Happy Easter!

Christians, to the Paschal Victim Offer your thankful praises!

A Lamb the sheep redeems: Christ, who only is sinless, Reconciles sinners to the Father.

Death and life have contended in that combat stupendous: The Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal.

Speak, Mary, declaring What you saw, wayfaring. “The tomb of Christ, who is living, The glory of Jesus’ resurrection;

Bright angels attesting, The shroud and napkin resting. Yes, my Christ my hope is arisen:

To Galilee he goes before you.” Christ indeed from death is risen, our new life obtaining. Have mercy, victor King, ever reigning!

Amen. Alleluia.Image

Spring planting

A touch of spring was in the air yesterday – the sun was shining and the soil was thawing.  And despite it being fairly chilly and quite blustery, it was time to get to work on the garden and henhouse!

 

In the morning, with freezing fingertips digging in the cold, damp soil, we planted 25 strawberry plants for our new strawberry patch and 4 different kinds of onions.

 

This is the June-bearing strawberry with which we have had so much success in the past.  This year when the plants flower we will pinch off buds and let the plants get established so that they will bear more fruit next year.

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We planted red, yellow, white an sweet onions.  We put in about half of the sets for now – and we’ll follow up with a second planting in a couple of weeks so that our harvest will be spread out a bit more.

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After lunch we quickly planted our spring seeds – lettuce, spinach, beets, carrots and 2 kinds of peas.

Last week our 20 new pullets arrived and are presently housed in our small barn – which soon will be needed for lambing.  They’re quite happy there for now, but just today one of them laid their first egg, so they need to move in with the other layers very soon, which brought us to our other big project for the day.

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Here’s a close-up of the new addition.

 

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The old door will have to be taken off and relocated when the addition is finished.

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Here are the nesting boxes, framed in.

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And boarded up…

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Speaking of boarding up, the boards are milled here on our property.  The final project will have the board and batten finish, so right now there are even gaps between the boards.

 

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Even with the gaps, these walls gave a nice refuge from the cold, driving wind yesterday!

When the battens are in place and the staining is done, it will look like this.

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And a final view from across the pasture.

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Today’s project was to bring the brooder box up from the barn to our basement – broiler chicks arrive on Thursday!  It will be nice to have little chicks here in time for Easter!

Waste not, want not

Coleslaw for us tonight means…

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An afternoon treat for some very special ladies at our farm!

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“Look girls, she’s got something for us!”

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I love the top view of our very pregnant ewes!

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These ladies deserve a special treat in these final weeks before the lambs arrive!

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The hens can’t help get in on the action – of course they’re working for their keep, too!

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Feeding frenzy!

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Spinning from the lock

I’ve really been enjoying spinning and making our own yarn.  My spinning adventure began very slowly and clumsily, first trying to spin our earlier fleeces, which had shorter staple lengths, from rolags made using carding brushes.  NOT a great way to get started!

The following attempt was much more successful, but still not ideal.  I had won some pencil roving at one of our CT Sheep Breeder Association Auctions and brought it home to try.  This roving is drafted into a pencil thin roving and can even be used unspun for a more unique knitting style.  Since it was so evenly drafted to begin with, it allowed me to practice the spinning part so I didn’t have to concentrate on two things at a time!  I was pretty successful at this eventually – and by the third sample of roving I was starting to draft a bit and making the yarn thin enough to ply.  I was pretty pleased that I had made something that actually looked like yarn!  I even entered some in our town’s agricultural fair and won ribbons.

But I still was not satisfied because I couldn’t say that it was yarn from OUR sheep!

At last year’s fiber festival we were left with 3 or 4 fleeces unsold.  I stopped by Fibers 4 Ewe’s booth and left them with her to have carded and pin drafted into roving.  Finally, I was going to spin our own yarn from our own sheep!  I loved it, and I was hooked on spinning!

And now – I was left with a dilemma.  How could I make this hobby more affordable?  How could we make our own roving?  We started looking into purchasing a carding drum but kept wondering if we’d have time to card and spin to make this purchase worthwhile.

Some of our customers were purchasing fleeces last fall and mentioning that they had planned to “spin from the lock.”  This concept fascinated me – could we make yarn without  a carding drum?  Could I save hundreds of dollars?  I started watching videos on youtube of people spinning fleeces directly from locks and I had to try it!

About a month ago I washed half of Shirley’s fall fleece.  Shirley had one of our most voluminous fleeces with a very long staple length.  It seemed to fit the bill for spinning from the lock.

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The biggest hurdle to this is met with the Icelandic fleece – it is an open fleece, meaning the fibers are loose to begin with, not matted together tightly like some breeds;  it has a naturally long staple length, lending to making it easier to draft from the lock, and it is a low grease fleece, so washing is simple and the locks are kept intact during the process.

So after washing the fleece and allowing it to dry completely, it looks like a clean version of what was sheared back in October.

Eowyn is thinking about having a nap on it later…

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A portion of it close-up…

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Each lock is tipped by every so slightly stuck together tog – the longer fibers.  I just tear off locks one by one from the fleece.

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Using a cat’s flea comb, I gently tease apart the thel tips to completely open each lock.

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I line up all of the locks, ready to grab one by one to spin into a lovely two tone single ply yarn…

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To then be plied with a second strand…

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To start looking like this…

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And finally…this!  Our own yarn completely grown and processed right here on the farm!

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I am finally satisfied!

At least for now!

Getting dirt under our nails

Today was a very full and fulfilling day!

After we finished up with vaccinating the sheep and separating the pregnant ewes from last year’s ewe lambs, we got to work on the garden.

We’ve been keeping a compost pile all year and it was time to put it into action!

Here’s a view from the tractor…

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Roy and Richie got on the tractors and scooped and spread until the small tractor nearly got stuck in the very wet garden!

