Tuesday, March 31, 2009

~ Our Fairy tale weekend...........

As I said in my post on Friday, my DH had planned this exciting Anniversary celebration with the help of several people, our children included. He had told me we were going to do something special but I just assumed perhaps we would have dinner out, just the two of us. That's a rare occasion and I would have been happy with that :) On 3/24 he told me not to make any plans for Friday, Saturday & Sunday. No further info.........all day Wednesday as I went about my business I'm wondering, what is he up to? On 3/25 he told me I needed an overnight bag and two outfits of evening wear. YIKES! That's not much notice.......but I can do it :) I ran to the mall the next day and fought the crowds and actually found a lovely skirts and a pair of dress slacks. That took me most of the day - I hate to go shopping! Now I'm really curious - I drop a few hints around the house but no one is letting me in on anything. On 3/26 he tells me our youngest is staying at his friends house for the weekend and that we are going away. End of conversation. I'm really getting excited now.

On Friday I'm up at my usual time, ready to do morning chores. Surprise, he has the day off and oh, by the way - we are leaving at 11:30 a.m. Ok - I'll be ready! We leave on time and head for Portland. I'm still completely in the dark but I'm rather enjoying someone else making the decisions and I just have to go along for the ride. We end up at the Amtrak station. I've never ridden on the train - I was sooooo excited! The train heads south from Portland - at 11:30 the announcement is "all aboard for Boston"...........we are going to BOSTON!!!!! By this time I'm giddy - just like a little girl. What are we going to do in Boston I ask? You'll find out all in good time, he replies :)

We had a lovely train trip to Boston - approximately 2 hours. We arrive at North Station and Steve hails a cab. "94 Charles St." he says...........if you've never been in a cab in Boston, it's an experience in itself! In about 5 minutes we arrive at our first destination - The Charles St. Inn.

The Charles St. Inn is one of Boston's Premier Victorian Bed and Breakfast. It offers 9 spacious and elegant rooms in a renovated 1860 Victorian townhouse, located in the heart of Boston's historic Beacon Hill. If this style interests you, please click on the link, you will not be disappointed. This Inn is absolutely gorgeous. From the time you open the front doors, you feel swept back in time.

We stayed in the Isabella Stewart Gardner room. This lovely bouquet is the first thing I saw as Steve opened the door to our room. The card, which he purchased, signed and mailed to the Inn prior to our arrival, was waiting by the flowers. They are just beautiful and smell wonderful! Yes - by this time I'm in tears :) Our room was something little girls dream of.
~Such a beautiful bed. Yes, it's as soft and comfortable as it looks :)We enjoyed the fireplace in the evenings and enjoyed it in the mornings as they served breakfast in our room along with the paper.
This lovely alcove faced the main street. The beautiful yellow Lillie's smelled wonderful and the scent permeated the entire room.

This lovely painting was hanging in our room. We both chuckled as we looked at it, no matter where we go, we always find something that remind us of the farm :)

After a relaxing afternoon enjoying all the Victorian splendor, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Toscanos of Beacon Hill. This was not just a meal, this was a magical dining experience. The food, the wine, the waitstaff - everything about this business was top notch. It was a 3 hour meal and neither of us were bored. Stuffed for sure.....oh my, did we eat. Neither of us could finish our meal and much to our surprise, the Manager presented us each with an after dinner aperitif. A glass of fabulous cordial accompanied with fresh petite biscotti, on the house :)

A lovely walk back to the Inn and coffee in our room in front of the fireplace completed our Friday adventure. I have to tell you I was in awe.....my Husband, the romantic, who knew?

Stay tuned for tomorrow's entry.....Saturday's big event!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

This and that on the farm..............

It's been a busy week here.......many spring projects underway and some we've finished and crossed off the list. We've had temps in the 40's with a wind everyday. It still feels cold. Maybe 50 tomorrow :) The chickens have been scratching and moving the dead leaves around and have uncovered one of my bleeding hearts. I was very happy to see new growth - it's just peeking up through the dirt but I really could see it!

