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Showing posts from December, 2012


Since 2001, I've kept a weather diary.  Most days, I write down the high and low temperatures, the sky conditions, precipitation in the last 24 hours, and other general observations of the natural world.  At Christmas, I always think it's fun to look back at the weather on Christmases past!

2001 - Cloudy, 38F (30F @ 11 p.m. on the previous night)
2002 - Partly cloudy, 30F and frost
2003 - 34/48 - Cloudy, popcorn snow @ 4:30 p.m. - temperature dropped 9 degrees in 15 minutes.  Saw great blue heron fly over. 0.20" rain, 7.71" for the month.
2004 - 30/53 - clear and very frosty
2005 - 50/55 - cloudy and rain
2006 - 39/56 - cloudy
2007 - 24/48 - clear in the morning, cloudy in the afternoon
2008 - 32/44 - showers, hail in the morning, then clearing.  1.15" rain (3.75" for the month)
2009 - 27/57 - clear
2010 - 38/53 - cloudy, showers in the afternoon.
2011 - 25/56 - clear.
2012 - 35/45 - cloudy, rain developing around mid-day.  Heavy rain in evening.

As of yes…

The Stranger's Advice

Note: I originally wrote this poem more than 10 years ago, but I thought it was especially appropriate this year.  Merry Christmas!
I’d been to the sale earlier that day To sell a load of lambs, And drivin’ back I was mighty depressed About what the buyer had paid.
We’d bought the ranch a couple years before And it’d be tough to make it through Another year like this one; We couldn’t take much more.
The headlights of my truck flashed on a man Up ahead alongside the road. It was snowin’ pretty hard by then, So I stopped and offered him a hand.
I could see that he was pretty old As I looked him over in the cab. His long white beard was full o’ ice, And he shivered in the cold.
“Thanks for the ride,” he said and grinned, “I knew you’d be along, I’m headed the very same direction, And I knew where you’d just been.”
How’d you know I’d been to town, And how do you know who I am? How do you know where I’m goin’? I asked him with a frown.
“Dan, I know a lot more’n you think,” He answered with a  chuckle. “I know you to…

The Shepherd's Table - Our Favorite Soup and Stew Recipes

Several days ago on facebook, a friend asked for a recipe for scotch broth - which our family has on Christmas Eve every year.  I started thinking about soup and stew - it's perfect weather for it!  I plan on putting all of our recipes onto a new Shepherd's Table page on our website ( - in the meantime, I'll post a few of my favorite wintertime recipes here!  Enjoy!

Scotch Broth
3 lbs lamb or mutton neck slices (or shoulder chops)
8 cups cold water
1/2 cup barley
3 TBS butter
2 carrots, diced fine
2 stalks celery or fennel, 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. Put it in a pot with the cold water. Bring to a boil 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 butter in a sk…

Meat Happens

On occasion, I’ll receive a phone call or an email asking if we have a whole lamb for sale.  Generally the potential customer who makes contact in this manner needs a whole lamb within the next week or two, and I’m usually unable to comply.  For us, the sale of meat is just the last step in a very long chain of decisions and actions.  I thought it might be useful to explain how meat happens – at least at Flying Mule Farm.
In many respects, the total quantity of meat we have available in a given year is determined by how we manage our flock as much as 15 months before we’re able to sell a single lamb chop.  Each year in August, we evaluate our ewes and begin the process of “flushing.”  Flushing increases ovulation in our ewes by improving the quality of their nutritional intake.  We flush the ewes by putting them on irrigated pasture or feeding alfalfa for 4-6 weeks before we actually turn rams in the ewes for breeding season.
The time of year in which we have fresh lamb available is …

No Two Years Alike

As I write this, we're in the fourth day of an expected five days of rainy weather.  Since Wednesday morning, we've measured over 4.5 inches of rain - and we're predicted to get at least another 3 inches by Monday morning.  For the season, we've received more than 10 inches.  By comparison, we'd received less than 4 inches by December 1 last year - and we wouldn't get much more rain until February 2012.  I can see the difference in the years when I look at my pastures - I see green this December where I saw only brown last year.

Some of the impacts of last year's winter drought were immediate.  Because we had little if any green forage in December and January, we were forced to purchase supplemental protein for our ewes.  The protein allows a ruminant's digestive system to process dry grass (which is higher in cellulose).  Like any feed source that must be purchased (as opposed to the feed that grows naturally in our pastures), this protein greatly inc…