He hath set me in a place of pasture…

IMG_3414Today we christened a new pasture at Morning Star Meadows Farm, reclaiming old pasture land from days gone by…

Slowly we have been clearing and restoring pastures from at least the early 1900’s.  We’ve harvested some trees for lumber, opening up the canopy to allow sunlight to reach the pasture grasses and strengthen the trees we’ve allowed to remain that will provide ample shade on the dog days of summer.  We removed toxic chokecherry trees and scoured the area for any other toxic plants or other hazards to sheep, leaving them plenty of browse to munch on.

IMG_3417They really didn’t know where to begin when they got out there!  Firstly, the only other time they had been down here was for brief periods with portable electric fencing which constrained them to a much smaller area.  So they immediately headed to unexplored areas, looking for new delicacies.

Roy has been working hard with the boys beating back the multiflora rose and briar bushes, trying to plant orchard grass, which has flourished in this rich soil.

But where do the ewes find their first sweet snack?

photo 2Amongst the lower branches of a maple tree!

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Roxanne says, “What are you looking at?  Haven’t you ever seen sheep browse like goats?”

Most shepherds would say no to this, but this is one of the things we love most about Icelandics!  They will often choose browsing on broadleaf plants, shrubs and trees over eating grass, much like goats.  That is why we had to be so fastidious about leaving anything toxic for them in this tamed forest.

photo 4You can even see Shirley above here on the right reaching for another low branch!

IMG_3425But sheep being sheep, it didn’t take long for one of them to move on – and the rest, follow.  Maybe Matilda knows that there’s something even BETTER than tender young maple leaves somewhere, after all!

So they started making the rounds.  You can see Roy and the boys above, admiring the pay off to all of the work they’ve done to make this wooded pasture a reality.  There is nothing quite so satisfying as seeing sheep on new pasture, especially a lovely shaded area that will provide much needed respite from the late summer heat in a month or so.

The above picture also shows you the location of this pasture in relationship to the house.  You can see the second story of our home at the top of the picture, and it really gives you the impression that it’s not that far from the house, but because the house sits on a hill far above this area, the actual walk down from the house to this gate shown is a good150 yards.   It’s just foreshortened by the elevation rise.

IMG_3427And as the sheep walk a bit to the right of the gate, you begin to see in the background the barn on the other side of our property.  Again, about 150 yards from this area.

We’re not 100% finished with the project.  In the next couple of weeks we will put the protective electrified high tensile wire, 2 strands, over the top of the woven wire fence to deter predators.  And because not far from here there was a bear sighting, we are unlikely to leave any of our animals in this pasture unattended overnight.

As it is, I know I will worry about them and be walking down frequently to check on them when they are here in this wooded pasture.  It’s one of the 2 pastures on the farm that aren’t readily visible from the house.  Yep, I’m a helicopter mom when it comes to our flock, and I like to keep my eye on them– but that’s what being a dutiful shepherdess is all about!  It’s why all of the biblical references to shepherding mean so very much more to me now as a shepherdess “leading the ewes with care.”

Reaping what we sow…

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is so good to eat fresh, healthful produce from our own garden once again!

Every day is a new culinary adventure, as we harvest and try new recipes…

Baby kale…baked kale chips are the family favorite, hands down…IMG_3129

A new crop for us this year…pak choy… What a versatile green!  We’ve stir fried it with mushrooms, scapes, and peas and even added it to a curry!  It adds crunch and a subtle flavor!

 

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And this year, in addition to the awesome salad mix lettuce we plant, we put in a row of mild mesclun greens.  Nice variety and beautiful, crunchy leaves!

imageAnd of course we’re enjoying a plentiful harvest of strawberries – packing some away in the freezer to enjoy midwinter in smoothies…making freezer jam (much fresher and more flavorful than traditional strawberry jam because it doesn’t require cooking the strawberries.)

IMG_3285And as if these weren’t delectable enough simply “just picked” – we had a bit of a splurge for dessert the other night!

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This year we planted more garlic than ever…which at this time of the year means more garlic scapes than ever.  Garlic scapes are the fruiting body of certain types of garlic plants that appear in June and, if not picked, will become seed bearing flowers on long green stalks that curl around.  We normally chop these and use them in place of garlic this time of year, but we had so many that we wanted to make the most of them.  We chopped some and flash froze them to save for winter recipes, but that becomes tedious.

