Greetings from the Shepherd's Desk™
Past Shepherd's Desk Editions:
Autumn’s glory is bursting in New Hampshire! The colors are nearing peak in the coming week and the days have been a stellar blend of bright sunshine, light breezes and some welcome rain. Summer’s heat and dryness was as relentless as I can remember in all my years in New Hampshire. The comfort this summer was that much of the nation was under the same spell from Mother Nature. After nearly four months of barely a drop of rain here in Southwest New Hampshire, late September the skies opened and we were blessed with 4-5 inches in two soaking, gentle rainstorms. The sound of rain on the roof was music to our ears!
The garden flourished as we kept up with watering despite any threat of the well going dry. We put up over 100 packs of green vegetables in the freezer, have hardened off pounds of potatoes and still have to harvest the brussel sprouts in the next few weeks. Most of the farms in the area had bumper crops of food this year despite the lack of rain and even the hay farmers managed to get in at least three cuttings. We have put all of our hay in the barn for winter; always a good feeling come fall.
The little chicks have grown to magnificent New Hampshire Red hens. They were out and about in a pen during the day by two months old and by three months old they were free-ranging the confines of the barnyards. They are a savvy flock of birds racing from bush to tree and other cover as they forage for daily treats. Most of our land around the barns and house are fenced electrically so entry by predators is not a simple task. Not to mention three dogs who keep the wildlife at bay. The only real threat comes from the sky when hawks are in the area. So far they are safe. And Bianca, our sole hen from the last flock who wintered well, despite being alone, had spent the spring and early summer living in the lambing barn while the new chicks lived in the chicken coop and grew large enough to be with her eventually. Bianca layed her egg every day, each evening returning to the sheep to spend the night. She joined forces with the new group late June one evening while Jack and I were still discussing the best time to join her with the young hens at night! We went to close everyone in and there she was on the roost with the young hens. Case closed. In August she molted and that was quite a sight. There were feathers everywhere and for a few days she just stood still and was quite uncomfortable while the new feathers pushed the old ones out. Bianca is one special hen. Just this week the new hens are laying eggs and all is well in the hen house! If you have the chance to raise a few chickens give it a try. They are so beautiful to have around your property, are a simple solution to the ground bugs, while always a friendly source of entertainment!
The lambs have adjusted to daily life with the rest of the flock now. During their early weeks, one of the mother ewes, Della, was the lamb’s favorite. They would often be found napping with her or climbing on her back for fun or even chasing her around the barn. She was always patient with each and every one. She taught them to live outdoors. Quite often they would be laying with her in the shade under an apple tree while the other moms would be in the shade of the barn. Here is Della with her lamb, Magnolia, who found shelter underneath her from a shower in May! Della has never been a complainer, she eats what we feed, sleeps where she can and asks for no extras. The lambs have learned this also. I can’t say all the lambs we’ve raised have been so. We won’t be lambing for the spring of 2011. I have a busy schedule here and on the road for natural dyeing. It will be hard not to have a few lambs come spring but maybe I’ll buy a couple instead! I have a sign in my farm office: ‘SHEEP COLLECTOR’, CVM/Romeldales that is!
The summer workshops for natural dyeing with Earthues were wonderful, as always. We had a fabulous group of enthusiastic students and the work each completed was stunning. Check theblog for posts of the workshops. The 2011 season is already underway for the natural dye topics that Michele Wipplinger of Earthues will be teaching here in August. Do check eventsfor the news as it unfolds. I will be travelling to Ohio in June to teach Indigo dyeing which should be great fun. I love working with an indigo vat and all that it unveils. Speaking of blue one of the summer workshops was woad and the European blue is magnificent! If you have an interest in learning more about Woad and how it is used in dyeing please contact me.
Long Ridge Farm’s yarn and fiber line will be on our website by mid-November. It has been a journey of discovery, trial and error and I finally feel the yarns that I have chosen to best represent the CVM/Romeldale will be a fabulous start. The yarns are created from our flock of CVM/Romeldale sheep and spun in a carefully selected mill who understands the qualities of our wool. I have designed a palette of naturally dyed hues to compliment the yarns that will be shown along with each yarn. Please visit the yarns and fibers page for a November introduction! I also have some wonderful patterns designed with our yarns available as kits that will be offered on the website as well. Because our fiber is select each year, quantities will be limited so please enjoy the harvest, the bounty and the journey. It is next to skin joy!
The hard part. This summer our dear old CVM/Romeldale Ashley, started to truly decline. With each pasture rotation it took two of us; one to move the flock and one to walk with Ashley. She always got to the next pasture but it took an extra 15 minutes to just walk alongside her. Her joints were stiff and her eyesight started to fail. But she still ate well, loved her apples and to graze the pastures she knew so well. How do you reconcile taking away that pleasure? But come late September her eyesight had failed almost completely. We moved the flock home for winter and that night proved to be our decision to let Ashley go. Read the story here. Ashley was 16 years old…..yes, she was old, but I don’t care whatever the living being, it is never a good time. Its right to be the caregiver and be sure proper care is given but it is still the hardest part to be the one to say it’s time. With animals and livestock it is most important to be there at the final moment as the vet does the duty. We take this task seriously. They gave us their all and we should stand by at their final hour. After Ashley passed away we took her to a lovely place in the corner of the far field where we laid her to rest with a marked place. Ashley travelled from farm to farm across her life, from the show ring out west to our farm. She was a lady, a tough nut and never buckled under pressure. We knew her well.
As you gather around the table for the holidays celebrate the harvest, respect the land, support farms and the bounty they provide. It is vital to our survival.