Finnsheep Triplet Update

So far, the triplets are doing well and we’re beating the odds against preemies and mortality. After four days of wrestling Luann she won’t take to the two white lambs.   Luann is 100% bonded and feeding the smallest black lamb.  And the biggest white lamb is TOTALLY capitalizing on this fact.  He won’t take a bottle feeding anymore since he “steals” milk whenever blackie nurses or when Luann is distracted.

That leaves Blinky; the small white lamb.  He might get the occasional sip from Mama, but he is basically 100% bottle fed.  That is, by hand about 6 times a day because he is so small.

“How small”, you ask?  The average quad Finnsheep lamb weights about 6 ½ pounds.  My smallest triple weighs in at 3 pounds 2 ounces!

The next one up from that about 3 ½ pounds.  The big white lamb is the only normal sized one of the bunch.

The fact that they are all thriving is pretty amazing.  Especially with two bummers.

So what is my action plan?

Leave them all together in a stall for most likely another 2 weeks.  Those babies are small!  Monitor blackie and the big white ram to make sure both are getting enough milk from Luann.

Continue to bottle feed Blinky.  This weekend I’m going to switch over from hand feeding to having milk available round the clock.  That means I’ll have hand fed him for a week and I’ll train him where the bottle is and how to help himself.  That shouldn’t be too hard!

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Finnsheep Breed

Sold OUT of fleece until the summer!

We’ve decided to focus our sheep activities around the wonderful and versatile Finnsheep breed. This ancient breed has the most amazingly soft fleece! They are small statured and gentle by nature and this makes them easy to handle for the beginner, women and children. I’m looking forward to my girls taking them to 4-H.

finnsheep

Finnsheep also make a lean, lightly flavored locker lamb. But the biggest selling point for me is how prolific they are. “Litters of lambs” is how they do it with most ewes having quads and being able to feed them!

Finnsheep are relatively rare on the West Coast. We’ll be selling our first batch of lambs in the spring and offering them as breeding stock/4-H lambs.  Any unsold lambs will be locker lamb in the fall.

Our first shearing was a huge success!  All fleece was quickly purchased by our local hand spinners.  I was smart enough to hold back one fleece for myself and had it appraised at a local fiber mill.  They were VERY impressed with how fine, soft and crimpy it was.  Go Finnsheep!!!!

Contact me at info@rollingbayfarm.com

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How to Gentle a Lamb

Well, like I said a few posts ago my 3 new ewe lambs are a bit wild.  Here’s the process that I’m undergoing to get them gentled.

Sunday afternoon – put them in a 12 by 12 stall with bedding, hay and water.

Sunday evening – spend about 15 minutes with them.  I come in with a container of sweet feed and put it about 3 feet in front of me.  I then sit back on my heels and wait for them to stop cowering and move forward and eat it all.

Monday evening – spend about ½ hour with them.  I bring in the magic bucket of sweet feed.  Put it on my lap and wait for them to come to me and eat it.  I make sure they have to brush up against my fingers to eat and I try and get a few strokes in on their noses in the process.  When they are done I just sit there and let them nuzzle and sniff at me.

Tuesday evening – spend about 20 minutes with them.  I only present sweet feed to them in my hands for them to eat out of.  All the while trying to stroke their muzzles as much as possible. When the feed is done I present horse treats for them to eat from my hands.

Wednesday – I have to work from home so I get in multiple short sessions of having them eat directly from my hands with me trying to scratch their heads.  I also sit in their stall for a few minutes after each feeding and let then sniff me over.  At this point they still run to the back of the stall when I enter, but quickly come forward.  If you approach their gate they will stand their ground for hand feeding through the fence.  They still shy away from real head scratching.

Thursday – I put Zorro (llama) and Luanne (my totally trained lamb) into the new ewe lambs tiny paddock, open the stall door and *POOF* the flock is integrated!  I’ll keep all of them in these close quarters through the weekend for bonding.  Also (the theory) is that Luanne will set a good example for the other lambs that people and scratches are a good thing.  I’ll be continuing my hand feeding throughout the weekend.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that by the end of the weekend that Mary, Snowball and Caroline will get the same blissed out, tail wagging joy from my scratching that Luanne gets.

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The Finale of Our Lambing Season & Lessons Learned

It’s been a crazy busy time, but all the lambing is complete and here is a catch up on all that has happened and how the litters are fairing.

Lady and Her Twins

This has been a strange and sad journey.  As you remember I found Lady in the general  stall having birthed twins unexpectedly and one was cold, weak and had his eyes shut.

That little ewe lamb is now dead.  She was so healthy and alert and then on day two I noticed that she was lying down a lot and had smelly diarrhea.  She went downhill quickly and within 36 hours had died.  I will give credit to the amazing sheppardess’ handbook “Managing Your Ewe and Her Newborn Lambs”  by Laura Lawson.  The book felt like a splurge when I first bought it. I was going out to the little lamb every two hours with either an electrolyte solution or lamb replacer to feed her by syringe.  She was too weak to feed from her dam.

At 4:00 AM I pulled out the book to discover that it contained these amazing diagnostic flow diagrams.  To my dismay I realized that she most likely had Clostridum Perfringens and the likelihood of her surviving was basically nonexistent.  I did all that was recommended, but at her last feeding she was semi-comatose and could not swallow.  I found her dead a few hours later with her head throw way back as is typical with this disease.

My Blind Sock Baby continues on, but is a bit of a mystery to me.  Now over 3 days old his eyes are just starting to crack open.  He has managed all this time to find his mom and nurse after I taught him the way there.  He is very quiet and sleeps more than any lamb I’ve ever seen.  I’m hoping that when his eyes open he’ll be more lamb like.  His fleece continues to be this odd short fur that feels exactly like velvet.

