Friday, April 27, 2012

Let the chaos begin

This week has been... well, crazy. I'm sorry I was quiet for a bit... I haven't been feeling well, so I haven't been on top of my game to start with, which makes everything seem like it takes a lot more effort than usual. Our preparations for our upcoming big trip back to Alaska are in full swing. So much to do, so little time. In between starting to get stuff organized, fixing the lane again so we can get the 5th wheel out to get it's tires and brakes checked, we are also preparing for a three day trip next week for Doctors appointments and last minute shopping for the trip and 5th wheel. And my last big splurge at my favorite used bookstore.

Douglas tried one time with his morning coffee to update the blog, but I guess he got too lazy. 

Earlier in the week, I found an abscess on Flavious, one of my Great Pyrenees guard dogs, near his second dew claw. It is a royal mess - infected, sore, you name it. It was covered in hair so I'm not sure when it appeared and he hasn't showed any discomfort or trouble walking, and he's certainly still running around, play fighting with Max, eating, etc. 

Anyway, I knew he had to go to the Vet right away, so I made an appointment for today. I had some reservations about the clinic I was taking him to, because I am just uncomfortable with them from past experiences. Some have been good, some have not been, and that may be normal, but when it comes to my critters - I worry like a mother over her child (like a lot of you do too I'm sure!) So I lost sleep worrying about this. Until by chance I found out, purely by accident that my favorite Vet had just opened up his own clinic! This Vet has dealt with our farm kids before and saved my blind ram, Lambie pie. I trust him - and that is saying a lot. I called right away and they said they could see Flav today too. 

Jim (our farm helper/friend) came late last night so we could take his car which is way easier to load Flavious into than the big truck, and so he could help me, which was greatly appreciated. We took Flav in this morning and the poor kid is just a hot mess. It turns out it isn't an abscess, but a tumor, so it needs to be removed. Hopefully it's not cancer. I started to freak myself out a little bit when the thought occurred to me it might be...but then I remembered recently, I've decided to be a calmer Donna than ever before (which would make anyone who knows me break into hysterical laughter) so there was no need - at this time, to freak out. Flavious was a very good boy while getting his shots and getting his dry skin looked at- he pretty much just lied there like he was dead, which is exactly what he did when it was time to move him. Ever tried picking up a hundred and something pound Great Pyrenees and carrying him to the car, then lifting him into the car? It wasn't easy.

Poor Flav (as he'd like to be called... any extra sympathy is surely appreciated by him)  is on antibiotics now, and first thing Tuesday morning he'll go back and have the tumor removed and hopefully be on the road to healing. It will be a long road after that, trying to keep him dry and away from Max for a while... It will be like my own personal version of mission impossible.

Your mission... if you choose to accept it... 
Dun, dun... dun... 

All the staff at the clinic are great. I feel like one of the great worries of my life has been lifted off my shoulders. Knowing I have people I can rely on and also trust. However - Dr. Greg is not currently seeing farm animals, but hopefully this will change in the future and if needed, I'm fully willing to beg. I did remind him that my critters, Lambie, Sammy, and crew,  are not really farm animals anyway. I mean they live in a barn - but it's actually not a barn but rather a hotel with a maid who comes daily to clean up after you, and it's even got room service for your meals. No pool, but an on site massage therapist and nail spa.

Flavious has recovered from his trip to the Vet today and was his usual playful self when time for evening chores came around.

I had a difficult time getting Flav to eat his antibiotics in treats, because he chews everything into little pieces, drops it on the ground, and then picks up the crumbs... he's done that since he was a pup. So I tried the good old peanut butter trick and that just ended up in tears... Well in reality, me covered in peanut butter. I found out that as long as I get the meds and whatever treat it's in, in his mouth partway, he'll eat it. If I just hand it to him, he breaks it all up and spits the meds out - so at least I did manage to figure out the trick with him. Norman the chihuahua would eat medicine stuffed inside a shoe if I gave it to him. He's not very particular.

Flavious apparently doesn't even like peanut butter and Max wasn't all that keen on licking it off my hands either. I couldn't get help cleaning up the sticky mess to save me. 

