Sunday, March 18, 2007

Setting the record straight.

Dear Sheep,

Most of you have been with me for a while now, and we still don't have what I'd call a good working relationship. I'd like to take this opportunity to explain my expectations for you. Perhaps after this, we'll both enjoy our jobs a bit more here on the ol' homestead.

1. I expect you to (and this is critical) NOT drop dead.

This is a biggy girls. It is distressing to see you acting completely healthy and fine, only to find you on death's door 12 hours later. It is even more upsetting to spend the next several hours making you as comfortable as possible inside the barn, feeding you by hand, providing delicacies like honey-laden yogurt and important meds to sustain you, only to find you dead in the middle of the night when I come out to check on you. Please have the decency to make up your mind much earlier: Either simply drop dead, or buck up & stay healthy enough to not come into the hospital barn. And FYI: it would be ever so handy if you do decide you can't possibly go on, if you would drop near a gate or something, so we're not hiking to the back of the back 40 to fetch you.

2. Getting to know us.

Now, some of you have been with us for several years, and all of you have experienced the 'routine' of the seasons and what goes with them at least once in your lifetime. We are the shepherds, you are the sheep. We feed you EVERYDAY without fail. Same ol' us. We wear the same jackets & winter hats & boots, say the same thing to you, move you in & out the same pastures and gate systems every single bloody day. Please stop acting as if you have no idea who we are, or what we're doing. If you see the chute system in place, cast your mind back a measly 2 weeks to the last time you saw it. Do you remember that NOTHING bit you in the arse, poked you in the neck, chopped off any vital bits, or permantly distanced you from your flock mates??? Well for cripes sake, it's the same thing over and over and for the millionth time, over again. Now please put your self in line and get your pampered little fluffy butt through the chute.

3. Chute System Ettiquite.

Speaking of the chute system, if you do happen to feel a small sting through the 15 inches of wool on your bum, that would be the ever-so-gentle electric cow prod. Now, keep in mind that IF you are feeling this, than (pay attention please)
You. Are. Doing. It. Wrong.
I cannot stress this enough. Please stop backing up, turning around, or trying desperately to LEAP up and out of the chute system. It is not built to kill you, ya ninny. If you happen to be first in line, consider that good as you'll be first out and stop trying to defy the laws of physics by putting you and the 6 sheep behind you, into the exact same spot. You cannot now and never will be able to occupy the same spot. Stop. Trying.
Not sure what to do in the chute? Watch ewe number 876 for example. She walks in at a brisk pace, all the way to the end or at least to the sheep in front of her, has even been known to push the ewe in front to help squeeze in a few more behind her (not sure how she knows to do this, but we love her for it). She stands calmly, and best of all, does not COMPLETELY freak out when we reach over the side and touch her in some manner to administer whatever we're there for this time. I mean for heaven's sake! I'm standing right there next to you every time you go through the chute, and you looked right at me when I leaned over to do whatever it is. This is NOT a signal to try to LEAP out of the chute, it is the signal to perhaps brace yourself and hold still.
One more thing. If you happen to notice short blue containers referred to as 'foot baths', please try not to leap over 9-12 feet of water/med-filled baths. You severly over-estimate your leaping skills. You will not make it, and you will likely fall and bathe in the 2nd or 3rd container. This is stupid distressing and costly in time and meds. Simply walk through and stand until released. No sheep has ever died walking through a foot bath, but there have been threats to those who do not, so heed the warning girls. We eat you for dinner. Literally.

4. Be friendly with the ram, and raise your lambs.

So, you have (basically) 1 job here on the ol' homestead. Have TWINS and raise 'em up good. This begins in the winter months when we introduce you to your new boyfriend. He has one purpose in life sweetie, and your it. Be nice to him, cozy up to him when the mood strikes you, and ya know, let nature take it's course. In a few months, your going to have lambs (note again, the plural reference. one lamb gets you into trouble.) and I'd appreciate it greatly if you'd follow this short list of guidelines:
I understand urges, but please avoid any that include dropping lambs in puddles, manure, or smack up against the fence line (especially the one that bites you on the nose when you try to get to the grass on the other side - it's electric and bad for lambing). Aim for somewhere dry, out of the wind, and hopefully not in the middle of the flock. Get some privacy if you can. I mean, it's a 40 acre pasture, I'm sure you can find a spot by yourself.
And just a note here for those that haven't lambed yet but notice another ewe in labor. Leave her and her new lambs alone! They are not your lambs, nor will you want to keep them when your own pop out. Save us all the trouble, and wait for your own.
Now, once you've had your lambs, please for the sake of the species and your mortal life, clean the buggers off and help them nurse. Don't run from them, this happens to you every year, same schedule. You should all be over the new mom 'what-the-heck-came-out-of-my-butt' syndrome so get a grip.
Lastly, lLet them nurse WHENEVER they want, not just when your bulging udder demands it. Here's a clue: If they don't look good, than YOU don't get to stay alive long look good.

