"Green" Acres

Morningstar Meadows is going a bit green these days. In addition to lush green grazing pastures, and lettuce sprouting in the garden, we’re getting a little more energy conserving! For Mother’s Day I requested a clothes line. It finally was erected and christened this weekend!


It’s the coolest thing, because it can be fed laundry right from the deck! It’s super heavy duty and 75 feet long! The clothes get the early morning sun – they’re out there blowing right now, drying so fast in the gusty breezes that are so common here on Stewart Hill. I know that many of you who use a clothes line know what a great feeling it is to use – knowing you’re saving money, drying in the fresh outdoor breeze. Just getting outside while you’re doing laundry is wonderful!

It’s very pastoral.

However, when our first white sheet gets hit by berry-colored bird droppings, I’ll probably be a little less nostalgic about it all! That being said, at least I can say that comparatively, a little bit of bird droppings is nothing compared to what we had in Australia. If you left your clothes out overnight, the fruit bats would deposit the most colorful guano on your clothes!!

In Memory…

We honor and pray for all who have served our country with their lives.  

We are blessed to have an old family cemetery in the lot adjacent to ours.  



It is the family plot for the Stewart clan who once lived on this hill.  There are a couple of websites that we’ve found about this family…here…and here.  

Here’s a photo of the old family homestead, which stood until relatively recently on the opposite side of the cemetery:



Apparently there was a family reunion!  I believe the family who first lived there had 10 children!  

As we build up our farm, I often wonder what kind of farm the Stewarts once had here over 100 years ago!

Our daughters  have a view from their bedroom of the headstones – particularly in the winter when the leaves are off of the trees. Though they are getting used to it, it still sort of creeps them out.



So today, eldest son took some time to go over with the mower and weedwacker to clean things up a bit.  The town cemetery committee usually handles this, but there are so many family plots to maintain in North Stonington, that we thought it would be nice to help them out – especially prior to Memorial Day.



He’ll probably have some poison ivy in a couple of days as a memento!

There is at least one war veteran buried in the corner closest to our home.  So we took the opportunity to visit the cemetery today as a family to pay our respects to William Stewart, who served in the American Revolution, and to all of our fallen heros.



May God bless those soldiers who have died and all those who serve or have served our country in any way.  Thank you.

Spring Shear

Well, spring is well and truly here…and the unofficial beginning of summer on Monday promises to bring some hot weather.

The pastures are gushing with sheep food:


And the sheep were roasting in their woolen coats:


It is also the time for internal parasites to start flourishing. We wormed the sheep prior to them lambing, because the stress of lambing can reduce their resistance to the parasites, but now that things are warming up, the animals are shedding eggs which live in the warm, wet pastures and are re-ingested by the animals when they eat the grass. I know – it sounds nasty, but that’s animals for ya…we just can’t train them to eat off plates or use a toilet, so pastures just get yucky! Something we are trying to reduce reinfection is to rest a pasture. Today we will mow and lime the pastures that the animals were on during the winter. Over time, the parasites will die and not be able to complete their life cycle if we deprive them of their host by keeping the sheep off the pasture for several weeks.

Part of what we do to monitor parasite related disease in the flock is to check the animals inner lower eyelid for pinkness. We have a card with several shades of pink on it which correspond to varying levels of anemia. More anemia is associated with more stomach worms (called barberpole worms because they have a red stripe down them.) All of the animals were checked, and only a couple will need to be treated.

Here are our supplies, all ready and waiting:


This is an “all hands on deck” operation, and preparation is paramount!

After checking their eyelids, it was time to trim off all of that winter hoof growth. Here’s Clancy being a good boy for his pedicure:


Next I had to move in with the shearers for their spring clip. As I mentioned in a previous post, many of the animals are having a natural wool break, called “rooing”, so this clip wasn’t as difficult as the fall clip.

We first put them into the fitting stand:


This was one of the ewes. You can see the wool coming off in a lovely blanket of fleece.


Next, the best fleece goes to the girls over at the skirting table:


The separate out the bad bits of wool and bag the good stuff.


Is this gorgeous, or what? (Excuse the finger in the picture…the younger children were in charge of camera operation, and they actually did a pretty good job!)


“Hey, Monty…Check it out! You’re next, punk!”


“Oh please, no! Maybe if I stand still here in the corner they won’t see me!”


“Does my new hairstyle make me look fat? Wait…don’t answer that…”


Get those shears clean…


And bring in the ewes and lambs!


Same routine for the ewes, but in addition, we dosed the lambs with a gel supplement (orally) of Vitamin E and Selenium.  Our soils are quite Selenium deficient in this part of the country, so we have to supplement this mineral for the sheep.  This is the lambs’ first dose.  The ewes were given an injection of a longer acting form of this before the lambs were born.


