Wednesday, January 23, 2019


Meet Liesl (a.k.a. "weasel"). She is our daughter's cat, and makes herself at home in our home. She is wild and full of weirdness. But she also knows how to relax. I need to learn about relaxing.

What do farmers do in the wintertime? Care for animals. Fill out applications for the upcoming market season. Order seed. Look back at the past year and plan for the next one. Struggle with the cold. Gather everything needed to have the taxes done. Catch up on website work. Relax.

And maybe blog. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Book Review: An Everlasting Meal

A year (or more) ago a customer/friend from the Sweetwater Market eagerly thrust a book into my hands. She said, "You will like this book. Here, read this chapter on beans." So, while I should have been paying attention to my customers, I was surreptitiously devouring Chapter 9, titled "How to Live Well."

I was hooked both by the writing style and the author's approach to cooking. I have assembled meals (for better or worse) for most of my adult life. But you could hardly call it cooking. Growing up I spurned my mother's offers to teach me the ways of the kitchen. (Sorry, Mom. I really was a pain.) And that lack, along with my careful approach to most of life, has made me stay in the shallow part of the pool--the place with predictable results. 1 cup of this + 1 pinch of that = something that would fill bellies.

I came home from market that day and placed the book on my PaperBack Swap wish list. I use PaperBack Swap as a way to slow down my acquisition of books, as it forces me to wait until someone puts their copy of the book I want up for swap. If I'm impatient, I use the library.

Eventually, someone mailed me a very nice copy of the book I was hoping for, and I've decided it's a keeper.

From the chapter on beans: "Our beans are rarely as good as they can be. They're usually so bad, in fact, that basing an opinion of their merit on prior experiences is very much like deciding you don't like Bach after having heard the Goldberg Variations played on kazoo."

"I suggest you set your doubt aside, fill a pot with cold water and two cups of dried beans, put it on your counter, and leave it there overnight. You will be on your way toward making beans that taste like those that have fed laborers and fighters for centuries."

Other chapters focus on herbs ("How to Light a Room"), rice ("How to Make Peace"), meat ("How to Be Tender"), mistakes ("How to Snatch Victory from the Jaws of Defeat"), and more. The author sprinkles tips and recipes throughout the book--things that I was eager to try and that I have incorporated into my cooking since first reading it all the way through last summer.

The book's whole approach can be boiled down to cooking (and living) simply and well. The author suggests keeping a well-stocked pantry, using what you have on hand, and folding the little bits of leftover into the next meal, making it an everlasting meal.

An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, by Tamar Adler, is so much more than a cookbook. It's an approach to cooking, and to life, that makes me want to slow down and savor the moment. Check it out from your local library if you can. If you love it enough to own it, buy it from an independent bookstore or check out PaperBack Swap.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Lambing Season

Last weekend the lambing season of our larger group of ewes began. We breed a small group of ewes early so that we can have a few lambs available for our visitors at Shearing Day. But the bulk of the flock starts lambing in early April. Generally it's a bit warmer by then, although yesterday we had snow...

These are the ladies in waiting. (Note: It's hard to get good photos in our dark barn backlit by sunlight.) This is the group that The Farmer is scanning each time he goes out to check for lambs. He looks and he listens. There is a special "baaaa" that we only hear from the ewes during labor and delivery and for the first few days of the lambs' lives. When we hear that, we look harder. We look for a ewe standing or laying off by herself, or one who has her head turned back to look at her stomach. We look for lambs already born. If someone is in active delivery, we don't move her until she's finished and the lamb is cleaned off. 

The Farmer will pick up any lambs and back out of the pen slowly. The ewe will follow nervously and the family group will be placed in a "jug"--a special bonding pen that houses just one ewe and her lambs. Sometimes she will have her second (or third) lamb in this jug.

Once the lambs are born and cleaned off, they get up pretty quickly, and they have their first meal. This is the most important meal of their lives. Colostrum (first milk) gives warmth, energy and immunity that can mean the difference between life and death.

Once the lambs are a few days old, they and their mothers are moved into a mingling pen consisting of 3 or 4 family units. It takes a little while to sort out which lambs go with which mothers. The ewes know their lambs by smell (note the ewe sniffing a lamb), and the babies know their mothers by the sound of their voice. Anytime we combine family units or move them, there is a LOT of noise and commotion.

Occasionally the lambs are able to wiggle out of the mingling pen. Each pen's lambs are marked with a non-toxic mark (red in this photo) to tell The Farmer which pen they belong in. Eventually, the family units will be moved to larger mingling pens, and once the pastures are ready, they will all go outside for the summer.

It's a busy time of year, but one of The Farmer's favorite times. There is such joy when birth goes well, and it's a delight to watch the lambs grow and explore.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Inside the Shop

In preparation for Shearing Day, we set the shop up to house all our products and 3-5 demonstrators. This year we had people demonstrating needle felting, spinning and sock knitting. Most of the 500 visitors who came also took the time to walk down the driveway to the shop to see the demonstrators and the wool (and other farm) products we have for sale. 

This barn was the original chicken coop on the farm, and a few years ago we took the flat roof off and built a second story on top. You can read more about that process by clicking here for all the "barn renovation" posts. 

We sell roving and combed top for needle felters and spinners. Many spinners have not had the opportunity to spin the wool from Polypay sheep. They are pleasantly surprised at the loft and sheen in our wool.

Our unique wool socks are popular to give as gifts, and are a full-circle "Made in Michigan" product. We care for the sheep, send the wool to a Michigan mill to be made into yarn, dye the yarn ourselves, and knit the socks one pair at a time back here on the farm. 

We also have yarns for knitting, wool dryer balls, handwoven rag rugs, our beans and corn products, and more. While it's a smaller set-up than on Shearing Day, you can still find all these wonderful products available on the farm. Our shop is open from 1-4 pm each Wednesday and Friday. Take a drive out one of these afternoons, and stock up on good things fresh from the farm. We are located at 13275 Blair Street in Holland, Michigan.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Before, During and After -- Shearing Day

This year's Shearing Day was warmer than usual. And, thanks to a dry spell, there was no MUD! What a gift. Just over 500 people attended our Shearing Day this year, and I think most of them had a good time. 

Here are some of the ewes before shearing. Sometimes I ask the kids what it would feel like to wear the same clothes for a whole year without washing them. The outside of the fleece is fairly dirty, but the inside is very nice and clean!

Our shearer worked alone this year, and did a great job. Timothy has a strong back and his own shearing equipment. We hire him to do our shearing, and he travels all over the state of Michigan to shear on a regular basis. He is an award-winning shearer (did you know there are sheep-shearing competitions in many places in the world?) and has traveled internationally to compete and to shear sheep. Want to see the world? Become a sheep shearer.

Our capable skirting crew sorted off the wool that was extra dirty or full of hay, and the rest went into a large bag to be processed or sold. 

 A few lucky lambs got extra attention from obliging kids.

After shearing, many of the ewes headed outside for a meal and some sunshine.

Thanks again to all who helped our Shearing Day go smoothly, and to all who visited!

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