Monday, December 17, 2012

Happiness is a Border Collie Chasing Snowflakes

We had our first snow this weekend.  I like snow because it creates a wonderful blanket of peace and quiet, something which we could all use after the horrific events of this past week.  I also like snow because "children go out and play in the snow" sounds much better than "children go out and play in the rain and mud."  However it was our Border Collie, Pete, who got first dibs on celebrating the snowflakes this Saturday.  He did his best to try and catch them, and here is the proof:

And for the grand finale:

He reminds me that there are many more good and happy things in this world, than there are terrible and sad.  Nothing can make the horror of the Newtown or Clakamas shootings go away, but we need to focus on the good, the "helpers" as Mr. Rogers mother once told him, so we bring light into our own lives and into the lives of those around us.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Pelts for Sale!

North Valley Farm Lincoln Lamb Pelts

I just got 5 more pelts back from the tanner.  These are machine washable Lincoln lamb pelts with beautiful long wavy locks.  A wonderful accent for either a sofa, chair or bed.  If you want to purchase one for someone else, I can ship directly to them, with the pelt wrapped in tissue paper and a farm card, letting them know who it is from.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Fun with Friends

Every now and again, I get something right.  I am sure that my teenaged children would strongly disagree with me on this point (we are at that stage where I do very little right, according to them.)  In any case, a couple of months ago a friend - Colleen Smith -  suggested we get together so she could learn how to tail spin.  Finding a window of time where 3 of us (Loren Heath from Distracted Acres also joined us) were available was a challenge, but we pulled it off and had a great time together this past Wednesday.  Tailspinning involves using defined locks of wool to create a highly textured yarn that has the locks sticking out at all angles.  It is not a quick technique but it results in a fun yarn that can be used for accents or for an unstructured scarf.  The day had all the ingredients of time well spent: friends, food and fiber.  Of course, we got a little silly and wool turned up in all sorts of odd places.....Pete is such a good sport!

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Brief Respite from the Rains

Evelyn in front of the milking shed

After an unusually dry summer, it is hard to justify complaining about too much rain.  But since we are already 4" ahead of schedule for the year, I'll go ahead.  Close to 10" of rain fell here last Monday in a 24 hour period.  Needless to say, the North Yamhill River flooded and cut off our access to town, making the morning commute into school a little longer.  The good news is that we are getting a brief respite which both the people and the animals enjoy.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dog Kisses

Today during a break from the rain, my Border Collie Pete and I went out into one of the pastures.  My ram lambs were very curious and came over to investigate.  Here one of them is getting a kiss!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Breakfast - Lincoln style

All sheep are excited about their meals.  Having raised both Lincolns and Romneys, I can tell you that Lincolns are particularly enthusiastic eaters.  It is not a wise shepherd who gets between a Lincoln ewe and her dinner - the result could be the flattening of the shepherd!  Here we have our old girl, Ingrid, enjoying her breakfast of oat and alfalfa hay.  Ingrid is 12 going on 13 years old and she lives with the ewe lambs we are holding over the winter.  Because the ewe lambs are still growing, they get richer feed than the adult ewes who are due to lamb in February.  And the reason that Ingrid lives with the ewe lambs is because she is an older girl, with worn teeth, who has trouble maintaining a healthy weight on the normal adult sheep fall rations.  Ingrid is currently our only retired granny sheep on the farm.  She was taken out of the breeding line up after 10 years of outstanding results.  I'm guessing that 15 to 20% of my ewe flock is related to Ingrid.  She was one heck of ewe in her day, producing champions in the show ring almost every year.  And more importantly her offspring were able to produce equally impressive lambs.  So it's good to see the old girl enjoying her golden years.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Out and About on my Horse

I went on a ride down the Rail Road Grade at the eastern edge of our property today.  My Dad came with me just to make sure that my horse, Coriander, was ready for the task at hand.  She is a 15 year old Arabian that came to us as a rescue just under 4 years ago.  At the time I got her, she wasn't even halter broke, let alone under saddle.  And on top of that, I had taken a 23 year hiatus from riding - what a great combination!  As luck should have it, we stumbled upon a wonderful local riding instructor and trainer, Bethany Jernigan. With a great deal of skill and patience, Bethany has brought this odd couple a very long way indeed.  After about 5 minutes of walking down the gravel road, Dad unclipped Coriander and we were on our own.  She did great - here is the view from the top of my horse.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Pasture Fix

Although the rains arrived late this year, they are now solidly entrenched as part of our weather landscape for the next 6 months.  Fixing bald spots in the pasture wasn't possible (or wise) earlier, as the ground was still very dry and my pasture harrow would just have bounced over the top of the soil, rather than scratching it up.  The bald spots are caused by gopher and vole activity, which is why trapping the varmints is necessary to keep the grasses healthy and productive.  You would be amazed to see how much damage small, furry rodents can wreak on acres and acres of fields when left to their devices!

