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Here you will find information about our farm and the many services we offer. Learn about our Poultry, Produce and Lamb, as well as find delicious recipes and lots more! Enjoy your visit and come again as the content will change during the growing season."

Amazing Katahdins

June 16th, 2013 by Joyce

Probably we all feel like our Katahdins are amazing sheep; that’s why we continue to produce them. I just want to affirm their attributes. Like much of the country, the summer of 2012 was brutal on our livestock. But I literally shook my head in wonder at the performance of my flock. Let me tell you about it.

According to a statement made to me, my flock management is non-management. I only have about 15 ewes and leave the ram with them year ’round. I expect the ewes to produce every 7 to 9 months. I wean the ram lambs and have a separate pasture for them, but the ewe lambs remain with the flock. I don’t vaccinate or medicate except to treat parasites in the lambs if FAMACHA or other symptoms dictate it. I do trim hooves as needed and provide sheep mineral. Otherwise, the flock receives the same rations year round: grazing as much of the year as possible and alfalfa hay in the winter.

I was excited last spring to have a new pasture to graze. Our neighbors, an elderly couple, had sold their small herd of cattle and gave us access to their now unused pasture. Most of my lambs came in January and February and by the third week of March I was able to move the flock to the new pasture. I use electric netting and move the sheep daily. I was envisioning a wonderful year of plentiful forage. Then the drought came. The grass was not regrowing. In places where there was a little forage, there was no shade. I moved the flock to the edge of the woods where they could find shade from the extreme heat, but there was little forage. The overgrown weeds and briers made the daily move of the fence exhausting. Sometimes there was so little forage that I moved the fence twice in a day. One of my older ewes began to show weight loss. On the first of July, I admitted defeat and moved the flock back to the home lot. Thankfully, I was able to find a source of round bales of clover hay. Actually the bales contained mostly grass but the sheep were grateful nevertheless.

Finally the rains came and in mid-September I was able to move the flock back on grass and rotate them again until the end of December. I had no way of knowing that the ewes had been carrying lambs through this brutal summer, but the last two weeks in November I was greeted with new lambs almost every morning and evening when I checked on the flock! There were mostly twins. One ewe who had had triplets in February, gave us twins this time. The older ewe that had shown the weight loss only produced a single. I don’t hold that against her. The lambs were of smaller weights than usual, 5 1/2 to 7 pounds, when we usually get 8 to 10 pounds. One young ewe (10 1/2 months old) produced a 4 pound lamb. Even with the ram always available, its rare that a ewe lambs before one year of age. I have to say, this young mother has took excellent care of that little one and he grew like a weed. The remainder of the yearlings lambed the end of January to the first of February. They would have conceived in August while on the poor hay but still had good production.

Here’s the point of this story. Most of the ewes ewes would have conceived mid-April, after lambing in January and February. They had a month of good forage which stimulated estrus, then two months of good forage before carrying the lamb through three months of extreme heat and poor forage. Just before lambing, forage was good again, eight to nine months after they had previously lambed. Those lambs may have had smaller birth weights but they are grew just as well as previous crops of lambs and their 60 day weights came in right on target.

This May (2013), my ewes again presented me with a bonus crop of lambs, including a set of triplets. Some of these ewes lambed only 6 1/2 months after the last crop. We have abundant forage so far this year and all are doing well.

In spite of what someone might think of the management, or lack thereof, of the sheep, the bottom line is: Katahdins are amazing!

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Lambskin Shoe Inserts

December 12th, 2012 by Joyce

Winter is here! If you’d like warm feet this winter, read on. I can supply you with warm lambskin insoles (inserts) for your shoes or boots from the tanned hides of our sheep. Simply mail to me, or give to me in person, the outline of your foot that you’ve traced on a piece of paper, and I will mail to you, or get to you in person, a pair of soft, warm lambskin insoles cut from your tracing. One side is the soft, supple hide side and the other side is the soft, warm fur side.

Cost: $2 per inch measured from the toe tip to the heel of your tracing for a pair. For example, if the tracing measures 6 inches, then your cost for the pair of insoles is $12. If I need to mail the insoles to you, add $2 additional for 1-3 pairs, $3 additional for 4-6 pairs.

If you want them by Christmas, I will do my best to accomodate.

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December 3, 2012

December 3rd, 2012 by Joyce

Fall has been kind to the farm. We are still harvesting cool season crops, napa cabbage, tatsoi, pac choi, and turnips. Also, winter radishes and turnips have grown well and we feed their greens to the poultry and the veggies to the sheep.

It’s been a few years since we had fall lambs but the sheep have lambed generously this November. Consider that these ewes conceived in March and April, then carried the lambs through the drought and poor forage and still have lambed healthy babies. Amazing Katahdin sheep. Pasture grasses resurged and we’ve been able to graze there since mid-September. All the lambs have been born on pasture and are doing well. The grass is pretty well grazed down now, so this afternoon we will be moving all the sheep back to the barn pasture. There is a little grass there and we’ll start them on winter hay. It’s more enjoyable to have the sheep and lambs where I can see them several times throughout the day.

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Welcome Rain

September 3rd, 2012 by Joyce

Finally, around the middle of August, the temperatures cooled to the lower 90’s and the green beans were able to set fruit. Beautiful, crisp beans are now in abundance. Of course, as lower temperatures benefited the beans, they slowed the ripening of tomatoes. I’ve kept the gardens watered from our well and the red kale has continued to produce tasty leaves. The tuscan kale and blue dwarf kale have just sat, alive but not growing.

Now, the first of September, we have received a little over 5 inches of rain from hurricane-turned-tropical-storm Isaac. The dormant kale is growing. The seeds I’ve planted for fall harvest are growing:beets, greens, cabbage, chinese cabbage, peas.