This is my flower garden I see from my kitchen window. I have slowly watched the snow melt away from the bird bath. It will still be awhile before I see any bulbs peeking their way up through, but it will melt away, eventually :)

Our little Diamond is still the only wee one on the farm so far. She doesn't mind! She gets all the attention and is thriving on it. She got her first taste of being outside today.
She is growing like a weed. Like a typical little one, she tasted everything she could get into her mouth. It didn't take her long to figure out that the goat yard was one big playpen for her :)

Moving at warp speed~

She sure enjoyed checking everything out - kept her Mama busy :)

One sure sign of spring, our ducks are laying again.......This is the first dozen. We are getting two per day so far. I believe we have 5 females and 5 males. Hopefully all the females will start laying. The duck eggs were a big seller at the Farmer's market.
Last but not least, I'll be away for a few days, leaving the rest of the family in charge. My delightful husband has been planning a weekend get-a-way for the two of us to celebrate our 18th Wedding Anniversary for some time. I had absolutely no idea! My boys have been in on the planning and they are very proud of themselves for not spilling the beans (I'm proud of them too :) I have absolutely no idea where we are going - only I'm going with my husband and wherever we end up, it will be wonderful. I'll let you all know on the next blog post!

~Have a warm, sunny weekend ~

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Spinning - An aid to India's self reliance....

I have yet to use my blog as a place to air my political point of view. I don't intend to start now but as the financial and political turmoil in our country continues to brew, it's in the forefront of my mind as it is in every one's.

I came across an article in my Spring 2009 issue of Spin Off Magazine ( a magazine about making yarn by hand) that I have read several times and still can't get over the concept of a government actually HELPING it's people become more self-reliant and not charging them for it.
People in India raise cotton. At one time they were selling their cotton cheaply to the English and then buying it back as expensive cloth. Gandhi suggested that the Indian people spin their own cotton yarn. He believed that the spinning wheel was a tool that would aid India in becoming more independent and self reliant. Hence the invention of a foldable, easily portable spinning wheel called the Charkha ( wheel in Indian).

This is called a book charkha. You can see the hinges in the middle and it actually folds up when not in use. I have only seen one used a couple of times. It is so amazing to watch these little wheels at work. It takes skill and practice but artisans that can do it make it look easy :)

A new spinning wheel has been designed in this country called an e-charkha. This is a charkha that generates electricity! Spinning on this wheel for approximately two hours generates enough juice to fill a battery pack that will run a radio or a light bulb for six or seven hours. Is this amazing or what!!! These folks spin a lot - imagine what this can do for these people. This entire concept just blows my mind. I love it!

The icing on the cake..........1.2 million rural Indians spin on these charkhas to make a living. The GOVERNMENT of India is going to somehow make these e-charkha wheels available to ALL of these people at LOW or NO COST - can you believe it ????

This is the best thing I've read in months. I know I should be concerned about what's going on in my own backyard but I have to tell you, this gives me hope in humanity......people helping people. Government supporting and working for their people.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring was nice while it lasted...........

The thermometer never reached 30 degrees today. It feels cold after we have had mild (35-45) degree weather the last few days. This was the view looking at my Mom's house yesterday afternoon. One minute it was sunny and about 32; the next minute we were getting a blizzard. Typical Maine spring weather ~
I love reading everyone's blogs with photos of flowers blooming and people planting their gardens. It gives me hope - spring really will come to the Northeast and stay, not just tease us :)
Even though I was too cold to work outside, the girls are loving it. They have fluffed in every soft spot they can find. Every time I look out the window, there is a chicken or two, pecking and singing, just happy to be alive :)
Little Miss Diamond is already a nosy goatie. Great shot hey? I swear you can watch them grow. Having just the one so far (pout, pout) she's getting all the attention and loves it. I'm really glad in a way that the other doe's didn't kid today. Even in the barn with all the windows and sunshine, it's a cold day for babies. The weather will get warmer as the week progresses.
Hope it's sunny and warm where you are : )

Sunday, March 22, 2009

~ Cute Kids...........