In other news... the little dogs have been enjoying (depends who you ask) the freak snow storms we've had earlier in the week. 

And while thankfully the snow is gone, it's still really cold for this time of year still. The wood stove is burning away in the house to keep the chill away. 

Brina was up at the house this evening, and on the way to the barn for chores she was pretty anxious to get there so she could have her bottle...

 are you coming?

lets go!

For now, I'm off to bed. I'm the kind of tired where you can't see straight and you have to give yourself a pep talk just to drag, or walk, yourself the few feet into the bedroom to get to bed at all. If I don't make it, I'll sleep where I fall. Right now, it really doesn't matter to me. 

So, goodnight for now, and sweet dreams all.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Blueberry muffin cookies

I woke up this morning early and looked outside to a dark and rainy morning. I considered my options and decided spending an hour curled up under the duvet with my book, was the best one. 

So as I read about the French Revolution... lust, and greed... slowly, I felt myself waking up fully and I began to hear the little voice inside of me saying, "I need coffee now woman!" Since currently I'm reading a book set in France, I must admit, there was a bit of a French accent to the voice.

To make the morning a little brighter, I decided to try out these cookies... They are everything you love about blueberry muffins... in a cookie. After making these I'm not really sure I need a muffin ever again. You could make these with other berries too.

Blueberry muffin cookies

Streusel Topping
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
8 tablespoons of cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

Muffin Cookie 
10 tablespoon of unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup of plain yogurt
1 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all purpose flour
6 oz blueberries
Place flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add cold butter into bowl and using a pastry blender or a fork cut butter into dry mixture until it resembles small pellets. Set aside
Preheat oven to 375 F
Place butter in a small saucepan over medium low heat and heat until butter becomes brown and smells nutty. Remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
 Beat granulated sugar and brown sugar until well blended. Add in melted butter and beat until combined. Add in egg and beat until mixture becomes light and opaque, about 3-4 minutes. Add in vanilla and yogurt and beat until combined.

Sift together cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda and salt, then add this mixture into wet mixture and mix until combined. Gradually add in flour and combine. Gently fold in blueberries. The dough will be sticky.

Drop two tablespoons on parchment lined baking sheet. Bake one tray at a time for 8 minutes. Remove cookie filled bake sheet and heavily sprinkle streusel on top of cookies and gently press onto cookie, about 1 tablespoon per cookie (don’t worry if it spills onto the bake sheet, it can't be helped). Return baking sheet to oven and bake for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from oven and let cookies cool on bake sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
And then, devour them with hot tea or coffee while looking outside at the rain, picturing your favorite place in the whole entire world. Seriously, it just makes them that much better.
I leave you with this picture of Brina I took purely by accident yesterday. I snapped the camera while I was moving it off my shoulder and preparing to turn it off. The picture just cracks me up.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Exciting sighting

I went out this afternoon to take some pictures of the wild flowers that have been popping up everywhere... even the Dutchman's breeches are out. 

On my way towards one of my favorite spots on the farm to get pictures of the breeches... I spotted something in the middle of our trail. I really couldn't believe my eyes since I knew what I was looking at, but it's something I've seen maybe twice in the seven years I've lived on this farm.

Two wild rabbits sitting in the trail... TWO of them! Over this past winter we saw rabbit tracks in this spot a lot, but were not lucky enough to spot the rabbits. I wouldn't have been lucky today either if I had brought the dogs with me as I planned. Last minute I decided I'd walk them to the turtle pond, when I got home from taking pictures of the flowers.

Amazingly they waited a few moments before deciding they better get the heck out of there. 

 It's always exciting to see wildlife on the farm but seeing two wild rabbits is an extra special treat. With the fisher cats running loose around here and the coyote population up, the rabbit population has been down. Also they do run on cycles, so this must be their good year. It was even better to be able to get some pictures of them before they took of. They seemed curious of me at first and not afraid, until I got too close for comfort.

And now, for the shots of the Dutchman's Breeches...

 My favorite part of spring is the return of the wild flowers, and how awake the forest becomes. The beautiful quiet of winter turns into the beautiful song of spring. Turkey's gobbling, Partridge drumming, frogs croaking, birds singing... Everyone wakes up and prepares for the easy days of summer when the sun is warm and the food is easy to find and plentiful.

