Evening bliss

Oh my. The days are certainly getting shorter, aren’t they?!

Here’s a gorgeous snap from our deck, taken by a dear friend’s cell phone on a recent visit to the farm…

Savor the beauty of it…

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The rest of the story

A couple of weeks ago you may remember my leaving you in a deep hole dug around an old well.  

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I am pleased to inform you that we’ve gone from a muddy mess around a seemingly unusable deep well, to complete self-sufficiency — a steady supply of water, year round, and not dependent upon electricity!

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Last Saturday, after Roy backfilled the well (now with pitless adapter plugged), we installed a Simple Pump.  After installing it, I now know how it got it’s name!

 

The pump is made by 2 mechanical engineers.  Everything is made to fit perfectly together – and solidly together.  After capping the well with their special cap, we just had to lower the pump cylinder, attached to the sucker rod and piping, into the well.  A special tool that they fabricated held that portion in place while we attached more lengths of tubing/sucker rod until we got down about 50 feet into the well.  Then it was just a matter of attaching the pump head, and voila!  After a few pumps, water was gushing to the surface with each pump!  It’s easy enough for the kids to do.  Now we just need to keep flushing the well out of debris that has found its way in and then hope and pray that the water tests as being potable for the livestock!  

 

The pump handle, when left in the up position, flushes the upper portion of the pump of water through a small, drilled weep hole in the piping.  This means that the pump will not freeze in the winter!  Again, no need for electric heating tape!!

 

The kids are almost hoping for a storm to knock out our power now so that they can go down and haul up buckets of water to flush toilets!  I’m thinking that will get old pretty quickly, though!!

 

Being a little less reliant on electricity…

 

It’s a good thing!

Washing the wool

Well, we had one remaining fleece that we’ve been spinning with the drop spindles “in the grease”, but dear daughters are getting tired of that “sheep smell,” and so we are braving the unknown and washing our first fleece!

This is Matilda, also known as “Daisy’s Mom.”

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It’s her fall 2010 fleece.

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It’s gorgeous.

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Not sure why it didn’t sell at the sheep and wool festival, but in a way I’m glad we still had it since we now have the spinning wheel!

The fleece has been meticulously skirted for vegetative matter (aka bits of hay and seeds) and second cuts (aka short little clippings when I ran the clippers over an area a second time), but we went through it one last time, pulling the fibers apart so that the detergent water could clean it better.

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We then loosely packed about half of her fleece in a mesh bag that would serve to keep it together throughout the washing and rinsing.

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The kids scrubbed out our laundry sink, ready for the wool.

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We put a big pot of water on to boil. We needed the wash water at about 160 degrees. We stirred in about a half cup of Dawn dish detergent, THEN carefully lowered the bag of wool into the water, gently pushing it under with a big spoon. Immediately the dirt started to dissolve in the water, as you can see. And these fleeces are clean relative to many breeds, because they produce much less lanolin.

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GENTLE is the operative word. When the wool becomes heated, the fibers tend to want to all stick and knot together, which is called “felting.” Felting can be a good thing when it is desired, but it was something we DEFINITELY didn’t want to happen to fiber being prepared for spinning! So while the wool is hot and wet, it must be moved as little as possible – no agitation of the water, no running water onto the wool, and also no sudden temperature changes.

The wool was allowed to sit for about 15 minutes, then we lifted the bag, gently squeezed out the excess water, and refilled the sink with water about the same temperature (now a bit cooler than 160) and did a second wash, followed by a rinse. By now the water temperature is about 130 degrees.

After the rinse (sometimes a few rinses are required, but I was too nervous to handle the wool any more than necessary!), we squeezed it out and took it to our spare room and laid it out on the bed atop a sheet under which were absorbent towels.

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Cool – looks like clouds in a blue sky!

Nice clean white wool! Here’s a before picture to show the difference:

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When it’s all dry we’ll be hand carding and making rolags (rolls of carded fleece) from which we can spin, now with clean wool, minus the “sheep smell.”!

We did it! Maybe this isn’t as hard as I thought it would be! Hopefully we can clean the rest of her fleece tomorrow!

