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This is going to just be a quick pictorial post, because I have to get supper going soon. The pasture is all fenced in now for the ewes, and they are LOVING it. I am, too, because they have already cleared a lot of the annoying underbrush and low branches. It’ll be nice to walk out there once again.

Looking north from the road toward the garage. You can see the tie-in to the old fence here.

A view from outside the pasture toward the holding pen and corn crib.

View east from the tractor barn. I'm impressed with how straight it is.

After I published my last post, I got some emails and questions about the meaning behind them. Well, here is the explanation: we have sheep!

These four girls are Shetland sheep from a farm in Williamston, and are from 2 to 4 years old. Did you know that you can tell a sheeps age by the number of teeth they have? They get two each year, and it’s really easy to check that when you catch them and straddle them. With one hand, grab the “dock” below their chin, and with the other hand use your fingers to gently pry their lower lip down. When I went to check out these sheep Monday night, we caught each one and inspected them. Another thing we checked was their eyelids – white eyelids are a sign of anemia.

Shetlands are an old, unimproved, heritage breed of sheep. They are mostly bred in small operations for their wool, pelts, meat, and as pets. They are hardy little runts, needing very little in the way of extra feed and shelter. A Shetland lamb can be finished off for slaughter in the fall on pasture alone. The ewes are very good mothers, requiring almost no help for birthing and caring for their young. The four ewes we got are considered “milky,” which means that they are able to produce more than enough milk for their lambs. They also birth multiples as the norm. Our little flock should grow considerably with that figure.

Why did I choose to get these little girls? For one, they’ll do a lot of the mowing for me once I finish fencing in the pasture. (There’s about ten hours a week freed up for me in the summer!) Second, I’d like to learn how to spin my own yarn. These girls are small enough that it shouldn’t be too much work to shear them myself or with the help of a friend twice a year. Three of the four have decent wool for spinning, and the fourth’s wool is sufficient for things like rugs or lamb sweaters. We’ll be joined by a gorgeous little ram from grand champion stock in a few weeks, and after I breed him to the ewes in early December, I can expect even better wool from the next generation. I’ll probably line breed the generation after that (mate the same ram to the daughters) to improve it one more step.

My third reason for wanting sheep is the meat. I LOVE to eat lamb. It’s so flipping expensive in the store, which stinks because it has a much better flavor and consistency than beef. Since we don’t have a family of seven, we don’t exactly need an entire cow’s worth of meat every year, anyway. With the sheep, I could easily process and store all the meat our family will need in a couple sessions. Honestly, I can’t imagine what I would do with all the meat from an entire cow! Not only will the meat help us, but we can also sell extra ram lambs as freezer lambs in the fall. Whatever lambs go through the meat processing will also give us nice little pelts to tan and sell. All of the sheep farmers I have talked to in our area sell out of both freezer lambs and pelts every year, even with the recession going on the past few years.

Fourth… well, who wouldn’t want to look out the kitchen window and see this?

Stormy

Mildred

Madge

Tara

L-R: Tara, Madge, Stormy, Mildred

So, what do you think? I think they’re keepers.

Since my husband left for Iraq, I’ve kind of fallen behind in a lot of my regular cleaning. I’ve kept up with dishes and laundry, but things like organizing the pantry, keeping the mudroom tidy, and scrubbing the floors have taken a back burner. It was getting to the point where I was embarrassed when someone would stop by because there would be toys EVERYWHERE, toothpaste in the bathroom sink, finger smears all over the windows, and bags of groceries stacked up on the floor of the pantry because I hadn’t yet put them away. Well, that mess is over!

It took me this entire past week and a ton of patience. (Oh, you kids want to help me wash the windows? Here’s a paper towel. Just wipe like this. No! Not with your hands!) I even went out and bought a new set of storage shelves and a recycling bin for plastic for the mud room just so I could put everything in a place. Since the hens have started laying, we’ve been getting so many eggs I don’t know what to do with them all, so the mudroom is also the new home for a new little mini fridge where I hope to be selling eggs from soon. All I have to do is make a sign to hang out by the road: Farm Fresh Brown Eggs – $1.25/dozen. That price seems to be the going rate around here. Funny how farm fresh eggs are cheaper than store-bought, and they’re even better for you. Kinda makes me scratch my head as to why anyone still buys those watery egg wannabes at the grocers.

