the kid to get the head past her pelvic ring. Third plan that did not succeed. I called Dr. Sanford from Sterner Vet Clinic in Ionia around 2:15am, explained the situation, and asked her to come. Dr. Sanford reached the barn 35 minutes later. She asked me to tuck the hooves of the kid back in the canal while we were waiting for her to arrive. This would keep Sweet Pea from straining. Thankfully, this worked. Upon her arrival, Dr. Sanford attempted to manipulate the kid. No success. The options to to euthanize Sweet Pea or attempt a C-Section. The C-Section was the only option for Lisa and I. Sweet Pea stood in the milking stand, exhausted, allowing Dr. Sanford to injection the incision site with Lidocaine. The incision was then made longitudinally behind the rib cage. An incision was then made ini the uterus. Dr. Sanford pulled out one baby and then the other. Two girls. Both babies were cleaned and vigorously rubbed with towels to stimulate breathing and dry them off. I used a hair dryer to dry them further and warm them up. The second kid had slight respiratory depression. She was gently gasping for air. I aspirated the back of her throat with a small syringe and massaged her chest wall hoping to get rid of any extra secretions in her lungs and airway. She continued to pant, mouth slightly open, but her lips were pink and she wanted to stand. Try your best! Sweet Pea was willing to give the kids a good licking while Dr. Sanford was closing her incisions. We then milked her and gave it to the kids. This helped her uterus start to contract and expel any retained uterine contents. Dr. Sanford gave Sweet Pea antibiotics, a steroid, and an anti-inflammatory injection. Finally, back in her stall, Sweet Pea nursed her babies. Time to leave everyone alone, the barn quiet, new babies and mother together. I'll check later, morning chores for everyone else needed to be done soon, but for now, quiet. Live well, Carmen

Goat C-Section

Two posts ago I wrote that Sweet Pea was in labor and had called Lisa, wondering if she'd like to come and keep me company. I had fully intended on finishing the post when Sweet Pea delivered her twins. Safe and sound, no fuss, no muss. An experinced mother, Sweet Pea, should have no trouble. She's had babies the last several years and has always been a good mother. I was looking forward to Sweet Pea kidding. The last mother to have her babies. We could then concentrate on making cheese. Kids are fun to have around as well. Jumping up and down, climbing on everything, playing with each other. I went to the house and made some coffee after calling Lisa. She was going to come after she finished milking a goat she picked up several days ago. Great! I should be in bed by midnight. That was the plan. A good plan. Best laid plans do not always work the way they were intended. Everything changed around midnight.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Surprise! He's not mine

Arriving in the barn when you are expecting new babies is either a disappointment or a surprise. The disappointment, you have checked on the mothers so often and nothing has appeared. Complacency sets in. Doubtful thoughts creep up. I don't think the mother is due just yet, maybe in a week. Her udder isn't big enough. She hasn't dropped. She doesn't act uncomfortable. She was laying on her side and moving a little slower this morning. No, later. The surprise, the babies are actually standing in the stall. I knew she was ready. A true guessing game. Ruthie presented me with such a surprise Wednesday afternoon. I arrived home from work, called Kelvin to help me milk the ewe with mastitis, and headed to the barn. Planning on getting the ewe in her stall before Kelvin arrived, and yes, checking on the goats. The goats had been in their stalls for several days. I leave them in the barn when the time for them to kid is close and I am working. It's been chilly during the day and I don't want to run the risk of them trying to kid outside. Sweet Pea was in the divided portion of the stall next to the inside door. I knew she would deliver first. She had to. She was so big! I resisted the temptation of looking at the goats and got Lulu in her stall so we could milk her. Then to the goat stall. A baby goat was nestled in the hay in Sweet Pea's stall. Just one? Yes, one. All clean, dry, resting. Sweet Pea still looked huge, pregnant. Oh well, drying the cord with beta dine, I examined the kid more closely. Everything looked perfect. Warm mouth, bright eyes. After much difficulty, I caught Sweet Pea and attempted to milk her. She wanted nothing to do with me and she was shoving the kid away. What shameful behavior for a goat! Sheep act this way not goats! And why does Ruthie keep calling to this kid? Okay, plan B.. Call Lisa Johnson. Yes, Lisa is available to help. Great! Walking back to the barn it occurred to me that the kid's ears are small...like Ruthie's. Wait a minute! Small ears, Sweet Pea still looks pregnant and dosn't want anything to do with the kid, no afterbirth in the stall, and Ruthie is insistant on calling for this baby. Sweet Pea and Ruthie both were trying to tell me that the kid was in the wrong stall. As soon as I put the kid in Ruthie's stall everyone calmed down. Sigh, crisis averted. Lisa laughed a lot when she arrived. This was a much better outcome than having to deal with a mother who is rejecting a baby. Okay, so I laughed a little too. Kelvin and I returned to the mundane task of milking, or stripping, the ewe's udder with mastitis. I purchased udder cream from a friend at work, her husband has dairy cattle and swears it helps treat mastitis. Kelvin and I have the routine down to a science, he catches the ewe and I milk her, first the left side then the right. As Lulu wanders off smelling like peppermint udder cream, I am immensely thankful for good friends willing to help at a moments notice, and for a small temporarily misplaced kid with small ears. Live well..Carmen