The evenings have been beautiful, calm and the sun that hides throughout most of the day, seems to peak out then. But we do need rain, this is April, and we've had very little rain, and there was very little snow to melt. It's calling for rain the next few days and while that will keep us away from some of our outdoor projects, the forest needs it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Pork and apple hand pies

These little pies take a little effort, but they are so worth it. Flaky, cheddar cheese crust filled with spiced ground pork and tender apples... what is not to love?

For the crust
  2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp dried sage
1/2 tsp salt
2 sticks  chilled unsalted butter, cut into cubes
4 oz sharp cheddar, cubed
6-10 Tbsp ice water
1 egg beaten with 1 Tbsp water

For the filling:
about 3 large apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/4 inch thick wedges
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 small onion, very finely chopped
1 lb ground pork
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp allspice
pinch black pepper
2 Tbsp plain breadcrumbs (I used Panko)

To make the crust, add the flour, sage, salt, cold cubed butter and cheese to the bowl and mix by hand until the butter is cut into pieces the size of large peas (you can do this with a food processor if you like.) Add the sage. Drizzle in 6 Tbsp of water and mix, adding more water 1 Tbsp at a time if needed just until the dough holds together when you pinch it. Don't over mix it- you want to see small chunks of butter in the flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead a couple times until it holds together. Flatten it into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, to make the filling, heat a large pan over medium low heat and saute the apples in a Tbsp of butter, just until the soften ever so slightly, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Add the oil to the pan, increase the heat to medium-high and add the onion. Cook for a minute or two and then add the pork, sugar, salt, pepper and spices. cook the pork mixture until no longer pink, using a spoon to break up the meat. Drain, and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Add the breadcrumbs to the pork and mix. Set this aside while you prepare the crust.

  Preheat the oven to 425 F. Unwrap the dough and place it on a lightly floured counter and lightly dust the top with flour. Roll the dough out to slightly less than 1/4 inch thickness. Cut out 6 pie shells with a 5 inch circular cutter if you have it, or find some other instrument (I used a glass) you could also use a knife. Gather up the scraps and re-roll if necessary and cut out 6 more circles, slightly larger than the first - about 5 1/2 inches (you could just make all the circles 5 inches and roll these ones out a little bit more.) And repeat until all your dough is used up. Make sure you have equal amounts of smaller circles and larger ones.

Arrange the smaller circles a couple inches apart onto a non stick baking sheet. Arrange two layers of sliced apples on each circle, leaving about a 1/4 inch border all around the edges. Place a good handful of the pork in a mound on top of the apples. Drape the larger circles over the pork and tightly pinch the edges together and seal by pressing a fork all around the edges. With your fork, poke a couple small holes in the tops of the pies. Lightly brush each pie with the egg wash mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown. 

I made extra of the pork mixture and put it on pizza... it was that good!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Mootel and kids

 It was a pretty busy weekend here. April seems to be going by so fast, and we have a tremendous amount of work to get done around the farm before mid May, when we are hoping to hit the road and head for Alaska. Brina is doing well, three weeks old yesterday! She has been sleeping in the barn now and I don't think she really minds although I miss her. She comes to visit the house once a day and see the little dogs. She has made friends with everyone in the barnyard and for the most part is fitting in with the herd faster than any other bottle baby we've had - usually they are outcasts for a very long time.

 The weather has been more typical of April, mostly meaning, strange. We've had cloudy days with a little rain. Last night when I was doing the barn chores I noticed something was biting me, and quickly saw what it was... black flies. I was slightly surprised to see them out, but it was quite muggy and humid yesterday which they love. Today it's cooler, but still a nice spring day. The barnyard crew is anxiously waiting for the gates to their pastures to be opened up so they can devour the fresh green grass.

 Bucket and her kids

 Lambie says "what? what is it?"


 Do you have treats or what? 

The goats are just starting to loose their winter coats. We've seen a lot more activity in the bush lately, turkeys displaying and gobbling, the Partridge are out, and lots of other birds. My turkeys so far are not fighting. I have ended up with four Toms so I've been waiting for my cue to separate them but so far, after only one day earlier in March of a problem, they all wander around together and don't show any aggression towards each other.