P.S. I HAD to show off this beautiful cake made by oldest daughter for her dad’s birthday today…almost too pretty to cut…ALmost!

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Out in the barnyard

The sheep are in a new pasture this week. Roy has been busy the past few months fencing in an upper and lower barnyard, and the lower is finally complete! Laverne and Shirley, playing queens of the mountain.

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It’s a nice rocky place, with a few good pockets of shade from the barn.

I love seeing the sheep standing up on the rocky hills. They seem to be grazing along the road that goes from one side to the other. Millie with her ever watchful eye:

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I used to think she was looking out for the safety of the others, but now I’m fairly convinced she’s looking for handouts!

Monty struck a pose:

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And Clancy’s offspring, still unnamed white ram lamb:

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His sister, Fatima:

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Bruna, who’s taken to being shy as of late:

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Her brother, who makes up for any amount of shyness she exhibits:

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Speaking of close-ups, this is as close as I’ll ever want to be to Monty (unless we’re working with him in the yards!)

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Esther, friendly as ever:

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Her fleece is still the silkiest.

Grass is always greener on the other side, eh, Laverne? (or should I say the “weeds”?)

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Look how big Daisy is!

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And another thing I’ve been meaning to tell you about. Our sheep regularly seem to segregate themselves! Here’s an example from just this afternoon.
Here’s a photo taken to my right — all the sheep with color:

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And to my left (I was still standing in the same place!)

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It’s the strangest thing!

 

We’ve had some awesome skies as of late.  Here’s a slideshow – it looks surreal!

 

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As for what else is going on here…near daily harvesting from the garden…zucchini is slowing down, cukes are peaking, not too many peppers left, carrots, onions and beets are all pulled, beans coming at a nice pace, corn to start being harvested in the next week or so, tomatoes coming slowly (when the rabbits don’t get to them first!), hopefully a cantaloupe within the week (the rabbits got the first one!), winter squash are growing bigger and bigger, tiny watermelons that are inflating daily, last potato harvest in the next few days, sweet potatoes looking healthy.

We’ve added some more critters to the farm, too. Our hens have slowed down laying for the summer, plus they’re a year old now, so we’ve added another flock of 12 Golden Comets (red sex-linked hens, meaning that when they hatch, only the hens are red). They’re about 12 weeks old and aren’t used to free ranging, so they’re quite shy about coming out of their shed!

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We’ve also added a new piece of equipment for working with our wool. We’ve been happy with the drop spindles, but have been keeping our eye out for a second hand spinning wheel, and a couple of weeks ago I found a CraigList deal we couldn’t pass up. After a 90 minute drive and $100, we were on our way home with an original Louet S10 wheel – beautiful and in very good condition. We just had to add about $12 worth of parts, and it’s ready to go! In the next few days we’ll wash our first fleece and try carding it and getting it into rolags for spinning! Up until now the girls have been spinning “in the grease”, but it’s time to get brave and try washing some.

We’ve found another shepherdess/spinner in town who is willing to barter for giving us lessons! Can’t beat that!

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It feels as if the summer has flown by! We’ll be starting back to school in less than two weeks! With how busy we’ve been lately, I’m wondering how we’ll make the transition, but somehow we always do!

I’ll leave you with a slide show from our non-edible gardens!  Enjoy!

 

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what’s growing?

The sheep. Monty has joined the ewe and lamb flock. One big, happy family!

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The potatoes.

Being dug…

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First harvest…Yukon gold.

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The peppers.

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Harvested…

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Cucumbers…

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Harvested…

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Ready to eat…

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Grapes…ripening…

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Eggplant…flowers, turning to fruit…

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Butternut squash…babies…

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Carnival squash…teenagers…

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Zucchini…healthy and prolific…

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Patty-pans…ditto the zucchini…

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Cant-eloupe…Can’t-wait…

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Watermelon…better hurry up!

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Corn…

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A couple more weeks, maybe…

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You, basil leaves, will be pesto this week!

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The lettuce is being pushed to the limit…

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Tomatoes…slow and steady…

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Forgot to get a picture of the sweet potato vines, but I’m told they have lovely blooms!

And lastly, beans, beans, beans! Sweet and yummy!

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