Hey, it’s hay!

Today I sorted out the hay situation for the sheep. Since I live smack dab in the middle of dairy country I figured getting hay wouldn’t be too hard, and sure enough it was as simple as introducing myself to another of my neighbors and asking them to call me with their prices. No more than an hour after our conversation he arrived with his hay tractor containing 10 large squares of hay and some small bales of straw. By large squares I truly mean massive squares – these guys are 7 feet long (4×4 feet wide/high I believe)! They were manipulated skillfully by the farmer with his small tractor and are most definitely staying right where they were put for the entire winter. We covered them with a tarp to keep out the rain after transferring a week or so worth into our barn lobby for easy distribution.

I imagine it was an interesting day for the sheep. They all gathered around the barn when the farmer was unloading the hay, watching curiously. They all flocked around us while we spread out the straw inside the barn, some tried to nibble the seedheads but most gave up quickly. They all went crazy for the new yummy hay, and I learned very quickly that the bales are very compact indeed and a little goes a long way with my tiny sheep!

Then we spoiled them and gave them a yummy grain snack with lots of snuggles. That’s just how I roll.

The bird pen got a fine layer of straw and now looks like a golden oasis amongst the dying/frozen grass. I’m sure all the birds are greatly enjoying finding the seedheads. It won’t be too much longer for the turkeys until they are ready for harvest, we are beefing them up and they are eager to eat so it’s a win win situation.

We have a bit more cleaning to do outside, some firewood is coming in tomorrow morning, I need to finally put away all the summer tools and get out the winter ones… but we are well on our way to preparing for the winter months which seem to approach quicker with each passing day 🙂

October Sheep

Here are some recent pics of my Shetland sheep flock here on the Happy Panda Rainbow Farm during October of 2010.

Macaroon

Macaroon, the leader of the girls.

The Price in October 2010

The Price, the third and last ram lamb born here in 2010.

Ginger Rogers

Peebs’ mom Ginger Rogers, always making a face of some kind…

Gin

Gin, a striking badgerface katmoget.

Volcano God lounging under a tree

My precious Volcano God relaxing under a tree. See how grey he is becoming! Such a drastic difference from the black he came out with.

Vanessa Redgrave

Vanessa Redgrave. I love her little booties and white patched face.

Sudbury

Sudbury showing off his much nicer horns compared to Peebs. Sudbury is basically a better version of Peebs in all aspects except for rudeness and chunkiness and derp-face.

Rolo

Front and center is Rolo, behind-right is Lady Baba, behind-left is Keelin (or Nepean, can’t see the ear to know for sure).

Shy Trio

Here’s a better shot of the Shy Trio – Keelin up front, Nepean behind her, Lady Baba to the right.

Sheep not pictured – Peebs (view him in the previous post), Snikertini, Liberia, Maggie.

Everytime I visit the sheep, which is quite often now that I don’t have to catch and tie up an angry ram each time, I see if I can remember all of their names. It gets hard when they are all in one flock and I can’t see their heads, but it’s possible. Eventually, very likely much sooner than I expect, I won’t be able to remember everyone’s names off the top of my head, or be able to identify them by fleece color alone. It’s crazy to think that not even a year ago I was dreaming of the day when I would have sheep, and here I am now with a flock of 15 and one birthing season under my belt. It makes me excited for what the future will hold!

A Trouble Ram Lamb

Peebs

Peebs. My first born lamb here on the farm, alone in the world for two weeks until his brothers came out of their mama. Ginger Rogers was Frankie’s #1 girl, thus lil Power Blaster here was basically the prince of the barnyard. I’m not wise enough yet to wager on how sheep think/work/grow, but if I were I would bet that Peebs was mostly influenced by his father whereas Volcano God and The Price are mostly influenced by their mother. I of course don’t discount that it was my own actions that have influenced his behaviour, though I did try my best to not fawn over him.

Either way, this is the situation:

Peebs being a menace to society

Peebs is a friendly and needy lamb. With very close horns. And a fleece that is, to put it, mediocre.

On any other farm any of these criteria can be enough to disqualify the ram from breeding. Back in the Spring I decided that Ginger Rogers’ genes were not ones I wanted to spread via a ram so I castrated him. Nonetheless he is showing signs of being interested in sex. Since this year’s breeding program didn’t come to fruition, we shall see if Peebs sires any babies, which we will likely use for our Shetland meat program.

What a lucky guy. On many other farms he would be toast by now. Here he gets to live until his horns cause him potential damage, until he pushes the line with me too far needy-wise, and possibly can remain to be a herd sire for the meat program thanks to his massive ability to become chunky in no time.

Being born a boy animal on a farm is unlucky. Unless you are spectacular and worthy of being a stud or have other redeeming traits, you are likely destined to have no existence whatsoever. Here in dairy country I’ve heard that during birthing time you can walk around and collect all the boy calves you want for free, they are that worthless in the scheme of dairy operations. Same with chick production lines, the boy chicks are put onto a separate path that essentially goes into a chick mulcher.

