A Lamb is Born!

It’s a boy! He was born early this morn­ing, and seems very healthy and strong. When we came out to the pas­ture this morn­ing, Brid­gette (and Dia­mond) were hov­er­ing over the lamb nuz­zling it. Here are some pic­tures that Dave took this morn­ing (click on the thumb­nails to see the full size images).

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Meet the Newest Member of the BBFg Team: Diamond! (plus new piglets, chicks etc.)

First of all, I hope that you’re all enjoy­ing our new site. Aside from hav­ing a sleek new ban­ner, some new pages and a bet­ter URL address, our web­site also makes it pos­si­ble to reserve meat online using Pay­pal. Just got to our Pre-Buy Meat Online page.

 

I’ve been mean­ing to post for a very long time, but so much has been hap­pen­ing around here that I didn’t really know where to start. How­ever, yes­ter­day there was a big enough change that I couldn’t help but come online and share it with all of you…

Meet Dia­mond!

Meet Dia­mond, our new llama from Pel­ham, NH. Dave and I just went to pick him up yes­ter­day, and so far he’s exceeded our expec­ta­tions for awesomeness.

 

I’m get­ting ahead of myself though. This all started because we’ve been look­ing into find­ing some other pas­tures for our sheep to graze on this sum­mer. Because we bred all our ewes to a Finn ram, a breed that’s known to throw triplets, quadru­plets or even quin­tu­plets, I’ve been get­ting a lit­tle ner­vous that we were going to end up with more sheep than we have pas­ture for at Black Brook Farm. Add to this worry the fact that we’ve been get­ting very lit­tle rain so far this year, and we have to ready our­selves for the pos­si­bil­ity of a very dry sum­mer, and you can see why we might want some back up fields. How­ever, the more we talked to peo­ple, the more obvi­ous it became that there was no way that we could put our sheep out on pas­ture some­where with­out pro­tec­tion against coy­otes. Dave and I have yet to see a coy­ote since we moved to BBF (which could be because of all the bark­ing dogs, or the horses, or just blind luck) but there are surely coy­otes in these woods too — so that’s where Dia­mond comes in! We researched some dif­fer­ent ways to pro­tect our girls and their babies from preda­tors — guard dogs, per­ma­nent struc­tures — but a llama seemed like the best solu­tion. Dia­mond eats the same things that sheep do (unlike a dog), he doesn’t require any spe­cial train­ing, and he’ll stay behind 4′ elec­tronet fenc­ing! Plus, he’s a per­fect gen­tle­man, and appar­ently has never spit at a human, he just doesn’t like coy­otes. There’s lots of infor­ma­tion about guard lla­mas online, but here’s a nice suc­cinct study if you want to read more:  http://www.sprucelane.com/guardllamas.pdf.

The ewes check­ing Dia­mond out

So hand­some!

 

The sheep also have got­ten sheared and look more preg­nant than ever! We’ve expect­ing lambs to drop any day now.

Before

Dur­ing…

 

After

 

And now, finally, our new baby chicks and piglets…We were on our way up to get our breed sow from Ver­mont when we got a call that she had had a mis­car­riage, so we decided to go with piglets instead. It’s sad that we’re not going to get a big beau­ti­ful pig momma, and that we didn’t get to see our piglets birthed, but it’s nice to have con­trol over exactly how many piglets we have (six right now!) I’m just going to post some pic­tures, and I’ll write more later. It’s almost 9 AM and there are things to do today so I have to wrap this up.

Baby chicks under the heat lamp

 

More baby chicks (note all those feet under the heat box)

 

Com­ing home in the trailer

 

Chow­ing down on whey

 

And finally, the pic­ture you’ve all been wait­ing for…

Our new sign!

February 22nd

Black Brook Farm Grow­ers 2012 CSA has been filled! We’re all get­ting really excited for this year, and we’ve all got a lot to do to get ready. Our seeds have all arrived and we’re going to start plant­ing this week. My mom has been bravely tack­ling a fresh set of spread­sheets (in order to set up our plant­ing and har­vest­ing sched­ules), Dave and I are work­ing on a new web­site that we’re hop­ing launch­ing this year and we’re talk­ing about clean­ing out a sec­tion of the barn for our new CSA pick up spot. 