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sweet Pea is ready

Sweet Pea is ready to deliver. Lisa is here. It's 9:30. Live well, Carmen

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Weekend

This is Easter weekend. Katelyn and John drove from New Jersey for a long weekend. They came to help organize the basement, a huge task, so Katelyn's friends from England, "the Brits", can stay with us for the wedding. Katelyn also came so she and I could, once again, look for a wedding dress. This time we were successful! She found a beautiful dress that really, was completely different than the dresses she'd tried on in the past. Yeah! We had smoked leg of lamb Saturday for Easter dinner. Bob is first call today, Sunday, so we celebrated Easter yesterday. A friend from work, Dennis Gregory, smoked the leg for us. It was fabulous, done medium rare. He rubbed it with a salt, pepper, and rosemary marinade, let it sit for twenty four hours, and then smoked it yesterday morning. Bob picked it up and I warmed it in the oven, in it's own juice and wrapped in foil. Amazing. Dennis will be known forever as the King of Smoke. Paul Shetterly came Thursday and trimmed everyone's hooves, goats included. We discovered that Lulu has mastitis. I wondered why she looked a little thin and her babies did not seem to be growing as rapidly as the other lambs. Mastitis. Mastitis is an infection of the udder. Symptoms include pain, reddness, heat, and a hard swelling of the udder. She was so painful that she was not allowing her lambs to nurse on that side of her udder. The lambs were surviving on milk from one side. They were not starving, but they were not growing as rapidly as they should either. We gave her a shot of antibiotic Thursday. On Friday after Bob spoke to the vet, I went to the dairy farm around the corner and picked up a different antibiotic. The vet had to stop at the dairy and was kind enough to leave it for me. The new antibiotic was presription strength, so was not available from the Tractor Supply. That also meant I didn't have to make the drive to their office in Ionia. The treatment for mastitis is antibiotics every other day for a total of three shots and milking, or stripping her udder on the affected side, as much as possible. We've stripped her udder twice a day since starting on Friday and Bob said the lambs were actually nursing on that side on Saturday. Good news! Frost came again on Friday morning. Hopefully, everything will struggle through. I need to check the seeds I planted in the early garden. Some had germinated. I may need to re-plant. The chickens come on the 23rd. The area in the barn will need to be cleaned. Rabbits are due to kindle on the 17th and 24th. I put a nesting box in with Wanda but I think it's a little early for that. Wait and see. Live well, Carmen