Yesterday was a rare clear day, so I took the pasture harrow out to our biggest pasture and prepared an area of the field for overseeding.  This year I am trying out a new blend of perennial grasses that have been developed for their higher sugar content which should make them extra tasty to the sheep.  After harrowing and overseeding, I gave my Pop a ride back to the house in the bucket of the tractor.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

People and Landscapes of the Chrysochou Valley

A lot of people have been in touch with me regarding my mother's recently published book People and Landscapes of the Chrysochou Valley & The Princeton Cyprus Excavations, 1983-2008 and where they might purchase a copy.

You can try getting in touch with the Princeton University Art Museum; they are selling the book in conjunction with the City of Gold exhibit.  However if they are sold out, you can get in touch with the publisher in Cyprus, Moufflon Publications.  They are sell and ship books all over the world - I believe the book costs 25 euros plus shipping or $35 in the US.  Here are some sample pages from the book:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Special Weekend wih my Pop

This past weekend, I made a quick trip to New Jersey to visit my father and attend the opening of a very special exhibition at the Princeton University Art Museum - City of Gold.

Dad is an archaeologist and has been running the Princeton University Excavation in the Republic of Cyprus in Polis Chrysochous.  City of Gold is a collection of artifacts from a number of museums around the world that were found in Polis over the last 100 years.  Dad was digging up the ancient city of Arsinoe, which dates to between 500 and 400 BC.  In addition to getting the exhibition ready, Dad also worked tirelessly on pulling together Mom's book, a photo and essay collection of this area of Cyprus.  Mom was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer at the age of 64 in 2007; she died after a recurrence in December of 2008, not having had the chance to finish her project.  Dad completed it for her, using only her photos and text and got a publishing house in Cyprus to generate a first printing in conjunction with the opening of the exhibition.  Needless to say, it is selling like hotcakes.  Honoring Dad's lifetime of archaeological work this past weekend was wonderful, but the great gift that he has given all of us is his dedication and love for Mom which is reflected in his efforts to finish her last project.  I can not think of a more special gift for both my brother and me as well as our children.

On the flight back to Oregon (Dad came back with me and is enjoying some R & R on the farm) I worked on my latest pair of socks:

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall's Arrival

As you can see from the yellow grass and the changing colors of the leaves, fall has arrived at North Valley Farm.  The first rains are giving a little life to the pastures after almost 3 months without any water falling from the sky.  We've been feeding grass hay since the beginning of September because of the unusually dry weather.  And today we got a load of oat/alfalfa hay to get us through the first part of winter.  You don't want me to blog about feed prices this year because it would just be a string of unprintables.....the good news is that I found a wonderful grower/hauler - Ken Threet - with whom I've been working for 5 years now.  He and his wife work over 1,000 acres; in fact, his wife raises sheep, so they have a really good handle on what kind of hay we need, year in and year out.  Buying directly from the grower means I get a better price than if I bought from a broker.  And Ken knows he can rely on my business, so the situation works well for both of us.

I am very pleased with the quality of sheep our flock is producing.  Here is my favorite white ram lamb from this year's crop, out on the pasture.  His father is a Larson ram from Michigan, and his mother is a ewe of my own breeding.  I've kept his twin sister as well - this is a top producing line that has done well for me over time.

In fact, this ram lamb was the champion white longwool ram just a few weeks ago at the Oregon Flock & Fiber Festival in Canby, OR and went on to be the grand champion white ram of the show.  Here is a photo of the same ram lamb at the show:

It's always nice to do well at a show, but ultimately the test of our flock is whether it is thrifty and productive, in terms of producing good carcass lambs and quality fiber - the other stuff is just icing on the cake.  Our sunrise this morning:

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Machine washable pelts for sale

We just got our first shipment of machine washable pelts back from Bucks County Fur Products in Pennsylvania.  As in past years, I am very pleased with the results.  These pelts are from lambs that were never shorn, so the staple length of the wool is over 6" in length.  Bucks County really is the premiere pelt processor in the US which is why we spend the money to send these clear across the country.  These have a great handle, lovely colors and are just wonderful all around.  If you are interested in purchasing one (a great Christmas present!) please get in touch with me through the website, either by e-mail or phone.  In most cases, the pelts cost $125 plus shipping.

