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Happenings on the Farm

We have had a busy few weeks at the farm!

Having acquired our final group of ewes we plan to purchase, our flock is at full strength.  Such numbers require that I move pasture frequently, especially with the dry summer we have had.  Grass growth is stunted and we are moving the sheep off our land and onto land borrowed from neighbors.

Meanwhile, one of our Rhode Island Red hens took the depopulation of the flock from raccoon predation seriously enough that she decided to sit on a clutch of eggs.  We were afraid that engaging in social media would jinx this, especially since RIRs are not well-known as broody hens, but she was a determined lady and now we have nine little chicks!  I have never had a successful broody before, and we’ve been checking them like excited children would.

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The angry-looking one on its own is my favorite.  Chickens- more fearsome than their reputation suggests!
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Momma doesn’t want help or visitors.

We’re ramping up to breeding season with a concerted effort to improve everyone’s nutrition and plans for a hoof-trimming day tomorrow.   I’ll be going to bed early tonight to ready myself.  The rams are banished to a distant patch up the road to keep them from hopping the fence to talk to the girls.   Our plan is to put the BFLs in the barn feeding on hay, and the borders in the fields eating the last of the grasses as winter looms.  We will keep them outdoors until the ground freezes (we can’t put the portable fenceposts into frozen ground- I know from experience!).  More lambs are planned for March!

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Somerhill Bethlehem came to visit me.  I love this friendly ewe.

So the other major preparation for breeding season is cleaning out the barn.  We’ve let the bedded pack dry and ferment as long as we could under cover, but now it needs to go out.  We considered our manure pile placement very carefully, selecting a place far from drainage areas and where any runoff would be primarily absorbed by the soil before hitting waterways.  Matt likes some good tractor work now and then, though this task is no easy feat.

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Our skies are hazy with smoke from Western fires.  Earlybird trees are starting their transition.  We are also making final preparations for some fiber festivals coming up.

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Lessons from the Farmers Market

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My friend Mike helped get the setup done.

I had my goods for sale at Montpelier for the first time yesterday.  I still have a lot to learn about effectively selling my goods.

  • Don’t forget your tent!   The market was on Saturday morning.  On Friday evening that I realized that my pop-up tent was 150 miles away in Keene, NH with my parents.  Oops.  I didn’t get a sunburn but I did have to model my rather dweeby hat that I wear while doing fieldwork.  I always wear a hat because sunscreen just melts off me in a river of sweat while I work.
  • I still have a “Meat and Yarn Don’t Mix” issue.  My booth had a lot of yarn-based visual appeal, which attracted yarn lovers.  But the Venn Diagram of Yarn Lovers and Sausage Lovers doesn’t have a big enough overlap space, so I wasn’t able to get yarnies to try or to buy the sausage.  At the same time, I am worried that the huge yarn display was actually discouraging the sausage-seeking folks from coming over.  Or maybe they didn’t see the signs.  Bigger signs are a must for next time!
  • Speaking of sausage:  You would think that sampling out sausage would be easy!  Cook a link, cut it up, feed people.  But it isn’t.  Law requires that hot food be served hot, but I had long pauses between visitors where cut-up samples would have cooled.  So I pre-cooked and pre-chopped my sample sausage for reheating on a little butane stove.  Regrettably, the stove caused samples to crisp up and dry out, and one woman even complained (very politely and informatively) that I wasn’t doing the sausage justice with the dry samples.  I wish I knew of a way to better offer samples of our juicy sausage- I don’t expect people to stay to have a sample whipped up for them personally.
  • Continuing my sausage thought-process: In an ideal world, I would be able to sell them as a cooked snack sandwich, but being a food vendor is really different from being an agricultural product vendor and we would need to invest time and money in regulatory compliance.  I would also need another person at the farmer’s market to handle that.  I should look for a vendor who might like to sell my sausage on commission.
  • I noticed that of the two varieties of yarn that I now have for sale, everyone touched both kinds but all of the buyers bought my newer yarn because of the soft, fluffy texture.  I will add the new yarn to the store soon.
  • I am proud to say that I remembered almost everything I would need for a day at the market- markers, tape, cashbox, etc.  I remembered everything except a plate to put the tongs on and my coffee.  Realizing I had forgotten my coffee was disappointing, to say the least.