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Continued Cooler Weather

Cooler weather, almost freezing weather, continued all week. Freezing temperatures arrived north of here last week. Thankfully, it did not freeze here. Warmer weather caused everything to begin to bloom; flowers, trees, and Bob's favorite, the blueberry bushes. I think, after much observation and scrutiny of all the plant life, everything has survived. I was able to plant lettuce, spinach, and Swiss chard in the herb garden last weekend. Bob started several flowers and vegetables in the tack room/green house. Most of them have germinated and he placed them under grow lights on Thursday. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and marigolds are more successful if they are started inside. Paul Shetterly is coming next week to shear the sheep and trim their hooves. The one ewe continues to limp. Hopefully, he can look at her again. We were able to castrate both of the older lambs, the younger two need to be castrated next week. Most of the lamb's tails are off. I wiped all the tail stumps with disinfectant. Most of the lambs have some diarrhea as well. I am attributing this to the onset of green pasture grass. None of them are coughing or droopy, red flags to illness. Ruthie and Sweet Pea continue to wait for the birth of their kids. Their udders are getting larger, a good sign. Goats are curious creatures. They are interested in everything, pausing to investigate every inch of their environment. Always happy to see me. Ever hopeful for a bit of grain or a back scratch. Gentle souls. Sweet Pea will hold her ground however, when a lamb or chicken become too intrusive. Stomping or shaking her head, with an occasional head butt given to the offender. No nonsense, thank you very much, have a nice day. The barn needs to be cleaned, feed needs to purchased, gas for the equipment obtained, all today. A good day for all those things. It really is still too chilly and wet for garden work. Well, maybe just a little garden work today. Live well, Carmen

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Cooler Weather

Cooler weather has arrived along with soaking rain! The ewes are thankful. It was unseasonably warm last week, 40 degrees above normal. Too warm too fast. All the animals were stressed. The free choice mineral bin was a popular hang out and the water tanks were never full enough. I cleaned, weeded, and rototilled the herb garden. It always is a huge project. I think about spring cleaning when placing the mulch on the garden in the fall, trying to place enough on, but not too much. The thought being if I clean and organize well in the fall the spring cleaning will be minimized. A good thought. It never happens. Oh well, the herb garden is ready for spinach and lettuce. Hopefully, that will happen today. Live well, Carmen

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Garden

Much to Bob's disappointment we spent the majority of the weekend cleaning up several barn yard manure piles and spreading them on the garden. These piles were a culmination of a winter's worth of uneaten hay and manure that surrounded to two mangers in the barn yard. These piles are like icebergs, the tip or top of the pile is very small compared to the rest underneath. You just keep shoveling! The good news is the manure quality of the piles was great. Bob didn't think there was quite enough however, so he got a pick-up load from Angie Anderson and spread half of it in the big garden and placed the other half in the compost bin. The compost bin manure will jump start the compost already in the bin from last winter. We should have great compost from the bin by midsummer. The seeds I ordered last week came. Bob sorted through them, pulling out the ones he wants to start inside. Hopefully, he can start planting inside today. My tack room is heated and makes a perfect green house this time of year. I want to clean up an area in the herb garden and plant the lettuce and spinach tonight. The weather has been unseasonably warm, a great chance to plant early, cool weather seeds. Hopefully, it will not frost again. Right! The newest lamb is well. She is as big as any of the other lambs and holds her own during rough housing play. The goats are due in two weeks. It will be great having fresh milk to make new cheese! Live well, Carmen

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's Been Rough

It's been a rough 48 hours for the newest lamb but she was on her feet this morning nursing. She looks like a bad horror movie. I left the blood and birth fluids on the lamb so Leila would smell her and know she is her's. Leila allows the baby to nurse and is quite concerned about her. Amazing. I treated Leila to some of the alfalfa hay this morning. Simple things are the best.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Life Continues

