Archive for the ‘farm’ Category


lambing season: it’s a wrap!

   Posted by: liz

10292142_10152394699142970_2074714224835446309_n …at least we hope so!  we have one more ewe, but we do not think she is pregnant. or if she is, she is a month away from lambing because she is showing no visible signs of carrying. it is possible that we could have a late may/early june baby from her, but we are hoping that lambing season is done. this season has been a doozy!

our last set of twins was born without our assistance (what we were hoping for!), but it also happened at the crack of dawn, just before we arrived at the barn to check on our last pregnant ewe (daisy). in fact, she delivered outside of the barn, under the “porch” (probably because the barn was too crowded with other sheep).

IMG_2828kenny and i walked towards the barn after we noticed that daisy was on the porch with two white lambs. as we walked nearer, we noticed she was head-butting one of the lambs and not allowing it to get near her.  there was a larger lamb already cleaned off and sitting up, alert but daisy wasn’t cleaning off the smaller one and was in fact showing signs of rejecting it. this is yet another lambing experience we had not encountered, so we set off into learning/experiment mode. the first few hours of a lamb’s life are crucial in getting it to bond and eat. when the mama isn’t allowing the lamb near her milk source, you have to get creative.

rosie was still in the lambing pen with ramburger. so we let them out and they headed out to pasture. we picked up daisy’s lambs and carried them into the pen hoping daisy would follow. she wasn’t as eager to be near her lambs as the other mamas we had, so we had to coax her in with the one lamb she was seemingly accepting.  she finally made it back into the pen with her lambs and again was head-butting the smaller lamb (they are called “bummer” lambs). we kept them in the pen, and headed to do some research on tricks to get a mama to accept her lamb (which usually doesn’t work), or ways to get the bummer attached to another mama (which is actually harder to accomplish).

IMG_2887we read a few things we could try so we headed back to the barn and tried the following:

  • rub the bummer with the afterbirth (yep, it’s gross) so the ewe will start licking/bonding/cleaning it off again. didn’t work.
  • rub the bummer with mollasses (which sheep LOVE) so the ewe will start licking/bonding/cleaning it off again. didn’t work.
  • spray both the rear-ends of the twin lambs with air freshener. yeah, we laughed at that one, but since nothing else was working, we tried it. it WORKED!  as soon as we took the lambs away from mama, freshened their rear ends with some Glade Fresh Scent, and brought them back to mama, she allowed both of them to try to latch on and eat.  the idea is that the Glade Fresh Scent confuses the smell of the lambs and mama doesn’t know the difference between the accepted lamb and the bummer, so she just lets them both nurse. when the lamb nurses, the mama encourages it by pushing it closer to the milk source with her nose to their tail.

we were encouraged that the bummer was being allowed to nurse and it wasn’t being head-butted anymore. it wasn’t snuggling with mama, but it was eating and walking and this step was really important. throughout the day, we had friends over and we were able to check on them continually, snuggle the bummer lamb (allowing it some warmth) and finally by the end of the day saw that the twins began to snuggle together (while mama hung out on the opposite side of the pen).  i just don’t think this ewe has the mothering instinct. she’s just not a “good” mother, like the other ewes have been to their lambs.


IMG_2631to recap, we have had seven (7) lambs born over two (2) weeks to four (4) of our ewes. we’ve more than doubled our sheep population!  two (2) of the lambs are rams, so they will stay with us until late fall. we might even send some of the older ewes to the butcher as well since they’re getting up there in years, and won’t be able to produce lambs or wool anymore. our sheep are happy and comfortable, but they still need to earn their keep! otherwise, we’d run out of grass if we keep all of the lambs!

  • Iris (five years) delivered Lily and Chops (ewe and ram)
  • Violet (five years) delivered Marigold and Holly (ewe and ewe)
  • Rosie (three years) delivered Ramburger (ram)
  • Daisy (five years) delivered Sweet Pea and Buttercup (ewe and ewe)

Iris’ twins were the easiest delivery and she accepted both. Violet’s delivery was complicated, but she accepted both. Rosie’s birth was complicated, but she’s also accepted her lamb. We aren’t sure if Daisy’s birth was complicated or not, but she showed signs at first of rejecting a lamb. She isn’t very motherly to either of her lambs, but they’re nursing and growing.


