Greener Pastures Farm - Current News

Jon kneels down to let the pregnant Cascade Farmstead ewes check him out. Visit our website to learn more about these great little low-maintenance, no-shear, meat sheep!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Growing Lambs and Shedding Rams and Ewes

Dry sheep are prettier than wet sheep, so after a “drought” of photos, here we go!

Today was our 2nd 80 degree day of the year after an abnormally long and wet spring. Our Cascade Farmstead rams rest and chew their cud in the shade this afternoon. Some are in the process of rooing (shedding) their fleece, some are already finished. One of these boys is 2 years old, and the rest are yearlings.

And over the in the ewe pasture we find Belladonna and her twins, Katydid and Kittiwake.

Cascade lambs above; the handsome ram lamb Kilimanjaro at left, and beautiful ewe lamb Kittiwake.

Gorgeous. Am I lucky or what?

Gates, Alleyways, Hog Panels and our Apple Tree Security System

Fencing and gates are an ongoing topic on any farm, and I’m asked a lot how we do things here at Greener Pastures Farm. We’ve learned a lot over the years about what has worked well, and what has not. Often, the most valuable lessons are what has not worked, and any farmer worth their salt will be willing to share their mistakes as well as their successes.

Today I’ll start with a couple successes, and I promise that mistakes will be forthcoming!

Alleyways are crucial for a farm. I try to explain over the phone how these work, but as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. This alleyway is a bit wider than we would have made it, but an old driveway was there first, and pounding posts into 80 years of gravel lasted about a minute, and then we revised our plan to include a 10 foot wide alleyway. You work with what you’ve got! Ten years later, here is a photo of what we did.

Before putting fence posts in, we planned ahead to have the gates the same width as the alleyway, and placed the posts accordingly, so that open or closed, the gate can latch securely. This is handy when rotating sheep from one pasture to another. Each alleyway on our farm has access to a barn, and gates like this make it easy to allow sheep access to one pasture, allowing the other pastures to regrow. Our sheep are accustomed to this system and don’t need to be herded from one to another; they know that an opened gate means fresh grass on the other side and race each other to get through it! The gate above is latched in the "open" position, with the top photo shown from the alleyway, and the lower photo shown from the pasture.

These photos are of my Young Apple Tree Security System. Some of our small pastures have little or no afternoon shade, so I planted 5 varieties of “standard” apple trees in five different pastures. Full sized (aka “standard”) fruit trees are not easy to find now that so many people are demanding dwarf or semi-dwarf fruit trees; Gurney’s is the only source that I’m aware of. Granted, mine are not providing shade yet, but they will eventually, and a smart farmer plans ahead.

If planted out in a pasture with sheep, your lovely apple tree will become an apple stick in a matter of moments. Protection is needed. I placed each tree about 6 feet from a fence, and then overlapped 2 hog panels together and pulled them into a horseshoe shape, attaching each end to the fence on either side. Here is a 3 year old tree, and you can see how the sheep have grazed right up to the hog panel, but have not breeched it to get at the tree.

This photo shows the back side of the system. No, your eyes are not deceiving you; there is no tree in this photo. It didn’t survive for some unknown reason (weather? disease?) and needs to be replaced, but you can see more clearly how the hog panels are attached to each other and to the fence. We used metal fasteners called hog rings. They weren’t as sturdy as I’d been told, so I used 2 in each space, and clamped them tightly. After 3 years, they are kind of rusty, but still holding together.

One more item is a good idea. A few days after we planted the trees and placed the hog panels, my husband brought back a stick and said “Here’s your Granny Smith tree.” A couple metal t-posts were then pounded into the ground in strategic locations to prevent eager sheep from breaching the Apple Tree Security System.

Because we’ve seen llamas and sheep “bark” and eventually kill fruit trees in the past, I’ll keep these in place no matter how old the trees get. Hopefully they will outlive me!

My Bees Survived Record Amounts of Rain

With the long wet spring, I’ve been really chomping at the bit to check on my bees. It’s been months since I’ve been able to open up my hives to have a peek. Last week we had a few dry sunny days, which allowed me to lean on the fence a foot or so away from the entrance and watch the girls come and go. I saw enough activity to allay my fears regarding their survival. But with the truly sudden onset of summer, I knew I’d be in trouble if I didn’t get the hives opened and made sure they had enough room to expand.