Yesterday began, and ended, as so many others have this last month. The surprise and relief of having new life arrive. Will our last ewe, Leila, have her lambs her lambs today? She is getting so uncomfortable, hard to get up and then lay down. She is so big! Surely she will lamb today. The first lambs were born three weeks ago. Did she catch late in the month at Paul's? How long is too long? The night was spent getting up every four hours checking. No lambs. I made my way to the barn around 07:30am. Daylight Savings Time pushed arrival time forward an hour. A beautiful, warm morning. This is a fickle time of year in Michigan; warm and gentle followed by cold wind, ice and snow. This day would be warm; a blue cloudless sky all day. I gave everyone their grain, opened all the doors. The oldest lambs, with their mothers, graduated to the big pasture today. Running around the turn out shed too many times to count, chasing the chickens. The third set of lambs were moved to the space left by the older lambs, under the cricket attached to the barn. Leila could be with them, bask in the sun. She didn't want to leave the barn. I moved around to encourage her to leave and realized she had started to lamb, an amnionic sac was apparent! Finally! With mixed emotion I placed her in the larger jug. Yes, finally, but she's so big. Triplets? She was not a good mother initially last year. It took a lot of hand milking, placing lambs on her, forcing her to accept her baby. Knowing it would be awhile before she progressed Bob and I cleaned the barn. Staying busy makes the time pass. Another sac appeared. This doesn't seem right. More time, too much time. A call to the vet. Dr. Kramer says it's okay. Okay, membranes are still bulging. With the others membranes bulge and then the sac is broken by the front feet squeezing through the canal. A nose, not front feet appear. Break the sac, clear the nose, try and push the lamb back in and find the front feet. I can find the front feet but can't bring them around, can't push the lamb back in. It's too big. It's too big to deliver nose first, with shoulders and legs to follow. Bob tries. He can't. Dr. Kramer will come. He makes the drive from north of Ionia in 30 minutes. Quickly, and yet an eternity. He his able to push the lamb back in, find the front legs, realign, and with chains attached, pull the lamb out. Agonal breathing, dusky tongue, eyes open. The lamb is huge, as big as the three week old lambs in the pasture. Attempts to arouse the lamb during the assisted birth of his twin fail and Dr. Kramer euthanizes him humanly with an injection. The twin is smaller. Stressed, but not traumatized, by the prolonged labor and birth of her brother. Weak, but not too weak. Dried, and given Leila's hand expressed milk she attempts to nurse. Bob removes the dead lamb, takes him to be buried, to remove his smell. Leila continues to search and call for the dead lamb. Leila shoves the unfavored lamb away rejecting her attempts to nurse. Lamb and mother are placed in the smallest jug. No room to push the baby away. As the day progresses; after hand milking, showing the baby where to nurse, rubbing milk on the baby; Leila starts talking to her baby in the low soft tones ewes use. Maybe this baby will survive. The unfavored life, the smaller twin, maybe. Milestones to reach; 24 hours, 48 hours. Dr. Kramer gave Leila an antibiotic and medication to contract her uterus. We must watch for continued bleeding and infection. Watch, wait....Live well, Carmen

Saturday, March 3, 2012

It Was Toady

Not yesterday but today. I left everyone in the barn this morning. The wind was blowing, remnants of the storm that tore through the Midwest last night. Checked on the two remaining ewes to lamb at 10:00 am. Nothing, no new lambs. Came back to the house and took a shower. Bob was due here at 12:00pm. He was running late, so I thought I'd get a head start on the barn. Saturday is total barn cleaning day. Rabbits, chickens, goats, and sheep. I thought I would empty the manure spreader and be ready when he arrived. I walked into the barn around 12:30, expecting Pinky to call loudly, Ruthie the same, and the rooster, always letting you know he's around. Instead quiet. Muffled noises of shifting bodies and feet, chewing of cuds, and then the small voice of a new lamb. Lulu's two new lambs were standing, looking, talking to their mother. Lulu is an amazing mother. These are her first babies, yet she acted like an ancient soul, drawing on inherent knowledge, instinct, to take perfect care of them. Nudging, encouraging, cleaning, talking to them in the low, soft tone a ewe uses with her lambs. I placed them in the smaller jug. It was clean and ready for just this purpose. Everyone else went outside. Doors open, barn clean, tails banded on the older lambs. All activity started again, except for a small corner of the barn, where a new mother cleaned and nursed her babies, like her mother and grandmother before. Live well, Carmen

Friday, March 2, 2012

Will it be Today?

Will it be today? Will the other two expectant ewes lamb today? Will I be able to forego the every four hour, through the night barn checks? It is a beautiful day. Sunny and warm (40 degrees). No breeze. Today would be a great day!