Please note that we do not specifically slaughter lambs for their pelts.  These are lambs that were going to the butcher's anyway and this is just our way of using all of the animal, rather than letting the wool go to waste.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Petunia the Pig

I have a good friend in the barn yard - her name is Petunia and her favorite thing in the world is food.  Her second most favorite thing is tummy rubs.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Know Your Wool by Deb Robson - featuring North Valley Farm

I should have posted this link months ago, but sheep happen.  In any case, during my trip to the National Lincoln Show and Sale in Estes Park, CO, I was fortunate enough to take part in a video shoot for Craftsy.  Craftsy is a newish company that publishes all sorts of really nice instructional craft videos - cooking, knitting, sewing, spinning - to name a few.  Deb Robson, author of the Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook and a former editor of Spin Off, was in Estes Park as the host of the video shoot. 

Fleece & Fiber Sourcebook cover

Lincolns are one of the featured breeds in the video which is available on the Craftsy website for FREE; here is the link to the spinning page.  I highly recommend it, not because you get to hear me compare my 250 lb. sheep to tomatoes, but because it contains some very good information and is well presented.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Birth of a pair of Felt Boots

Two weekends ago, I had the good fortune to be able to take a boot felting class taught by Caren Engen at the Oregon Flock and Fiber Festival in Canby, OR.  It was extra fun because several friends were also signed up.  All the ingredients were in place: friends, wool, soap and water.  Here is the evolution of my set of boots:

First we chose a color or colors for our boots; I chose green which I am sure was no great surprise to my family or friends (it's a genetic thing - Germans are born liking green as far as I can tell.)  We laid out thin strips of roving in multiple layers on a large plastic template like so:
After we made the wool wet, we worked for quite some time to get the fibers to cling to one another and keep the shape of the template:
Once enough felting had taken place, the template is removed.  As you can see, one still needs to full the boot extensively to get it to shrink down and fit on the foot.....This is one of my boots begore it was fulled.........
And here are the boots after fulling - success!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Harvey Warrick's Lincolns

Every now and again, something so wonderful happens in my life, that I feel I should pinch myself to make sure that I am not dreaming.  Just such a thing has happened yesterday.  These lovely sheep walked off of the trailer and onto my farm:

They are the core of Harvey Warrick's white Lincoln flock, which just arrived here at North Valley Farm in Yamhill, OR from Adrian, MI courtesy of Doug Montgomery of Bideawee Farm over in Newberg.  They are absolutely beautiful, every last one of them, and their fleeces are divine.  And so begins another chapter in my quest to put together a Lincoln breeding program that is commercially viable using these tough and intelligent sheep that have roots going back to the Roman invasion of England.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dinner a la Romanesco

Every once in a while, I get a bee in my bonnet and I'll get busy in the kitchen.  This time of year, the Romanesco broccoli makes its appearance.  It's quite dramatic, with bright green spires and twists here and there.  It is considered an heirloom vegetable and is classified as a form of cauliflower.  Here is the gigantic head we picked up at the grocery store today:
I use it in a recipe for broccoli and potato soup.  First I brown some yellow onions and then add the Romanesco florets.  After about 5 minutes, the peeled and chopped potatoes are added, as is some beef broth.  One cooks the soup just long enough that the potato becomes soft and starts to fall apart.  Serve with freshly grated pecorino, plenty of pepper and some shredded basil leaves - yummo!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Petunia the Pig

Every farmer that I know has a pet here or there, stashed somewhere in the barnyard.  A creature that we hold near and dear to our heart.  Petunia the pig is just such an animal for me.  She is smart, opinionated and curvaceous.  Many of us know that pigs are smart - I would guess that Petunia is smarter than 4 of my 5 dogs, the Border Collie being the exception.  But did you know that pigs talk quite a bit?  They are very vocal and it's easy to tell whether Petunia is excited (loud grunts and squeals), upset (shrill squealing) or happy (quiet grunts.)  Here Petunia is telling me that it is time for a tummy rub:
She loves her tummy rubs!  The only thing that will divert Petunia from a massage is the promise of food, because being a pig, she needs to maintain her streamlined figure.  My pig also has lovely dark brown eyes and the best snout in the barnyard.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hot Summer Days

The dog days of summer are finally upon us.  After a long and wet Spring, summer was slow to arrive.  However these past few weeks, we've had several days with temperatures in the low 100s.  As you can well imagine, wearing a wool coat at this time of year is rather uncomfortable.  Our breeding groups will be put together in the next couple of weeks, so it is important to keep the sheep healthy and happy - and happy at this time of year means naked, if you are a sheep.  Below are photos of our shearer, Manuel Santana, hard at work.