Yesterday I went out at dusk, with the idea that they’d be calm and I could remove the empty feeders, replace the space with a 1x2 cut to fit, and move the queen includer up a super or two to allow for expansion. One of the great things I learned in my research this spring was to use a much smaller entrance located higher than most of the hive, much like those in wild hives, allowing the hive to easily defend itself from robber bees. Imitating Mother Nature as much as I can is my goal as a farmer; it makes for less work and more efficiency.

The Persephone hive has been the weaker hive from the beginning, but they are hanging in there and I gave the queen an additional super for laying eggs and closed the hive back up.

The Aphrodite hive (aptly named) has always been the stronger hive, and after seeing what this queen had been up to, I gave her LOTS more room for laying eggs, and now that I know how well they are doing, I need to go back again to give them another super or two. You can see in these photos taken today that many of the girls are looking for their former entrance which used to be between super #2 and super #3, just like the Persephone hive. It’s now above #3, which isn’t visible to you and me, but it’s there and you can see in this photo that many have found it.

I’ll put another super on top of #3, so the entrance will be visible again, but not today. Last night I found that neither hive was aggressive, but my veil must have touched my face at one point when I was finishing up the Aphrodite hive, and one lone bee stung me on my face. They weren't swarming around me at all; I chose dusk so they'd be calm, so it really was a fluke. It hurt only briefly, and I'm glad to see that these are strong, self-reliant bees that are doing well without assistance, chemicals or any other non-organic practices. YAY! This has been my goal for years! My husband pulled the stinger out of my face, and I slapped some Sting Stop on it, but really, it didn't and doesn't hurt.


Oh yeah, I wanted to show the hog panels used to protect my hives from sheep grazing the orchard. You can see that the pasture has been grazed up to the panels, and the hives are safe from being knocked over. I should get in there and tidy up a bit, but it's a small price to pay for utilizing every bit of grass that we can for our livestock.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can...

Confucius says… Man who says ‘cannot be done’ should not interrupt woman doing it.


I’m a ‘can do’ sort of person, and have accomplished a number of things in my life that I never dreamed I’d be doing. But when opportunity arose, the challenge presented itself, my ‘can do’ attitude kicked into gear and boy, did I get things done!

So when I encounter an “it can’t be done” personality… you know, one of those people who say ‘you can’t get there from here’ and other such the-glass-is-half-empty comments, my glass-is-half-full attitude tries really hard to help.

But you can’t help someone who isn’t willing to help themselves.

I encountered such a person a few days ago. Boy, am I glad he didn’t call back! Because after 2 phone calls from him to receive solutions from me (it became apparent by the end of the first call that he wasn’t going to become a customer, but I was still willing to help and advise him in his quest), by the end of the 2nd phone call, I did something I’d never done before… I called him on the carpet regarding the negativity and the “I can’t do that” responses to the many solutions I was offering to help him DO WHAT HE WANTED TO DO!

I don’t know what that was all about, but I’d had more than enough.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming. Things are good here. Good things happen (mostly). Beautiful lambs are born. Chickens lay eggs. Sheep graze pastures. Honey bees are surviving the constant rain. Our old truck died, but we replaced it, and are grateful for the nearly 2 decades of service that it gave us.

And my son is writing his Salutatorian speech.

Happy smile. The glass is at least half full.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Last night I made this for the first time in years, and the guys loved it. Again.

This recipe is slightly altered from one in "Breadtime Stories" by Susan Jane Cheney. I mark my cookbooks with stars next to the recipes... 4 and 5 stars for the best recipes and fewer stars for less stellar recipes, with notes as to why, and what I could do differently IF I decided to give it a try again.

I don't mark books other than cookbooks; I just had to begin doing this so I wouldn't repeat a recipe that was a total disaster.

Anyway, here's my version of Peanut Butter Banana Bread, yummy enough to eat for dessert (we did!) and healthy enough for breakfast!

Makes 2 loaves, no machinery needed other than the oven. Preheat to 325 degrees.

1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup honey
4 eggs
2 cups mashed ripe bananas
2 cups whole wheat bread flour
2 cups unbleached white flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon coriander
2 teaspoons ground ginger

Mash enough ripe/over-ripe bananas to make 2 cups. In large batter bowl, use potato masher (a whisk is too flimsy for this) to whisk the eggs, peanut butter and honey.

In a large bowl add whole wheat bread flour, unbleached flour, baking powder, baking soda, coriander and ground ginger. Whisk together. Add half of this to the batter bowl mixture and mix with the potato masher. Add remainder of flour mixture to batter and mix just until you can't see flour; don't overmix.

Butter both pans. Divide batter between them. Bake 50 minutes at 325 degrees. Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, then remove to cool on rack.