Maybe it's because Snick is still the biggest that they are not fighting yet? I only have four females, so I don't imagine that's enough for the lot of them.

Little tiny Tim is growing! Both of Buckets kids are doing really well. 

he sure is a cutie..

Basswood, Snick, and a young Tom

The ducks taking an afternoon nap while keeping an eye on me

 yesterday I saw my first Flicker! The first of this spring... he was by the tractor
Izzie moo 

looking down part of the trail to the mootel and big pasture

 On the weekend Kevin and his son, who is visiting from Ohio to help with some of our bigger projects (thankfully) got most of the Mootel finished. Kevin and I will just have to put the dividing wall in it (to make two pens) and put hinges on the doors and finish the roof so it's water proof. 

It's on our biggest pasture (about 10 acres) which is around the other side of the pond from the house. She'll need to be inside at night to protect her from predators, along with Jack, the miniature horse, who will be out there with her.

We've had these old doors lying around forever - amazingly we've finally found a use for them! That's why it's always good to keep stuff on a farm, you never know when you might just need them.

Brina running towards her ma... she is a wild one! When she sees me she darned near jumps straight up into my arms

 This is the best time of year to start walking in the evenings, which I've been trying to do - since all the animals are starting to come out. Last night I saw a woodpecker, deer, and a couple of porcupines. This is also one of the best times of year to see Partridge since they are mating. A couple of days ago the fruit trees started to blossom... now through the still mostly bare forest you can see little pockets of white flowers.

I saw Leo near one of our apple trees behind the house. His coat is changing and he looks a bit like a Dalmatian with his white spots. I've seen quite a few deer in the forest lately, but most of our friends have wandered off for the summer now that there is plenty to eat and it's easy to move around. Leo however is sticking close to the house since his accident - whatever it was. He vanished for a long time this winter, a couple of months, and when he returned early this spring he had healing wounds on his side and at his mouth. He holds his mouth open and drools a lot. It almost looks like he was shot there - but it could easily have been from a coyote attack as well. Either way, he's survived but he's not very strong yet. 

Sunday was a very stressful day for me. My last doe to kid, Beatrice, did so. I found her minutes after she kidded standing by the shed in the barnyard with blood on her legs. The first thing I did was bring her inside the barn and then I went back outside to find the baby. He was lying in the corner of the shed.

This is Bea's first kid and he's late. She was bred at the same time the other does were and they all kidded nearly three weeks ago. He was warm, but limp. I brought him inside the barn and put him and Bea inside a clean dry stall. She wasn't very interested. He couldn't stand. I tried to hold him up to nurse but he wouldn't drink. So I milked Bea, and tried to feed him a bottle, but he wouldn't nurse. I spent a couple of hours doing this. He was very weak and quit breathing on me a couple of times. 

Amazingly that evening, several hours later, he decided he better give it at least a little effort and he stood up. His legs are incredibly long, he's a huge kid, and Bea is a tiny doe, she's barely bigger than my Pygmy Hilda was... He couldn't seem to hold his legs right, and he could stand but couldn't walk anywhere without falling over. But he was sucking the air. Excellent. Bea didn't really want him to nurse but she stood for me, after I placed one hand on her, gently, she stood without a fight. The little guy could not find the teat but once I got it in his mouth, with me completely holding him up and his head onto the teat, he drank. 

Yesterday he showed some improvement but still couldn't stand. He nursed when I held Bea and held him up to get the milk. Bea is not trying to hurt him but just basically ignoring him. 

As I was sitting with him in the afternoon, he was standing in front of me, and he wanted to jump around and play, but couldn't, so his whole little body would just shake and he'd toss his head. My heart was so happy and so sad at the same time to see this little guy so full of life in his spirit, but so weak in his body. When I did chores late in the evening, I walked away from the pen with him nursing from his mother. She was distracted by a treat, but also standing for him. 

