When work or life gets overwhelming, we have to take a step back and remember to take care of ourselves. We’re simple people – we don’t often go out to eat, to movies, to concerts, etc. The farm life doesn’t let us do that. For rest and relaxation, we find ourselves in the kitchen. Recently, we had a big hankering for fresh buttermilk biscuits. Admittedly, there is sweet nostalgia in buttermilk biscuits for us – we celebrated our first wedding anniversary last fall at the Philo Apple Farm where they bake divine breakfast biscuits. So, with all the fresh milk coming from Honey, our Jersey cow, we decided to make butter and buttermilk. We love Honey so much, so dairy from her makes the food even better.

butter & buttermilk

making buttermilk biscuits

buttermilk biscuits

It’s easy to get caught up in the grind, but it can burn you out and spit you out, lifeless. So we remember to momentarily step away and focus on the simple things, like a cup of tea, a phone call to mom, a good book, or homemade buttermilk biscuits! Next time, we’ll make gravy to go with them.

 

 

There are few words to describe the drought we have been experiencing. It’s been like a twilight zone. This last rain system, we fortunately received over 8 inches of rain at Heart Arrow Ranch, but we need much more to have irrigated pasture this summer. It’s hard preparing ourselves to possibly sell off half of our animals, as we’ve been working hard to grow our business. So, we continue to pray for more rain! Despite all the uphill challenges, we are taking one day at a time with our work. Today we herded the sheep into the vineyard, and it was a joy to see them enjoy running around, let out of the lambing barn and heading for some green grass.sheep herding 1 sheep herding 2 sheep herding 3 sheep herding 4 sheep herding 5 sheep herding 6 sheep herding 7

Jugs of New Life and Mothering

Lambing season started off a bit later than usual, and now that it is here, we are in full swing. We are setting up jugs (lambing pens) in the barn, which discourages mismothering. With all the newborn cries and probably hormones flying, ewes can nurse and bond in peace and order. This is an exciting time of the year.

Watch these twins take their first steps.

lamb resting 2 lamb resting 1 view of lamb nursery big lamb nursing colored ewe and lamb in jug ewe and lamb in jug smiling black lamb twin lambs dec 13

Modern Shepherding

Our flock of sheep have been back at Heart Arrow Ranch for about a week now. Last night, we finished inventory of the flock and counted a total of 148 sheep, not including all the newborns.

Last week, we started hauling the sheep from Potter Valley, primarily because the livestock guardian dogs were being bad and wandering along public roads. We had just moved a couple ewes with newborn lambs, too. Out in the open pastures, newborns are more likely to be literally pecked off by ravens. We only have a 16′ livestock trailer right now, so it took us 6 trips to move everyone. We are not like the traditional shepherds who herd sheep miles and miles for the annual migration. If you are looking for a beautiful documentary film to watch while cozied up on your couch this winter, we recommend Sweetgrass. It follows the herding of sheep through Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth mountains. Check out the trailer:

When we move our sheep, sometimes they get a comfy ride :)

lamb in truck

It’s wonderful to have the sheep back at Heart Arrow. Now we pray that it rains so the hills will green up. Friday’s snow gave us some moisture, but we’re going to need more to make sure the grass keeps growing, especially during these very short days.

Free Farm Consulting

Are you a small farm owner in Mendocino County? Did you know that Adam can give you farm technical assistance for free? That’s right! Usually, consultants charge at least $50.00/hour, but through West Company’s ‘Strengthening CSAs by Building Capacity and Expanding Markets Program,’ farmers can pick Adam’s brain and get technical advice for free.

If you know a farmer who is looking for assistance but cannot afford the typical consulting fees, please let them know about this FREE FARM CONSULTING.

Consulting Flier

Time and time again, the logistics of getting our meats to market is a challenge. We’ve blogged before about the challenges in navigating the lack of local meat processing to meet (meat!) the needs of our various customers. As the farm shifts toward more meat production as a main enterprise for revenue, we find ourselves relying a lot more on these outsourced services – the slaughterhouses, cut-and-wrap facilities, and smokehouses. This can get a little scary, as those other businesses are in one sense another factor that is out of our control. We used to outsource meat deliveries, and earlier this year, the company unexpectedly dropped doing deliveries for numerous ranches, which at one point we thought would end our business. It was not because of anything we had done (the company was just overwhelmed by demand for their services), and fortunately, we were able to build the capacity to fulfill that service ourselves (borrowed money and bought a refrigerated delivery van).

