Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sheep to Shawl.......

Before we even built this farm, I knew I wanted to raise sheep. I was born and raised on a horse farm. I had lots of other animals growing up, and did many other "farm" chores but we didn't have sheep. I'm not sure what the desire to have them really was but it wasn't long after we built this farm that we added sheep to the mix.

We hadn't been here very long when I received a phone call about a very large ewe that really needed a home and would I come and get her. I really didn't need more but who can't make room for one more sheep? It was coming winter and this sheep was alone and needed a home. So...........we made the short trip, took one look at her and brought her home in the back of our Ford Explorer. It took three of us to load her! She rode all the way home with her head over the seat on Tyler's shoulder. We loved her already. Her name is Freida.


We have had her five years now and we love her more than we ever thought we could. She is a real Maine mutt. Her breeding consists of Lincoln, Romney, Corriedale, Blue Hexam & Border Leicester. We discovered the first time we had her sheared that she has a big hernia on her tummy. Our vet advised us not to breed her because of this. It does not trouble her and she doesn't have any other health issues. Her wool is many beautiful shades of grays and browns and she gives us 15 pounds of wool each year. She has become the "matriarch" of our flock and babysits all the lambs. She wears a collar with a bell and we know where everyone is all the time just by listening for Freida's bell.

"Granny Freida"

Over the course of the years that we have had her, I have made several shawls from her wool. Some woven, some knitted. Their is nothing like a soft, cozy shawl on a winter's evening. Below are some of my shawls.

Handwoven wool shawl. The gray is handspun Freida. Woven on a portable Ashford Rigid Heddle loom.

Handwoven wool - angora shawl. Woven on an Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom.

Handwoven wool - angora shawl. The brown wool is "Freida" wool. Woven on an Ashford Rigid Heddle Loom. Now owned by my friend, Jan. Doesn't she look lovely?

Knit shawl made from Freida - 2007 fleece. This was a gift for my Mom last year.

Handspun, knit alpaca - wool blend shawl. The fiber was a gift from a dear friend of mine. It was a joy to spin and knit. This is a small shawl and adorns the back of my needlework chair.

Hand knit, hand dyed shetland-finn wool shawl. I finished this shawl the beginning of the week. Just in time for some real cold weather that has blown in. I've decided to keep this one for myself :)
Freida's fleece from this year is at the processors. It was darker than the last few years. I've asked her to spin it all worsted weight. I have a friend who wants enough yarn to make a couple of sweaters. I'm hoping this winter to set my rigid heddle loom up again and weave another shawl with some of the yarn.
I love all my sheep, but Freida is a special old gal. She will live out her days here at Tylerfarm.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wordless Wednesday.......

~Thanks for visiting us at Tylerfarm ~

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Making the best of Indian summer...............

This is an enormous mountain of composted manure...............10 years worth. The pile is out behind the barn and continues to grow each day. This past summer we had 3 acres of new land cleared of trees and stumps for pasture. This manure needed to be spread but it's been so wet due to all the rain we've had, it's been impossible to get a machine on the fields without getting stuck. On Thursday, we hired a friend of ours to come with a small dozer to push this mountain onto one of the new pastures. This pasture is on the south side of the cow pasture. With lots of help and this great compost, we should have terrific grass this spring for our new lambs and calves. I have to do things in such small steps and creating more pasture is such an accomplishment!! It's less hay we have to purchase and that is a huge savings and I would prefer to feed the grass as long as I can.

It's really starting to look like pasture in this photo. The dirt smells great. The manure was really composted. It is black and rich and smells so full of nutrients and good stuff. I will need to spread a good quantity of lime on this soil as we are very acidic here. This ground was a pine forest not to long ago.

Doesn't it look fabulous? No more manure pile. The barn is to the left in this photo. Previously you couldn't see the cows run in shed behind the manure pile. I am so happy to see it gone. As time permits we will remove the wire fencing in front of where the cow is standing and replace it with 2x6 three rail fence which is what we have on the opposite side which you cannot see in the photo. We will add another gate for this pasture.