This morning, he was standing up in his pen with her, very happy to see me. He is a little too happy to see me... I'm afraid he associates me more with food than her - although he does know where the milk comes from. She offers him little affection, so he seeks that from me. He drank well this morning and was even playing without falling over - which was a sight for sore eyes. She is not refusing him, I have seen him nurse briefly twice, but I don't completely trust her yet, so I'm spending a lot of time making sure she is letting him nurse. I want her to accept him and care for him, instead of me just taking him and putting him on a bottle, but I will do that if I have to. 

For now, I see him growing stronger, slowly, but he is making progress. He had a wonderful first poop yesterday and his system is working. He is still walking with his front legs slightly bent, but he's able to get around with falling over. His name is Melvin. I didn't want to name him yet, but Kevin said it to me on my way to the barn last night and I thought "no way." And yet it stuck. 

He's a fighter, and he is nursing. As long as he can keep his strength up I'm hopeful. The next few days will tell. 

Friday, April 13, 2012

Impossible cake with homemade Cajeta (goats milk caramel)

Impossible? I think not. I've had my eye on a few different recipes this week for IHCC's where the theme is "sweet tooth." I love baking and Rick Bayless has some really, really, awesome dessert recipes. I want to try, um... all of them. I was going to make his coconut pie, but this Impossible cake had me at flan.

This cake and I have been through a lot since we started our relationship this afternoon...
At times, I was in love with it. Other times, my whole relationship with this cake was a hot mess... and so was my stove when my Cajeta bubbled up and flashed spilling sticky hot sauce all over it.
 Once, I admit, I felt some minor frustration. Often, confusion. Maybe a moment or two of fear. At one point, I saw only failure in front of me... but in the end, we worked out our differences and there was a very happy ending.

Once I put this cake together, I thought for sure I'd made a mistake. When I put the chocolate cake mix on top of the Cajeta, and then poured on the flan mixture, it all turned into one big mass of cake... or at least that's what it looked like. It just didn't look like this would work... But yet it did. You assemble this cake with the cake batter on the bottom and the flan on top and then they switch places in the oven and it actually sets up perfectly. It's like..... delicious magic.

  I decided to take it one step further and make the goats milk caramel sauce, or Cajeta myself. It's similar to dulce de leche... just the goats milk version. I decided to make it because, firstly, try and find Cajeta around here in a store, in a bottle. Apparently in some places it is possible to do so... but this isn't one of those places. And secondly, guess who happens to have goats milk in the fridge fresh from the goat I milked this morning?

I thought to myself "why not try and make some delicious caramel sauce with some of it...." and so I did. You can make the Cajeta yourself using store bought goats milk if you don't have a goat - and also cannot find Cajeta in a bottle. I'm sure you can sub another sauce in a pinch but the goats milk caramel sauce is unreal, it's so good. I had no idea I had been missing out using up all my milk for just drinking and cheese making... all this time I could have been making this dark and rich caramel sauce with it!

Cajeta, Mexican goats milk caramel sauce

2 quarts goats milk
2 cups granulated sugar
2-inch cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
In a large saucepan, bring the milk, sugar, and cinnamon stick to a simmer, stirring frequently.
Remove from the heat, add the baking soda, and stir to combine. When the bubbles disappear, return the pan to medium heat. Bring to a brisk simmer, stirring frequently, until the mixture begins to turn golden brown, about one hour. Continue to simmer until the mixture thickens to the consistency and color of maple syrup, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain through a fine mesh sieve, and set aside keeping warm.

*You need to watch this until it's really turned dark and started to thicken up because it will flash, like maple syrup, in a second. So don't wander off to check an email, answer the phone, feed the dogs... or you'll have a mess.

 After putting the cornstarch mixture into the milk mixture

starting to turn golden!

the finished Cajeta

Impossible cake 
from Fiesta at Rick's, by Rick Bayless

For the pan
A little softened butter and some flour
1 cup store-bought or homemade Cajeta (goat milk caramel)

 For the cake
5 ounces (10 tablespoons) butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 tablespoons espresso powder dissolved in 1 1/2 tablespoons hot water
            OR 3 tablespoons espresso
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1 cup + 2 tbs buttermilk

 For the flan 
1 12-ounce can evaporated milk
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
4 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Turn on the oven to 350 degrees and position the rack in the middle. Generously butter the bottom and sides of a 10-inch round cake pan (you need one that's 3 inches deep), sprinkle with flour, tip the pan, tapping on the side of the counter several times, to evenly distribute the flour over the bottom and sides, then shake out the excess.  Microwave the Cajeta for 30 seconds to soften it, then pour over the bottom of the pan, tilting the pan to coat the bottom evenly.  Set a kettle of water over medium-low heat.  Set out a deep pan that's larger than your cake pan (a roasting pan works well) that can serve as a water bath during baking.

