Thursday, April 25, 2013


Gunnar - the sire.  I put him in with the ewes on November 22 and all the lambs were born five months later within a six day period.  Good work, Gunnar.

Sheep paths in the winter yard.



The snow piled deep...

...and got deeper

No problem...all you need is plenty of hay and a wool coat.

The shepherd had to shovel a hole to open the hayshed door.

Jonathan collecting data.

Helga with her newborn daughters.

A first-time mother, Helga handled the job like an old pro.  She gave birth to the lambs inside the hayshed, and had them cleaned up and fed by noon.

The following day, another snowstorm.

Sonja and Vappu
The shepherd digging a trench along the fence so that the lambs could not hop over.

Vappu had twins, but rejected the first one.  She bonded with her second one.  Due to the inexperience of both the mother and the shepherd, and a lack of proper preparation on my part, the first lamb was lost.   It was a hard lesson, but I will be better prepared next year.

Fortunately our lambing season ended on a high note. Sonja had her twin males outside under the trees where she gave birth last spring and had them all cleaned up and fed by the time I got home.

Vappu came out of the hayshed to visit, but Sonja would not let her near.  "Don't even think about it!"

The new family inside their pen in the hayshed.  I isolated each of the ewes with their lambs so that they could bond for a few days, and also to wait for the weather to improve.

Marja holding one of Helga's lambs.  As you can see, she has been home at mealtimes.  Lambs grow very quickly on the mother's rich milk.





Sunday, April 7, 2013

Firing Up the Maple Syrup Still

This year I tapped seven trees.  In the past I've tapped as many as a dozen, but you can easily end up with more sap than you can boil. Seven 5 quart pails equals almost 9 gallons of sap as it is, and the pails easily fill on a good day.  I'm glad we saved these old Jilbert ice cream buckets before they went to 4-quart pails.

After hauling out 8 gallons of sap in two five gallon buckets I quickly smartened up and started using a 6 gallon carboy and my old pack basket.  It's a lot easier carrying a heavy pack than toting  heavy pails.

My sap boiler is so ugly that I'm considering entering it into a dog show.  It is an old steel plenum that was probably part of an air duct system,  a 20 quart stainless steel pot, some haywire, a repurposed license plate, some bricks, a wire grill and some metal flashing.

But it does the job.  I keep adding sap as it boils down until I've gone through one day's worth and have about an inch of concentrate at the bottom.  I then take it into the garage and finish it on a hot plate. 

Life is good.  Boiling the sap is a real pleasure.  The heavy lifting and hauling is done.  All that remains is to feed the fire and keep filling the pot as the sap boils down.  Occasionally you lean  over the pot to inhale a deep whiff of that lovely sweet maple steam.  Successful people pay money for stuff like that and call it aroma therapy, but maple steam will calm your nerves for free.  Do I look stressed out?