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And God Laughs

September 30, 2022

We are simultaneously preparing for the fall shearing and the beginning of sheep breeding season. Shearing needs to happen before the weather turns much colder, and sheep breeding starts to “take place” when the days get shorter, and the ewes come into heat.
We have sheep in three different locations and need to trailer them all to Hill-Stead for next week’s shearing. We’ll try to keep the breeding ram away from the young ram lambs (to reduce fighting). We also need to keep the rams and the ewes

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Planet Puffball

September 23, 2022

What a year it’s been for puffballs! The large ball-shaped mushrooms are popping up all over. Their preference for “well fertilized” fields means that, though they look totally out of place in our pasture, they are very much at home.
As a “giant puffball” matures, the inside of it turns from pure white to off white, to tan, to black. The ones that are still pristine white on the inside are edible - and delectable. Our favorite recipe uses thick puffball slices grilled and topped with tomato

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The Gleaning Crew

September 16, 2022

The end of summer is harvest time and for us that means “gleaning time”. Gleaning has been a tradition dating back to biblical times when it was the law in some Christian kingdoms. After the grain was commercially harvested, it was mandated that “the poor” had to be allowed to collect whatever was left in the fields.
Currently half of all the produce that is grown in the U.S. is wasted and 21% of all landfill waste is food. The good news is that more and more gleaning volunteers are organizing

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Gentle Rain

September 9, 2022

A nice gentle rain, slow enough to settle in and soak the ground, steady enough to make a difference - it was exactly what the doctor ordered for my thoroughly parched soul.
Our rain barrels overflowed, and the retention pond is almost full. Rice Brook which runs alongside our fence line, flowed again for the first time in months - and our pastures positively gleamed with moisture.
The pigs slept the rainy days away, tucked into their shelters on a bed of hay - no doubt enjoying

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If I Were Queen

September 2, 2022

Once our honeybees moved in with us, they had to quickly build all new honeycomb from scratch. As is always the case when a bee colony swarms, the queen and half the colony leave the existing hive to find a new home and start over somewhere else. Starting over means quickly building the infrastructure needed to survive, and for the honeybee, there is nothing more essential than their comb.
When female honeybees are 10-12 days old, they develop wax secreting glands on their abdomen and for the

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Between the Brook and the Cedars

August 26, 2022

When my parents decided to build a house on the land my mom grew up on, my grandmother sent a note to the rest of her children saying, “If no-one objects, Hope and Jack will be building their home in the field between the brook and the cedars.”

The field had been a cow pasture and only the cedar trees survived the cows’ constant grazing. No one objected and my parents built a home there and soon filled it with 5 children. That clearly was more than enough livestock for my dad, so the cows

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Heater Bees

August 19, 2022

This everlasting drought has me deeply worried about our bees. Normally, clover is so prevalent in our fields, and so quick to regrow, that it’s a very reliable nectar source for the crew. This summer though, there is a visible dearth of anything flowering, and even the clover is dried to a crisp. Yesterday I watched the bees returning to the hive and compared to a few weeks ago, the foraging activity has slowed almost to a standstill. The bees need nectar from clover and other flowers to

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Chimney Swifts

August 12, 2022

After my first encounter with a chimney swift, I googled “what in god’s name is living in my chimney and how do I get rid of it?” It was the beginning of Covid, and we had too many dogs, too many humans, and too many bottle-fed lambs living in our house. It felt like we were stuck together in an overcrowded lifeboat stranded on the open sea. We were all doing our best to ride out the storm, and not get on each other’s nerves in the process. The last thing any of us needed was a chimney full of

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Tree Hay

August 5, 2022

We haven’t kicked our sheep off pasture yet, but without a lot more rain, I know it’s coming soon. As an exasperated dairy farmer told me yesterday - “our pastures are toast.”
“Burnt toast” I agreed.
Most years we can graze our sheep into December, but this week we begrudgingly ordered a load of hay and filled our hay loft in anticipation of yet another short grazing season.
Someday - and it’ll probably require an additional lifetime to get there - I’d love to have all our animals able to get

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If We Graze It

July 29, 2022

One of the few plants in our pasture that our sheep won’t eat is milkweed. That’s very good news for the Monarch butterfly whose caterpillar is completely dependent on milkweed as a food source. Once the caterpillar morphs into a butterfly, it can feed on the nectar of many native plants. The caterpillar, though, is not so adaptable – it needs milkweed to survive.
In the fall, all the Monarchs (butterflies - not royals) living on the east coast migrate to Mexico and spend the winter there. It’

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