Bluebird of happiness – and pest control!

Last year Kelsey Wulf and I put new bluebird houses on most of our new pasture fence posts, and they were inhabited almost before the last screw was in. It was such a delight to see those beautiful “bluebirds of happiness” perching on the fence wire and watching us work 🙂 I feel really good about the fact that we don’t spray any toxic stuff here that would harm those little pest-management partners.

Bluebird on post

A busy night

I’d already left my cozy bed under the eaves once tonight, pulling on thick wool socks, grabbing my cell phone, and noticing the time was 1:30 am.  Not too unusual considering it was lambing time, and at least one trip to the barn was a normal nighttime routine.  Now I was suddenly wide awake again, my heart pounding.  I listened.  Nothing but the quiet Lambmurmuring of ewes calling to their lambs in the night.  So, what had woken me?  Sighing, I pulled on my socks and, phone in hand, made my way once more down the steep stairs from the attic.  I don’t even need to turn on a light anymore.  My insulated boots, wool cap, gloves, and parka are right where I left them.  Perhaps most important, my glasses are there as I pass by the kitchen table.  My chore parka is already stocked with a Gerber multi-tool and flashlight, and now my cell phone.  I head out across the icy yard, almost skating in an effort to stay on my feet.

At the sheep yard I am greeted by Sophie and Inga.  They’re sisters, Pyrenees Mountain Dogs and faithful guardians of the flock. They push their silky heads up under my hands in greeting.  I flash on my light and scan the resting flock  — 21 ewes and almost as many lambs.  Everything appears to be normal, and I don’t see any ewes who appear to be in labor. I turn around and head back to the house, wondering what it was that disturbed my sleep.  As I snuggled down and pulled the covers up around my ears, a “still small voice” persistently nagged at my mind, “Go take another look”.  I lay there, listening.  Nothing, then a high-pitched newborn wail.  Sitting bolt upright, I listened again.  Again, a lamb bleating.  Lifting the blind I peered across the yard – not very helpful, since my glasses were in their spot downstairs on the kitchen table.  A lamb probably got through the fence and was frantically trying to rejoin his mother on the other side.  I repeated the whole midnight barn check routine and found myself by the fence again.  Sure enough, a tiny black shadow was running back and forth trying to find the place where he had squeezed through the five-inch square sheep fence.  I spoke softly to him, and he ran over to me.  Picking him up, I gently dropped him over the fence.  I cast a cursory glance around the yard with the flashlight and turned to go back to my bed.  Then I heard the plaintive little voice I had heard before, but it seemed to be coming from the far side of the paddock.  I flashed my light and saw nothing.  Then I realized, to my horror that the sound was coming from the sheep water tank.  Leaping the fence I ran across the yard, oblivious to the ice underfoot.  A tiny lamb, probably no more than five pounds soaking wet, was standing in the stock tank with only her head above the water.  I scooped her up and hugged her to myself as I ran back to the barn.  My jacket wasn’t that absorbent, so I placed her under a heat lamp in the barn, where she started steaming and shivering; I ran to the house to get a towel.  After I briskly rubbed her down and got her as dry as I could, I wondered if her mother would be able to recognize her scent, after this drubbing.  Not a whole lot I could do about that right now, so I said a brief prayer and went back to bed.  I guess either a farmer has a sixth sense, or a little lamb has a guardian angel.

A little mid-winter surprise

Black lambEven the most well thought-out plans can have unexpected outcomes!  My flock consists of pure-bred Black Welsh Mountain sheep.  You can read more about these absolutely delightful sheep on theSheep and Wool tab on the Chengwatana Farm website.   Anyway, I last fall I was fortunate enough to be able to acquire ten ewes from a friend who had to reduce her flock, and I brought them safely home, after a long journey.  My plan was to give these and my other 6 mature ewes to my new Bluefaced Leicester ram, Dougal, on November 15th.  Everything went according to schedule, and I sat back and anticipated my new cross-bred (“mule”) sheep, which would form the basis of a new and separate flock to market as grass-fed lamb.  Imagine my surprise when on February 25th I spied a tiny black lamb out in the snow!  Totally unprepared was I.  As I hurriedly prepared my lambing jugs, heat lamps, bottles, and teats I wondered how this could be — and realized that the ”girls” must have been in the family way before Dougal was able to have his way with them.

I called my friend, whose response was “ugh”.  As nature is wont to do, she sidestepped all my neat plans and somehow a ram lamb   apparently managed to fertilize  a bunch of ewes while my friend’s back was turned.  After the initial shock, I could definitely see the humor in this.  I’m not so sure about Dougal.  At any rate, Dougal’s lambs will be coming at the appointed time in April, when the sun is shining and the grass is beginning to grow.  So, he may have the last Baa! after all.


Chicken Soup

SoupWhy is chicken soup known as a cure for so many ailments? It is because it has a natural ingredient that feeds, repairs, and calms the mucous lining in the small intestine.  This inner lining is an integral part of the nervous system.  It is harmed by many of the features of modern life — food additives, drugs, and parasites.  Chicken soup heals the nerves, improves digestion, reduces allergies, relaxes and gives strength. Hanna Kroeger, Ageless Remedies from Mother’s Kitchen.

Modern medicine has confirmed what folk medicine has handed down for centuries i.e., that meat broth helps prevent and mitigate infectious diseases.  In her book Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon says that, “properly prepared, meat stocks are extremely nutritious, containing the minerals of bone, cartilage, marrow and vegetables as electrolytes, a form that is easy to assimilate.  Acidic wine or vinegar help to draw minerals, particularly calcium, magnesium, and potassium, into the broth. . . . Other ingredients that go into broth are the components of cartilage, which recently have been used with remarkable results in the treatment of cancer and bone disorders, and of collagen, used to treat rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments.”

Along with conferring many health benefits, rich stocks made from meat, bones, and vegetables add immensely to the flavor of food.  In addition to flavoring soups, rich home-made stocks make sauces both nutritious and delicious.  They add minerals and proteins that make other ingredients more nourishing.  Sally Fallon, Nourishing Traditions.

This chicken stock is made from whole roosters culled from our laying flock of Barred Rock chickens.  The whole bird is used, in addition to whole organic vegetables, sea salt, herbs, and nori (a sea vegetable).  I pressure can the stock during the winter, when the warmth and humidity is a welcome addition to the kitchen, and use it year ’round for soups, sauces, and gravies.  It’s a far cry from the chemical concoctions that pass for stock on the grocery shelf.