Sunday, August 27, 2017

Teaching myself to tan

     My third show of the summer is completed. My syllabi are done.  I know have about 6 hours that are not appointed to something else, so I am going to try to tan my first sheepskin.  The lamb was injured, so we sent him to the abattoir rather than have him become supper for the coyotes. We asked for his hide back, and salted it well, folded it and put it in a plastic bag to hold it until Spring.  And of course now that it is the end of August, I finally have the time to start the process.
     I unfolded the hide, and it was a bit stiff and pretty dry, so I ran the hose over it to rinse off the salt and soften things up before trying to remove some of the fat.  Although last year I purchased a fleshing knife - I put it somewhere safe - I cannot find it, so I grabbed one of the Cutco knives from the kitchen and used that to help remove the effluvium.
    Next I mixed two pounds of salt and a cup of oxalic acid in a large plastic storage bin, mixed it up and submerged the hide.  For the next three days, it will soak with the occasional stir, and then be washed and softened.  More about that as it happens

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Making Hay While the Sun Shines

    The best friend and worst enemy of the farmer is the weather.  We pray for rain,  long for dry weather, hope the rains hold off in time for hay to be cut and gathered.  It's a complicated farucca with tempo shifts and changing moves, this dance of the farmer and the weather.
     Thus is was with us last week.  We were late getting the hay cut this year, as we had been out of the country,  and the rain came daily upon our return.  We finally got a break, and got some of the pasture cut, then we got the hay rake hooked up to our old Ford tractor, only to have the tractor randomly stall and need half an hour to cool off before starting up again.
  The next day we were ready to bale. Ancient bailer hooked up - check.  Knotter working - check.  gas in the tractor - check, check.  My husband started bailing, and it clogged - our wind rows were too wide.  So we raked them out into thinner  rows and started again.
  Aa-aa-nd the  tractor stalled.  We needed to wait until the following day to try again.
    Things started to go well, then another issue.  This is when things started to change. Other farmers are your bullpen in tricky times, or so we have found.   A friend (the gentleman who helped to build the barn) just stopped by because he was in town, and he and  my husband  greased the bailer and suddenly it worked.   Another friend - the one who created our pond on the farm - also just popped by.  We were all watching the thunder clouds rolling in, so once the bailer started working, we were all throwing bales into the back of our truck, and Brian's truck, and Tom's truck and getting them down the hill to the barn.  Still, there was a lot of un-baled hay when the PTO on the baler broke. Without this part intact, no baling happens.  Our ancient tractor has parts that cannot always be picked up easily at the Tractor Supply Store, so we had to come up with some other way to get the remaining hay in.    Call to the bullpen.
        A neighboring farmer, whom we had never met, but wave to daily as he drives past with his huge newer tractor and round baler, happened past, and my husband flagged him down.  He pulled in and after some "getting to know you chat",  mostly about equipment,  he agreed to get his "baling guy" to swing by at the end of the day and  bale up the rest of the field.  No charge, no trade, just a neighbor helping out a neighbor.  So we had four round bales in the field that evening, and managed to get them in the barn before the rain came.
     If you want to make friends, buy a farm.  Seriously, when the chips are down, farmers have your back.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

All in good time

   Forever ago was the last time I had a minute to put up a blog post.  We are now in June of 2017, and the weather still feels like early Spring in most places.  Things have greened up, but it is prudent to keep a jacket handy.
    We have been knee deep in sheep, as we intentionally bred our ewes later last year so births would happen in late April and early May rather than march and early April.  DUMB!  We had lambs being born during our show opening, during rehearsals for another show, during finals at the college: not helpful.  next year we go back to our earlier schedule!  We had a rough go of things - twenty  lambs are currently frolicking in the fields, but of three pair of triplets, born, there are only two of each grouping that lived.  One set had the remaining two needing lots of extra care. The ram lamb from that group is now huge, but his sister is still tiny and a bottle lamb.  She comes running to the gate when we arrive, and will follow us around the barn when we let her out.  We were lucky enough to have our first quadruplets, and our first quintuplets born on the farm from our seasoned mothers. They are all adorable,  but as there are so many of them, we are supplementing them with bottles as well.

     Today we had perfect weather, and after finally getting the septic guys out to locate the drainage field, I was able to plant a tree near the farm house.  I grew up with weeping willows in our yard, and in our neighborhood, and I love them.  So now that I knew where to avoid planting,  I was able to buy a weeping willow and put it in the ground.  Now the farm seems like home.  I look forward to the  tree shading the house, and giving another generation of children a place to climb, play, read, and dream.