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When Sheep Become Shepherds

May 7, 2021

After a year of canceled Farmers Markets and Holiday Boutiques that never happened, we had our first sales event, at Hill-Stead's “May Market.” As we set up our table and put out our wares, it felt as if everyone was emerging from their respective storm shelters and rejoining old friends and neighbors. It was wonderful to see so many people we'd not seen in months. After a year of stockpiling our fiber products, it was gratifying to be selling again, but even better than the sales was the fairly

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Creep Feeders and Sumo Shearing

April 30, 2021

We have been making excellent use of the creep feeders we built last year, and I have to admit, they bring me way more joy than is truly warranted. A creep feeder, technically, is any set up that allows younger, smaller livestock access to extra feed and excludes the larger, adult animals.
It's not really much to look at, just a pen with an opening big enough for the lambs to get through but too small for the bigger sheep to enter. Perhaps because I grew up the youngest of five siblings I am

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Happy Lambs, Happy Pastures

April 23, 2021

As our pastures begin to re-emerge from last summer's drought and this winter's slumber, I have been pleasantly surprised. I was expecting poison ivy, thistles and other plants that are indicators of poor, overgrazed pastures, but as the plants have begun to grow in it's mostly healthy looking grass and palatable legumes. It is a living affirmation that we indeed pulled our animals off the fields last summer in time to save the pasture. We are still begrudgingly driving to Litchfield, every

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Worries and the Love of Cows

April 16, 2021

We had such a late start to lambing season, I was seriously worried that there was something wrong with our ram, or perhaps that his proclivities lay elsewhere, but now with 20 lambs “on the ground,” I'm no longer worried - just very tired...
So far, the ewes are doing well and most of the lambs are thriving. We brought home one lamb, and will probably bring home another, in order to give them extra milk and attention - this compared to last year's 10 bottle fed lambs and 6 very sick ewes.

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Donkos and the Art of Deflection

April 9, 2021

Donkos are popping up in our shiitake yard, just in case we needed another harbinger of Spring! The shiitakes are inspired to start fruiting by the warm days and then are subsequently stressed out by the cold nights. The dehydrating action of the temperature fluctuation forms a distinctive cracking pattern on the top of the mushroom cap. Donkos are considered the highest quality of all shiitakes, I suspect in part because the flavors are concentrated from losing so much of their water content.

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Living Fences

April 1, 2021

Our first lamb of the season was born this week. A very healthy, sturdy and friendly ram, whom we promptly named “Ulysses”. He seems happy to explore and meet the flock, and doesn't take it personally when they flatten him for being overly friendly. He is self assured and doesn't put up much of a fuss when we hold him- which is a good thing because we have 193 kids coming to meet him, during a socially distanced and hopefully well orchestrated field trip, next week.....
When we weren't standing

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Peepers

March 26, 2021

As the weather warms up, and the nights remain above freezing, our sugaring season reluctantly comes to an end. We pulled the taps, cleaned the buckets and closed up our sugar house for another season - a truncated, but happy season...
Our lambing, this year, is off to a slow start as well. I'm thinking it, also, won't be as productive as other years. A ewe's fertility is predicated, in large part, on her overall health – and for grass fed sheep, that is a direct reflection of the health

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Skirting

March 19, 2021

We sheared our sheep at Hill-Stead this week, and that starts the process of deciding what to do with their wool. The day after shearing, we went on a fact finding mission to a store in Litchfield. The store owner showed us a new display of our rugs and throws – and said people absolutely love our products– but when asked, she did allow as how they'd probably love them even more if they were made with more gray and silver wool, as that seems to be the current decorating trend. “Rustic Farmhouse

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Frost Seeding and Microbe Ranchers

March 12, 2021

When the ground freezes at night and thaws during the day, the topsoil expands and contracts leaving tiny fissures in the soil. The fissures are only there for a few weeks each spring, and only a few hours each day, but we make good use of them by “frost seeding” our pastures.
In the morning when the ground is frozen and contracted, we scatter pasture seed on the surface. The seeds fall into the cracks and are subsequently covered up again, later in the day, when the soil warms up and expands

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First Run

March 5, 2021

Sugaring season starts as soon as the days venture above freezing and it ends roughly 6 weeks later. The sap runs during those 6 weeks in weather dependent fits and starts. If its a warm day in the 50s, the sap will run hard and our buckets will overflow, and then there are days that never thaw, or nights that never freeze, and the taps run dry. It's a mixed blessing when the sap stops in between runs, as it gives us a chance to catch up and boil what we've already collected, but even though

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