A Sunny Day and a New Lamb!

Since we got our two cows, there hasn’t been enough sun or dry ground to let them out of the barn, but today we have both dry ground and sunny weather, so they are enjoying the first full-pasture romp of their lives (and first time sharing space with the sheep)!


After just an hour in the sun, Mamita decided to have her baby in the back corner of the sunny pasture…




What a Beautiful Lambing Season!

We have had such beautiful weather this winter. The little lambs spent almost no time in the barn, and were able to get out onto fresh pasture every week since mid-January. Here’s one flirting with our bossy little yorkie, who is blessing it with a rare kiss…


We have had zero losses so far this lambing season– and more than half of our ewes had twins, so we are very happy shepherds. This has been so much better than last year when we missed a couple who died at birth and lost one to barn overcrowding in the snowy weather.

We have made our first meat sales in the past few months, and while we are not quite “profitable” yet, we can at least fund our feed purchases with the sale of the latest lambs.

Doing taxes this week, our chicken business gives you an idea of how close we come to making any money… We made $294 in egg sales, and feed cost us $300.52. That’s with half of the feed coming from pasture and table scraps, mind you! But the store-bought half is fully organic now, so it’s pretty spendy. I have been sprouting barley for the chickens for a whole year now, without ceasing, and this month I’ve been adding lentils to the sprout jars to add a little more protein. Organic lentils aren’t cheap, but the chickens and the lambs both love the little sprouted discs. Sprouting really seems to unlock the nutrients inside of grain and legumes.

We topped out at 29 sheep this January, including lambs, and we have just started to scale down. Jimmy slaughtered two lambs and two yearling ewes this past weekend–the eldest of the younger ones. Thanks to our friends and neighbors who love lamb meat, we now have a waiting list, and we didn’t even have any trouble finding buyers for the stronger flavored, fattier yearling meat. Now we are at 25, and as the little ones wean, we will be selling some of our dear mama ewes for the first time. It will be hard to see them go, but we just don’t have enough pasture for all of them to enjoy “the good life” of a pastured animal. My dad will have a fit if we sell his favorite, “Tink,” though she is our smallest–she’s just too sweet to let go. I’m even upset about slaughtering her sweet daughter “Belle” next month when she reaches the prime age for slaughter. I’m praying I can find someone to buy her as a pet. She’s the friendliest darned sheep that I’ve ever met, and too small to bring much meat. Tell me if you know anyone that wants a lamb! She’d need a friend, probably. Sheep do best in pairs.

Those with kids who are planning on visiting us, you’d better make it soon! These little lambies are growing up fast!


More Firsts

This Fall we have experienced some difficult “firsts.” First harvest–not a huge success… First culled chickens–never pleasant… and first slaughter. Don’t worry, there won’t be any photos accompanying that part of this post.

I have to admit that my garden wasn’t fully ready to be successful this last Spring and Summer when I planted all of my transplants. I had added a little lime, but I hadn’t yet done a quality soil test, or even really incorporated the mushroom compost that topped most of my beds. I hadn’t decided on a garden design or even tilled most of the beds. I had one “lasagna” garden bed that was a kind of a trial for a few choice crops. I had read that tomatoes would do well with untilled layers, and they did ok. They were my best crop for sure. The brussels sprouts showed some promise too, and if the temporary fence that I surrounded them with had worked at keeping the chickens out, we would be enjoying them soon. As it turned out, the chickens found some really tasty bugs all around their roots, to the point that they were all felled in one day. Better eggs, and no sprouts. Otherwise, my other big crop was pickling cukes, and they were a huge disappointment. I couldn’t pickle the bitter out of them.

Thanks to the gal who sold us the farm I do have a lot of berries in the freezer, and I have plenty of frozen sauce tomatoes now too. The potatoes were partially eaten by voles, but the carrots, secure in a cast iron bath tub, survived the voles and are tasting very good. My family doesn’t like squash, so I guess it’s ok that I got lazy and didn’t fertilize my winter squash. I have one good specimen, which I will enjoy all on my own. I learned from a neighbor farmer who spoke to my farming class (who seems to be the only economically viable small farmer in Oregon judging from all of the farms that we have toured this year) that squash plants are all only good for two or three squashes anyway–the next few tend to be of poor taste and texture.


I am happy to report that culling two of my chickens was not hard for me at all. They were eating eggs, and I was happy to see them go to a friend who will be selling them for meat. They were two of my yet unnamed girls and one was a bully, so it was painless. I still have fifteen chickens without them, and so I may cull another one or two just to cut down on the poo. With four of my girls molting, I have few eggs. If you get chickens for eggs, I recommend Leghorns. They are amazing at laying right through the dark season. Daisy is a winner. She is the only one laying right now, and she gives me five to six eggs a week. Here she is in the foreground, with her sisters.


