Friday, December 6, 2013

Late Fall

Grandpa raking his leaves with his garden tractor.

The last color of the season.

My new feeders keep the sheep from trampling and wasting hay.
I had to burn a brush pile, and it was a good time to dispose of an old dilapitated doghouse.


Thanksgiving Dinner

The beautiful deceptive lull before real winter sets in.

Ilkka holding a winning

The losers.

Ilkka wanted to show Laku a few card tricks, but Laku wasn't buying it.


Warming up after a chilly hike to Lookout Mountain.

First skijor of the season

Winter sets in for real.  It always feels a bit overwhelming at first when you get consecutive days of heavy snowfalls, courtesy of Lake Superior.

Jonathan blowing out grandpa's driveway.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Slaughtering and Butchering Lambs

I first captured the lambs in the holding pen and then used a sling and the tractor to weigh and transport them.

If this makes you feel sad, join the club.  Beautiful animals have to die for you to eat meat.  When you do it yourself to animals that you have raised this becomes intensely real and personal.  The words slaughter and butcher are harsh words, and the reality of it is just as harsh.  My respect for both the animals and the people that work in slaughterhouses grew immensely.  It is messy, brutal work, and we that eat meat owe these people our gratitude. 

Skinning a lamb is hard physical work, much harder than I expected.

One the hide is off, the rest is easy.  A sheep is basically a big fermenting tank on legs.  It is this equipment that turns grass into meat and wool.

Finally, number 3, the last lamb.  I started working at nine in the morning and finished just before seven.  There are harder ways to make a living, but this ranks right up there with shingling roofs and digging out crawl spaces.  By the end of the day my fingers were aching, my back was sore and I was asking myself what form of insanity had caused me to raise sheep.

Fortunately, even the darkest day passes and with the morning hope spring anew.  Here we see the Kilpela butcher shop, complete with bandsaw and table saw covered with freezer paper, and two excellent instructional sources. No I didn't use the tablesaw, but it served as a good table. 

 Alive these lambs weighed 64, 90 and 92 pounds respectively.  The cutting weight (after the head, hide and guts are removed) is in the 30-40 pound range.

I need to flesh the hides and salt them.  I'm hoping to tan these; they would make beautiful pelts.

Bandsaw, I love you!  You turned a difficult job into a ridiculously easy task.  It only took me about two hours to do all three lambs, and much of that time was spent waiting for packing department to catch up.

Zing, those lamb chops pile up!

Johnny had the hard job, packaging the meat in freezer paper.  I guess that makes him a meat packer, which was the namesake of the Green Bay Packers.  I'm sure the guys that sawed those big steers into pieces with handsaws were a burly bunch, unafraid to take on lions, bears or giants.

Lamb chops, ribs, flanks...

The survivors - three mothers and two daughters, our breeding stock.

Jonathan's Final Collegiate XC Meet

Johnny finished off his Tech Cross Country career with one last lap around the old MTU trail.

Starting strong.

Chasing the leaders.

Down "Pine."

Catching No. 267

Passing 267

Powering up Hairpin,  267 back ahead.

Making it hurt

Up the final stretch to the finish line.





Tuesday, October 15, 2013

How to Wash Fleece

Real fleece comes from sheep.  It does not come from Polartec.  That's plastic.  Real fleece is wool.  Wool is real.  Wool comes from sheep.  A fleece is all the sheared wool from one sheep.  Now that you know what fleece is you can lecture all your friends about it.   

Unless you want your sweater to smell like a sheep, the fleece must be washed.  Sheep really don't smell bad, they just smell like sheep.  The first step to washing a fleece is to fluff up the wool by separating the clumps of wool.  At the same time you remove any hay or dirt that may cling to the wool.  This is called skirting the fleece.  Here Marja is skirting the last of three fleeces.  The other two are in the white mesh laundry bags.

One tub of hot water + one cup of laundry detergent + one half cup of dish detergent.

Let the fleece soak for one hour.  We covered the washtubs with old sleeping bags to retain the heat.  Once in awhile press the fleece down into the water, but do not agitate it.  If you put a fleece in a washing machine it would come out as one dense piece of felt.

Take the fleece out and drain the water.  Fill the tub with hot water but no soap and put the fleece back in.

Let the fleece soak about 15 minutes, remove it, drain the water, refill with warm water and soak it once more.  Then remove it and squeeze out the water.

Lastly spread the wet fleece on your drying rack.  Repurposed lawn chairs work fine on a sunny warm day.

Separate the wool fibers well to facilitate drying.

At this point the wool is still wet, but there is no sheep smell left whatsoever.  All the oils have been removed.  In large processing plants, the lanolin is extracted for beauty products.  North sea fisherman have traditionally worn sweaters made of unwashed wool.  The oil in the wool make the sweaters water repellant.  Wool is real. Unlike synthetic fleece, wool doesn't stink when you sweat in it.  In any event, it is far better to smell like a sheep than sweaty polypro.

Gunnar's fleece.  Although the terms "fleeced" and "skinned"  are synonymous for being swindled, it is much better to be fleeced than skinned.  You can be fleeced many times and survive, but you can only be skinned once.