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You can see here how awesome this stuff is!

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Another load dumping…

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And another…

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Meanwhile the rest of us tried to stay out of the way of the tractors and harvested some root crops — parsnips and carrots that have been in since last fall…

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…and New England’s most famous root crop of all – the New England Potato!

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It doesn’t matter how many rocks you pick up each year, there are plenty more that pop up the following year.  Partly from erosion and partly from the freeze/thaw of the soil, there were plenty of rocks to be found!

The parsnips and carrots were perfect to put in the pot with the corned beef and cabbage!

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The garlic is looking great!

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And so is the rhubarb…

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And I got the grapes and raspberries pruned…

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We got a couple of the boys’ bluebird boxes up – there are Eastern bluebirds EVERYWHERE this year!

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We also got started on making nesting boxes for the new addition to the hen house.

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Here is the wood, milled from lumber from our property!

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“Gee, should I use miniblinds or Roman shades on those new windows?”

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All in all a very satisfying day!  And while we were busy outside, the girls were making some loverly Irish Soda Bread to accompany our St. Paddy’s dinner!

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Loving life

Here we are in the middle of March.  Spring is less than a week away!  It’s nearly St. Patrick’s Day – time to plant the peas and other early crops!  The daffodils are making their appearance!  And boy, have we got our work cut out for us!

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In the next month or so we expect to increase the livestock population by nearly 100 animals!  THAT is both a frightening and exciting prospect!

Most of the animals set to increase our numbers here will be chickens.  Within the next week, twenty 17 week old layers will be arriving.  We’re adding another 20 red stars to our flock of 27 to increase egg numbers.  Our eggs are becoming quite popular, and we have the boast that there is at least one customer that we know of who has chosen to provide ALL of the animal protein in his diet from our eggs!

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As the farm comes back to life – both in flora and fauna – he will get even healthier eggs as the hens are able to return to more foraging in the pastures.   I can tell that the grass is growing, as the sheep seem to be starting to get back to grazing on something after their day’s supply of hay is consumed!

Even now, though, these eggs of ours are so much fresher and healthier than anything available at the supermarket!  We have been feeding a blend of layer pellets fortified with good Omega fatty acids with the hope that this will increase the healthy fats in the eggs!

So that accounts for 20 of the nearly 100 animals set to grace our farm.  Add to that 50 red broiler chicks.  At the end of this month we will be heading up to Locust Leaf Farm in Foster, RI to pick up our chicks that we will once again raise for meat.  They will come home to a nice warm brooder for a few weeks before heading out to the chicken tractor that will have previously housed our new pullets prior to their being introduced to our foundation hen flock.

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Hopefully by then we’ll have the lumber milled and in place to finish the expansion on the hen house that we started over the winter!

We only have about 6 broilers left in our freezer from last year- these were the tastiest chickens – full flavored and of an excellent texture ranging from 5 to over 6 lbs each.  We can’t say enough about how good these chickens are, and they are so much prettier and more “normal” than the more commonly raised meat chickens, the Cornish cross.  They will be ready for the freezer sometime toward the end of June, just after our biggest planting time here at the farm.

The most exciting new additions will be to our Icelandic flock!  A couple of weekends ago we rounded up the ewes and rams for worming and hoof trimming and we examined some of the ewes for signs of pregnancy.  We actually felt at least one lamb in our dear Millie, and from the looks of the others, we are pretty confident that we have a total of 7 bred ewes due to lamb beginning the week of April 15th, give or take a couple of days!  That could well double our present flock size!  We’re pretty excited!

This weekend we’ll be vaccinating the flock for Clostridial diseases.  Vaccinating the ewes at this stage of pregnancy will provide not only lasting immunity for them for the upcoming year, but it will provide immunity in their colostrum for their lambs until their lambs develop their own immune system and can be vaccinated themselves in a few weeks.  We’ll also separate the ewe lambs from the ewes – we’ve kept them together for the past few weeks so that they could hunker down in the barn together and weather the storms we’ve seem to be regularly having these days.  And then the countdown for lambs will truly be on!  I still have to put together the obstetrics kit  and set up my boudoir out in the green shed, complete with lights and a new cot. Gee, I can’t wait for my first night sleeping in the barn – is that the shepherd’s equivalent to being “in the doghouse?”

After we finish working with the sheep on Saturday we’ll have to deal with more “new life” that just arrived this week.  We’ll be getting the garden ready and planting onions, strawberries, peas and other early crops.  That might sound relatively easy, but “getting the garden ready” has more to it than meets the eye!  We’ll be taking down fences and expanding, spreading lovely compost that we’ve been making for the past year, sweetened with a few bags of lime, and planting seeds, plants and bulbs, praying that we don’t have a flood at the end of March like we did a few years back!

In the meantime these quiet nights afford me time to deal with Shirley’s fall fleece which I decided to turn into yarn a couple of weeks ago.

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Half of it is washed, and half of that has been spun into over 200 yards of bulky Lopi yarn!  I’m so pleased with how the color has turned out.  Last fleece I spun from roving we had made at a mill, but this time the fleece was so nicely sheared from Shirley that it left the locks intact and I’ve been spinning directly from picked locks!

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I just pull off small locks of wool from the fleece and start spinning it from the cut end.  This puts the black tips of the tog nicely in contrast with the lighter, fluffier thel creating a gorgeous color pattern!  I can’t wait to see what this yarn ends up becoming when it’s knitted!

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So, the seasons continue to turn the big spinning wheel of life at Morning Star Meadows Farm.  And as life begets life, there is inevitably death, and for that I always fret and try to prepare myself!  We will do our best to protect these very delicate creatures entrusted to us!  Stay tuned for more adventures!

In the meantime, we’ll all just be hanging out here at the farm!

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