Wednesday, December 28, 2011


If the farm depended on my blog entries to exist we'd be in hard times wouldn't we?  Thankfully that's not the case.  December has been a month of busy busy kids which makes for a tired tired Mom which makes for a very quiet blog. I've got some dandys simmering away though, so expect some new reading in the coming year.
I've hit a bit of a wall when it comes to my sheep since it has been lamb-city here in the past week. I had that one lamb a couple weeks ago and then nothing...until a few days ago when they started coming like wildfire.  I've got 12 now with a couple more ewes to go, I think.  And it's that "I think" which is driving me crazy.  After dealing with a lamb who died because it's mother was old and had no colostrum, etc etc I was forced to face the reality of not devoting enough time to my flock and having to decide whether this was going to continue to be a volunteer 'project' of mine (marginally successful) or a real part of the farm business.  I had another lamb I was bottle feeding because his legs mysteriously didn't work (I think I was late in coming along and she laboured too long and he suffered because of it) and so couldn't drink.  He didn't make it and I think partly because nature took it's course but I also couldn't get over to the barn as often as I should have to feed it.  Mark says I just beat myself up over this kind of thing, and he's partly right, but there's more to it than that.  After all, after three sets of beautiful healthy twins, it's easy to erase the failures from memory.
It's that I hate the selling part of the business.  I don't mind shipping the lambs, it's not a sentimental thing, it's the action of selling something, my own product.  I just want to raise them, not worry about sending them off, getting them cut up, wrapped, dropped off, picked up, whatever.  I'm a farmer not a marketer/distributor/retailer.  And the only way I get to avoid that is to sell wholesale to someone, and that doesn't exist for organic lamb.  Mark suggested we could just sell to the conventional stream, but when I've done our cost of production in the past, because of the time we have to dedicate to moving the fence each week, we'd be pushing it.  If we didn't have to pay ourselves we'd be A-Ok, but life doesn't work like that.
And don't even start on my non-existant management this past year. Hence, the Christmas lambing schedule...what is THAT!? and the not culling ewes I KNOW are terrible.  Ugh. 
I'll have to do a cost of production again soon, since that one is pretty out of date now and I have an on-site shearer at my disposal. And we've refined the fencing much better.  So who knows.  Lambing is a stressful, sleep deprived time, so maybe once my head is cleared of Christmas sugar and my body spends more time in bed than in the barn at night, I'll have more to bring the shepherding table. 

Speaking of salespeople, we're excited to announce that we're expanding the farm operation a little bit by being a distributor for Bio-Ag, a company out of Ontario that sells all non-GMO agricultural products like minerals, salts, cleaners, etc.  I know, I know, I just talked about not being a salesperson, but this isn't 'our' product, it's just one we believe in.  We have used their minerals since we've been organic and now use their diotomaceous earth, salt and a probiotic as well.  We have a barrel of their peroxide as well which we use mostly in the summer in the various water tanks around, but is a popular product for livestock farmers to keep waterlines clean and dairy operations up to spec.  Anyway, Mark's next project is getting a corner of the barn ready for storage. I'm really looking forward to being the Island distributor and although it's a small company I think it will be fun to promote it and see where it takes us.  The previous distributor here is retiring and the owner is coming in the next couple weeks, to meet us and facilitate the transfer so hopefully we'll be up and running very soon.

I had a really great Christmas, as they always are.  The kids are at SUCH a good, magical age and I'm sooo grateful that I got to be around for December and be a part of thier excitement.  One of my favorite parts was Christmas morning when I went in to wake Lucy and said, "Lucy, I think Santa came last night, wanna come see your stocking?" and rather than running to see what she got, she instead, went to the kitchen, crawled up on the stool and exclaimed, "He ate his cookies and drank his milk!"  The rest was just a bonus.

Although I was in the thro of lambing on Boxing Day, my stubborn father-in-law all but shoved me in the car and we went to NB. I was really glad we did because we stayed the night and I enjoyed some great laughs and drinks and food and stories while Wendell dealt with a dopy lamb in a set of twins.  The lamb has come around now and I'm convinced is only alive because of Wendell's early intervention.     

Well, with only two ewes left to lamb, I think I'll sleep through tonight and stay in bed until at least 6. Then again, something will probably wake me up at 3 am and I'll lay there thinking of the worst case scenarios that could be happening in the barn until I struggle over there in wind/rain/snow/sleepcoma to find them all chewing cuds, blinking at me stupidly as if to say, "Go back to bed dummy, we're sleeping."

