Saturday, May 21, 2016

*Back Yard Butcher Lambs*

~Taco and Squeeze~
They just might be pigs in sheep's clothing.
(Taco is lighter, on left. Squeeze is darker, on right.)

We acquired these 2 characters a few weeks ago.
They are "bummers," and though he is slightly smaller,
Taco is about a week and a half older than Squeeze.
They are suffolk which is a meat breed and
should finish out at about 105-125 lbs. each come fall.
I raised sheep years ago, but that was years ago,
and it was primarily breeding stock.
Market lambs were a very small part of it.
The other thing is that grain was the feed of choice "back then."
We are raising these on grass - and a bottle at the moment.
There are reasons both for and against doing this.
I'll share some of the rewards and sacrifices that have gone into making this decision, and will attempt to show how our little operation functions.

The For or Rewards List~
*The most prominent reason for embarking on this little venture is that we want grass-fed meat and the various health benefits of it.
*Lambs take minimal space (as opposed to beef or hogs)
 and minimal / non-permanent facilities.
*They are easily handled due to size.
*They are a meat product that we don't usually purchase (expensive.)
*They have a quick growing season (just until fall.)
*We should be able to process them ourselves with little difficulty.
*And 1 more, I am hoping to process their skins so might (if I don't mess up) have 2 lamb skin "rugs."

The Against or Sacrifices List~
(This list is small but mighty.)
*They still cost money.  Though start-up is the most expensive, they don't just give bummers away like they used to.  Many I looked at were over $100 and didn't appear to have had first milk.  Ours were not that much, had first milk, shots, castrated, tails docked, and were eating well on the bottle before they were sold.  Finding such a breeder, we have already made an agreement to be in contact again next year.
*They take time.  This is huge!  Mr. LB and I both work outside the home and have nearly an hour drive at each end of the day.  Also, if we plan on leaving, even for a weekend, we will have to find someone who is physically able and willing to tend our critters.
*A clean and manicured yard is out of the question.  They don't "mow" evenly.  This might not sound like a big deal to some folks, but kinda like the fall back - I'm no beauty queen, by my clothes are clean and my hair is brushed, for the property (to me) it might not be HGTV, but the lawn is mowed.

What we are doing~
Their pen was made from a 3/16" wire mesh that comes in an 8'X20' sheet.
Mr. LB cut it in half both ways, a few zip ties and they have a 10'X10' pen.  When they are gone, we can simply cut the zip ties and the panels will store flat.  He also put the scrap of tin over where the feeder hangs.
They get moved every day.
This is much more labor intensive than the good ol' days when they were kept in a solid pen and fed grain, but we are hoping it's worth it.  Also, they have 
the Bird Mobile following 2-3 days behind.  Then the dog(Rip) is tied near them at night.  We have bear, cougar, wolves, coyotes, fox and more in this area.
It looks like animals on parade around here.
Humans could play a nice game of "Name That Poo" after they've tracked by.
(Sorry, I'm still kinda struggling with the yard part.)
I know that blue tarp looks high-class, but we have had some major thunder showers go through.  Like kids, they don't seem to mind getting wet, but it makes us feel better to offer them some coverage.


Their diet~
Water of course, and they get a bottle for a few more weeks.
We do give them a very small amount of alfalfa about every other day just because they were already nibbling on it when we got them, and it should help them transition over to the haylage more easily.
I have been mowing certain areas of the yard with the push mower and bagger in order to gather the clippings and make haylage.  That process is kinda like planting carrots or spuds - you don't know how it will turn out until you open the bag after 8 weeks (or dig into the soil come late summer.)  About the time they are weaned, the first bag of haylage should be ready.  This will be in addition to they grass they are eating as we move them daily.

(Rip, hard at work!  This is how he prefers to spend his days.)

We can't get attached!
They are way cute.  They have a ton of personality.  Squeeze is a demanding brat, and Taco is an ornery stinker.  They are a hoot to watch as they pounce around and "act tough."  Mr. LB has actually been the one who takes care of them most of the time just due to schedules.  I'm making dinner as he's making bottles and moving them.  The other night he commented, "Squeeze likes his throat scratched.  He goes all hypnotic."
I asked if he remembered that they would one day be dinner.  He assured me he would be okay.  There is a different mind set to raising animals for butcher.
It doesn't mean we can't love and care for them, it's just different.
In the end, they will provide us health and nourishment in return for the care we have provided them.  We will offer a prayer of thanks to them for being such an important part of our being.
In the mean time, we will make sure they have a safe and pleasant life.


Friday, May 13, 2016

Going Home (for a spin-in)

There's a little saying,
"You can't go home again."
I simply have to disagree.
This past weekend, I had the privilege of heading home.
I awoke early and was on the road by 6:45AM.
I decided to go "the back way" since 
I hadn't been that way for 20 some-odd years.
It was spectacular.
(If only the power lines weren't there.)

Later, I told my dad I could have stopped just about anywhere
past a certain point - and just stopped.
I mean time, living, whatever.
Not in a morbid way, just a content and peaceful way.
Rolling green meadows meeting the forest tree line
against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.

Perhaps I should preface this outing just a little.
As a kid, we moved quite a bit - no not military,
just gypsies I suppose.
I wasn't scarred or emotionally damaged by it.
It's just what it was.
However, when we moved to Prairie City, Oregon, I was home.
Have you ever been someplace where you just seem to "belong?"
It's as though you were born there in another life, or
that perhaps God Himself had ushered you to this place?
That's what the saying "Home is where your heart is" means.
It's a feeling not only in your heart, but your very being.
Sometimes I think folks who move often just haven't found that place yet.