IMG_2878It would be best if these ewe lambs would deliver next year, instead of waiting a few years for them to start lambing. But I don’t know if I have it in me to have another stress-filled few weeks of waiting for a ewe to go into labor, stressful births, or rejected babies. I say this now, but I also said once that there was no way I’d ever reach into a sheep and pull out a lamb. There was just no way I could do it without fainting or gagging. And both Kenny and I had to do just that this year. It’s surprising what takes over you, what fears you just ignore when you realize there are no other alternatives.

“If we did all the things we are capable of, we would literally astound ourselves.” 

And really, seeing those adorable lambs in the pasture, never leaving their mamas’ sides, bounding and chasing each other….it’s really the sweetest thing a small farm can witness. These spring mornings when the sunlight is urging itself through the fog after a night of rain, white buds of fruit trees and lambs rolling about in the pasture, and the birds filling in the background noise…you can’t get any better than those spring mornings!





fifth lamb born

   Posted by: liz

i was able to catch Jesus Christ Superstar (the show Kenny’s been working on with Butler’s Musical Theatre Guild) last night with my mom. before i get to what this post is about, i have to shout out to all the actors and musicians of this very difficult musical.

i think JCS is one of the most moving musical depictions of the passion story. the match-up of Andrew Lloyd Webber (music) and Tim Rice (lyrics) is just perfect. i just don’t think any church pageant does the story justice like JCS does. it’s always been one of the most perfect musicals (with the exception of the later addition of the song “Can We Start Again Please” which is just awkward).  our little town’s Musical Theatre Guild production was full of talented acting, singing, and dancing. there were some moments that could have been done better, but overall, the performance was excellent.

kenny and i returned home at 10:30 and since one of our ewes had been hanging out alone most of the day (a sign that either a sheep is ill or beginning labor.  sheep like to be together, and when they remove themselves from the herd, you know there’s something up), he decided to check on her (rosie) before we headed for bed. within five minutes, he texted me from the barn telling me that she was, in fact, in labor.

my dad, who had stayed with the boys while mom and i attended the show, was in the barn with him. i changed and headed down with my phone as the only source of light except the sky full of stars. we all had our phones and small flashlights since there isn’t electricity in the barn. all the other sheep were out grazing. she was contracting every three minutes and we could see the start of a hoof with each contraction. it wasn’t making much progress coming out. at one point kenny thought it might be an upside-down hoof (which means an upside-down lamb). after feeling around on the hoof with my hand, we decided that it wasn’t upside-down. which was great!  but we were still concerned that there wasn’t any progress of the lamb coming out.

it was 11:30 at this point. rosie (mama) was tired and beginning to punk out on us. her contractions had all but stopped, so we decided to intervene. kenny started by trying to pry out the hoof  and get her to contract again. she began to push once he started to pull on the hoof, and finally he found the nose. once again, the tongue was hanging out of the side of the mouth. there was still no sign of the second hoof (you really want to see two hooves and THEN then nose resting nicely on the hooves, as though it is napping peacefully), so he kept pulling on what he could.

rosie pushed and contracted as he pulled. nothing was budging. he had to reach in farther to find the second hoof. after a few minutes he found it and pulled it out. once you have two hooves, it’s much easier to pull. again, we weren’t sure if we were pulling out a living or dead lamb. the remaining pushing/pulling was hard! that poor ewe was not happy and was yelling at us with each push. the lamb wasn’t moving its tongue or chin or hooves until it was out. then we noticed movement.

at this point, kenny grabbed the lamb by the hind legs and swung it through the air. we knew that this would help clear the lungs of any liquid it might have inhaled. after a few swings, he put the lamb in front of rosie to begin cleaning. she didn’t want to do anything but lay there (she was exhausted and in pain, i’m sure!). after a few seconds, she began her cleaning of the lamb and that lamb was holding its head up, and trying to move. within minutes it was standing and within 15 minutes, it was already walking and trying to nurse.

kenny and i left the barn at 12:45 after witnessing that the lamb had found his milk. another ram: lanky and long! we think his “name” is ramburger.

sheep births don’t have to take this long, and really shouldn’t take any effort on the part of the farmer/caretaker. the past two births have needed much assistance from us. our first two years of lambing really spoiled us: three lambs born without us needing to do anything but watch in amazement. this year is taking its toll on us!