With an electric mixer (use the flat beater, if yours has a choice), beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until light in color and texture.  Scrape the bowl.  Beat in the egg and espresso.  Sift together the all-purpose and cake flour, baking powder, baking soda and cocoa.  Beat in about 1/2 of the flour mixture, at medium-low speed, followed by 1/2 of the buttermilk.  Repeat.  Scrape the bowl, then raise the speed to medium-high and beat for 1 minute.

   In a blender, combine the two milks, the eggs and the vanilla.  Blend until smooth.

Scrape the cake batter into the prepared cake pan and spread level.  Slowly, pour the flan mixture over the cake batter. Pull out the oven rack, set the cake into the large pan, then set both pans on the rack.  Pour hot water around the cake to a depth of 1 inch.  Carefully slide the pans into the oven, and bake about 50 to 55 minutes, until the surface of the cake is firm to the touch, except for the very center .  Remove from the water bath and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.

Carefully run a thin-bladed knife around the edge of the cake/flan to free the edges.  Invert a rimmed serving platter over the cake pan, grasp the two tightly together, then flip the two over.  Gently jiggle the pan back and forth several times to insure that the cake/flan has dropped, then remove the pan.  Scrape any remaining Cajeta from the mold onto the cake.

This cake, is unbelievable. It is a happy marriage between two of the most delicious things in the world (chocolate cake and flan). And to top it all off, after an emotional roller coaster, you end up with the coolest looking cake ever, covered in caramel sauce. 

I have many plans for the leftover Cajeta sitting in my fridge too... if it lasts through the night without disappearing from the fridge... one spoonful at a time. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Busy morning

There was a time both of us humans here, had to get up for real jobs that involved our alarm clocks having to go off... and that was normal. Now, neither of us can sleep if we have to set the alarm to get up for any reason. It's not so much the getting up - it's the alarm being on. I absolutely hate the sound of an alarm clock, so I start waking up at least an hour, often two, before I know it will go off, just so I can turn it off and not have to hear that noise - it automatically puts me in a bad mood if I hear it. Like nails on a chalk board. I had to make sure I was up because my sheep shearer was coming first thing this morning, he'd be here by 6 AM or 7 the latest.

So this morning,  I was up at 5 AM rubbing my eyes. I lingered in bed as long as humanly possible and then eventually dragged myself out. Once up I rushed into the kitchen to get the coffee on so I'd be able to make it through the morning, alive. Brina saw me from her kennel, and mumbled for a couple of minutes before getting up and letting out a full screaming, "I want milk now!" cry. The birds started chattering even though I had not yet uncovered them.

The Prairie dogs - they don't get up early. You won't see them out of their bed until 9 or 10. Not this time of year. In the summer, they'll get a bit earlier when the sunshine is out. Maybe.

There was frost on the ground this morning. Not a lot, but enough. I put on a heavy sweater and sweatpants and heated up Brina's milk. I grabbed my barn money jar (my life savings!) and my mug of coffee and headed off to the barn with Brina following behind me.

I put Max and Flav in the goat yard, so they wouldn't eat the shearer. They know him, and Flavious gets along with most people, but Max does not take kindly to people in his barnyard, especially people who are going to be touching his animals in any way. He won't let someone he doesn't knows even reach for any of the animals... not without showing them his nice set of big white, shiny teeth.

I fed Brina and gave everyone a handful of hay to munch on in the barn, while they waited to go outside once the shearing was done. My shearer was here right on time, as usual. He's very reliable. It took forever to find a reliable shearer and I almost fainted when he said he was moving into Quebec last year. Thankfully he still comes into this area, but I dread the day he retires. I honestly believe when he does retire, if I still have sheep, I'll have to learn to do it myself and finally put out the money for the equipment, which I've been holding off doing. Most shearers have avoided me like the plague because I always have under 10 sheep, usually under 5... and they don't like small jobs. They could charge me more for less sheep, which most do, but that doesn't seem to even appeal to them. One shearer I called in April one year, called me back in September! Thankfully I had found someone else by then, but can you imagine? You cannot shear sheep in this climate in September anyway, so that said a lot about that guy.