The sheep are all doing well and are (hope­fully) preg­nant. We started trim­ming their feet this week, which requires catch­ing them and flip­ping them, not the eas­i­est feat, espe­cially when they’re as large as this one:
Lau­rel: the sweet­est sheep in the world
Carlisle Grows Green the new Carlisle School gar­den­ing and com­post­ing pro­gram has been nice enough to give us their com­post. Yes­ter­day Dave and I shov­eled it into the hoop house, where the warmth will hope­fully speed up it’s progress.
That’s all for now! Pic­tures of our first lit­tle seedlings com­ing soon
…and just for fun. Last Feb­ru­ary 22nd:

Happy New Year!

We had a great hol­i­day sea­son here at Black Brook Farm. By Thanks­giv­ing the farm was pretty much shut down for the win­ter, and we were all able to take a break and spend time with our fam­ily and friends. We read, worked on projects that had been pushed to the side, watched the movies we’d been want­ing to watch, ate a lot of amaz­ing meals and even slept in!
Black Brook Farm Grow­ers hol­i­day ham get­ting ready to be brined

The one thing we did not do was blog, as I’m sure all of you loyal fans have noticed, but now that it’s the new year and all the Christ­mas candy is gone, we’re gath­er­ing up seed cat­a­logs and get­ting back to work.

Up until now, every month has been a new adven­ture, with new excite­ments, chal­lenges and sur­prises. But we’ve finally come full cir­cle and are back in the win­ter plan­ning stage (just like when this blog was born a year ago). This year has taught us a lot, and we have a much clearer pic­ture of what we want Black Brook Farm Grow­ers to be.
Here are some of my new years res­o­lu­tions for Black Brook Farm Growers:
  • Get orga­nized: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, farm­ing requires A LOT of orga­ni­za­tion. That means tons of spread­sheets, lists and records so that you can remem­ber EXACTLY what worked and what didn’t. Every farm is dif­fer­ent, so as help­ful as books and other farm­ers can be, at the end of the day it’s impor­tant to learn from your own land. Orga­ni­za­tion is not always my strong point, but this year that’s going to change. There’s some great online soft­ware out there for small organic farms, this year I’m going to try using AgSquared, which I learned about in a work­shop at last years sum­mer NOFA conference.
  • Take risks: We want to keep stretch­ing our­selves and learn­ing new things. That means exper­i­ment­ing and being cre­ative, and not being afraid to try some­thing that we think might work. There’s a lot of room for cre­ativ­ity in farm­ing, which is one of the rea­sons I love it so much.
  • Make money: I know it’s not classy to talk about money, but BBFg is a busi­ness, and it’s impor­tant for Dave and I to prove that we can make a profit doing this work. Being able to cre­ate a finan­cially viable busi­ness not only means that we can con­tinue farm­ing, it also means that we can show other would-be farm­ers that this is a dream worth pur­su­ing. This last year we saw, and were inspired by, a lot of awe­some small farms that were finan­cially sta­ble. We’re con­fi­dent that it can be done, but that doesn’t mean that it’s easy.
  • Effi­ciency: We need to use our time and resources as effec­tively as pos­si­ble to min­i­mize waste on the farm. (This is Dave’s res­o­lu­tion and it ties in nicely with get­ting orga­nized and mak­ing money).
  • Cre­ate a com­mu­nity around the farm: This year, as you may or may not know, we’ve decided to focus entirely on CSA, or Com­mu­nity Sup­ported Agri­cul­ture. That means that instead of going to farmer’s mar­kets, or hav­ing a farm stand, we are going to have a lim­ited amount of mem­bers that buy into the farm at the begin­ning of the sea­son, and receive a weekly stipend of veg­eta­bles as a result. Not only is CSA a great way for to help meet all of the res­o­lu­tions I’ve already listed above,  it also means that we’ll have a com­mu­nity of peo­ple who are inter­ested in local food com­ing to the farm every week. We’re excited to share the farm with our mem­bers, and to use the farm as a space for com­mu­nity events. We’d also like to have work­shops at the farm to teach our mem­bers, and the larger com­mu­nity, about cook­ing, butcher­ing, pre­serv­ing and more.
These are just a few of my res­o­lu­tions. I’m sure over the next cou­ple of weeks, as we begin plan­ning, there will be many more.
Before I say good-bye (and get back to all that work I’ve been talk­ing about), I’d like to men­tion one excit­ing Decem­ber devel­op­ment, our ewes have been bred! Eli, a Finn ram, came and stayed at Black Brook and spent some qual­ity time with our sheep. He just went back to Bel­mont and we miss him already. He’s a great look­ing ram, and was very sweet with the girls. We are cross­ing our fin­gers that the ewes are all preg­nant. They should lamb some­time in late April or early May.
Eli. We’re hop­ing some of our lambs will have his coloring.
We’re look­ing for­ward to a great 2012 season!