5: Shearing.

Besides lambs, most of you have the ABILITY to produce a decent fleece. Now, we do our part by providing quality feed for you all year long. Please for the love of your life fleece, hold still on the shearing board. We do this every year, you don't shed so stop trying. The guy with the clippers is GOING to remove your fleece. He WILL NOT hurt you if you STAY STILL. Think of this as the dayspa: new hairdo, get a pedicure, no shots. Just relax, and find your freakin' happy place, will ya? It only takes about 4 minutes.

A note to the rams on the farm:

Rams, the only thing I'd add for you would be to behave yourself. Your job is to be a lover, not a fighter. I know you have short attention spans, but listen carefully:
If you put your head down and aim for any part of any human body with any HINT of aggression, You. Are. Stew. I don't care how pretty you are, how great your fleece is or how good looking your lambs are because here's the reality:
Your beautiful, wonderful spinning fleece you think is securing you a 'life' here also doubles as one INCREDIBLE pelt. And, your good looking lambs can easily be repeated next year by using one of your offspring for next year's ram. Now go graze quietly until I need you again next winter.

Ladies, I've enjoyed our little chat. Now, please review this at your leisure and chat amongst yourselves about everything we've discussed. I hope this clears up any misunderstandings we've had in the past, and clears the way for many years of calm and enjoyable flock & pasture management.

All our love,

the shepherds.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Winter 2007 Newsletter

Below is the regularly scheduled newsletter, but before I get to that I'm remiss in posting a picture of the twins that were born in February, so here they are. Please take note of the 2 very different fiber types. These animals are definately different in every possible way (well except they are both boys). This is the result of crossbreeding. Sometimes, you can even find different types of fiber on the same animal!

Vancalcar Acres
Winter 2007 (already?) Newsletter

392 Elwood rd Ft. Plain, NY 13339 518-993-4326

Does anyone remember me saying this in the last newsletter? “We are NOT expecting a February lambing group again!!” Well, next time you think I’m about to make a statement like that, just begging the Fates to giggle and slap me on the side of the noggin, stop me. So far we only have 3 lambs, but as I do morning chores, I’m pretty sure there are several other girls due in the next 10 days or so.

It has been a busy winter as the sock kits by Tsock Tsarina (Lisa Grossman) at continue to keep the dyepots cooking with several new kits and a sock club. Lots of new FlockSock sock yarn colors are in the works, some with an eye towards St. Patty’s day. If you’ve never knit socks before but would like to, take a look at the Learn to Knit Tsocks Kit titled ‘Tsocks 101’. Everything you need to know. Yarn for an adult pair, yarn for a sample/child’s size to give you the chance to test the different options Lisa provides. Different styles of heels, toe-up, cuff down, and new stitches to learn and challenge you. The kit even comes with a set of Double Point Needles. Everything you need to be an expert sock-knitter! Did I mention the color pictures throughout the book for extra how-to help? Check the website for samples.

Up until this year, the farm Blog was an online version of the newsletters. As many of you have asked for more frequent updates on things around here, I’m giving it my best shot on the blog. I’ve learned a bunch of new technical things, which is great for this old techie. Did you know I was building websites when it was all done by hand, line by line of code in Notepad? Back then, being able to make the background a color other than gray, and put up an actual TABLE was amazing. Do you have any idea how long it took to build a website?? But that was another life, and I digress. If you don’t know, the blog lives here:

Fiber: We’re planning to shear sometime in the end of March/beginning of April. Every spring someone asks, so I’ll get the reminders out of the way here. If you are renting a sheep, please remember that you may not get your fleece or yarn until (typically) the summer newsletter, the end of the rental year. For us around here, that usually means August/September timeframe. Even though we shear in early spring, lambing follows close behind and is intense for several weeks. I will be skirting your spinner’s fleece myself, as I can’t seem to get the other family members to be as picky as I am about it. If you’ve rented a knitter’s sheep (or flock)… remember, I have to spin it ;) . If your fleece or yarn happens to be first on the skirting board, you may get yours sooner, but until I figure out how to warp time to suit my own dastardly plans, everyone can’t be first.
Grassfed Meats:

 Lamb currently available by the cut in limited quantities.
 Pork orders: taking reservations for ½ or whole now, we expect to go to butcher in April More info on the spring newsletter, or you can email or call me to discuss. $50.00 deposit for ½ or whole. Contact me for pricing and availability, and cut options.
 Grass-fed ground Beef in 10, 25 and 50 lb sets. **Not your typical ‘trim’ ground beef! We’re taking the whole steer and making ground beef and a limited number of prime cut steaks (filet mignon etc). This is extremely lean ground beef, I find no grease left in the pan when browning this ground beef. Contact me for pricing and availability.

Pelts: I have 3 white good-sized pelts available right now, these are machine washable. $120.00 and free shipping.

Eric, Jennifer, Nora & the animals.