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Showing posts from May, 2012

Mutton is Delicious! No, Really - It Is!

So we tried a little experiment this week.  We have a handful of 2-3 year old ewes who have never had lambs - for whatever reason, they seem to be infertile, which happens sometimes.  On Monday, we had one of these ewes processed.  Yesterday, I picked up the meat, and we barbecued loin chops for dinner last night.

First a word about mutton.  In this country, any sheep over one year of age is considered mutton (in other countries, there's an intermediate class of meat - a "hogget" is an animal between one and two years of age).  Mutton has a reputation for being strong flavored and greasy - some people don't like lamb because they've been served bad mutton.

We've tried our own mutton in the past - we make sausage and stew, and we've thoroughly enjoyed it.  This time, however, we decided to have the meat processed exactly as we'd have lamb processed.  Our box of meat included loin chops, racks, sirloin and shoulder roasts, kabobs, riblets, shanks and st…

Laid Up

Our border collies, as friends and regular customers know, play a huge role in our operation.  We rely on our dogs to help move sheep from one paddock to the next, to bring sheep into the corrals, to doctor sheep in the pasture, and to load trailers.  I always have at least one dog with me every day - most days, I have both Taff and Mo (and sometimes Ernie as well).  My canine partners lend structure to my day - if I'm running errands in town, I look for shady parking places and make sure my truck windows are rolled up to a level that will prevent them from hopping out to follow me.  I rely on our dogs to make my work efficient and un-stressful.  Sometimes I don't realize how much I rely on them until they are not available.

On Saturday afternoon, I took Taff with me to check on a small group of ewes at Blossom Hill Farm here in Auburn.  While I was checking on the sheep, a beekeeper drove into the farm to check his bees.  Taff decided that the shade under his car was inviting…

Through Another's Eyes

We hosted a 2-day wool handling school last weekend - taught by Ron Cole, who consults on wool for the American Sheep Industry Association.  Saturday's activities were classroom-based - Ron taught us about managing our sheep and our facilities for quality wool production.  We learned about new fabrics, about what happens to our wool after it leaves our farms, and about methods for improving the quality of our wool.  On Sunday, we met at Thompson Ranch - our shearing site.  Derrick Adamache, who has sheared our sheep every year, sheared approximately 125 ewes on Sunday (he sheared the rest of the flock on Monday).  We learned how to evaluate fleeces, how to prepare our wool for sale, and how to properly set up a shearing site.

In addition to my regular crew (my friends and fellow sheep producers Roger Ingram and Callie Murphy), the class consisted of 20 students.  Some, like Robin Lynde (of Meridian Jacobs) were already in the sheep and wool business.  Others, like Paul Tu, were be…

Shearing Other People's Sheep

In May 2010, I went to a sheep shearing school at the University of California's Hopland Field Station in Mendocino County.  Over the course of 5 days, I struggled to learn how to shear sheep - despite my experience with sheep, I found learning to shear to be incredibly challenging, both physically and mentally.  By the last day of the school, however, I finally felt like I was getting the hang of it.  Last spring and summer, I sheared more than 100 sheep - some of our own, and some for other folks.  This year, I've just started shearing again - entirely for others at this point.  As the daylight hours grow longer, my work days lengthen.  I wonder, sometimes, why I make them longer by shearing other people's sheep.  I think there are several reasons.

First, shearing is an incredibly physical activity - world class shearers are said to rival world class marathon runners in terms of their stamina and strength.  While I'm not world class, I do enjoy challenging my physic…

Pricing Our Products

I belong to an email list based in the next county north of us that includes small-scale farmers, local food advocates, and homesteaders.  The listserve is a great forum for discussing issues, advertising products and seeking advice on a wide range of farm-related topics.

Recently, someone posted an offer of "organic" eggs for $2 per dozen.  This person, it seems, was overwhelmed by spring egg production in his small flock (chickens always pick up their production when the weather turns nice this time of year).  As you may well imagine, his extra eggs were snapped up quickly at this price!

As for me, I found myself struggling with this offer.  We also have a small flock of laying hens - they are cared for by our youngest daughter, Emma.  By choice, we have kept this flock small - partly so that our 8-year-old can manage it on her own.  We've also made sure that Emma is beginning to understand the economics of her farming enterprise.  She charges $4/dozen for her eggs.  F…