So when it comes to customer service and delivering your product as and when desired, it can get a little hairy being so dependent on others. We will probably never own and operate our own slaughterhouse and cut-and-wrap facility or smokehouse, so how do we maintain a good reputation with our customers when these intermediary businesses don’t come through to fulfill their promise? There are very few of these facilities, so we have no choice but to continue using them.

Anything can go wrong. Everything from not delivering our meats back when promised and a retailer is hoping to get our product on their shelves that week, to cutting the bacon thick instead of thin, or to not cutting all the bacon we asked for thus not fulfilling an order. Every time that happens, we risk losing that customer to another producer, usually a larger non-local producer who has centralized all these processes. The logistics to get our meats into food safe and pretty packages are so complicated; one place has a wait of 2 months before we can get anything cut and wrapped by them. It feels even more complicated and difficult when a promise is not delivered on, and our end buyer sees it as an unfulfilled promise by us. It is also a reason why we prefer to work with customers who are able to take whole carcasses, taking away that extra processing step.

The buyers/partners that we have a long relationship with have been understanding with us in the past, but it requires a lot more energy in getting those communication flows in place with the trust. We feel very fortunate to work with places like Bar Agricole, Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op, and Westside Renaissance Market who have an openness to understand the challenges we face and have the leeway for the unexpected. It seems that they see that as a small sacrifice to pay for delicious, healthy meats, and we are eager to find more folks who share these values!

Image

deboning leg of lamb and cooking up a feast with chard, potatoes, and figs

November Weekend

Many people often ask us what a typical day at the farm is. Usually, we chuckle and proceed to explain that there is no such thing as “a typical day of the farm.” Just as we don’t have a 9-to-5 job in an office, as farmers, we accept that farming as a vocation is a lifestyle, not a job. It’s a professional career full of surprises and spontaneity, as well as flexibility and patience.

Now that we are in November and the Vegetable CSA season has ended, there is a sense of relief on the farm. We’re not necessarily more relaxed – we still have lots of bills to pay – but we’ve experienced a shift in the season and the direction we are headed. We now have more time to analyze our finances and improve our business management. Lots of construction projects are happening, including small things, like bins for winter squash and shelves for the toolshed. And we’re making holiday plans and taking steps to stay healthy during the cold and flu season. This was our November weekend on the farm:

We finally butchered our roosters. Our egg laying hens are more relaxed and happy now.

We finally butchered our roosters. Our egg laying hens are more relaxed and happy now.

After butchering the roosters, we made about 2 gallons of chicken stock. This is the good stuff!

After butchering the roosters, we made about 2 gallons of chicken stock. This is the good stuff! No cold or flu can beat us now.

It's important to take time to appreciate the wildlife on the farm. Many more waterfowl have moved into the big pond.

It’s important to take time to appreciate the wildlife on the farm. Many more waterfowl have moved into the big pond.

 

random pig

We still have chores on the weekend, like feeding and watering the livestock. The pigs were running so quickly, it was hard to get a good photo from this side of the fence…

While the Golden Vineyards crew are off on Sunday, we can borrow the tractor. This is the future fruit orchard and table grape vineyard getting subsoiled.

While the Golden Vineyards crew are off on Sunday, we can borrow the tractor. This is the future fruit orchard and table grape vineyard getting subsoiled.

We must remember to eat our greens! Lovin' Mama Farm salad mix with our beets made a delicious lunch. Homemade pumpkin pie (our pumpkins & wheat flour of course) was finished before the end of the weekend.

We must remember to eat our greens! Lovin’ Mama Farm salad mix with our beets made a delicious lunch. Homemade pumpkin pie (our pumpkins, eggs & wheat flour of course) was finished before the end of the weekend.

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