Then we had a little issue…


Our ewe yearling, Roxanne, was looking pretty stressed and starting to twitch all over and couldn’t walk properly. Quick thinking made us realize she was probably hypocalcemic (milk fever) from the stress of shearing and heat on top of feeding her lamb. It was time to work fast so that she wouldn’t get any worse. We gave her a large amount of calcium solution and an intravenous shot of steroids. Thankfully, within an hour, she was up and grazing again. Phew!

All in all a good afternoon’s work. All the sheep are going to be cooler and their feet look a lot better. The only really funny thing was that their lambs were SO confused, trying to figure out who their mother was, since they all looked SO different! They were baaing all around the pasture last night, running to and fro. I think they’ve got it figured out today…


we smell like sheep

This is just a teaser…tomorrow I shall post evidence of why we smell like sheep.

This afternoon we sheared, trimmed hooves, assessed for parasites and treated the lambs with vitamin E and selenium (I’ll explain later)…oh yeah – and on top of that, we had a medical emergency with our yearling ewe, and amazingly enough, we discovered that Roy can indeed still give intravenous injections, even though it’s been over 15 years since he’s given one! So…stay tuned…tomorrow my camera battery will be fully charged and we can post pictures of our exploits!

Purple Martin Palace

I believe I mentioned the other day my wool post that we had a visitor from the Assessor’s office the other day, assessing our farm for local property taxes.  

About that visit, let me just say that she was incredibly thorough in her report of our farm, including every structure that had a roof – like the 3 sided, no floor shelters we have for the ewes and rams, the area under the roof in front of the ewe shed (did she consider that a sheep “porch”?), and the moveable hen house (I wonder if she considered the oversized step to go into it a hen “deck”?!  

But I digress…

What I’m getting at is that we have erected a new structure at Morning Star Meadows that I think she would be comfortable excluding from her report…


We seem to have the ideal location here for purple martins, with wide open spaces bordered by trees.  Within 12 hours of erecting this house, though, it was invaded by unwanted tenants…sparrows!  They were all over it – and I kept seeing them in the pastures, looking for nesting material!  

Every good purple martin steward knows that starlings and sparrows are BIG no-no’s for purple martin houses.  They are both aggressive toward the martins, and won’t allow the martins to colonize the house.  SO, apart from shooting the little trespassers, the only suggestion is to provide alternate housing for them.  

Sounds like some poorly thought out government welfare program, doesn’t it?

Last night Roy put up a little birdhouse that the boys put together at a Home Depot workshop, but it’s not nearly as attractive as this veritable bird McMansion with its penthouse view of the farm, so I’m not holding my breath for all of those little sparrows to hold a little sparrow meeting and make a joint decision to vacate and move to the sparrow cottage.  

Maybe we’ll have to send them an eviction notice?


How exciting!  Last night I decided to play around with things on the site because Google was still having a hard time finding us.  And lo and behold, I managed to do something right, and this morning when I searched for “morning star meadows farm”, it was the first hit!  So now what?!  An internet robot has found our site, but what about real people who like sheep!?

His and Hers

We have two tractors.  Well, three if you count a lawn tractor as a tractor.  

I don’t.

Our plan was, when we moved here, to have a tractor as soon as possible.  Something about having more than 10 acres of land drives a man to want another motorized vehicle, preferably one that runs on diesel.  How could I disagree?  We had lots of grass, brush and rocks everywhere when we moved in, and our old lawn tractor LITERALLY just wasn’t going to “cut” it!  

So within a couple of months of moving in, we purchased a nice, low hours New Holland 25HP tractor with a mid-mount mower and a nice big bucket on the front.  It was all we would ever need here…so we thought.



But actually, it did serve us well for the first two years.  

We plowed the driveway…


We bought a nice rototiller to go with it the second year we were here.  That made tilling our large garden a breeze!  

Then we got a post hole digger…AFTER Roy had dug in all of the posts of our first enclosed pasture!  But we knew there would be more holes to dig, and there were…and there still are!

Here it is waiting to move in to the new barn…



it never did make it there, but we’ll get to that later…


We built roads…


Moving rocks is a BIG thing here in North STONington.  We would drive along with the tractor, bucket lowered, filling it with rocks as we walked through our field.  

We even used it once to deliver a couple of coolers of beer to our barn-raising crew:


But then we found the BIG rocks…and the BIG trees.  

And suddenly, Roy got that itch for a bigger tractor.  It’s kinda like a mid-life crisis for a practical, Christian gentleman farmer – but instead of the Porche, you get a bigger tractor.

I know.

A farmer friend of ours had once told us to give him a call if we were thinking of getting a bigger tractor.  This was after he saw saliva dripping from Roy’s mouth when he brought HIS big red tractor over to brush cut the lot next to ours.  