Hope this finds you enjoying every minute of the season and looking forward to a new year of great goals and plans!


Friday, December 16, 2011

The Attack of the....cookie dough?

So the latest food scare is...ready for it?  raw cookie dough.  Yeah, apparently a big e.coli outbreak across the states has been traced back to pre-made, store-bought cookie dough, eaten raw.  And the chicken farmers are safe this time, it wasn't the eggs; it was the flour.  The FLOUR!  Somewhere along the line in the production, the flour became contaminated with e.coli which would have been killed if the consumers had cooked it, but they, like any good child, ate it raw. 
There is so much wrong with this.  Firstly, why are people buying cookie dough?  Even a college student can surely throw together the 3+ ingredients it takes to bake a batch of cookies.  There is no way that there is enough time savings in buying cookie dough, bringing it home, figuring out how to open the can/tube, greasing a pan, preheating the oven, throwing out the empty tube/can and cooling them, compared to mixing up ingredients in a bowl to make it worthwhile consuming whatever preservatives and not-pronouncable words are in that tube/can.  Cookies are so EASY and (mostly) FUN! 
But the thing that really bothers me about this is that the take home message we're being served as a result of the outbreak is that its our fault for eating raw cookie dough, not the fault of the giant factory making bad product.  "Don't eat raw cookie dough, period" is the headline from one paper.  So that's it childhood, see ya later.  My kids are doomed.  In fact, over the last two weeks of Christmas baking, the three of us should be put in a museum as miracles of survival under the harshest conditions of nearly DAILY raw cookie dough consumption. The horrors!
Before cookie dough goes the way of dinosaurs and real eggnog (made with real, raw(!) eggs) here's the simple truth; make food you trust with ingredients you trust and ENJOY IT!  I splurged on my last bulk order from Speerville Mills (in New Brunswick) and ordered a special pastry flour to see if my Christmas baking would be any different from when I use the regular Speerville white and whole wheat.  It is a really nice flour and has that distinct flour taste that I've come to expect from baking now and as I was scooping out another cup for (yet another) batch of cookies (a favorite time consumer these heady days of waiting) I noticed that it had the farmer's name right on the label.  Because it's a specialty flour, made in small batches I guess that Speerville has the one farmer growing that particular wheat, so they have his name right there; Murray Bunnet.   He also happens to be the farmer we bought our soybean roaster from in NB and as I sprinkling the flour on the counter (or 'making it snow' as we call it here these days), and thinking about the raw cookie cookie dough debacle, once again I was so thankful to have the access to quality food that I can trust, because I KNOW the farmers who GREW it!  Short of grinding my own flour (which is not likely something I'm going to take up as long as Speerville can do it better), this is about as 'secure' as my food can get. 
I guess that is the kind of marketing freedom that brought about the eradication of the wheat board, but I'm afraid that without the wheat board we're even farther from any chance of real food 'security'.  Once Cargill (for one large example) has free reign to set prices because they are the new monopoly, farmers will surely feel the crunch of corporate greed. Oh my, this is a whole other entry.  Where was I?
Ah yes, the cookie dough.
Well, I hope that after reading this, you will gather up the ingredients for your favorite cookie recipe, use some good quality eggs from a farm you trust, add the special touches that make you happy and eat all the dough you want.  May you have a mildly sore belly from too much butter and sugar and sticky fingers and a smiley face.  May you NOT fight to the death (or at least until bleeding) with your sibling over the last scraps of dough left in the bowl on on the spoon- or maybe that's just at our house.

Anyway, I keep intending to post an inventory of the millions of Christmas projects that have been undertaken around here this year, but those 'projects' tend to be fairly patience-consuming and by the time the activity/recipe/craft/decoration/story/card/gift is done, nobody feels like remembering that it happened, let alone recording it for eternity.  :)

That first lamb is doing really well.  She's a fast growing little beauty but is strangely a bit lonely.  Yes, it would seem that she is a bit of an oddity since no one else is showing signs of lambing anytime soon.  Well some of the girls are 'bagged up' as we say, but it's been that way for a month now.  There goes my super stellar records.  Yes, I AM a record keeping consultant, but it's the sheep!  They don't always (or ever) do what they're supposed to, when they're supposed to do it. 

Other news from the farm is pretty quiet.  Mark is 'puttering' when he's not hauling mussel shells and devising ways to unload them in soft fields. 

Ah, computer time is up, or so says the baby tugging at my pantleg. 

I hope this finds you looking forward to a relaxed and joyful Christmas full of all your favorite traditions!  Consider your local farmer when preparing for all those big meals!