Very importantly, the pasture grass is growing. I kept the sheep on pasture rotation as long as possible with the drought becoming more and more intense. The first of July we brought the flock in to feed them hay. The ram lambs had already been on hay for several weeks. I have my winter supply of hay already stored in the loft, but had to find something to feed them now, not an easy task. Hay is in short supply with the drought. I did find some less-than-ideal hay and the sheep are staying healthy enough. I hope to be able to move them back on pasture in another week. It would be a real blessing if the rain continues and the pastures remain productive into November at least.

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Summer Progress

June 29th, 2012 by Joyce

“Extra challenging” is how I would describe the growing season so far. For the first time ever, mice took up residence in the greenhouse, eating off new seedlings and digging up seeds before they could sprout, requiring repeated replantings. Early Spring warmth seemed like it was going to be a blessing and we had an exceptional crop of peas. But the weather quickly dried out, with the last decent rain coming the first of May. Now, at the end of June, we have still had no more than .2 inches of rain a couple of times. We are definitely in drought with no signs of it breaking! The pastures are drying up and I have to begin feeding hay to the lambs. The adult flock will be able to continue to graze for a while yet. I have pretty well managed to keep the gardens irrigated and many veggies are still producing. I expect a good crop of tomatoes because the air has been exceptionally dry, preventing the usual blights that high humidity promotes. This week we are experiencing days of 100 degree plus temperatures which means green bean production will stop until the temps drop a bit. Oh, yes, we’ve been inundated by baby chicken eating raccoons that nearly decimated my replacement layers. As I stated in the beginning, it’s been challenging, but I’m grateful for whatever we are able to produce.

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Winter Activities

February 4th, 2012 by Joyce

Just as the summer was unusual, so is our winter. On this early February day I look out the window and see the free range chickens enjoying some still-green grass. They have continued to lay better than usual for winter. The ducks are laying very well also. About half the ewes have lambed so far. I was able to save seed from several varieties of veggies and I’ve ordered most of the seed I will need to purchase this year. I’m planning to grow some heat tolerant green beans so, hopefully, we’ll get a crop even if the summer is like last summer. Customers have suggested a few new varieties of veggies for us to grow. Soon, I’ll be starting some seeds so they will be ready to set out when the time comes. I’ve added a number of additional raised beds in the garden because it seems there is never enough space for everything I’d like to grow. I’ve begun pruning the fruit trees in our small orchard in the hopes that we’ll have a harvest soon. Actually, we had apples on the trees last year until the raccoons helped themselves! On days when I don’t want to be out in the weather I’ve been revising my planting calendar: once the season begins, there’s no time to think through what should be planted when. Lastly, we’re now offering custom cut lamb skin boot inserts. Contact me for more info.

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An Amazing Fall Harvest

November 26th, 2011 by Joyce

Spring was wet with accompanying disease problems in the tomatoes. We had plenty of lettuce and cool season crops though. Summer was extremely hot and dry so there were no beans and the heirloom tomaotes did not fruit. The hybrid “4th of July” tomato did get over the effects of the wet spring and was the best producers all summer. For the first season since I’ve been growing for market, I had nothing to offer for over a month during the summer. Finally the heat broke. I had taken a gamble and sowed fall greens, keeping them watered by hand and it has paid off this fall. It is now past Thanksgiving and I’m still harvesting spinach, pak choi, tatsoi, ching chiang, several varieties of kale, diakon radishes, and turnips. Although we’ve had several frosts, which have killed all the nightshades, the brassicas thrive in the cooler weather. There are cycles in the weather and here in the Midwest I’m having to learn to adjust to the current weather patterns. I can remember years past where we had only a few days of spring and fall. Now it seems that the spring and fall crops are growing the best.

The livestock part of the farm is enjoying the fall also. We had a good hatch of the Ancona ducks and they are now laying. The heirloom chicks I hatched this spring are also laying their pullet sized eggs: Cuckoo Marans, Kraienkoppes, Americaunas, and Delawares. Some of the older hens are still laying their very large eggs, too. The Katahdins gave me 3 summer lambs which have grown well. The sheep are enjoying the daikon radishes and turnips along with their hay.

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Subscription Deliveries Begin May 18

May 13th, 2011 by Joyce

Our first delivery of the season is Wednesday, May 18. Any newcomers who have questions about how this works feel free to call or e-mail me. Your choices for this delivery are:

lettuce: an order is one head of buttercrunch and one loose head of a red oak leaved lettuce; you may request more than one order.

tatsoi: a beautiful rosette of deep green, spoon shaped leaves with crisp, tender stems. The taste of the leaves is similar to spinach and can be added to your salad or sauteed. The stems can be used raw to add texture to chicken salad or as a dipper for dips (like you would use celery) or sauteed. It is mild and good raw or cooked.

salad greens: a mixture of young greens that will add to your salad or can be sauteed or stir fried.

sorrel: tangy, lemon flavored leaves give zing to salads. You only need a few leaves unless you are making sorrel soup.

red kale: an order should be about 1/2#

swiss chard: an order should be about 1/2#

maybe radishes

herbs: oregano, apple mint, and lemon balm

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Farmers’ Market Saturday, May 15

May 13th, 2011 by Joyce

At this week’s market expect lettuces, kale, radishes, green onions, herbs, flower and veggie plants, geraniums, canna bulbs. 817 9th Street; Highland, IL 8am til noon

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Farmers’ Market, Saturday, May 7

May 4th, 2011 by Joyce

At this Saturday’s Farmers’ Market, 817 9th Street, Highland, IL, we expect to have available lettuce, kale, radishes, green onions, herbs, canna bulbs, and veggie and flower plants. Check it out.

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