Friday, February 24, 2012

New Lambs

New lambs arrived Wednesday afternoon. The first of our younger ewes, Pinky, lambed at 2:30 pm on Wednesday. The birth went without a hitch. I dried them off, milked her, and gave it to the babies. As a first time mom however, she didn't understand the babies wanting to nurse. I placed them on her several times but she would brush them away. I called my neighbor, Angie, for help. She arrived with daughter Carmen and held Pinky for me while I helped the babies nurse. She seemed less reluctant allowing one lamb to nurse. Feeling okay about the process I left them alone, returning about an hour later. At that point she was allowing the second born lamb to nurse but was shoving the first born away despite his valiant and continued efforts. I held her again and helped the smaller lamb eat. This pattern continued, me checking on them every two hours and holding her to let the lambs nurse, until Bob got home around 3:30am. Yes, he was on call. We decided to build a smaller pen called a jug. This would keep Pinky from being able to move away from the babies, allowing them hopefully, to both nurse. We placed a divider panel in the existing stall decreasing the original stall by half. This has helped. As of today, Pinky is allowing both lambs to nurse with minimal hostility toward the older lamb. We'll keep her in this confined area for at least another day, moving her to a slightly bigger jug tomorrow. Why the name Pinky? Bob can never remember the younger ewes names, probably because it is very difficult to tell them apart. Sooo... Pinky has a pink breeder identification tag in her ear. Lulu, the other young ewe, lost her tag somewhere along the way. She, therefore, has no ear tag. He is able to handle this arrangement well. Kelvin came yesterday and cleaned the barn for me. I wanted to get this done before the snow storm came through. We received about four inches of new snow last night, much more than my four wheeler can get through with a loaded manure wagon. Thanks Kelvin! We are waiting for the last two ewes to lamb. The goats are possibly due in two weeks. I've increased my barn check time to every three hours. This gives me a chance to other things, like take a nap. Live well, Carmen

Monday, February 20, 2012

First Lambs

The first of the lambs arrived today at 4:45am. Lucy, one of the older ewes, did a fine job. She is a good mother. It was cold this morning, in the 20's. Bob and I rubbed them off and used a hair dryer to get them warm. Paul Shetterly told us about using the hair dryer. It worked really well after it popped a circuit in the barn and we switched the dryer to a different outlet. Lucy has plenty of milk and the babies nursed right away. I did milk her a little and gave it to the lambs. I called friends Jane and Jim Bosserd because I had a supplement from last year and wondered if I could give the new lambs the old supplement. Jane and Jim raised sheep for many years and have been a great source of information and support. Their answer to my question was to call Pipestone Vet in Minnesota. I did and I can give the supplement, just increase the dose slightly. So back to the barn with some great smelling Lamb Strength. The lambs did't mind it at all. Lucy has been very patient with me allowing me to place the babies on her udder. The other ewes got to go outside under the overhang on the barn. The sun is shining today so it may even be warmer outside than in the barn. I tested a rabbit recipe last night and it worked well. Rabbit is very versatile and can be used instead of chicken or fish in almost any recipe. I braised the rabbit and then placed it in a cast iron skillet along with canned tomato, garlic, onion, and basil from the garden. Before placing the rabbit in the skillet you sauté fresh onion and garlic in olive oil, then add 1/3 cup white wine. Let in simmer for several minutes. Complete the dish by adding capers and kalamata olives. Combine everything in the skillet and simmer until the rabbit is cooked, about 20 to 30 minutes. I used what was left from last night to make soup today, in-between trips to the barn. The menu for the wedding continues to evolve. Thus far we've talked about cherry tomato, basil, and mozzarella skewers; ginger sesame lamb skewers; butternut squash shooters; and for appetizers. Beet, goat cheese, nut, and mixed greens as the salad. Dinner would include roasted rosemary chicken, rabbit or lamb tomato liver noise (from last night); roasted leg of lamb; and goat cheese ravioli with a tomato chutney. Dessert involves cake, blueberry and cherry pies, pumpkin bars, and goats milk ice cream. Lettuce wraps and quesadillas will be served at the after party in the barn. Well, time to go back to the barn. Live well, Carmen