Our miss Diamond is doing great! She is completely comfortable with her surroundings and has taken over the goat quarters. She now bounces on all fours instead of running and Ribbon and Lace make way when she's on the run :) She had a visitor to play with this morning - that made her very happy.

It didn't take her long to discover Tyler's nose......his lips.....chin......ear lobes, hat and anything else she might be able to chew on :)
Delilah seemed to enjoyed Tyler's company as well. My girls are used to us being around them and we try to spend as much time as we possibly can socializing our babies. It's a real tough job :)

She definitely knows where her meals come from yet she's gentle with her Mom - no real hard butting of her milk bag yet........Delilah is the best mother. She keeps her very clean and is always very attentive.
No new kids as of 2 p.m. Ribbon has dropped somewhat and Lace has very loose tail ligaments. I don't know what the hold up is - the rest of us are ready!

Friday, March 20, 2009

~ Spring has arrived !!

New life is always the first sign of spring here at Tylerfarm ~

Our Pygora doe, Delilah, was the first to deliver this year , giving us an adorable little white doeling, Diamond :)

I missed the whole thing - the goats prefer it that way. Delivery was fine, placenta passed fine, and Mom and baby are doing great. These girls are pro's for sure. Last year Delilah delivered a caramel colored single doeling. I was happy that she was white - we haven't had white kids for a couple of years now. Diamond is a little cuddle bug and I've already had her in my coat today, snuggled right up. Delilah doesn't mind at all as long as she can see her.

Ribbon & Lace should deliver soon. Last year they all delivered on Easter and the day after.

More photos soon :)

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Shearing & Cheese; Comments - Q & A

It's been a busy few days here. Shearing continues when the weather permits. No shearing wet sheep - I could sure use seven days of straight sunshine :)

No goat kids yet - below are before and after shearing photos. Not the same goat in each photo but they don't always cooperate :)

Whaddya think - twins, triplets? Her milk bag is so full today that her udders are sticking straight out instead of down. These goats just keep on eating and I keep wondering and waiting. I am so eager to go to the barn in the morning :)

Shearing - a hot topic in the fiber world this time of year :) Thank you all for your great comments. I read them all and am usually more prompt about responding than I have been lately. I thought this would be a good place to answer some of your questions.

Anyone can learn to shear. Honestly - The last shearer that I had here charged me $11 per head and $80 trip charge. With 40+ sheep, that was an expensive couple of days. I raise Finn sheep as well as Shetland. The Finn need to be sheared twice per year. I simply cannot afford that. The shearer I had before him is a terrific guy and mentor. He sheared for me for three years and sheared for many other folks as well as his own large flock of sheep. He decided with gas prices and travelling, he just couldn't afford to do it anymore. He only charged me $6 per head. I always do my own feet, de-worming, vaccinations, etc., and provided lunch, coffee, or whatever else he needed. One thing about him, he was willing to teach me as we went along. I absorbed everything he said like a sponge. I watched and listened and knew when the time came, I'd be ready. Yea, right!!

Shearing with scissors or hand shears is time consuming and just plain hard. My hands simply can't take that kind of abuse. But that's just me. I have small hands and a touch of carpal tunnel. I have a friend who shears all her sheep with hand shears. She's quick, efficient and I envy her. I had used electric clippers before, having grown up on a horse farm. They still make me nervous. I have Andis (Heineger) clippers, lightweight for women's hands. They are great. I would strongly recommend anyone wanting to shear their sheep, regardless of what you use, to get yourself a shearing stand. Steve made my first one out of wood with an adjustable head rest and a little grain box on it. It worked great. He has since purchased me a steel shearing stand from Premier Sheep Supply. It is awesome. It has a ramp and side rails and you can use it for sheep or goats.

You have an advantage from the get go because your sheep/goats are familiar and comfortable with you. I would give them a little grain as a reward for standing nicely, and begin. I went very very slow. I was a nervous wreck! Short, small strokes, remembering to never go back over what I had already done - we don't want second cuts in our fleece. You can clean them up after you get all the wool off. The first sheep took me 3 1/2 hours. You know, I didn't nick her or cut her anywhere. She was calm and cool and actually enjoyed being fussed with. Each time I did one, I became a little more comfortable and now I can do a sheep in about a half an hour, including trimming their feet. It's just time and patience and becoming comfortable with the shears, your sheep and having confidence in yourself. From the money I save on a shearer, I could have bought 5 electric clippers.