Feeling comfortable and looking great!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

On a Tear

I've been infused with more energy lately - who knows why.  It's not like I have less to do.  But I find there is a welcome and subtle shift in my life, a greater emphasis on the important and a move away from the trivial.  I am able to create again.  This skill left me during the time of my mother's illness and subsequent death from ovarian cancer during 2007-2008.  Mom would be glad to see that I am creating again; she was an accomplished photographer and was actively exploring digital media at the time she became ill.  She always encouraged me to become and illustrator because she loved my drawings.  And this fall I've enrolled in a class on the topic - who knows where it shall lead, but it feels right.  These past few weeks, I've worked on first spinning and then knitting this small shawl.  The yarn is a 60/40 wool/bamboo blend and the colorway is called Downton Abbey after one of my favorite TV shows.  It's the first time I've worked with bamboo and I like it.  It adds shine to the wool and is a great blend for our cool summer evenings.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Trip to Colorado

Just about a month ago, I hauled some of my Lincoln sheep to the Estes Park Wool Market in Colorado, the location of the 2012 National Lincoln Show and Sale.  I've hauled sheep and cattle to northern CA before - down into the Yreka area where friends ranch outside the town of Montague.  However those were 8 hour trips and this was a 1,250 mile trek one way.  Luckily a good friend and fellow Lincoln breeder, Chris Bazant of Missing Creek Ranch kept me company. There is a stark beauty to the eastern part of Oregon:

Note the bug splatter on the windshield, and this was just after 6 or so hours of driving.  You can also see giant wind mills in the background.  Idaho and Utah are quite attractive as well.  But then one starts across the southern part of Wyoming...............
After counting pronghorn antelope for hours, there's really not much else to do and one begins to understand why the state has drive through liquor stores.  Once in Laramie, we headed south into Colorado towards Fort Collins and Loveland.  It was great to see trees again.

In Loveland, CO one turns to the west and heads up through a canyon to Estes Park, the gateway to the Rocky Mountain National Park.  The wool market and sheep show take place at the county fairgrounds, elevation 7,000 + feet.  I was a little unprepared without hat or sunglasses, as the weather in western Oregon had been overcast when we left.  On the first day of the show, the temperatures were in the mid 80s, with 15% humidity and wind gusts over 40 mph.  In the distance, we saw a small wildfire start.  By Sunday morning, it had increased from 2 acres to 14,000 - what we were witnessing was the beginning of the High Park Fire, the second most destructive wildfire in Colorado history.

Despite the unfolding disaster to our north, we managed to have a good time and a successful show.  My big natural colored yearling ram was the Reserve Grand Champion colored ram and the top selling natural colored Lincoln in the sale.  He has gone on to start a new Lincoln flock for David Day in Indiana. And a natural colored ewe lamb I donated to raise funds for youth members of the National Lincoln Sheep Breeders Association was the Reserve Grand Champion colored ewe and was purchased by Nancy Irlbeck of Aniroonz.

Here is a photo of me with my ram as well as NLSBA president Brian Larson with a white ram in 12 months of fleece together with Deb Robson.  We were taking part in a video shoot for on specialty wools and their uses.  It will be a free on line tutorial and I'll put the link on our website and this blog as soon as it becomes available sometime during the month of July.
Getting out of Colorado was a little more eventful than planned.  The High Park fire was just north of Fort Collins and had gobbled up close to 40,000 acres by the Sunday afternoon of the show.  Heading through Fort Collins, things did not look good.  I stopped at a Shell station to ask whether the highway to Laramie was still open.

The folks working there had not been told of any closures, however just a quarter mile ahead, the road was closed and we were diverted east.

I've never been so thankful for the rain and moisture of western Oregon!  Despite the detour, we made it home in two and a half days.  Coming through the Columbia River Gorge, we saw our first clouds of the return trip, and the rain soon followed.