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rabbits and Menu

I think I have completed the menu for the reception dinner. Items may change according to what produce really is available in September. Variables always include the weather, bugs, fungus, and critters (moles, deer, and the dreaded raccoon). Bob has a pretty good handle on the squash bugs and I am the tomato worm crushing expert. Tomato worms are disgusting. They do however, produce a satisfying squishing noise when you step on them. Bob and I have raised rabbits for several years. The meat has a mild flavor, very different from wild rabbit, making it very versatile. I'm always looking for new recipes for rabbit. I think my favorites have been rabbit pot pie and braised and then grilled rabbit with a herb marinade. I'll include the recipes tomorrow. Bob started leaving the light on in the rabbit area during the day. We discovered that they breed more successfully earlier if they have at least 12 to 14 hours a day for a month or two before you attempt to breed them. We have one buck and two does. Wanda is a New Zeeland White, and Kid and Reba Louise are Californians. These three produce approximately 15 rabbits a season. Live well, Carmen

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Carrots and Onions

I was having a little garden withdrawal today so, after closing the sheep stall doors, no lambs yet, decided to visit the garden. I found pottery herb markers yesterday so placed the garlic marker today. The garlic is poking through the hay mulch. The sprouts aren't too tall. I think they will be fine even though we all know it will frost again. Bob and I planted a winter garden in August as an experiment. We wanted to see if a second planting of lettuce, carrots, and onions would be ready in time for the wedding. Also, how long would produce be available throughout the winter. The first part of the experiment worked. The lettuce mix and carrots were great. The onion was small but tasty. To check on the second half of the experiment I dug up an onion and several carrots today. They are perfect. They onion is still smaller than a spring planting but the carrots are huge. They are still sweet and not fibrous. Great fun, like finding hidden treasure. I marked my cutting garden with tall stakes today as well. The cutting garden is in the large vegetable garden. I've added perennial plants every year and plant annual seeds to fill in the holes. The garden is in full sun three quarters of the day so sunflowers, cosmos, lilies, and daisies do exceptionally well. All of these will be available, except the lilies in September. The large vegetable garden, as opposed to the herb garden, got away from me last fall . The weeds were out of control. Much to much even for Big Mama, my large rototiller. I decided to call my friend Ken. He has a new John Deere tractor complete with a monster, rear mounted rototiller. He came when he had a minute and graciously tilled under all the left over vegetation. Unfortunately, that included half of the cutting garden. That gave me a chance to rethink some of things I wanted to include in the garden. I started replacing some of the perennials last fall. We'll see what comes up in the spring! Thanks Ken! Live well, Carmen

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Still Waiting

The lambs still have not arrived. Today marks 140 possible gestational days. Gestation for sheep is 145 days, plus or minus 5 days. Sheep cycle twice a month, with the peak, or more fertile cycles, being in the fall. We took the ewes to Paul Shetterly's early in October for breeding. They came home early in November. Leaving them for the month in order to cover at least two cycles. It worked. Everyone returned pregnant. So the wait continues. Live well. Carmen

Saturday, February 11, 2012


Bob and I hung hay racks, water buckets, and feeders on Thursday. We then moved the ewes inside the barn. We divided two horse stalls and cleaned the third. The goats have the third stall to themselves while the four ewes share the other two. The ewes are due any time and with the weather taking this cold turn it was time to move them in. They seem very content. With them inside it does mean stalls will have to be cleaned more often. Unfortunately, with the new snow fall, the four wheeler is unable to get through it with the manure spreader. This means that a manure pile will be created outside in the barnyard, removed when the snow melts. Double cleaning duty. Live well. Carmen

