Saturday, March 4, 2017

Annual Shearing Day is Coming!

Why do we host an open house each year at sheep shearing time? It's important for us to show the process of farming. Many people will tell you things about farming that "ain't necessarily so." Unless you can see farming practices yourself, and meet the farmers who care for the land and the animals, you are at the mercy of what you see on social media.

Farming is a messy, heartbreaking lifestyle. It's also an amazing, joy-filled lifestyle. When you come to visit us, you will smell what a barn smells like after it's had 100 sheep living in it for 2-3 months. You will see baby lambs and their mothers. You will watch sheep struggle to get away from the shearer, and then lay still while he works. Then you will see those same sheep jump up and run off to join the others. You will check out the inside of a fleece--snowy white--and the outside of a fleece with a year's worth of oils and dirt in it. Not so snowy white anymore.

We encourage you to come and see what a working farm is like. We'll clean things up a bit, and pray like crazy that it won't be muddy that day. Be prepared for something much messier, louder, smellier--and more wonderful--than you can imagine.

The Open House will be held on Saturday, March 4 from 9 - 3, at 13275 Blair Street, north of Holland. You may come and go at any time during the day. Dress warmly and in old clothing--we shear in a barn!

In addition to sheep shearing, you will have the opportunity to see demonstrations of various wool crafts, including needle felting, spinning and more. Farm products will be available for purchase, including wool products and organic dry beans. 

Farm friends and family will be on hand to answer questions and explain the process of harvesting and using wool. There is no admission charge to this event. Donations will be accepted from those who would like to support the education and outreach programs of the Critter Barn in Zeeland, but there is no obligation to donate. 

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sock Knitting Classes Offered

Have you ever wanted to learn to knit socks on a circular sock knitting machine? Maybe you found one in an attic and need to learn how to use it. Maybe you're looking to buy one, but before you spend the money, you'd like to know for sure it's something you can master and enjoy.

During February and March, you can take a 1-day or 2-day class at a time that is convenient for both instructor and student. Sock knitting classes start at $90, and include everything (even the machine!) you need to take home a pair of fresh-from-the-farm wool socks.

Email for more info.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Winter To-Do List

Winter is a time for us to rest a little, to catch up on paperwork, to plan, and to fix/improve things. But this winter our to-do list of projects is two pages long. The projects on those two pages may be six months' worth of work, and I'm sure we haven't thought of everything. 

The Farmer's current project is a gravity table we bought as a pile of parts. We already use a fanning mill to remove sticks and weed seeds and other unwanted debris from the beans. The gravity table will help us to remove more of the not-quite-perfect beans, and cut down on our hand sorting. 

The gravity table (above right) needs a large industrial fan to operate. The fan was not included in the pile of parts. For months we stalked Craigslist, until we found a fan large enough to do the job and inexpensive enough for us to afford. It involved a road trip to a factory district in Chicago, and we are grateful for our friend Glenn's help with getting the fan (above left) home.

The fan was closer to operational than the pile-of-parts gravity table, but it needed its motor rebuilt, and some shiny new ductwork.

The gravity table rebuild is a process, and will need some fine-tuning once it's actually running. But we are hopeful that we can soon check this item off the to-do list, and move on.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

With Grateful Hearts

All the harvesting is now done for the year. We have started putting things away and buttoning up the farm for the coming winter. What a gorgeous fall we have had!

As we turn our attention to these things, we take a moment to reflect on our blessings. We are blessed to have the ability and desire to farm. We are blessed to have family and friends who support us. We are blessed to be able to worship in the way that we choose. We are blessed to have enough to eat, clothes to wear, and warm homes.

Thank you for being part of our Shady Side Farm family. We are grateful that you allow us to raise food and fiber for you and your families. Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Corn Harvest -- Finally!

This makes me happy. 

This fall was full of regular, abundant rain, which made harvesting difficult to impossible. Besides the weather difficulties, we dealt with regular break-downs with the combine. We would fire it up, begin to harvest, and it would immediately break. We would spend a week of nice weather fixing it, and just before we finished fixing it, it would rain like crazy. Then we would have to wait for the ground to dry up, and once it was dry, we'd try to harvest again, and the combine would break. Repeat, ad nauseum. 

I could go on about how stinky this fall has been. I have tried to have a Habakkuk 3 mindset (though the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vine... yet I will trust...), but honestly, it's been hard. 

But this--THIS. The combine is working, and has been for over an hour. The corn is dry, and the ground is only a little bit muddy. It looks like we might get a harvest after all. Thanks be to God!

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