But my current shearer, whom I've had for three years or so, is very good and reliable. Last year I had seven sheep, but this year, I'm back to my permanent three... Lambie, Lila, and Horace. I pulled Lambie out first since he's the biggest weighing in around 200 pounds. He's is not wild but he panics because he's blind, when he doesn't know what's going on. I reassured him with my voice, and he calmed for a moment before he tried to show Tom that he's the big man around here, but eventually he gave in and quieted down. Horace was next, he's a nervous fellow by nature, so he didn't fuss, just looked at me with his usual big panicked eyes. We noticed he needed his horns trimmed again (they grow backwards towards his head, and could grow right into his head if not tended to)  they couldn't wait another year, so Tom offered to do it for me, while he was here, which was a great help. We've done it ourselves before and it's not a really big deal (not unless you cut them too short, and then it's a horrific deal) but I appreciated him doing it and just being able to get one more task out of the way.  We took about an inch off, so he's safe now for another couple of years. We usually trim the sheep's hooves while they are on their backs, but this year all of their feet were fine, except for Lila's one bad leg, it has no feeling and she doesn't use it, so she never wears down the hoof, so we trimmed that one up.

The goats were watching carefully. The goats that could see from their end of the barn what was happening, Bea, Biscuit, and the three boys (Bulrush, Basswood and Buckwheat, Sammy is at the other end of the barn) were bug eyed and starring. All three were lined up, standing up looking out of their pen, wondering who was next and what we were doing to the poor sheep.

Once the shearer was packed up, paid, and gone, I began to let everyone outside as usual but the three boys refused to come out of their pen, even for grain. They would not even come near the door. The guy was gone - but they apparently figured I was going to flip them on their backs and bring the guy back in to do something to them the instant they came out of the safety of their pen. I went in the pen and went around behind them to push them out and even that didn't work! They fought me all the way. Finally I lured Buckwheat out with grain and about 10 minutes later, the other two boys decided it might be safe to venture out... maybe. I cannot believe what wimps they are. Bulrush is bigger than Braveheart, he's at least 200 pounds and he's afraid of a bug crawling in front of him.

The weather has been crazy, sunny one minute, snowing the next, then raining, then sunshine... It's completely unpredictable from one minute to the next. I kept the sheep in all morning, but let them out for a bit since the sun was out and they hate being in the barn. I have little doubt that they'll be out all day though, with this weather, I can't leave them out. They have two run in sheds to get into but I'd rather they be in the barn in their dry straw if it rains this afternoon.

naked Braveheart!

embarrassed Horace

Biscuit had to look twice just to make sure that really was Braveheart!

I put a coat on tiny Tim today, he's so little... he actually didn't mind one bit...

he's just so small... he is nursing well and even eating hay and nibbling grain now, but he's such a tiny little guy... it's like he's a Pygmy kid and not an Alpine/Saanen mix.

Sammy wondering if I'm all done shaving people for the day or if he's next!

 Brina says..... ha! I'm bigger than you now!

Snick says... you are lucky I'm a nice guy and tolerate you so much!

The turkeys have started to lay

 fresh goats milk

Now that Biscuit is milked, Brina is fed, and everyone else is tended to, it's time to clean the birds in the house and work inside for a little bit. I think very shortly I'll be heading back to the barn to put everyone back inside if the sun doesn't come out from behind the clouds that are moving in.

I leave you with a clip of my gullible gobblers... 

Ah, and before I forget on a blog note.... One of my readers let me know that she hadn't been receiving her email updates lately - I've been looking into this and have found a few other people have been having the same problem with their blogs, but plenty of others have not been. I think I might have fixed it today, but I'm not sure yet. I am however working on it. I'm sorry for all my readers who are subscribed by email and having trouble. I hope to get it fixed ASAP!
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