History of the Church and the Barn

My uncles, Alec and Mac, sent some great information about the church, where Katelyn's wedding will take place, and the barn, where the reception will be held. The Vergennes United Methodist Church is on the corner of Bailey and Parnell Avenues in Vergennes township. The church was formed in 1843 by several local families including Katelyn's ancestors Jeanette and William McPherson. Many members of our family have attended and been married at Vergennes, including Katelyn's great grandparents and grandparents. Jeanette McPherson and her four children, including son William, migrated to Michigan in a covered wagon from New York in 1840. Peter McPherson, William's son, purchased the property the barn stands on today from Hector McClean in the early 1870's and built the existing house. My uncle Alec and Aunt Karen have been stabilizing, restoring, remodling, rebuilding the house and the barn since 1989. The house renovation was completed in 2011. The barn, the granary, and the ice house renovations continue with the majority of the work being completed in the fall of 2011. The barn was built to house the horses used to work the farm. The sheep were kept in an open area on the south side, potatoes in the cellar, and loose beans in the lofts. All the buildings on my uncle's property have been painstakingly reconstructed. The reception will be held on his property with appetizers and the after party in the barn and dinner in a large tent off to one side. Katelyn is the eighth generation of our family to live on this property in Vergennes township. I am pleased Katelyn is getting married here, a place rich in family history, her home. Live well. Carmen

Sunday, January 29, 2012

January 26, 2012 Kelvin Anderson came yesterday to talk with me about the care of the barn and animals for next week. We'll be in The Florida Keys for a week. Kelvin's family lives just around the corner from me on a farm. It's nice leaving the care of my barn and animals to someone who has an understanding and knowledge of their needs. Paul Shetterly came today to look at Janice. She is one of the two 2 year old ewes I purchased from him as a weanling lamb. She and Lulu, the other 2 year old ewe, are bred this year for the first time. Janice has been lame on her left front leg for several weeks. We kept her inside for a week, treated her for thrush, and she still is sore on that hoof. It's not swollen or sore to touch which leads me to believe the problem may be higher in her leg. Paul gave her a shot of LA-200, an antibiotic, today. Hopefully that will help her until we get back. Talk with you in a week. Live week, Carmen

Monday, January 23, 2012

Today the weather was miserable. Thunderstorms during the night melted most of the snow. I was able to get through the remaining snow and empty the manure spreader and clean the barn. The animals are well. We are waiting the arrival of the lambs and kids in early March. The wedding menu continues to be tweaked. Hopefully the garlic survives the wet weather. Live well, Carmen

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 20

I want to provide a little history regarding my small farm. I was told once that I was gardener and not a farmer because I water my garden. I'd like to think I'm a little of both. Bob, my friend, and I, manage a slightly less than five acre area of land just outside Grand Rapids, Michigan. Our interests include a large vegetable and herb garden, a small flock of chickens, several ewes, two dairy goats, three breeding rabbits, multiple barn cats, and two dogs. My interest in becoming self sustaining, at least providing the majority of our food, started several years ago, with a small herb and vegetable garden. This idea grew to include chickens, sheep, and rabbits. My daughter and I enjoyed showing Appaloosa horses for many years but, with her departure to college and then law school, my focus changed. I needed something to eat my pasture, other than the pull behind deck mower. Sheep were the logical choice. The fence gradually was reconfigured to accommodate smaller animals. The next addition were two dairy goats, Ruthie and Sweet Pea. Lisa taught me to make wonderful soft goat cheese. Chickens for meat and eggs were added. There is nothing quite like ordering and receiving chicks through the mail. Meat rabbits were added to round put the menagerie. Did I mention Bob has a degree in Animal Husbandry from Michigan State University? He also spent several years living on a commune in northern Michigan. A definite bonus. My Uncle Alec and Uncle Mac have agreed to provide additional information regarding my family history and the renovation of the barn. In the following days I'll be writing about the care, menu, weeding, planting, etc. of the project. Live well! Carmen

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Beginning

Home Grown to Wedding Table will be a day to day journal of the growth and preparation of all the ingredients needed to provide a reception dinner for my daughter Katelyn's wedding on September 15, 2012. From lamb, chicken, vegetables and cheese, to herbs and flowers. Katelyn made this request last spring when she became engaged. Katelyn is the eighth generation to live on this property. She wanted to come home, be married in the small Methodist church she grew up in, have her reception in my uncle's newly restored barn, and have the dinner be from the farm. More information about the history of this property, the people helping me make this happen, plantings, recipes, caterers, canning, freezing, picking....yeah,....will be forthcoming. A special thank you to Becky, Bob's niece. She suggested I start a journal, recording the preparation and progress of this project. It gives me a chance to express my thoughts and perhaps, reflect on the daily activities of the farm. Carmen