I use a Mohair comb. It seems to be the best one for me. Combs with fewer teeth are easier to nick with or more aggressive. This is a standard cutter that goes with the comb.

I send the cutters and combs out once per year to have them sharpened. I have 5 combs, 15 cutters. Cost me $36 including shipping. They were back within a week. I should have everyone done within two weeks, weather permitting. Doesn't get them all done in one or two days, but that isn't as important as saving money, comfortable sheep, rare nicks or cuts, very few second cuts and an overwhelming sense of satisfaction! I can shear the ewes completely on the stand. The males I have to flip on their butts to shear their belly. Don't want to cut off the important part :) I try to make sure someone is around to help me flip the big rams and the biggest ewes. Some of these sheep weigh more than I do!


A bag of beautiful white Pygora fiber - when we do have rainy days, I'll spend my free time skirting my fiber which entails laying the fiber out on a screened table and picking out the bits of hay and vegetable matter. Pygora fiber has no lanolin so doesn't it hold as much "stuff" as sheep fiber. This has to be done to all my fiber, sheep and goat. With sheep fiber, I pull off manure tags, belly wool, etc. Any fiber that isn't good enough to be sent to the processor and I'm fussy!

Michelle, I do not have any polled Shetland genetics that I'm aware of. The ram lambs in the photo I posted were Shetland (small horns) and Shetland/Finn crosses (no horns/scurs).

I hope I answered everyone's questions......if not, ask away :) Thanks again for all your great comments and for reading the blog.

Tomorrow............more on Cheese ~

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It's Shearing time............

Sunday we started our spring shearing. I did the three white pygora females (no babies yet) Yesterday I did these four white ram lambs who are leaving tomorrow. I'm always stiff and sore when I first start and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get out of bed this morning.

I was ok once I got up and moving. I always think I'm in pretty good shape physically until shearing starts. I have four goats and 25 sheep still to shear. We will be busy for a couple of weeks, as long as the weather cooperates.

More photos in the next post.............off to bed with my book and a muscle relaxer :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Its Cheese!

I finally found time today to make mozzarella cheese............This has been on my "to do" list for weeks now. What a fun, learning process this was. It really doesn't take more than an hour to make this wonderful cheese and that includes the clean up. Each step of the process goes very quickly and it was difficult to work and photograph at the same time. Next time I'll have someone else take pictures.
Wearing rubber gloves to knead the cheese is a must. It gets incredibly hot! When it's finished, you drop it into a bowl of ice water to stop the process and cool it off. Once cool, it's ready to eat. One gallon of whole milk made one good size ball of cheese, that weighed approximately 3/4 of a lb. I have plenty of extra milk right now so will be making lots of this cheese as you can freeze it and it's just as good when it thaws.

Tomorrow nights dinner - home made Sloppy Joes with fresh grated mozzarella cheese :)

Saturday, March 14, 2009

~ One year............

Today is our first "Blog-Anniversary"! Hard to believe one year has gone by since my first post. I can still remember posting "Welcome to our Peaceable Kingdom" and wondering if anyone would read it. I didn't dare hope for a comment :) THANK YOU to all of you who read the blog, take the time out of your busy schedules to leave comments and for all the wonderful tips and tidbits you have shared with me over the last year. I am so happy to have met all of you and learned about your lives and how you live. I can only hope that year #2 is as good as the first :)

It truly feels like spring in the Northeast today. The thermometer says 45 degrees....yoohoo :) This jet was the only thing in the sky all day.

This is always a good sign that spring has arrived. We have five seasons in Maine. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and MUD season. It's doesn't get to be a real mess unless it's 50 everyday for a week. Then the mud is a foot deep. With the gentle or sometimes not so gentle March winds and a slow-w-w-w-w melt, it dries up fairly quickly.