He knew.

You see, once a man has a tractor…it’s just like when a man gets a boat.  He wants a bigger tractor (boat).  He just does.  

So our farmer friend KNEW what would eventually happen.  He quietly waited for what he knew would eventually happen.  

And then I made the phone call.

“Hey.  You said that if we ever wanted to get a new tractor to call you – that you might have some good ideas of how we can save some money.”

“Yep.  Well, you can check craiglist – or go to the auctions.  Yah…I was actually thinkin’ of upgrading myself.  I ‘need’ more horse power.”

“Um.  Do you guys EVER stop wanting a bigger tractor?!  I’m starting to see a pattern here!”

“Of course not.”  (well, actually he used a bit more colorful language, if memory serves me)

“So if you’re interested…I guess Roy kind of liked my tractor — if he’s interested, he could buy mine for what they’d give me for a trade…”

The rest is history.  

The plan was – buy this red tractor (read “red Porche”, for those who understand that better in terms of mid-life crisis purchases) and sell the “old” blue one (read “dilapidated homely blue minivan”.)  

Here’s Roy driving his new 55HP diesel breathing dragon home past the hardware store in North Stonington Village  (Porche-people, picture in your mind’s eye…it’s a “convertible”, and he has the top down)…



Long story short, a couple of months went by and the blue tractor remained unsold — all we had were a couple of low offers.

We decided to keep it, and so now you know why we now have his and hers tractors, mine in the garage, and Roy’s in the barn, where mine was supposed to live!

And I’ve pretty much made Roy sign a statement that he would no longer need a bigger tractor…our farmer friend has said the same thing (not sure if his wife got a signature on that)…but I have to say, knowing men and their diesel breathing friends, I’m not at all
convinced — because some day our 55HP won’t be enough, and our friend will be wanting to upgrade his 75HP beast…and you know the rest of the story…

Inch by inch…

Row by row…

What’s growing at Morning Star Meadows?  Our garden gets bigger each year!  

Now that the sheep have all lambed, it’s time to get down to business with the garden!  We snuck in some onions in between lambings.  They’re coming along nicely…red, yellow and sweet.  To the right of them is a row of broccoli-rabe and a row of sweet peppers:


For the first time, our rhubarb actually made it through the winter and is getting established!


When we moved in, we were gifted with a cutting from an 80 year old grape vine from RI.  It’s an eating grape – last year it produced it’s first fruits – one grape cluster!  I think it amounted to one grape per family member!  Looking at it now, I think we may end up getting a bit more this year:


We put the potatoes in, thankfully, before it got horribly wet.  Many farmers weren’t as lucky and have had a hard time trying to get them planted in the wet weather.  They’re starting to burst through the soil.


Here’s a little row of red beets starting…


Patty pan squash:


Green beans:


Snow peas:






And the strawberries are going to be plentiful soon!

here’s the patch…


And a closeup to see that the berries are already forming…


Yesterday we finally got our tomato plants in.  These are gorgeous heirloom varieties that we obtained from Studio Farm/Stonyledge Farm’s stock.  The Learned’s and Wingate’s do a tremendous job with their seedlings (as well as with everything else they do on their farms!)  This year we’re trying something that we learned from them for supporting the tomato vines.  In the past we’ve tried tomato towers, but the winds are so strong here, that inevitably we’d end up with one or more blown down after most storms.  We’ve resorted to putting T posts in to keep the towers up.  It was just getting ridiculous.  SO – 101 uses for sheep and goat fence…We ran a length of sheep and goat woven wire fencing through some T posts, hooked it on to the posts, then planted, staggered on either side of the fence, all of the tomato plants.  Now, as the plants grow, we just tuck the stems into the fence, weaving them in to allow them to be supported by the fence.  Ideally we won’t even have to do any tying!  The Learned’s and Wingate’s use cattle panel to achieve the same effect.  By the way, you can see how many weeds are already filling up the space we tilled a few weeks back!


All of the herbs this year are planted up near the house, where herbs should be, finally.  In the past it would always be a bit of a chore to walk back down to the garden (after weeding and picking all morning) to grab a bit of basil or parsley for dinner.  Now we’ll just have to step off the porch!  We have established as perennials thyme, oregano, lavender, rosemary, sage, and tarragon.  And now we’ve planted cilantro, parsley, and our biggest crop of basil EVER!  We just can’t get enough pesto around here!

So…what’s left?  Memorial Day weekend (AFTER shearing, hoof trimming, vaccinating, etc.) will find us planting zucchini, cucumber, enormous butternut squash, watermelon, and canteloupe.  And when it gets a bit warmer we’ll put in the sweet corn and sweet potatoes.  I just hope there’s enough room in there by then!
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