Now that the big manure pile is gone, we will put the manure from the stalls in a small pile and when we have a tractor bucket full we will go to the end of this pasture and spread it out. That way it will not ever build up into a huge pile again and we can fertilize right up until the snow is too deep. We will stock pile it through the winter and spread it all in the spring.

At the end of a happy day, we had a small surprise party for my Mom, who celebrated her 69th birthday. Does she look a little surprised?!

We really surprised her with a new recliner for her home. One of the rare times that she didn't know what to say :) She was so happy and thankful. No one more deserving than my Mom in my book. She's just the sweetest lady. That's my nephew, Dave, in the rocker enjoying the moment. It was a great little party and we all enjoyed carrot cake and ice cream.

~Thanks for visiting with us at Tylerfarm~

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sunday, October 19, 2008

4 pigs take a road trip...................

A beautiful sunny, frosty morning here in the Northeast.....22F. We were out early for chores, as we have extra work to do this morning. Four of our 8 pigs that we raised have nearly reached the end of their journey and will make the trip to the butchers this afternoon. Each year we think we have our catch and load skills down to a science and all will go as planned. It always does when we talk it through :)

After several attempts and many hand signals I backed the trailer into position in front of our loading chute. Steve and Tom turn the feed platform around and we use it as a ramp. The trailer isn't very high but with the pigs short legs the ramp really helps them take that step up into the trailer. I put the feed trough in the front of the trailer with their breakfast in it.

We put the pigs in the holding pen and gave them a few apples while we worked on the trailer and the chute. They obviously know somethings up. They were quite agitated at me for being late with their breakfast!

Here we go - The doors open and the grain is in the feeder in the trailer. Steve is calling them and has a bucket of grain in his hand.

Two more make their way out.............they are nosy and hungry.....

So far, so pig in the trailer, 3 more to go

3 pigs in the trailer, one really needs a push!

He's in, he's in, somebody shut the door!!!

Yippee - it all went good today. Less than five minutes and all four pigs are loaded. Last year was a disaster. We had three feet of mud everywhere and pigs that absolutely refused to get on the trailer. That and the fact we were getting freezing rain, we couldn't feel our fingers it was so cold and everything on the trailer was frozen. I thought we were all going to have heart attacks before we finally got those pigs loaded!

These four will be ready to be picked up in about a week. These are reserved for my customers who by a side of pork. The other 4 pigs we raised, ours included, will go on November 2. These were sold as whole pigs. Our pig from last year is just about gone so it works out just right.

I enjoy the process of raising the pigs from the time they are 8 weeks old until butchering time. Raising them with kindness, knowing that they have had good, wholesome food to eat their entire lifetime and knowing my butcher is all very important to our customers and of course, to us. That being said, I'm always glad when it's time for them to go and I won't miss them :O)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The gift of a rainy day ~

Today it's raw and dreary. The cows and sheep are all in their barns, staying dry and chewing their cuds. The kitchen stove is warm and the house smells great. There is not much that we can do outside today without getting soaked. The wind has been blowing the last couple of days and blown most of our beautiful leaves off the maples in the front yard. Now it will look dreary until the beautiful white snow arrives and makes everything look so pure again.

Like most everyone else, I've a hundred projects I could work on inside so but none of them such as cleaning the bathroom or mopping the kitchen floor really appeals to me :) It feels like a good day to bake. I do not get that chance very often. An associate of Steve's has been picking fresh cranberries and was so kind to send me home three bags. (Thank you Mary!!)

Looking through some of my favorite blogs, I found a great Cranberry scone recipe on the Farm Girl Fare blog. Be sure to give it a try if you like scones. They take minimal time to mix together and are absolutely Delicious. The only thing I did differently was I added an orange juice/powdered sugar glaze on the top of them as they came out of the oven.

They may not look like they came out of gourmet magazine but I have to say they are wonderful and they will not last long in my house :) Definitely a recipe that I will use again and again.