but if those stinkin’ lambs aren’t the cutest things. this morning, after the boys woke up and learned about another new lamb in the barn, we all walked down together and watched the other four lambs bound and jump through the pasture, find their mamas, nurse for a second, and then find a spot to curl up together and rest.



violet and her twins

   Posted by: liz

IMG_2794it’s bound to happen: birthing difficulties on a farm. i try to tell myself that with the few “pet” sheep we have, the probability of lambing difficulties is lower than on big, commercial farms. but nature takes over, and sometimes there are difficult births.

it is no secret that violet is my favorite ewe. if adam was a girl, his name was going to be violet. obviously, he was a boy, so our first two sheep that we “adopted” were named Daisy and Violet (also because of Daisy and Violet Hilton, conjoined twins that one of our favorite musicals, Side Show, is based on).  violet’s breed, Romney, is bred for long, thick wool. she is mammoth when covered in wool, and looks like a bear. (you can see her with our other wool sheep (border leicester) in this post, where i show off a scarf i made with their wool.)

her labor began around 8:30 yesterday morning. rowan noticed first as he checked the barn because she wasn’t out grazing with the rest of the sheep. violet was set on giving birth in the donkey pen, so i spent most of the first hour of her labor (making sure it was progressing) attaching chicken wire to the walls on the donkey pen so that the new lamb(s) couldn’t escape. i also had to build a makeshift door so that the nosy donkey and other sheep would leave violet alone while she labored.

it was around 2:30 when i realized we had to intervene. normally you have about an hour or maybe two hours from the delivery of the water sac until the birth of the lamb, but she had never delivered a water sac, and we were seeing a hoof and a nose during her contractions.

and then, she stopped contracting altogether.

so i got in the pen with her and grabbed as much of the hoof as i could and started pulling (down), which i hoped would encourage her to push again. it did, but this lamb was stuck.  a hoof/leg was stuck in the birthing canal.

i then noticed that the lamb’s tongue was hanging out of the side of her mouth. my stomach lurched. i knew for sure i was helping her deliver a dead baby. but it needed to come out or else we’d have a dead mama as well. i was able to get the jaw and the hoof to come out farther and she kept pushing. all of a sudden i noticed that the lamb was trying to breathe and moving it’s tongue! (i later learned that the tongue was swollen from being trapped in the birth canal too long.) i worked hard to find the other hoof and miraculously it appeared the more the head slid out. i pulled both the legs and the lamb fell out limply onto the straw.

mama violet began her cleaning of the lamb immediately, but i could tell this lamb was not healthy. it didn’t move, it didn’t try to breath anymore, and its tongue was still hanging out of the side of its mouth. it was alive, but i was certain it wouldn’t stay alive very long.

i tried to get some collostrum out of mama to put on the lamb’s mouth and it was at this point i noticed a sac of red on the floor behind mama. it was another lamb, delivered completely in the sac!  i broke the sac and picked up the new (very healthy) lamb and gave it to mama to clean. this lamb was half the size of the first, but already bleating and feisty as ever. it was up and walking within minutes, nursing within the hour.

IMG_2791during the intense moments, i was on the phone with two farm vets (who were unable to come out to help) and with kenny, who was in a meeting at work down in pittsburgh. kenny called two farmer friends, and one of them sent his brother over to help us out. he arrived just after the second lamb was delivered. he tried to get the first lamb to breathe, clearing out it’s mouth, and tapping on its lungs. he said it’s just a wait and see: the lamb could pass away within the hour, or all of a sudden perk up.

the boys were in the barn at this point (since the labor was over 7 hours, they got bored after the first two, so they hung out in the house for a lot of it). i had to warn them that one of the lambs might not be doing well, and that made sawyer begin his prayerful vigil. within 15 minutes of the farmer leaving, the first lamb lifted its head and bleated. it then tried to stand or move, but didn’t. it was breathing normally, eyes were open and it was yelling for its mama!  i couldn’t believe what we were witnessing!

kenny arrived home just in time to leave again to get a bottle and some formula since the lamb couldn’t stand to nurse. we weren’t sure if the legs were broken, or the circulation was cut off to them, but it could not stand at all. it was also shivering something fierce. so we wrapped it in a towel and brought it to the house and put it under a heat lamp to get its body temperature up. it wouldn’t suck, and still it couldn’t stand.