Of course every farm can be different and have alternative approaches. I certainly value my male sheep and retain them as wethers (provided their horns don’t pose a threat to themselves). But still, perhaps this is something to consider when you consume your next mass-produced produce. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over this past year, it is how disconnected many of us are from our food sources, and how much value one can gain by making that connection happen. You don’t have to come be a farmer like me (though I’d love your company), you can simply come and visit a local farm and give your dollars to them instead of the grocery store. Hopefully you will find a farm open like mine is, where you can go and meet your future meat and appreciate it while it’s still around to feel loved. To me, this type of relationship with my meat is much more preferable than one where I walk into a store and buy a slab of an animal whose living conditions are unknown to me save for misleading clues in labels like “organic” or “free range”.

It all boils down to my one and only cherished belief: the golden rule. Treat others as you would want to be treated. If I were a butthole of a needy lamb named Power Blaster, I would love to be given one more day to continue existing. Sure it might suck to finally become meat, but if you compare the fun (and sometimes dramatic) life my animals have over the desolate lives given to many battery-raised animals, mine come out happier and more fulfilled. Sure the meat is more expensive than industrial-operation scale meat. But my animals are as happy as they can possibly be, and if I have the choice as to what meat to consume it’s gonna be happy meat over industry meat.

Eating Frankie

Yesterday I went to Abbatoir Lefaivre to pick up Frankie and Ruby. They were all packaged up in little brown packages labelled with the cut of meat. We got back plenty of chops, ossobocco, shoulder roasts, and even their hearts.

I couldn’t resist trying some Frankie for last night’s dinner. Tom pan-fried up some chops really simply and we ate them with an assortment of side dishes including corn and poutine. Let me tell you, they were absolutely amazing! Lamb in shape and size but beef in taste. You could hardly tell it was mutton, in fact the only thing giving it away is that cows don’t have teeny tiny bones!

I am hoping to have a delicious goat curry for tonight’s supper and some actual Shepherd’s pie in the coming days, in addition to plenty of deliciously simple pan-roasted chops. My plans have also been changed a bit as to what I want to do with my sheep for next year, I will now fast-track my meat production plans in addition to having them around for wool.

I do have a small amount of graded legal-to-sell meat available if anyone wants to try mutton or chevon. Let me know if you’re interested!

On an unrelated note first frost has finally hit us, yesterday actually. It was very neat seeing the crisp coating on the various plants and grasses in the area. It also made it very clear to see the insulating effect trees and mulch have: empty patches of close-cut grass were the most frosted while the area underneath the canopy of leaves was well protected. With an official growing season of May 24-October 10 us here in zone 4 and 5 don’t have it as easy compared to my Southern friends, but as long as you start the heat loving plants indoors ahead of last frost we can catch up to most of what they can produce. Heck you can probably grow bananas here in Canada if you had the money for the greenhouse and ongoing heating costs. I’ll settle for some delicious summer melons!

October already!

Indeed it is October. The end of our growing season is rapidly approaching. Our days average 10-15 degrees and our nights are around 5 degrees – getting to frost but not there yet. I have no more plants in the ground so I’m not concerning myself for when the frost day comes but I am interested in noting when it happens for next year’s use.

Frankie, my not so beloved Shetland ram, is living the last of his days free and happy. I made the hard decision to end his existence after he became very testy and dangerous during the breeding season going on now. He is simply too dangerous to both myself and the other animals. Not to mention his fleece is hardly fine at all, so ultimately he would be eliminated from my breeding pool. I gave it a good shot finding him a new home but he has a bad reputation apparently and no one was interested, so we are going to find out how delicious he is. There is a local slaughterhouse no more than 10 minutes away from my house which means my animals get to live happy and free up till the very end, and won’t get stressed out during the very short drive. I am excited to see how everything works out, I have requested they give me back as much as they can part-wise so that I can do things like tan the hide, cook the organs for dog food, etc. Use every part of the animal, that’s how the real farmers do it!

We are enjoying many winter squashes nowadays. Sadly the turkeys ravaged my plants right as they were getting into the swing of producing so we only got one or two small baby squash per plant. The ones we are enjoying now are ones produced by other local Ontario farms, varieties such as Buttercup and Turban squashes. Hands down buying a squash is my favorite way to purchase squash seeds, you get to sample the final product and end up with many many seeds for next year’s planting. Sure not everything grows true-to-type but that’s part of the fun in gardening, seeing what new things are produced.

Not one to lounge around, Lee will be pulling his weight in contributing to the farm in the coming week. With romantic glasses on: he has a date this Saturday afternoon with a Border Collie/Husky mix girl. With realistic glasses on: I’m a dog pimp gettin my pimp on.

And last but most certainly not least. I took part in an event last weekend right here in east Eastern Ontario which made me very proud to live out here. Beau’s, a small family run organic brewery in Vankleek Hill, held their second annual Oktoberfest event: a weekend of drinking beers, eating really unique and yummy foods, getting a sample of German culture with dancers and music, all to support some local charities and small microbrew organizations. I was a volunteer, but little did I know I would run in to some old friends and have a grand old time. Without a doubt I’m going to their event next year, hopefully as a volunteer again. I think I’d like to hold some kind of farm event here at HPRF before/during/after the Oktoberfest celebrations, kinda like having this be a home base for folks who want to come and have the good time but don’t have rides from Ottawa nor a safe place to crash while plastered. It’s just an idea now but we’ll see if anyone’s interested 🙂