A lot of other stuff has been going on besides cleaning, too. We went camping with my in-laws for a few days, then we went straight from the campground up to my parents’ house in the UP. While we were up there we did major blueberry picking on an old logging road just outside of Stonington. It was amazing. The ground was litterally covered in blueberries. Like a big blue carpet with leaves interspersed. Both times I went with multiple people and both times we were all able to pick in the same 20′ radius and still each get a dozen cups, leaving behind probably just as many berries as what we picked. What did we do with all those blueberries? Well, my mom makes an awesome dessert she calls Blueberry Delight. It’s a graham cracker crust with a cream cheese layer topped with a sweetened blueberry layer. Yum! We also made a huge batch of blueberry jam. I still have about 12 cups of blueberries left up in the freezer, and those will probably go to desserts, pancakes, muffins, and cereal.

It hasn’t all been happy here, though. We lost a chicken the other day to… something. My 3 year old was out collecting eggs and he yelled out to me, “Mommy, there’s a chicken sleeping in here!” I laughed, thinking it was just a chicken setting some eggs in the nesting box, but when I got out there to see it was a headless pile of feathers in the straw on the floor. I’m not sure what happened. At first I just assumed that sometime in between me letting them out first thing in the morning and my son going in to collect eggs near noontime that a raccoon or something had gotten in there. But it could have been the other hens that killed her and… ate her head. I don’t know. Whatever it was I’ve been really trying to keep an eye on them. I’ve even put them in their coop early (Which didn’t work so well last night as one of my kids must have openned up their back door without my knowledge. I woke up to the chickens all out in the yard foraging for bugs. Oops.) and checked the chicken wire in the back for a breach. Whatever it was, I had to bury one of my larger hens. It upset me, because she would have made a good couple of meals for us instead of a snack for whatever got her. I plan on culling this fall, but not by letting other wild things eat them.

I hope you all are enjoying this mild weather. It’s just right for going outside and puttering around the yard and garden. That reminds me – our big tomatoes are just starting to turn red now. And the corn should be ready in the next week or so. I can’t wait to take pictures of some big jars of homemade salsa fresh from the garden!

Don’t ask me why, but I’m watching a show on NRB called “I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.” It’s a rant by a man named Dr. Frank Turek, co-author of the book by the same name. The linked webpage is www.crossexamined.org. He is basically talking about truth, objectivity, evangelism, relativity, the bible, judging, and all the different ways a religious person can dodge difficult questions about their faith by employing the “roadrunner tactic.”

What is a roadrunner tactic, you ask? When someone says something like “There is no truth” he is saying that you should turn that around on them and retort “Is that a truth?” Or, if someone says something like “Science is the only truth” then you should turn that around and ask “Is that a scientific truth?” He goes on to say that if you learn how to use the roadrunner tactic, you will be a SUPER GENIUS! Wow, eh? He also tells people to ask these three questions: Why do you think that? How did you come to that conclusion? Have you ever considered reading/studying/thinking about this other point of view?

No, not really. If you use the roadrunner tactic, you sound idiotic. You sound like you know how to twist words, and you know how to skirt a difficult topic by turning the questions back around on the other person. A super genius is someone who has looked at something from every possible angle and found the best explanation for what they believe in. A super genius is someone who can use multiple sources when arguing a point, instead of one 2000 year old fairy tale. A super genius is someone who is open-minded about beliefs that don’t cross social mores. A super genius does not buy something on faith, nor do they believe a concept or idea simply because it has been presented well. A person who uses the roadrunner tactic will only look like a super genius to the Wile E Coyotes of the world who can’t think for themselves anyway.

I get so upset when I watch people buying that crap. Stick to your beliefs! Ask them questions like “Should we be open-minded about torturing babies?” You know the truth, and don’t let anyone try to convince you otherwise! Skirt the important questions that have any possibility of broadening your mind! Trick the idiots of the world into believing what you are saying by dumbing down your rhetoric to the level of a kindergartener!

Okay, well it’s over now. I don’t know why I listen to that stuff sometimes. Maybe it just makes me feel better about myself.

Sometimes I wish people like that would actually get a knowledgable atheist to argue with them onstage. I’m not even really a big player in the atheist world, but even I could tear that guy to shreds if given the chance. But of course, what kind of knowledgable atheist would willingly sit through such drivel? Maybe it’s time for us to start taking the offensive, standing up for ourselves against these idiots. Maybe instead of sitting there looking pleasantly content when I am being lectured on my godlessness, I should start lecturing back.

And hey! Look at that! I have a meeting with a Jehovah’s Witness this Friday. I guess I might have to start looking for some new friends soon. Darn.

August 2010
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