i had to leave for an acting class that i  teach, and during that hour and a half, kenny got about an ounce of mama’s milk (not formula) down the lamb’s throat. it still wouldn’t nurse or suck on its own. but that ounce gave the lamb enough strength to attempt standing on its front legs. we knew then they weren’t broken!

i returned home just as kenny left for dress rehearsal of the show he’s working on now. my mom was lamb-sitting on the back porch when i arrived home. we decided it was probably best to try to get the lamb back to its mama now that it wasn’t shivering and was attempting to stand.  sure enough, as soon as we got the lamb into the pen with its mama, she was on that lamb so fast, licking it and encouraging it to nurse. it still couldn’t suck on its own, so i was getting milk from mama and pouring it down the lamb’s throat. after i would do that, it would try to get up again, and within 15 minutes it was standing in the pen, and attempting to walk.

mama wasn’t rejecting her. that was so encouraging! a friend of mine, a farmer’s wife, said: “it’s so hard being a farm mama!  one thing i’ve learned is that if the mama rejects her baby, there is less of a chance of survival. if she doesn’t reject her baby, then there’s a good chance it will survive!”

dad was helping me in the barn at this point, and he and i decided it was best that the lamb stay in the pen with her twin and mama for the night. our original plan was to try to feed it under the heat lamp in our back porch for the first night. but just watching it gain strength from being with its mama and twin, we knew it was the right choice.

i was relieved this morning to hear when kenny checked on them at dawn, the lambs were snuggled up together, and then both got up and walked, and nursed.

i am still cautious, but amazed that this lamb has gotten this far!  i thought that it was dead – twice!  once while it was being born, and then that it wouldn’t survive after being born. and now, it’s nearly as strong as the second lamb!

we’re pretty certain that they are both female. it’s hard to tell with the smaller one. we’re still deciding on names, but i think we’re set on Marigold (for our miracle!) and Holly (Mari and Holly).



   Posted by: liz

at dinner tonight, one of the boys asked, “remember that farm when we’d go to get milk in a jar?”

it’s been a while since we’d bought raw milk. soccer was canceled (because of the rain, and bad field conditions), and kenny had rehearsal for the musical he’s working on with another company.  so the boys and i dug out our old half gallon mason jars, cleaned them out and headed towards Slate Lick to the farm we used to frequent for raw milk when the boys were much younger.

it rained the whole drive there, but towards the end of the drive, there is a summit that is always so gorgeous. tonight, it was especially beautiful with low-hanging clouds horizontally slicing the far mountains in half (click to enlarge for detail):


the entire 26-minute drive isn’t all this idyllic. in fact, parts of it are downright frightening. there’s the steep hill that reminds me of an episode of Twin Peaks:


and then not a mile away, i swear i’ve stumbled onto the set of The Walking Dead:




These scenes are especially eerie with the cloudy dark skies surrounding them. The country around us can go from gorgeous to strangely desserted-looking quickly.  I guess that’s what you get out in big land country.




CSA basket #2: eating local for dinner

   Posted by: liz

For the first time in our 7 years here, we decided to forego the big summer garden. We knew that with putting up a show this summer (more on that in a future post) we wouldn’t have the time or the energy to get get our 20×40 foot garden in this year.

So I chose to join my mom in a local CSA. We only got a half share (one every-other-week pick up) and this photo shows our 2nd basket (photo taken by my mom).

Last night, we ate almost completely from our CSA basket for dinner.

I cleaned the lettuce and made a balsamic and feta salad for our first course. Next, we steamed the sugar-snap peas and had those with some sliced sharp cheddar and leftover brats in cherry spiced mustard. It was just enough food for all of us (of course, the boys had their signature PB&J right before bed, which has become tradition for them these days).

I plan to use the zucchini in loaves of regular and gluten-free chocolate zucchini bread. I’ve never been a fan of actually eating zucchini: our first week’s zucchini still sits in our fridge waiting to be shredded for future loaves of bread.

If the strawberries last through this morning, I’ll make a pie with some of it and I’d like to try a jar of balsamic strawberry jam.

Eventually, we want to join a local meat CSA and we’ll add local pork and beef to our dinner plates.

What was in your CSA basket this week?