Hope your all having a good day!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Comfort, woodstoves & Moms

As the autumn weather continues, our mornings are frosty and the house is chilly. Not enough to need heat all day but chilly enough to need a smudge in the wood stove. Not that I mind.....I love a fire in the kitchen cook stove. It's comforting to me and I love the smell of wood smoke. It's smells like home to me. I grew up in a home heated with wood and have always had a wood stove in my homes as an adult. I was extremely fortunate to find this little beauty hidden in a "junk" shop when we first moved to Maine. No lie, this poor stove was in the back of a building literally covered with dust and stuff. I uncovered it and checked it over as best I could and asked the man the price. "For that old thing" he replied, $175.00. My lucky day!! It took 4 men to load this on our pickup and off load it. It sat in our shop for 4 years after that because we couldn't put it in our mobile home. We set it outside and built a fire in it to make sure it didn't have cracks or any broken pieces. A few new fire brick and it was ready to go.

When we built our new home, it was basically designed our kitchen/dining room as this is where we gather the most. Steve built the beautiful tile hearth that the stove sets on. We had fireplace windows installed, one on each side of the stove. We also made sure there is room on either side of the stove for a comfy rocking chair. One for myself, and one for my Mom. The fireplace windows face south and the two big dining room windows are on the east side. This is a wonderful, sunny room.

I'm very fortunate that my Mom lives on the farm with us. During the winter, she isn't as busy as the spring and summer so she spends a fair amount of time tending the fire and occupying one of these rockers. I never have to worry about the fire going out. Usually I'm asking her not to get it too hot :) Once in awhile she will even pop a pan of her delicious biscuits or cornbread in the oven. Yum.....

Our new home has hot water baseboard heat. After spending one winter in the house, we decided that the living room was not warm enough for us without a wood stove. We are both very spoiled being able to sit next to the warmth when you want to. This past week Steve was on vacation and he installed a new hearth and wood stove in our livingroom.

This is what he started with. This is bare wall with concrete board over it to protect the wall from the heat.

This is the finished product - our beautiful new living room hearth with wood stove

The wood stove is a Vermont Castings Intrepid II. We purchased it from a friend of ours which saved us a considerable amount of money. It has a fireplace screen which you can use with doors open. Looks lovely in the evening sitting around it with all the dogs :) It's quite the little heater and the living room is quite warm in the evening. We installed ceiling fans in all the bedrooms this spring. Because of them, we didn't use any air conditioners this year at all. By reversing them, they will circulate the heat from both wood stoves and we should only need the oil to heat our hot water. A considerable savings and we are all looking for ways to save for sure.

Before I forget, I found this lovely flower blossoming in my garden. I'm not sure what it is........grows on a tall thick stem with quite a few leaves that resemble geranium leaves. Obviously a perennial as the frost hasn't bothered it. Any ideas?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fall chores.....

Our New England weather continues to be gorgeous which is beneficial in so many ways. Our trees are now brilliant orange and gold colors. Cold nights and sunny, warm days make it possible for us to work outside all day and cross many fall chores off the long list of things to get done. The weather has also drawn many leaf-peepers from neighboring states to Maine to enjoy the beautiful foliage season. Inns are full and restaurants are crowded. A boost that the local economy really needed.

I spent a little "free" time today with my dogs, walking around the farm, taking a few photos, checking fence lines and just enjoying the view. These guys are the best companions :) Banjo just turned 8 and Danny was a year in May. I love to watch them roam and play together ~ happy animals.


We can see nearby Mount Washington in New Hampshire from the hill above our home. The snow has arrived and is accumulating. A sign of things to come for us. I look forward to it but am always nervous that we will not be prepared.
One of my favorite chores this time of year is fall shearing. I raise Finn sheep as well as Shetlands and the Finn have to be sheared twice per year. Two of my favorite gals received their haircuts and toe trimming on Friday. I can do two or three per day if all goes well :) All the sheep will get their toes trimmed and a general "look over" in the next week. Our soil is very sandy with hardly any rocks so toes need to be trimmed more often as their do not wear down on their own. I use a shearing stand and most everyone is cooperative.



I'm "thinking" about breeding groups. I will have two sheep groups this year and they will be smaller than usual. Such fun trying to figure out whom should go with whom. The boys aren't fussy! I usually put my groups together sometime in November. I get that funny little feeling in the pit of my stomach just thinking of spring lambs. My goat breeding group is already together and I'm sure the does are already bred.

Life is good here at Tylerfarm..............