Most chickens need lots of light to lay eggs, so I made sure that the door we got at the ReStore for my coop was a glass door. And when I cleaned the coop out last week, I hung a white sheet on the back wall to reflect the light. So far there is only a decline in laying though. One of the two girls I culled was 18 months old, and I have six more of her generation. The second one was only a year old, and her two brooder mates aren’t molting yet, so I will probably get another year of good laying out of them both. Then I have seven who were just born this Spring and they are just at the age that they should start laying, if they have enough light. Today I’ve been reading testimonials about whether to light the coop and keep the eggs coming or let the chickens have a sabbath through the winter. Of course, factory farms keep their chicken barns lit all the time to maximize egg production, but I’m usually interested in the opposite technique. We shall see what I decide.

Here are two of my elder gals who are molting, with their brooder-mate who isn’t. It’s kinda random. Four are molting, and two who are the same age aren’t. They probably will soon.


This past weekend Jimmy slaughtered our first lamb, whose meat will be our first sold, to Jimmy’s boss. Jimmy’s been walking strangely ever since. He hurt his back pretty bad. I don’t think we will be doing that again. The lamb, who we called “Stormy’s boy” to avoid giving him a name, was quite upset about being separated from the herd. He was our only remaining ram lamb after those that were sold by the kids at the fair. We only have ewe lambs (girl lambs) left now, and most of them will get a chance to show what good mamas they can be before they are culled.

Meanwhile, our second lambing season has also begun, and not without lots of trouble. The order is the same so far. Mamacita is living up to her name, which she was given because she was the first one pregnant last go round. She had one last time (a ewe lamb named Dela, who we traded to our friends for some younger lambs for the sake of fair), but she twinned this time. She prefers one though. She took to her girl, and makes her little guy fight for milk. And her girl was born with eye lids that covered her eyes, so we had to have a minor surgical procedure done on them this past week. That was costly. But both lambs are thriving now, and we wondered if either of them would make it in the first 24 hours. Thankfully we have a goat dairy at the bottom of our hill, and I was able to supplement the milk they got from mom with a bottle. Now that baby girl can see, she’s drinking much better.


We have decided that we will cull Mamacita and her babes will both go for meat probably. I’m getting better at these decisions now. I see that there isn’t enough fresh green grass as all of the babies who are born on the ranch will need. We have to keep the strongest, wisest mamas.

2014 Yamhill County Fair

As far as the kids are concerned, a huge part of our having a farm is so that they can be in 4H and learn about ranching from the perspective of the 4H curriculum. We are still learning a lot about the assumptions and philosophy of this program, but we really respect it so far, and we owe so much to OSU Extension for all that we’ve learned through their small farm and 4H programs. Here are the highlights from the culmination of our kids’ work this year in 4H, at the Yamhill County Fair:


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A couple of weeks before the fair the kids got together at one of our 4H leaders farms and learned to “slick shear.” Mason was a natural.


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In the sheep barn… Mason and Bailey, getting used to wearing “western gear” for the first time.

Weigh Line

Tuesday: the kids waited in line on the day before fair opened, to see how much the market lambs weighed. These three lambs had been in this line before, in April, for an initial weigh-in. This time they are a lot bigger, weighing from 114 to 122 pounds.


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After the first time in the show ring on Wednesday, all of the kids went with their market lambs to have photos taken, to give with thank you notes to eventual buyers at the auction.



Thursday was the most intense day for all of us. They started out in the morning with showmanship, and a prep-talk with the judge.



Bailey lost his lamb in the ring, but a barn superintendent helped him to catch her…. and eventually bought her from him at the auction!


VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

Jimmy took this photo of Taj bracing her lamb with the judge during showmanship. She was nervous, competing with the most experienced kids.



Mason chose to show an additional lamb in the “breeds” class. He’s with two other kids from our club here, all showing Dorpers.



Saying goodbye to the market lambs was the hardest part, but all three kids got top dollar for their lambs in the auction. Mason’s was bought by a man who owns a farm equipment and repair business in Sheridan, who had met Mason in the barn and liked the way that Mason taught his son about his lamb. Taj’s lamb was bought by a woman who had been there for the showmanship competition and liked the look of her handsome ram lamb, and Bailey’s was bought by our barn superintendent.


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Bailey was the champion of all of the kids in our club, who did felted wool-covered soap projects for the fair. Mason also got a trophy for being the Reserve Champion in his class of first year intermediate showmen. All three of our kids got quite a few blue ribbons. Our club also got the Herdsmanship Award for having the cleanest stalls and aisles in the barn also. The kids walked away with some cash as well yesterday. Every blue ribbon is worth $2 and every red one is worth $1. The “SF” on Bailey’s entry tag means that it qualified to go on to the State Fair!




Taj was very close to buying this bunny that was for sale in the rabbit barn. Rabbits will be her 4H project next year.




A New Family Member!