   Posted by: liz

it’s been so long since last i blogged that i actually forgot my login password. january was my last post, and it’s been the longest time between posts, ever. i’m always thinking of blog posts, always churning ideas around in my head, but never sitting down to write.

this was a particularly long and tiring winter. this spring has been unusually wet and cold. memorial day weekend marked the beginning of the longest stretch of warm weather, and it started out with a cold frost. i guess i could fill you in on the last 3 months, but i don’t want to bog you down with a depressing post. instead, i’ll give you a highlight reel of current things in our family:

- i continue to be so amazed at how the boys and i grow in our relationships with each other. we are together all day long, every single day. there are DEFINITELY some tense and frustrating moments in that. we get on each other’s nerves. we need our space from each other. but for the most part, our conversations and our time spent WITH each other are rewarding, fun, and always growing. even though they are around their mom every single day of their lives, the older two boys are beginning to spread their wings and be more independent. i’m all for this, and i’m glad it’s happening, slowly, but surely. i don’t know what this would look like had we chosen traditional schooling – would they have been much more independent by now? probably. i’m okay with it taking it’s time. i’m REALLY okay that they’re still young boys who are innocent in so much. there is still so much time for them to grow up. slowly.

- that said, there are some stretches of exhausting times when we are together as a family all the time. the bickering and the whining about school work and farm chores and…the list goes on. i get tired of being their teacher and their mother every single day of their lives. it’s hard. it’s hard having them with me on all my weekly errands. it’s hard not having time to myself until evenings (although our evenings are all full these days). it’s just plain hard.
but we did end our school year two weeks ago and have been enjoying the warming weather, and hanging out with friends. both rowan and sawyer had evaluations this year and both of them “passed” with rave reviews from their evaluator. during that time, i realized that adam was reading a book that sawyer was reading previously. sawyer is reading so well these days, but adam has taken off with his reading. he doesn’t sound out words any more, he reads for comprehension, which is earlier than the other two boys ever did. for all the struggles of teaching your kids that you may encounter, there are some pretty great discoveries along the way!

- so i’m running again. i really need to not take the winters off (but how i HATE indoor running, and it’s harder and not at all comfortable to run outside in the winter). i’m signed up for my first 5K of the season. i’m ready! because once i start to run, i can take on the world and all it throws at us again.

- this past week, kenny was rockstar dad and husband again as i took three days in a row to teach a geography and art camp for the co-op that we are a part of. i was out the door well before the boys woke up, and he tended to them and their needs while i taught forty-one 6 to 8 year-olds for three solid days. i came home to dinner already cooked before turning around and heading back out to rehearsal the first two nights, and on the last night, i came home to a beach chair sitting next to the pool, a bottle of my favorite chardonnay already uncorked, and a lovely grilled tilapia, chicken, green beans, and coconut rice dinner, al fresco (with friends joining us at table!). a great way to end those crazy exhausting three days.

- we are three weeks away from opening night of our second production, The Tempest. the rehearsals have been going so well, the cast is amazing and the sets and costumes are going to be stunning on that stage. i can’t wait for Butler to see that Shakespeare is interesting and fun and not stuffy and boring. we’ve been really busy every single evening and weekend putting this show together. some moments are tense and overwhelming, but for the most part, i’ve really loved the creative process in this production. from the conversations with the actors about their characters, to the evenings i spend at the sewing machine while kenny composes music for the show, it’s been a fun and exciting production.

- our farm is on hold for the moment. at least the sheep, their guard donkey, and our two chickens are happy and healthy. we just haven’t added to to our flock this year, and our honeybees did not make it through the winter. we’ve also decided to container garden on our deck instead of plant our massive yard garden again this year. i’m okay with this. sometimes you just need to take a year off of the hobbies that may consume you.

- we are so blessed. there is nothing hard about our life. we are a healthy, busy, a bit nutty family who has absolutely nothing to complain about.
except the winter weather.


we’ve got babies!! (update: and bear)

   Posted by: liz

a week and a half after finding themselves traveling from Georgia to the western hills of PA, our bees have settled into their new homes and are already busy making babies.

we opened the hives this evening and pulled out two of the busiest frames from each hive (the ones covered with the most bees).  after observing them closely, we found evidence of eggs (little white “commas” in each cell) AND some larvae already (little white “worms” that would normally send me squealing in gross-out, but these are exciting because that means the bees are growing!). see examples of both in the above picture.

