Winter into Spring
With pouring rain outside on a spring day it’s time for another infrequent farm update. After the fall shows and shearing were completed the farm settled in for winter. We had already decided not to breed this year, given the economy and a lack of interest in breeding stock, so there was no ram to bring in, no breeding program to manage. While we missed the excitement of breeding season, in fact this turned out to be a good decision for us for a number of reasons. The price of hay increased this year, and the extreme cold temperatures we had in December and January meant that the flock was eating more than usual to burn calories and keep warm. In addition, the two lambs that we decided to keep for our own breeding program will have a full year to mature before their first pregnancy. And, not having to purchase and manage a ram also meant we could focus on selling a few lambs of our own.
Next we were contacted by some established Churro breeders near St. Johnsbury, who were looking for a lighter-colored ram to introduce some new genetics into their flock. They bought Chaleco, the reverse badger ram from Manta. I’m looking forward to seeing photos of their lambs, which should be due in the next few weeks. Then in January we were contacted by a woman in Maine, also in search of a ram lamb. Fortunately we still had Louis, a fine black ram lamb with great fleece and amazing horns, just like his sire. It’s great to see some of our first lambs going to good homes.
Fortunately, we got a recommendation on a slaughterhouse from a friend of ours who raises pigs: Brault’s Market in Troy, Vermont. It’s about a 2-hour drive from our house, but the peace of mind that comes when working with a reputable, ethical, and family-owned operation are more than worth the extra travel time. I called them back in October expecting to have to wait a couple of months for an appointment, but was surprised that they were already booked into February. So we took the first available date and marked it on our calendar.
Even after death we have tried to honor their gift of life by using as much as we can. We’ll eat the organ meats rather than throw them out. And as it turns out, waiting the extra time for an appointment was beneficial. It allowed the lambs to grow a little larger, and since the butcher charges a flat rate per head this meant more meat for our money. It also meant that the lambs had more time to re-grow their wool after October shearing, and since we elected to save the hides for tanning, this will make for a much more luxurious sheepskin with a nice thick coat of wool. The hides are in the barn, salted and drying out before I send them to the tannery, and our freezer is full of delicious, healthy meat.
This winter has been an interesting chapter, providing important learning experiences for us. Spring is time for another shearing, and warmer weather means I can get back outside to skirt fleeces and dye some yarn. I just hope we can make it through mud season without another huge snowstorm.