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.






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.
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.