So today we made garlic scape pesto!

imageWe chopped them up into the food processor with a healthy dose of grated parmesan, salt, and of course, olive oil…

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Blend it all up and you get a beautiful sauce that can be frozen or used immediately as a pasta sauce or added to any recipe that could use a bit of garlicky zing!

Are you hungry yet?!!

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Building fences…

Fields and meadows are wonderful, bucolic, and scenic, but where animals are concerned, they need fences, and fences mean a lot of work! Last week, Roy took time off work.  He and the boys, intent on enjoying the opportunity to get outside during the heat wave, set about fencing in a field we had been reclaiming from the adjacent forest for the past 3 years.

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We had a nice gate, but the lower area had been overgrown with briars and poor sickly trees and underbrush that we beat into shape last year.

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The trouble is that until you can get animals to graze on it, the woods come creeping inexorably back until you are back at square one.

Of course fences need posts and it’s essential to have some mechanical help in the form of an auger driven by the tractor, unless you want to spend a lot more time than you usually have, or end up in traction!

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But of course you cannot avoid the hard physical, hands-on work completely. And frankly, we would not want to!

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And fences need mesh – we use this to exclude predators, not so much to keep the sheep in.  Coyotes are pretty handy at getting past many forms of fencing.  We have yet to add 2 hot wires of high tensile to the top to discourage rogue climb-overs…

This is an area along one side that we are leaving with trees to provide shade for the sheep.

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Another view along the bottom.

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Cedar makes the best posts! And it lasts forever…. well almost.  They just needed a bit of modifying first…

FullSizeRenderWhich led to this distraction…hmm…what project can we make from this, the boys are thinking?

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Dropping it in place…

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And plenty of rocks must be tamped in around the base to stabilize the post.  We learned the hard way why pouring concrete in the hole just DOES NOT work!

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And of course gates need to be strategically placed for optimal access.

FullSizeRender_2The lambs are going to love playing on the large rocks we left for them!

FullSizeRenderIt is always nice to look at the fruits of your labor after a long day in the fields!

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So now we just need to get the sheep to chow down and enjoy this beautiful New England landscape!

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Rain at last!

We have had some pretty extreme weather over the past several months…from record snowfall over the winter, to record high temperatures for the month of May and record low amounts of rainfall for our spring…it sure makes farming that much trickier!  The pastures have been crispy, and the baking sheep looked at us a week ago as if to say, “What happened to spring?!”

This week temperatures are dipping into the 50’s, perhaps in an effort to average out the temperatures from last week.  We actually turned the heat on briefly in the car this morning!  Rainfall is plentiful so far this week, and we are watching for the pastures to start to return to their normal “spring” green vs. the recent “peak of summer” browns we’ve been seeing…

The seeds and seedlings in the garden don’t know quite what to do.  It seemed like it took a while for our spring to warm up, and then BAM!  We got hit with summer heat and humidity.  We were waiting for the soil to warm up to plant seeds, then suddenly it was almost too warm for the cool crops – peas, spinach, etc.!

But for now we are getting a much needed soaking, and with that comes a need for raingear for everyone.

Umbrellas just DO NOT survive long around here.  The winds that usually accompany the rain just rip them apart, and it’s hard to do chores while holding onto an umbrella to begin with, let alone one that is trying to take flight!

Gortex is expensive, and only lasts so long.  This is where the Aussies really got things right.

Before we left Australia over 20 years ago, we invested in three Drizabone oilskin coats.  We bought them more for the “Aussie” look vs. for practical reasons at the time.  Little did we realize back then that eventually our sons (or anyone else who needs them!) would be putting them to good use on our very own sheep farm!

These coats rank right up there with Carhartt as far as excellent workwear goes!  They are a waterproof canvas coat, impregnated with a waxy, oily protectant.  The oil wears off over time, and today it was time to re-proof one of the short coats we own because it just wasn’t holding back the rain anymore.

First I heated the can in a pan of boiling water to liquify the waxy protectant.  Then it was just a matter of spreading it liberally over the exterior of the coat, especially applying it to seams.  Then I just heated up the coat with a hair dryer (the sun would have been nice, but there was none of that to be had today!) while I rubbed it in to make it uniformly black and oily.
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Voila!

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One down, two more to go!