Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hay. A little three letter word that packs a PUNCH!

It's that time again on the farm. We cut and bale hay in the spring and fall, as if once per year wasn't enough. There are a lot of chores on a farm but I'm here to tell you this is without a doubt the most dreaded. I thought I would share some baling 101 hoping it will provide some comedy relief for me and maybe a bit for you?

There are 2 options for bale structure,

round bales... or square...

There is no disagreement that round bales are easier by a long shot. They're easier and less expensive to bale and once baled they're easily handled and moved. With the round bales weighing in around 1200#'s, you drive up to the bale with your tractor (every farm must have a tractor...every girl too but that's topic for another Blog) and a spear like implement attached to the tractor. You literally spear the bale and you move it easily where ever you need. The dreaded square bale, weighing in at 45-60#'s must be manually lifted from the ground (we don't have the modern conveyor belt system that loads the bales) and stacked on a trailer to be moved to storage. Everyone knows a girls upper body is not the best for throwing, especially throwing 50#'s...and UP no less.

Wondering why we've chosen square bales? Although we continue to try to invent a way to feed our sheep the hay from a round bale we haven't come up with a system yet. The round bale stands some 6' tall. The sheep eat pulling from above, pulling hay right down on their beautiful wool. It can actually ruin a whole fleece. So, until we create another system, square baling it is!

Another side note about putting up hay, to add to the misery ....hay ALWAYS goes up later in the afternoon which means heat. Your sweating from the physical work and the sun beating down on you as you lift these 50# bales.   You always have hay bits flying in your clothes and sticking to every exposed inch of you...does it sound fun?

OK, you think it's over?


Now we must unload the same hay into the barns and stack it for storage. OMG. Yesterday we were doing just that and I was trying to explain to my husband that yes, I can do this but I am a girl! You have to know my husband, he says, "yes, but your a FARM girl" way out of that one! I love this farm but when it's time for this chore I find myself creating excuses, like I was 12 again! When I imagined this place I guess I thought hay would just be bought and delivered, no work there. I didn't realize the finance's of farming (or lack thereof ). The cost of hay continues to rise and with the drought we have more and more need.

Let me introduce you to something I'm REAL proud of...Our John Deere T-24 from the 60's. The very first square baler John Deere made. She's an antique alright. Everything on her moves, nothing electronic on this baby. She can be temperamental but who wouldn't be with that age...but she's tough. I don't know what it is with me but I just love watching her work.

I like having the right stuff to get things done. I don't mind driving the equipment, I don't mind a little of anything...but 300 bales of hay in a day!

I keep threatening to call all my "city" girlfriends that go to the gym for their daily workouts.  I'll bet they'd have some major sore going on the next day.

I imagine I'll always dread this oh so necessary part of livestock farming.  I must admit, the smell of the fresh cut grass and the barn stacked high with the forage for the long winter ahead feels mighty good!

Winter, did someone say winter?  I'll take some cool after this day!

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Glorious Tomato

I don't imagine I've met a person that doesn't love the appearance of the gorgeous ripe summer tomato! Today's awareness of food quality has brought all garden fresh food front and center but the tomato, yes that juicy meaty tomato explained it all to me with one bite. You all know what I mean don't you? FRESH, LOCAL, Dirt still on the flesh...we get it don't we? This year for some reason I am experiencing a tomato passion...I just can't get enough of them and I cannot stop thinking about them. I am not out of the bed long that I don't start thinking of my next tomato experience. I'm sure my kitchen counter covered with varieties of all shapes and sizes doesn't help my watering mouth. From the mayo covered sandwiches that ALWAYS require a napkin, to the tomato pies, salsas and gazpacho, I have ventured into each of these categories already this year. I love to try new recipes and tomato pie recipes are the topic of the week. Already this year I have tried two new ones and still love my favorite.

My Favorite Summer Tomato Pie1 Cup chopped Basil
1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
2 Eggs, Beaten
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup grated mozzarella

Favorite Pie Crust, I use butter/shortening and a bit of cornmeal for this recipe.
S and P to taste
Mix all ingredients and layer in bottom of your favorite unbaked pie shell. Top with fresh summer tomato slices. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes
**NOTE** Many variations of tomato pie and I have tried them all. To many I am sure the addition of mayo is essential. To me this basil/cheese combo is the perfect compliment .

Bon Appetite, August issue published a great looking alternative with a buttermilk biscuit crust...hmm, it looked good. I tried it, some of you might love it. The biscuit dough was a bit overwhelming to me and just not the right texture. I did like the layers they used and might try that in a traditional crust. To me, my basil and ricotta layer is as good as it gets. I still have a counter full and my journey will continue, especially if this heat wave continues. As the heat of July now August bears down on us and my garden is offering the most luscious rewards I am still full with the joy of summer. As the bounty keeps me creating and WORKING to keep up with supply, I know my thoughts will move longingly toward fall. I will have had enough of the weeds, the heat, and yes...the tomato. Only until they return next year. Come May next year as the flowers form on the plants, my mouth will begin to water again!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Shearing Day 2011

Spring is the busiest time of year on our farm. The sheep have once again grown into another full fleece. It is time to "shear". Shearing Day, February 26th this year, is the one day of the year we open the farm to guests. We have adults and children alike "flocking" the grounds. Some come to buy fleeces right off the sheep, getting to choose color, hand, or maybe just connection with the individual sheep the fleece came from. Others come because they have never seen such a thing. We hire a professional shearer. He comes prepared for the onslaught of questions and onlookers. Last year and returning this year, the Emerson Waldorf 3rd grade class will be guests of the day. Emerson Waldorf makes farming and gardening and textiles (knitting/crochet) part of the 3rd grade curriculum; boys and girls alike! They buy a fleece, take it back with them, wash, card, and spin it! It is beautiful to see these kids so enthusiastic and curious. If your not familiar with the school I encourage you to visit their web site. Whether you have children or not the site, in particular the slide show, is worth seeing. We begin the day early and finish bent over most of the time! The work from here is far from done. I'll be challenged with bags and bags of wool that must be sorted and processed. Some of the wool will be spun into yarn, some processed into roving so folks can spin or felt. Some wool is processed for our ever popular Eco-Friendly Wool Dryer Balls. Some fleeces will remain "raw fleece" for purchase as they are. Each year we learn so much from our sheep. Do you know how susceptible the wool is to nutrition and environment? That's one reason we are so proud when our wool wins ribbons or receives compliments! We had a very sick ewe last year. We almost lost her but with lots of attention she pulled thru. What happened though is something called wool "break" and the follicles literally "break" off. One mere illustration of the influence health has on the wool.
Shearing Day on the farm is certainly a big event and something we must plan for. Probably our biggest time on the farm is lambing. Our ewe's will soon deliver many wee ones.

From shearing day until June, it's pretty much non stop. Lambs everywhere! Feeling sorry for us? You shouldn't. As busy as it is I will continue to say it's my favorite time on the farm. As I've mentioned in previous a spring day comes to a close, you'll often find me sitting in a lawn chair, in the middle of the pasture in awe of the the MOST cuteness anyone could imagine. As so, again on the farm....I get lost in all it's glory!