We have had beautiful, cool, breezy, sunny fall weather up here in the mountains this week. It has been wonderful.
Jacketing our sheep is high maintenance, but worth it for us. The jackets keep the wool from getting full of VM (vegetable matter), sun bleaching, and staining. It adds value to the wool when it comes time to sell it or process it into yarn. As the owners of a custom fiber processing mill, we can tell you it REALLY makes a difference in the finished product. However, jacketing is not ideal and safe in all living situations. You need to take into consideration the safety of the sheep first and foremost. Fencing, weather, and pasture conditions all effect whether jacketing is a good option. For our dry-lot barnyard, close to the house with wooden/welded wire fencing, and in a cool climate, jacketing works well. We can keep a close eye on the flock and help if there are any jacket issues.
This week it was time to go ahead and get jackets on the new dairy ewe lambs. We have been giving them time to settle in. With all the pecking order battles and running around, we didn’t want the jackets impeding them at all or getting tangled. But everyone had settled now and they have jackets. While we were doing that, we checked all the other sheep jackets. It is important to check them visually daily, but actually catch the sheep and put your hands on them to check fit and such once a month or so. Fergus’s jacket has a couple big popped seam areas, so it came off, got washed, and was re-sewn and patched up. Fiona’s was too small, so she went into a larger one. If you leave a jacket on that is too small you can injure the sheep’s legs where the jacket rubs on them. You will also felt the wool on the sheep if the jacket is too tight, ruining it and thus completely undoing the purpose of the jacket.
One thing I don’t like about jackets is that I can’t see my beautiful sheep and all their different colors. So I enjoyed the few days that Fergus didn’t have his jacket and I got to see his handsome, pewter fleece. He has matured into a very large, beautiful breeding ram. I am surprised at how much growing and filling out he did from the age of 2 to now at just over 2.5 years.
The barnyard is so peaceful and balanced right now. When we brought in the new sheep there was obviously some shuffling of pecking order and such. Plus, Anya has been too rambunctious with the new sheep and the chickens due to all the stress of having a lot of different people coming and going from the farm the last 5 weeks with my father’s death. Now that everything has settled and it is just our family here at the farm again Anya has completely calmed down and is happily living in the front barnyard with all the ewes, the goat, and the chickens. And the two rams are happily in the back barnyard. All is well in the barnyard and everyone is where they should be and peaceful.
Fall garden chores continue as we harvest and clean out the gardens and put them to bed for winter.
We harvested all the onions and let them cure in the sun a few days before putting them in the root cellar.
We planted the garlic. I love the look of freshly turned and prepared garden beds…
We added new compost, made the rows, planted, and then covered them with waste hay and some metal trellises to hold the straw down through our very windy winter.
The tomatoes in the root cellar are ripening quickly now. So we have been canning tomatoes.
The light frost that the plants got before we harvested them have caused a lot of them to rot. So I pulled those out and composted them. It is also causing some to only partially ripen, leaving green areas even though the rest is fully ripe. We really need to be careful to not let them ever frost, we were just so overwhelmed and busy this year with things off the homestead that we accidentally let them get a light frost this year. The effects do leave them looking pretty cool though – like tie-dye or something.
Last spring a friend gifted me some seeds for a variety called Purple Russian. So we tried a new variety this year for the first time in many years. You can see them in the closer bowl in the picture below. They are a purplish red and are shaped kind of like eggplants.
The plants did very well with the cold climate and short season, and we are really happy with the flavor of these tomatoes. They are not quite as acidic as a regular tomato, giving them a milder flavor. They are delicious. I saved seeds from a few of the best ones.
Speaking of seed saving, we are way lacking on seed saving this year. I am saving from tomatoes and a cucumber, but that is pretty much it. We usually save from beans and peas too, but that just didn’t happen. I have some lettuce still in the garden going to seed, but I don’t know if it will make it in time before it gets too many hard frosts. I have put the frost tent over them to protect them. Time will tell.
To save tomato seeds I set aside the best tomatoes of each variety and let them get very ripe. Then I squeeze the seeds out of them into a cup, add a little water, and let them sit for several days to ferment. Then I rinse them thoroughly and smear them on a paper towel to dry. I always label the paper towels just to be safe – seeds all look the same! Once they are dry I put them in an envelope labeled with variety and year and any important notes about that year’s growing situation (like this year I will put that the tomatoes I am saving from survived a frost). All my seeds are stored in their envelopes, in sealed plastic containers, in the extra refrigerator down in the basement.
Speaking of the extra refrigerator down in the basement…last year we built it into the new root cellar room. But now that we are in our first fall with the enclosed root cellar (before it was just in a corner of the open unfinished basement, now it is an enclosed room in the basement) the refrigerator is making too much heat and warming the room too much to be a good root cellar. So we pulled it out. It left a big space, and this week we started filling that space with more shelves for storage. It can probably fit three more shelves and we will get to that when we can. And yes, that is a heater on the bottom of the wall – it is disconnected to keep the room cool.
I finished another pair of socks. This is the Epitome of Me pattern from Megan Williams with the Fish Lips Kiss Heel by Sox Therapist and the yarn is Knit Picks Hawthorne Fingering Kettle Dye in the colorways Wisp and Delphinium.
I am slowly but surely starting to learn the loom and am really excited about that new adventure!
I have cast on two more pairs of socks, Christmas presents for Young Man and Mr. Smiles. I now have a new knitting cuddle-buddy.
In the last two years both of our indoor cats died suddenly and unexpectedly (one this last summer and one summer of 2018). We decided this week we were ready for another indoor cat, so we were planning to go adopt one from the humane society. But then I was outside and our barn cat, Jerry, came over and while I was petting him I started thinking. He is the grandpa of the farm – the oldest animal on the whole homestead at 13.5 years. We have had him since he was an 8-week-old kitten. He is a sweet old man and has been an excellent mouser and barn kitty all these years. Ever since our LGD, Tundra died, he has struggled through the winters. Tundra and him were best friends. We got Tundra as a pup just a year before Jerry joined the family so they grew up together and really loved each other. They often cuddled together. Last winter seemed particularly hard on the old man, so I thought, “maybe he would like to retire indoors.” We tried this with him a few years ago and he did NOT want to be inside, so we put him back out. But this time has been different. We brought him in and he seems pretty darn happy to just cuddle in the warm and softness of everything indoors. So he is our new indoor kitty. Midnight and Minley can handle the barn on their own from now on.