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The Herb Garden

The raised garden beds we installed last year were such a success that we decided to make another raised bed garden for our herbs. It’s still a work in progress, but it’s starting to take shape.

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Did you happen to notice the barn in the background? That’s starting to take shape too. We installed a new standing seam roof and have plans to paint it, you guessed it, barn red. “After” pictures to follow.

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I came across this today and liked it enough that I thought I would share…

God Speed the Plough

Come each jolly fellow
Who seeks to be mellow,
Attend unto me and sit easy.
For a pint when it’s quiet,
My lads, let us try it,
For dull thinking can drive a man crazy.

Come lads when you’re able,
Draw near to my table.
Let me hear not one word of complaining.
For the jingling of glasses,
All music surpasses,
And I like to see bottles a-draining.

For here I am King;
I can laugh, drink and sing,
And let no man approach as a stranger.
But show me the ass,
That refuses a glass,
And I’ll treat him to hay in a manger.

Let the wealthy and great
Roll in splendor and state.
I envy them not, I declare it;
For I eat my own ham,
My own chicken and lamb,
I shear my own fleece and I wear it.

By ploughing and sowing,
By reaping and mowing,
Dame Nature rewards me a-plenty.
I’ve a cellar well stored,
And a plentiful board,
And my garden affords every dainty.

I have lawns, I have bowers,
I have fruit, I have flowers,
And the lark is my morning alarmer.
So, my jolly boys, now,
Here’s God speed the plough
Long life and success to the farmer!

-unknown

Navajo Churro Sheep are a rare breed of sheep that were first brought to North America in the 16th century. They are descendants of the Churra, an ancient Iberian breed, and were obtained fairly early on by the Navajo Indian tribe. Frontiersmen soon began referring to them as Navajo Churro Sheep, which is the name they are still known by today.

Though still considered rare, this breed of sheep has survived the years because of its hardiness and adaptability to extreme climate changes and its resistance to disease. They are considered a tri-purpose breed, good for their wool, lean meat, and even their milk. They are easy breeders, often having twins, and they calve quite well on their own. They are fairly small in comparison to other breeds with ewes generally topping out at 120 pounds and rams at 175 pounds. They generally look heavier as a result of their wool, which consists of an inner coat, an outer coat, and kemp, which is a coarser fiber but which generally makes up less than 5% of their overall coat.

This is a picture of a few of our lambs’ sire. He is a good example of a full coat of wool making him appear heavier than his true weight:

                                                                                  
As you can see in the picture, the Navajo Churro is a horned sheep…well, sometimes it is.  Both the Churro ewes and rams can have horns or be polled. When they do have horns, they can have one set or they can have two sets of horns for a total of four. If they do have four horns, those horns may be fused to give the appearance of having just one thick set of horns, like you see in the ram pictured here.

Coloring on these sheep can be as diverse as the horns. Our own flock is made up of black, brown, white, badger, and pinto sheep. Our ewes are pictured below and are a good example of some of the colors found in this breed. Often a Navajo Churro will start off as one color and then fade to another, such as a black sheep going silver as it ages. They make for great wool, because the variety of color they produce on their own makes dying the wool unnecessary and the fleece itself is great for spinning.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What you’ve read above is pretty much what we’ve learned about these sheep online. I’m happy to point you towards Wikipedia and the Navajo Churro Sheep Association websites I visited for this information… or you could stay tuned. Perhaps on the next rainy day I will find some time to sit down and tell you a little about what we have learned through good old-fashioned, away from the computer, hands on interaction with these sheep. For example…

– These sheep are fast! I’m not saying they could outrun a cheetah, but I’ll give you a dollar if you can catch one in an open space.

– If you want to sell top quality wool, you need to put them in coats. Seriously. You can see the little brown ewe is wearing one in the picture above. The coats are essentially thin fabric blankets with elastic holes for the feet to go into. It’s this fabric that stops the bits of hay and vegetation from getting stuck in the fleece. That’s important beacause once it’s in there, it’s about impossible to get out.

– If you want to have a laugh, watch your wife try to catch a sheep and then wrestle to put a coat on it.

We are close to the finish line on our raised bed garden and we couldn’t be happier that we made the switch. We have a little more planting to do in the boxes as the weather warms up, but planting, weeding, and harvesting already seems so much easier. Not only is it nice that we don’t have to bend over quite as far anymore, but it has also been nice to compartmentalize each task. We can take on the planting or weeding of just one box, or ten boxes, if we choose to. Whatever the number, if we finish the work we are doing in a particular box we have a sense of accomplishment. In the traditional method of farming, we would weed for hours and never feel like we got anywhere because there was always more to do.

This is how the raised bed garden looks as of today. If you’d like to know what’s growing in these beds, check out our Just Planted page.

Raised Beds

Weeding and watering takes more time and effort than we care to spare, so we decided to turn part of our front garden into a sea of raised beds this year. We hope that it will ease our workload, or at least make it seem easier, by compartmentalizing the task. We built the boxes last year and installed wire mesh at the bottoms to ward off the tunneling critters. This year, we’ve filled them with organic compost and organic soil and filled the walking spaces in between with mulch. We’re pretty close to being done as you can from the picture below, which shows the transformation in progress. As of today, some of the boxes are even already planted. Take a look at our Just Planted page to see what’s growing.

A Snow Day for the Goats

Bring Spring Indoors

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I officially have spring fever. I simply can’t wait for mother nature to do her job outdoors, so I’ve forced some forsythia to bloom for me indoors.

Forcing forsythia only works in the couple of months leading up to spring, so now is a good time to give this a try. It’s really very simple – find a forsythia bush (pussywillows also work well) and cut stems no more than three feet long. Bring them inside and cut about an inch up from the bottom under some running water. Fill a vase with some warm water and arrange the stems inside. Find a sunny place to display them and in no time you’ll see the tiny yellow flowers begin to bloom.