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Showing posts from December, 2009

The Reluctant Shepherd

Having tended sheep on winter nights,
I've wondered what the shepherds who were the
First to hear the news of Jesus' birth
Actually experienced. Being a shepherd myself,
And knowing other stockmen for
Most of my life, I figure there was at least
One shepherd that night who wouldn't leave his flock.

"You boys go on - this ewe's about to lamb,"
I imagine him saying. Or perhaps he said,
"I been hearin' coyotes all night - I'm not leavin' my flock,
Heavenly host or no." I'm not sure
They had coyotes in the Holy Land,
But I'm sure there were predators - there always are
Where there's sheep. I can think of a thousand reasons
He might have refused to go to town -
Some shepherds just don't like towns.

While it's not in any of the gospels,
I also wonder if he was sorry
He didn't go to the stable in Bethlehem
Once his buddies returned. I figure he might
Have been the first Lutheran shepherd -
Feeling guilty about not going but
Unwilling to forg…

Goats (by Julie House)

After 6 months into my externship, I got the opportunity to bring goats home to my family’s 10 acres. This would seem on the surface to be just like managing our sheep and goats at the ranch, and our contract grazing off site. But bringing them home definitely made everything more personal.
Within the first week I got a call at 4 in the morning from my aunt that the goats were in their yard. In an attempt to bring them back to their paddock, I learned that they do not herd the same as sheep, and having them separated from the sheep at my house made driving them down the hill much more difficult without the use of a herding dog. By five thirty, I had made some progress back to our property, but had given up on getting them into their pen by myself and made the phone call to Dan to bring Taff, his herding dog, and come over to help.
Since then, they did get out into the neighbors yard once more, but I have become a better fence builder since and have managed to keep them contained. T…

Scotch Broth

I was looking through the index in one of my favorite cookbooks (Fannie Farmer) this weekend and came across a reference to Scotch Broth. The name itself intrigued me, so I looked up the recipe. Scotch Broth is basically a wintertime lamb soup made with neck slices, root vegetables, barley and butter. We made it for dinner last night, and it was wonderful!

Here's the recipe - we varied slightly from Fannie Farmer:

3 lbs lamb breast or neck slices
8 cups cold water
1/2 cup barley
3 TBS butter
2 carrots, diced fine
2 stalks celery, diced fine
2 small white turnips or rutabagas, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced fine
Freshly ground pepper

Remove most of the fat from the meat and cut into small pieces. Put it in a pot with the cold water. Bring to a biol and stir in the barley. Simmer, partially covered, for 1-1/2 hours, or until the meat and barley are tender, adding more water if any evaporates. Remove the meat from the bones. Cool the soup and skim off the fat. Melt the butt…

The Great Livestock Guardian Experiment of 2009 - Part 1: Chester (by Courtney McDonald)

If I have learned anything during the past ten months of interning with Flying Mule Farm, it is that effective livestock protection is essential to keeping livestock. Without reliable protection, your entire flock - and therefore your business - is at risk.
When we first moved into our new rented house, Eric and I were ecstatic to finally have a little bit of pasture to keep sheep and goats on. We discussed the idea of a livestock guardian dog with our new landlords, and they seemed intrigued by the idea. We explained that the dog’s job is to bark and be aggressive towards predators. So we took Chester, a livestock guardian dog that Flying Mule Farm had used to guard the sheep. He preferred to be anywhere else than in the sheep’s paddock, however, so after awhile he was retired from the farm. I invested in some 5 foot 8 inch electric netting for our new pasture, and added two lines of electric poly tape to the existing permanent fence to create a “Chester-proof” grazing area.
So Chester…

Snow Day!

We awoke to snow yesterday - about 6 inches by the time it quit falling. According to the Auburn Journal, it was the most snow seen in Auburn in the last 20 years. School was canceled, so the girls and I did our morning chores together.
I love snow - despite the challenges it presents me as a rancher. Yesterday, we started by repairing sheep fence that had been pushed over by the snow. To get to the sheep, we drove on unplowed roads. After securing the sheep, we fed three groups of cows - pairs (cows and calves), first calf heifers and pregnant cows. Then we returned to the ewes and fed hay to them, followed by deliveries of hay to two groups of goats. After lunch, I resumed my rounds - feeding guard dogs, more hay for the ewes, and finally hay for the sheep at home.
Lara, our oldest daughter, is like I was as a boy - she played outside in the snow all day. Emma is more like her mom - she played outside some but was content to stay warm inside in the afternoon.

Today, we awoke to a hard …

Another Beautiful Day

As I see the world, all life on our planet depends on the proper mix of soil, sunlight and water. Even those of us who are omnivores depend on plants to feed the animals that provide us with meat and milk. Based on this understanding, I get weary this time of year of hearing TV and radio weather people tell us that we're going to have another "beautiful day" when the forecast calls for sunshine.

I must confess that I enjoy stormy weather. I love waking up to the sound of rain. While rain, snow and wind often complicate my outside chores, I mostly enjoy being out in the elements during a storm.

We've just endured our third year of drought in California. Although the late rains we received last spring made the grass grow, we're facing severe water shortages throughout the state. I heard yesterday that the state water project will deliver only 5% of normal water supplies to its customers. While the Nevada Irrigation District, which supplies our irrigation water…