they’re also making lots of honey, and the honeysuckle bush behind them (next to our old barn) is in full bloom. i’m hoping they’re using the sugar water i give them to build comb, and the pollen from the honeysuckle to make honey – how heavenly would honeysuckle honey be?

checking the hives in the heat of the day isn’t easy. as soon as i have my hat/netting secure and my gloves on, my face automatically gets an itch. then my hair falls out of any pony tail and starts to cover my face and by the time we’ve spent only five minutes in the hives, said hair is plastered on my face from all the sweat. i must really love those little bees to allow myself to get into this much of a hot mess over them!

since one of the packages we got a few weeks ago was badly damaged, the apiary is sending us another package of bees in case they don’t become strong enough to survive. so far, the hives both seem to be at equal strength, but we’re due to get the third package this week. we have lots of work to do to get three active hives filled over the next few months. i’m hoping all the hard work that we (and the bees!) get done yield a huge harvest!

and of course, happy, content bees that are strong enough to survive over the winter and start the spring strong!


i wrote this blog post last night, planning to publish it first thing this morning.  soon after we turned the lights out in the house, kenny heard some outside noise near the garage. “oh my goodness…it’s a big black bear in the recycling bin.” i ran to the window in time to see it waddle away with the flashlight on him (i only ever get to see the back side of a running bear. kenny always sees them up close because he has no fear of them like i do). he was running towards the hives, so kenny grabbed the flashlight and ran outside.

i stayed on the front porch yelling things like, “do you see him?” and ” get back inside!” and “does he see you?”  and then all i could hear from the other side of the garage is tree branches rustling and snapping. of course, in my mind i see a black bear tackling my husband. then i was assured by kenny’s unfrightened voice, “he’s up the tree now.” he ran inside to get a firearm to scare the bear away.

kenny tells me to get into his car and shine the headlights onto the tree where the bear is. i look at him like he’s nuts because that would require me to STEP OFF THE FRONT PORCH and into the infested black bear territory. he needs the lights because he can’t shoot and hold his flashlight at the same time. he keeps telling me i’m safe as i reluctantly walk towards the car (which is inches away from the bear. okay, i’m exaggerating a little…) muttering things like, “you OWE me!” and “you don’t know how scared i am right now” like a baby and slam the door shut behind me as i turn on the headlights.

he shoots into the air (a shotgun, the loudest shot of all). no branches breaking or bear thumping to the ground to run away. just echo and silence.

kenny then walks over to the tree and shines the light up. and the bear is sitting on a branch, about 10 feet up, backside facing, head turned toward him. he snaps a picture while i yell things like, “you’re NUTS!” “GET OVER HERE NOW!” as though he is a toddler. this picture reminds me of the “proof that bigfoot exists!” photos. you just can’t really see the bear, but he’s there. the dark area to the bottom, right of center is his backside sitting on a branch. his eye and snout are turned toward the camera, just below the flash.

i went out this morning and found lots of broken branches underneath “his” tree, and a gift he left for us.

we camped out on the deck watching for when he’d come down himself so that we would make sure he didn’t go toward the hives. i forgot to mention that the tree he was in was right next to the hives. he either smelled the bacon-baited electric fence, or the bees/honey/comb. if he went for the bacon, he probably got a hefty shock, so hopefully he won’t be returning soon. i’m happy to say the hives are safe and sound right now. i’m so thankful we put the fence up right away this time!

he finally dropped down and left around 12:30. i’m hoping this doesn’t happen again, but that’s the adventure of farm-living, i guess.

and i wouldn’t trade it for anything.




honeybees, take 2

   Posted by: liz

our two packages of honeybees arrive at the post office this morning. at 6:35 a.m. the post office called to tell us they were in. i had been up for an hour already, and suspected we’d be hearing from them this morning.

the boys finally woke up around 8:15, and by 9:00 we were in the car, on our way to pick them up. when we arrive at the post office, the postal worker warned me that one of the packages looked a little “bad.”  this meant that there was a lot more dead bees on the bottom of that package than the other one. you can tell the difference in the two pictures above – the bottom photo is the stronger hive (less dead bees).

the boys and i sprayed the cages with sugar water every 45 minutes or so. the buzz would “hush” when they were sprayed and after 10 minutes or so, the buzzing would be loud again. our beekeeping book says, “Listen well. The humming will subside and your bees will sound more contented as they feed. Volume will change with hive conditions, but the sweet and low tone of that contented sound is a delight to the beekeeper’s ears. Try to memorize it.”