The ducks are quite happy. I couldn't get close enough to get a real good shot of them but they are definitely out of their "home territory" looking for a puddle. When they see me, they run for cover, and then struggle to climb the snowbank because they are in so much of a hurry. They are a riot to watch :) ** could someone please tell me how to post photos so viewers can click on them to enlarge them?**



These gals should have wide load signs on their backsides :) I expect they will both have at least twins or triplets. Delilah was not feeling very photogenic and refused to have her picture taken. She's not as large as these two but twins wouldn't surprise me. They are all very good Mom's and babies should be arriving any day now. I can hardly wait :)

All the pygoras are in full fleece. It is soooo soft and fluffy. Tomorrow is shearing day. Everyone will get a haircut, feet trimmed, vaccinations and de-worming. I'll be sure to post before and after photos.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

~ Lamb, it's what's for dinner......

I happened to find this recipe on line - I'm always looking for new ways to cook what we raise, hoping my family will not get bored with meals. This recipe is definately a hit in my home.......my family has decided this is their new favorite leg of lamb recipe :)

Slow Cooker Leg of Lamb

Lamb Roast, 1 -3lb bone-in, leg of lamb roast

4 cups water, broth or stock

3 tblsp flour

2 tsp sea salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

I tsp ground cumin

1 tsp chile powder

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 bay leaf

2 cloves garlic- minced

1 small sweet onion diced

1 14.5 oz can fire roasted tomatoes

2 tblsp red wine vinegar

Sea salt

Freshly ground pepper

Turn slow cooker to low heat. Blend flour into water, whisk in salt, pepper, and spices. Place lamb roast in slow cooker and pour water mixture over the top, add garlic, onion and bay leaf. Cover and let roast for 7-8 hours. When ready, turn off slow cooker.

Leaving lamb roast in slow cooker, carefully pour the cooking liquid into a deep sauce pan, add tomatoes and vinegar.

Over medium-high heat reduce cooking liquid, tomatoes and vinegar mixture by half. Salt & pepper to taste. Add lamb roast meat, it is so tender if falls off of the bone. Serve over brown rice.

Brown Rice

1 cup brown rice (I used organic brown rice)

2 1/2 cups chicken stock or water

1 tsp salt

Bring water to a boil in a heavy 3 quart sauce pan, lower heat to simmer, stir in rice, cover and cook for 40-50 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Yellow Gold and babies.....

We used to call this sawdust. Now it's called "Yellow Gold". We have a big lumber mill about 4 miles from here. When we first moved here 12 years ago, we could get a pickup load of sawdust for $15 and someone at the mill would load it with a bucket loader. About five years ago it went to $20. I didn't mind paying that. It's fairly dry and great stuff. Last year, due to the economic situation and the rising price of fuel oil, many of the mills in Maine decided to invest the money and can now burn the sawdust to heat their mills. I don't blame - fuel oil was over $4.00 gallon 5 months ago. By doing so, we all received notices that sawdust would no longer be available. That hurt small farmers like me. If you can't afford a tractor trailer load, you needed to find a new source to bed your animals. Shavings are $6 a bag! I have 9 box stalls in my barn. Thankfully I don't raise horses anymore and most of my cows stay out in run-ins most of the year. We do use sawdust in the barn for the milk cow and calves. Luckily for me, we have a friend that works at the mill.........we barter milk and eggs for a pick up load of sawdust when he can get it. This past friday was sawdust day......our bin was almost empty and we use it very sparingly. I was sooooooo excited!!! It smells wonderful and this load should last us quite awhile. Will said he will try to bring another load asap. What would all of us do if we didn't have great friends? I'm thankful that's for sure.

"Gus" in the sunshine.

"Squirt McGert"

These two love to get a wheelbarrow load of fresh sawdust in their stall. They lower their heads and push it all around with their nose. It's so much fun to watch them. They really are growing like weeds and enjoy their time outside in the sunshine. I let them outback when we don't have ice. We had bare ground on the weekend but we had snow yesterday so everything is messy again. They don't mind :)

~Hope your enjoying the sunshine where you are ~