Friday, March 09, 2007

Lamb Update

It's still unbelievably cold here. The snow has got a thick coat of ice on it and it makes walking difficult for humans, much less sheep and lambs. They have managed to forge a couple of paths through the ice but most of them are just staying in the barn or just outside it where the enormous bales of hay are.

The lambs are growing - some more than others. The single lambs always grow the quickest because their mom's are only feeding one baby and they make the same amount of milk. The twins usually are smaller and so the grain helps them gain some size. The Farmer is talking about trying to separate the sets of twins and singles (and their moms) next year so he can better address this problem. I'm not sure how he plans to do that since there is only one barn and maybe it is best I don't ask.

Lambs love to be in high places. Frequently there will be 4 or 5 lambs on top of a large bale of hay munching away. Then they literally fly off the bale, run around, and climb back up again. I've been trying to get a photo of this but so far, no luck.

When The Farmer feeds out a bale of hay, it is a big event. Everyone gathers around and munches away. It gets pretty dicey, this feeding thing. The bales weigh more than 800 lbs. He picks them up with a long spike that is on his tractor, transports it to the feeder and then drops it. It's best if there is someone there to help out because the sheep get so anxious to eat that there is a real danger for them - especially the lambs. In this photo, his brother David, The Dairy Farmer, is helping to shoo away the sheep while the bale is dropping and Jeremy is looking on.

The lambs are genuinely eating the hay now - not just picking at it to see what it is. This little guy was so desperate for some hay that he was walking all over the backs of the mom's. He was trying his hardest to jump in the feeder to eat but couldn't quite make it. The adult sheep crowd out the lambs because they are so hungry. The lambs end up eating after their moms are through. There is always enough food left for everyone. I guess sheep are a little different than humans. It seems I always feed my family first and then get my own food after everyone is settled. But then, the ewes are feeding their lambs all day long so I guess it is no different.

Right now I am reading a fabulous book by Michael Pollan called The Omnivore's Dilemna: A Natural History of Four Meals. I love his writing - he makes what could be a very dry subject interesting. I'm about half way through it. If you have any interest in your food, how it is produced, and how the agriculture industry - both organic and regular - has evolved, I highly suggest it.

Easter is coming up on April 8th this year. Many of the lambs that we are growing will be going to an auction where they will be sold to processors and become Easter dinner. After reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, it makes me realize what a good quality product The Farmer is producing. At this time, we sell the lambs into the normal chain of supply and really don't get as much money for them as we should. But for right now, it's the best way to keep farming and fitting the sheep operation in with the other parts of our life. I keep toying with the idea of going to a local farmer's market and selling the lamb direct to the end-user but I just haven't gotten my act together. Maybe when Julia gets a little older? Something to think about.


Peg said...

What wonderful photos! They certainly are growing!
When you mentioned going to the market when your DD is older, it reminded me of a Mom and her three girls who come to our market. She sells baked goods and the girls first start out making and selling granola; then it is on to chocolate chip cookies; then lemon bread and muffins! These girls also help their Mom once they get to be about 12 with her breads, etc. They are so business like and so polite that I think we buy from them because their product is so good, but it also is great to see young people learning about making and selling things. Julia could sell something like homemade granola - or you and she could make mint jelly in the fall and - oh don't listen to me - you have enough on your plate as it is!
I have that book on my list! I read Fast Food Nation and that put me off beef for a bit!

Holly said...

I'm just in the middle of that book myself. It's making me crazy...everything seems so messed up. I confess the first thing I noticed was your sheep eating hay and not corn. I wish we city dwellers had a better way to connect to the products that come from the types of farms we'd like to support.

BTW, I just finished your Crazy Crewel pillow, and I also made the one with the chair on it. It was lots of fun, and a treat to see all that colour in cold, grey Ontario.


Patricia said...

For city dwellers (I was one) the alternative is Farmers Markets. They are great for all kinds of food. The city people get fresh fruit, veggies, meats at a reasonable cost. They also develop great relationships with the farmers. It is truly difficult to find a decent grocery store in our city. There are too many horror stories. Food that goes bad, rodents, excessive pricing. It takes a lot for the farmer to make the commttment to come every Saturday, but financial it does help them out.


tut-tut said...

I found your blog through your website through Interweave Knits. I lived in Heath and Ashfield in the 80s and 90s, so your blog brings a great deal of nostalgia to me!

I'm glad to see embroidery coming back into the fold of home crafts.

somebunnysloveDOTcom said...

I think you should bring the lambs to the Farmers' Market. They would be more than appreciated by the folks there. I know my friends and family would rather buy directly from the farmers who raised and grew our food instead of the grocers.

Angelina said...

I get so excited when I hear about other people reading that book. I'm in the middle of it right now and was writing about it on my blog a week ago. Michael Pollan can make almost anything completely fascinating.

He wrote an article about growing poppies which was really funny. When you have a chance, try to find it on the web, it's great.

I'm enjoying reading about your lambs. I'm a vegetarian so I don't eat lambs, but if I did, I would prefer to buy direct from the farmer rather than through the super market.

Especially after reading "The Omnivore's Dilemma".

Emily said...

I too happen to be reading Mr. Pollan's TOD:ANHoFM. I'm glad more people are reading it; we all need to be concerned with the crazy way we get our food! As for selling your lamb -- PLEASE DO! Avod the regular routine in '08. You have oodles of time to work it out. Look into it by going backwards -- as a consumer, how would you find fresh, good lamb? Find other sellers and farmers and ask how they do it.
Good luck!