when kenny got home from work, we got our hives ready. the frames we put in already have old “drawn comb” on them (from our previous beekeeping days), and the new bees will clean them up  and open them up so the queen can lay eggs in them, the workers will feed the larvae and the hives will grow more and more bees.

the apiary from which we ordered the bees will be sending a replacement hive (we just have to pay shipping) in a few weeks. so we’ll know whether or not we have to merge it into the weaker one, or just start a whole new hive. in two weeks, we should begin to see active growth.

now, our busy work begins. i’m off to Sam’s in the morning to get a 50 lb. bag of white sugar. we’ll be making sugar syrup (one part sugar to one part water) to help the bees in their building. they’ll begin to find pollen sources, but this time of year, the beekeeper has to help the bee out. wintered bees will be busy carrying out dead bees and all of their winter excrement, and new bees (like ours) will be busy building comb and tending to the queen.

so excited to see these hives get higher and busy…and looking forward to a full harvest!




a lamb before the slaughter…

   Posted by: liz

a year ago, two lambs were born to our two suffolk ewes. two female lambs, and we made a promise to the boys that females would be kept for more breeding.

a month ago, kenny and i started talking about butchering one of them any way. if we continue to keep the female sheep born to the meat sheep (suffolks are bred for their meat), we will have more animals than we can handle. then we’ll just become “that stinky farm that has more poop than animals,” we’ll end up on the local news as animal hoarders and we won’t be keeping to our original farming plans…our “Constitution” as it were: to grow our own meat.

we ran our idea past the boys and it was unanimous: Poppy would be be the sacrificial lamb this year (normally we wouldn’t name the animals that are planned for future butchering…or normally they’re names are “chops” or “dinner” or “shank”, etc).

a butcher (meat processor?) who lives a mere 1.5 miles from us picked up Poppy this morning. i felt a mixture of sadness (because we were there when she was born) and relief (we are fulfilling her purpose). the boys wanted to be awake to see her go. they watched from their bedroom window.

it’s traditional to have a leg of lamb for Passover supper. we’ll have our roasted leg of lamb on Easter Sunday. because the ultimate sacrifical Lamb conquered death forever. for all of us.

so now…i will have a freezer full of chops, ground lamb, and another leg. i don’t like lamb meat. i like spinning their wool.


a country drive

   Posted by: liz

what a great weekend to have no plans!  we’ve been running constantly since christmas break with every single weekend being full of plans. this weekend has been open on the calendar and i’ve been fiercely protecting it so that it wouldn’t fill up with plans. last night, as we were all falling asleep kenny and i noted how nice it was going to be to have TWO FULL DAYS of no plans.

so this morning, we all slept in (yep, until 7:15!!!) and made pancakes and (turkey) bacon and eggs. then we all sat around and read, played the piano. around 9:30 kenny and i decided to take my spinning wheel to a local woodworker who specializes in antique spinning wheels. it was going to be a nice country drive, so we packed some snacks and headed out around 10:30.

on the way up north, we saw the most spectacular thing in a spring-budding tree. a bald eagle, perched directly over the road. we turned around to let the boys see it and to snap a few photos. it didn’t like us sitting right under him, so he took off right in front of us – a HUGE, lovely bird (click to enlarge).

we arrived in mercer at Nashannock Woods a few minutes later and were greeted by the friendliest, sweetest puppy-dog (and we aren’t dog people!) and a very kind woodworker named Chris. we brought in our wheel and were entertained by josie the dog while chris examined the wheel. his wood working shop was filled with antique wood – tables, chairs, spinning wheels, bowls, hutches.

after only 5 minutes of looking at the wheel he told us it was 150 years old, made in canada. it doesn’t need that much work – just a new bobbin and an adjustment to the “mother-of-all” and the pedal. spinning wheels are his specialty and his shop is full of different ones.

i’m so excited to pick it up in a few weeks and start practicing on some roving i’ve been saving up for when the wheel is fixed.

we hope to have the sheep shorn in the next few weeks and i’m getting the wool fleeces professionally cleaned (because…ewww!). i’ll card and rove them and then put the old spinning wheel to the test.

stay tuned for some more daisy-and-violet handspun skein.