Prairie City is a little idyllic town of roughly 1000 people - give or take.
And, I wasn't going for a funeral or passing through on my way to or from
some other event.
I went for a spin-in at Roan Coffee House.
And may I just say, it was superb!
12-15 of us gathered for the sole purpose of enjoying ourselves.
So to re-cap:
we met to enjoy ourselves while partaking in a craft we appreciate,
in a completely picturesque  place with perfect weather, and there was coffee.
Sounds horrible huh?

There were various kinds of wheels which I found fascinating.


This was Theresa's "Grand Spindle Wheel" about 3-4 ft. tall.
I had never seen one like it.

Afterwards, we gathered at the house of one of the ladies

for a BBQ dinner.
Then a friend (who is like a spare mom to me) and I
drove the 15 minutes to her house where we chatted and caught up
until even later at night.

It was an amazing weekend and

I got to "feel" home again.
I love where we live - in the mountains along the river,
but they are different mountains, a different river, etc.
There is something to be said for home.
I hope each and every one of you has that, and if you don't yet,
you'll know when you get there.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Rhubarb Pie with Toasted Walnut Crust

This is Mr. LB's favorite.
It's one of those pies that falls apart so it's difficult to make it photogenic.

Since we have some very happy rhubarb right now,
I decided to make him a pie.
(This one is going to seed. We have several, but this is the only one that seeds.)

Here's how it happens.

The Toasted Walnut Crust:
2 1/2 cups walnuts
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 Tbl. melted butter
Use blender to chop/blend nuts, soda, and salt until finely ground.

(I do this in two parts so it doesn't get sticky near the blade.  A food processor might work better for this step, but I don't have one.)

Then add butter and mix well.  Use spatula to smooth into 9" pie pan.
I use my fingers too.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 10 min.
Just until it looks dry rather than wet and
 is just beginning to brown around the top edge.
Remove from oven and let cool while making filling.
Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.

The Rhubarb Filling:
5 1/2 cups rhubarb chopped into 1" pieces (or slightly smaller)
2 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour 
(we use whole spelt but would bet coconut flour would work too)
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4-1/2 tsp. each cloves and cinnamon
In large bowl, mix together then dump into pie shell.
If you so desire, you can sprinkle some chopped walnuts on top
to make it pretty.
(I so desired.)

Bake at 400 degrees for about 40-45 min. until rhubarb is tender.

And then alas, don't get side tracked and forget to check it.
This got a little crispier than it should have, so it's not perfect.
I probably shouldn't share such a thing, but we are human after all and Mr. LB still ate a big dish of it with some homemade vanilla ice cream.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Courtyard Potager Garden Design ~ Revised

Well Folks, I'd like to hear what you think.
So Far!
From the time I was young and dust was new,
I was taught that you don't show incomplete projects.
For the most part, I've kept pretty true to that teaching.
Where it originated?  and why?
Maybe it's one more effect of media showing us everything from start to finish
 in 20 minutes or a 4 page spread.
I know not.
This was taken the first or second year we had the garden back here.

In the last post, I mentioned that we usually have one or two larger projects going at any one time as well as multiple smaller projects.
That got me to thinking.
So many little, huge, ginormous pockets of our time are spent on these projects, not sharing seems wrong.
After all, life itself is just one big unfinished project.
Isn't it better to show the progress and set backs and share encouragement, joy and sorrow then to hide it all away to the end?
The string lines are difficult to see but that's how much the paths migrated.

With that said, I'm throwing caution to the wind, breaking the rules, and
showing you one of our unfinished projects.
When I initially laid out our current garden design,
I used a traditional courtyard layout with grass paths.
I loved it for maybe that first year.
After that, it became a nuisance to mow, and 
the grass wouldn't stay out of the garden plots.
Over the course of a few years, the paths "migrated,"
so the plots were no longer square and even.
Back to the drawing board I went.
We had a huge pile of salvaged regular red bricks.
It couldn't be just a red brick road.
The artsy side of me can't do that.
This is as far as we got last fall.

I came up with a design and worked 16" pebble covered grey bricks into the path with the red bricks in a basket weave design to fill in.
We began last fall, then it froze and sat all winter incomplete.
And here I must mention,
I have an absolutely wonderful husband.
He has done this project for me.  
Other than packing a brick or two or fetching a tool, he has done the work.
I draw up a design and he builds/constructs etc.
Tilled the whole thing in order to cut the path.

All the full bricks are in place and he has been cutting bricks to fill in the edges.
That part is a slower, more tedious process
which is why most folks don't do it.
I figure if we are going to do it, we might as well have something we really like.
And yes, he likes it too.
So now, even though it's not complete, I'm loving it.
Can you see how nicely those bricks follow the string line?

I'm also looking forward to not having to mow around a circle while trying not to run over lettuce or beans, etc.
I am excited to be in the garden again and have planted a few things, but
it's only April, and weather can be sketchy so I'm trying to mind myself
and be good.
But oooh, those winter, store-bought tomatoes are disgraceful
and make me want to plant early. ~but I digress~
There is a bed of gravel under the bricks.

I'll keep you posted and share when the filler bricks are cut and in place.
I would love to know what you think - do you like to see works in progress
or prefer finished projects?


PS~ These first two books are in my home library.  The Courtyard book is wonderful and offers great inspiration for various styles.