Shearing Day, Saturday Feb 4th

I thought I had better get this newsletter out to remind all of you that look forward to our annual shearing day on the farm.  Once again it will be on the first Saturday of February and we’ll get started by about 10:00.  If you’d like to get oriented to the day and assigned a specific task – come a little early.  Come any time in the morning just to watch.  Or if you feel like you may want to join in at some point,I’m sure I’ll be able to find a job that suits you.  As always a potluck follows.  Farm Director Jan will have a vegetarian chili, meat chili, some cornbread, and a cake ready.  Feel free to bring any dishes you wish to share.  The veterans to this great day know what a rewarding community event this has become and are all ready to welcome new faces. 

The snow and the cold have been a real challenge this winter.  In addition to keeping the farm lane plowed, I’ve spent way too much time hauling water to all the animals.  I sure celebrated all the rain last summer that for the first time kept our pastures green.  The total for the water year (Oct 1 – Sept 30) here on the farm was 80.2”, the most since I began keeping records.  I sure didn’t complain about the rain this summer so I’m not about to complain about the snow now.  

With the growing length of daylight hours as we begin to move toward Spring, the laying flocks have picked up their production.  If you’re in the market for fresh eggs, I encourage you to visit the farmstand here on the farm.  We also butchered a few lambs in December so our freezer is well stocked.  This would be a good time to stock up on your favorite lamb cuts before we raise our prices in preparation for the 2017 farmers market season.
 
I’m sorry to share some sad news.  Mara, the chicken that had chosen to live in the barn with the sheep and the barn cats rather than her kind in the coop, has passed.  We all figured it would happen sooner or later since she so enjoyed wandering the pastures and did not have the security of the chicken coop or portable chicken yard.  She produced no eggs, but she greeted me each morning as I filled her feed and water dishes in the barn.  She had her favorite roost in the barn and would keep me company while I worked in the garden.  I found her in the pasture, a victim of a weasel likely.  She loved being in the pasture with her sheep.  And that will be where she remains.  
   
We finally cleared the house of all the Christmas decorations.  Each year I look forward to getting the abode back in order but then as soon as it’s all boxed up and stored away, I begin to miss it.  It never fails.  This year we probably had the biggest tree we’ve ever had.  I failed to pick up on a few cues about how “bigly” this tree was when we cut it down.  One was the fact that
Farm Director Jan was complaining that she could not see the top very well due to the low cloud cover.  The other was when our local constable stopped us enroute home and encouraged us to hire a pilot car.  I never really understood how tall it actually was until the small army that helped us got it in the door and stood it up.  Miraculously it didn’t poke a hole in the ceiling.  Since it was immediately balanced, I wasn’t about to take it down at that point to cut a few feet off.  We had our tree!  Egad!  How we decorated the tree will remain confidential – not to be shared with our insurance company, any government safety practice agencies, or child welfare organizations.  Enough said!  After New Years it was time to remove the tree.  I gave strong consideration to spraying the whole thing in a plastic solution and making it a permanent fixture of our living room.  Farm Director Jan would not even consider it.  No imagination!  I resigned myself to the task and went to the barn to get my chain saw.  No way was I going to repeat the drama that we experienced getting the damn thing in the house by taking it out in one piece.  I carefully figured the best angle to drop the tree so that it would have minimal collateral damage to lamps, furniture, young children and pets.  I primed the saw and was just about to crank it up when Farm Director Jan came out of the studio (where I had thought she was glued to her spinning wheel) and convinced me in her most effective manner that I had perhaps not arrived at the most correct solution and that I had “lost my mind”.  She simply failed to see the nuances of my idea and could not grasp the true poetry of what I had hoped to accomplish.  I was beginning to perceive my plan as a kind of performance art.  Sort of like one person’s statement of conscious against the holiday industrial complex that had stolen the true meaning of Christmas.  I feel so sorry for those who cannot think outside the box.  Where would this world be without those of us that are willing to take a risk by moving the human condition forward.     

- Shepherd Jeff  
(PS: Come to shearing and I’ll discuss this whole tree thing calmly over a nice cup of tea.
FDJ)     

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Lambing Season is Here

A couple of things.  First I wanted thank all that helped us with shearing this year and secondly I want to let everyone know that lambing should begin any day now.

Though the number of guests at shearing this year wasn’t as large as some previous years, it turned out to be a good crew.  I think we were successful in giving all a task and the job got done in a very efficient manner.  As I have noted many times before, shearing is much more than simply getting fleece off the animal.  In my mind it’s more about building and fostering a community.  Both were a total success this year.  My experienced crew was again ready and willing to teach the rookies, and the rookies were ready to learn.  I used to be surprised as to how folks that I ask to do, what many would consider difficult and dirty work, are so insistent on thanking me for the opportunity.  I’ve learned over the years that asking for help is just as much as a blessing as answering the call for help.  Though I may still marvel at it, I now recognize it as a wonderful truth of the human condition.  And that is worth celebrating.  This ever-growing community gathered, after the sheep were sheared and the fleece collected, to share a meal and visit. 
Farm Director Jan and I could not have asked for more. 

Next on the Drumcliffe Farm calendar.  If the rams have done their duty and the ewes were receptive, we should have new-born lambs on the ground any day now.  Technically March 6
th should be the target date based on when I brought the boys down into the ewe pastures.  Of course Nature has its own schedule.  My best prediction at this point is another week out.  Once we start, we should be blessed with new lambs through the middle of April.  A good time to visit the farm. 

Lambing is always a special time.  However I’ve come to appreciate more and more the time right now, just before lambing.  The ewes, especially the older ewes, sense what is happening.  Any other time of the year they may be skittish, stand-offish, or even belligerent.  The couple of weeks before lambing they seem to be the steadiest, as if they sense what is about to happen.  The classic relationship between the shepherd and the flock becomes crystal clear.  My presence each morning seems to calm them.  Ewes I normally cannot approach come to me for a scratch behind the ears, or a rub of the neck.  I won’t say the shepherd / sheep relationship is one of affection but I can easily define it as relationship of trust and dependence. The sheep look to the shepherd to fix what is wrong, to ensure that all is OK, to clarify what may be confusing, to put things right.  As long as they sense that I stand ready, lambing should go well this year. 

Farm Director Jan and I look forward to your visit to the farm during this special time. 

- Shepherd Jeff