Since my niece Madison was one year
too young to join 4H this year, I’ve been trying to find ways to get her excited for next year, and since the non-4H entries are open to all ages and the special entry of the year was a scarecrow, (which we need for hawks) we made one together. We used my clothes and an old vacuum cleaner, as well as a mannequin head and a mop head that I found at Goodwill.

It was fun, quick and easy. We only needed a little glue for the false eyelashes and some wire and paint. Grandma was incredibly helpful, suggesting straight pins and doing the lip makeup. Taj donated the lashes and came up with the idea of painting on a mole. Here is a photo line-up of the process, in reverse order….







Spring Turning to Summer

I’ve set today as my planting deadline–all unplanted trees and bushes, transplants and seeds are out of luck after today. So I was out until 10pm last night planting eight Quaking Aspens along our driveway. The local Water Conservation District gives you bundles of ten native trees for free at the Mother Earth News Fair, so I got ten aspens, ten vine maples and a few serviceberry trees too. The biggest of the aspens are in the ground and the smallest two are in pots because I ran out of light!

So far this Spring, I have planted about 50 veggie starts, 40 trees, and 25 shrubs. The quaking aspens seemed meaningful in that this Spring I let go of the dream of becoming a Quaker. I love everything that Quakers stand for in writing, but breaking into the tight knit “birthright” community in Newberg didn’t work out so well for me after three years of trying. I think I’m too wild to be Quaker. So, it was a good symbolism. When I drive in to our farm and see the quaking leaves I will honor these past three years of trying to Quake for Jesus.

Other meaningful plantings have happened too… when I heard that my dear chum Heather was moving away, I bought her favorite tree, a dogwood, and right after planting it I realized it was dead, so I took it out and found another, rarer dogwood plant that was native to the Northwest and planted it instead, telling her that this means she is meant to be a Northwest Native. It lives on.

My transplants from my home in Portland have fared well too. All except a Camellia that didn’t like being moved in the middle of July, when we moved. Shockingly, the “Distant Drums” Rose is doing great–it was the centerpiece of my front garden in Portland. Here it is getting a good start in it’s new spot at the edge of the chicken yard where I planted it waaay too late in June last year…Image


Ready for the list of what we have planted this spring? It’s pretty amazing:

Lettuce, Kale, Onions, Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, three kinds of Strawberries, 20 Raspberries (red and yellow), 12 Marionberries, Blueberries, Hascap berries, Snowpeas, Pickling Cukes, Pole Beans, Summer Squash, Tomatoes, Peppers, Corn, Carrots, Aronia Berries, Cranberries, 6 Rhubarbs, Peach, Nectarine, Cherry, Apple, Hazelnut, Elderberry, Almond, Crabapple, Vine Maple, Serviceberry, Quaking Aspen, Corkscrew Willow, and Paper Birch Trees, Daphne, Abelias, Heavenly Bamboo, California Lilacs, Shrub Roses, Spireas, Creeping Dogwood, Hardy Fuschias, Rosemary, Parsley and three kinds of Mint (we are a sheep ranch after all).

I’ve learned much. Primarily: I am not good at watering veg seeds three times a day. I like buying starts. I’m so glad that we only reserved a thousand square feet of our land for veggie gardening. I am much more attracted to the perennials like berries and rhubarb and orchard trees!

The veggie garden isn’t even half tilled and prepared. We still have half a pile of mushroom compost in spite of Taj hauling many wheelbarrows all over our unpastured areas for me, and since today is the deadline, that compost will have to wait until next Spring… or at least Fall.

Here’s a few more photos of our plantings.


A mature (and ripe!) blueberry bush towering over a brand new one that I planted this Spring


Here’s what the veggie beds looked like at cherryblossom time, in April….


And today.


The first blooms of another favorite rose that I had a few of in Portland, Hot Cocoa, first seen in front of the Portland Art Museum. This beauty will greet you at the front door when you visit us in the summer.


Taj and I make an annual pilgrimage to Edgefield each Fall to enjoy the golden raspberries there. Now we will only have to walk out our front door! These fruit in June and September. They will someday fill every cranny on this farm, if I can help it!  They were gifts from my chicken breeder, Chris Chulos, in Oregon City.


Our Market Garden is Born

This week we started work on our veggie garden, which will be located just West of our house, on a two thousand square foot slope that faces the sunset.


This week I loaded the truck up with some fresh wood chips from a friend at church, which I spread on the lowest quarter of the slope, a first layer in the “lasagna” terrace I’ll be building over the next week or so.


While I added the second layer of composted barn bedding to the lower tier, Jimmy used the tiller that I just inherited from my uncle to loosen the soil at the top of the slope, where there will be less “lasagna” layers.


The terracing is going to be a lot of work, but in the end it will make a wonderfully rich set of beds with great drainage and a good use of water and fertilizer. The top layer will be a huge load of locally produced mushroom compost.

Jimmy also took down a big Ponderosa Pine tree, to give the garden a little more morning light.


Would you like to lend me a hand? I’d love for you to be a part of my market garden’s first year!