A Sheep Story

When Dave and I got the mes­sage that a woman in Bed­ford was look­ing to sell five of her sheep my first thought was, absolutely not. After all, pru­dence tells me that we should grow slowly, and so do the major­ity of organic farm­ing how-to books.

“But isn’t part of the fun get­ting in over our heads a lit­tle?” Dave asked.
True, there are organic farm­ing how-to books that would agree. The Dirty Life,for exam­ple (a great read). Well, maybe, I thought. So we did some research, went and vis­ited them, spent hours writ­ing pro and con lists, and decided that it was too late, we had already fallen in love.
Can you blame us?
Lau­rel, the most friendly
Plus, we jus­ti­fied, lamb will make our meat CSA that much more desir­able next year (if you’re inter­ested, sub­scribe to our mail­ing list on the right). And I’m pretty excited about their wool as well.
Luck­ily for us, sheep are pretty easy to take care of. They eat pri­mar­ily grass, are very hardy, and are extremely sweet. We’re com­mit­ted to rais­ing them organ­i­cally, with­out any vac­cines or antibi­otics, so that means that the only tricky part is we’re going to have to intensely rota­tion­ally graze them. That means they’ll have to be moved almost daily (and def­i­nitely daily next spring when we have lambs that are much more sus­cep­ti­ble to par­a­sites). Mov­ing them every­day means that they will more fully graze the pas­ture. As one sheep owner explained, “if you give them too much space to graze, they’ll eat all the cake and none of the veg­eta­bles”. It also means that they won’t be graz­ing over a build up of their own excre­ment, there­fore reduc­ing the chances of them get­ting par­a­sitic diseases.
Again, we turned to Wellscroft Fence Sys­tems in New Hamp­shire, and they hooked us up with some light­weight elec­tric sheep fenc­ing and a lot of great advice. For now, we’re graz­ing them on the back pas­ture, with plans to install some per­ma­nent fenc­ing and bring them up closer to the house this winter.
Graz­ing
A Cheviot
Phlox (Rom­ney), on the left. Lau­rel (Rom­ney) in the fore­ground. Bon­nie, Blair and Brid­get (the three Cheviots) next to Phlox.
They love the move­able shel­ter Dave built them.
We pur­chases five ewes, two Rom­neys and three Cheviots. We’ll breed them this fall and hope­fully they’ll all twin in the spring, pro­vid­ing us with lamb for mar­ket by Octo­ber. Both are con­sid­ered good breeds for meat and fleece. The Rom­neys are known as good sheep for begin­ners, very easy going, while the Cheviots are con­sid­ered a lit­tle more wild. Cheviots are said to have been roam­ing the hills between Scot­land and Eng­land as early as the 14th Cen­tury (wikipedia) and are “noted for har­di­ness, longevity, pro­duc­tive­ness, milk­ing, and moth­er­ing abil­ity and for their great activ­ity” (Amer­i­can Cheviot Sheep Soci­ety). Because they are “hill sheep” and were often left to their own devises, they are more skit­tish and wary of preda­tors than the more trust­ing Rom­neys. We fig­ured it would be worth­while to try out a cou­ple dif­fer­ent breeds.
So you can all look for­ward to more sheep sto­ries this winter.