I wonder if these two lambs came a bit too early.

Snowball and Her Triplets

Within 12 hours of Lady, Snowball had her triplets Friday early evening.  Three bouncing boys that all have GREAT fleeces.  Nicely crimpy and they are all very healthy.  Snowball does not love the smallest black lamb.  He is getting shorted in the feeding department and is always SCREAMING for a meal!  I am supplementing him three times a day with a bottle.

Snowball is still a bit off her feed and is very slow to come into her milk.  As a side note, when I stripped her at lambing her colostrum came out thick as cream.  Her two biggest rams are definitely on the lean side and I hope she picks up the milking pace.

Luanne and Her Triplets

Our final lambing of the season went to my favorite ewe, Luanne.  I knew she was close so I put her up in a box stall at night and was rewarded this morning by walking in to the stall and her with triplets – still damp from being born.

One thing that made me groan was that I saw the telltale signs of a lamb being rejected.  That is, two lambs were orbiting Luanne with a third lying a ways off.  Tired of having lambs rejected I decided to make Luanne’s jug smaller than I had before.  She is now in a jug 6’ by 6’ which seems tiny for multiples.  Keep your fingers crossed that this works and I’ve figured out my problem.

I’m happily keeping two of these lambs.  A black ram with an amazing Day of the Dead type mask.  Help me think of a great name for him.  He will replaced our beloved Gunther as our lead ram.

The other is a lovely black ewe.  On one side she has two distinct “bull’s eye” target and on the other side arrows!  I know!  Crazy, but true.  If I don’t get further inspired I’ll name her Diana after the Greece goddess of the hunt.

According to the esteemed author mentioned above a really well managed farm has a lambing lose of 4-5%.  We have now reached that mark.  Small comfort to know we are running well and let’s hope that the rest of our babies due fine over the upcoming critical weeks.

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Sheep Shearing Day

Today was the fall sheep shearing for our Finnsheep flock.  But preparation started yesterday. The sheep need to be dry for a good shearing so I had to round up the flock and convince them that going into the barn would be a great idea!  When my flock was smaller I could get them all comfortably into one stall.

Lady Lamb Being Sheared

This is no longer the case so I put hay in a manger and waited for about half of the flock to file in and then I closed the door.  That left 2 ewes, 1 ram and a llama.  The llama and ram walked into the next stall and I closed the door on them.  Gunther immediately started to butt Zorro pretty hard.  OK, that was not going to work.  Poor Zorro  couldn’t take an overnight with Gunther behaving this way.  So I opened the door and they both came out.  I tried to stop Gunther and he went one way and my hand holding him the other and SNAP – I broke a finger.

OK – not good!! But it didn’t hurt too much yet so I wrangled and wrestled to get the three last and most ornery sheep into the final stall.  I decided that Zorro would get a pass on shearing.

Now I looked at my hand and my finger that looked like a swollen and crooked sausage that was starting to HURT and KNEW I had broken it.  I told Mark and hopped into the car a drove to the clinic to get it x-rayed and set.

Shearing day went great!  We had about 5 families come out to watch and take pictures and learn a little bit about farm life.  The fleece quality was lovely.  I’m keeping our black ewe fleece, a piebald fleece and one white fleece.  One white fleece I sold to a local spinner.  Gunther, a white fleece and my one lamb fleece are all going to the owner of our local fleece and fiber store The Artful Ewe www.theartfulewe.com.  Heidi will be using these lovely fleeces for her own private stock and projects.  I can hardly wait to see what she does!

Now all the fleeces are drying on a table in an empty stall.  After they are dry I’ll skirt them and pick out the largest vegation matter and either send them to the small mill I use or deliver them to our buyers.

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Blackberry Pie and the Whitehouse Cookbook of 1887

We are all blackberry, all the time right now.  And that would include Mark creating an amazingly delicious blackberry pie complete with the lattice top crust.

How did I know Mark would be pie baking?  Because at our place it starts the old fashion way… with a pot of lard rendering for a day.  Then the NEXT day you have the lard for making the crust.  So, we are eating this warm, sweet/tart pie with the perfect crust and Mark mentions in passing that the crust recipe is from the Whitehouse Cookbook from 1887.

What?!  This sort of foodie tidbit always gets me a bit geeked out and I scurry off to find out more.   And there is MORE!

Because of its age the book is available as a free download from various places.  One of my

favs is from the Gutenberg Project http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13923/13923-h/13923-h.htm .  It really is a great read, so enjoy.  Then I tried to find out more about the author – Mrs. F. L. Gillette.  Alas, as one might expect given the age of the book and ummm,

“worth” of women during this period there is not much to report here other than what is in the book’s preface:

“Mrs. F.L. Gillette is no less proficient and capable, having made a life-long and thorough study of cookery and housekeeping, especially as adapted to the practical wants of average American homes.”

Lastly, here is the recipe converted into a format a bit more friendly than how it was originally written:

Pastry dough – double crust  

Ingredients   

  1. 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  2. 2 tablespoons sugar
  3. 1/2 cup ice cold water
  4. 1 teaspoon cold canola oil
  5. 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  6. 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) cold leaf lard
  7. 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter (any brand wrapped in foil)

Directions

  1.  Add all your dry ingredients to a chilled glass bowl and  toss the mixture with a fork
  2. Cube your fats into small pieces and add to the  bowl
  3. Using just your finger tips rub the cold fat into the flour. Stop when the mixture resembles cracker crumbs and tiny peas
  4. Whip the ice cold water and oil until it looks cloudy and the mixture looks a little foamy. Quickly add two thirds of this liquid to the dry ingredients and  toss with a fork. If it is not coming together add the remaining liquid.
  5. The dough should look somewhat dry but come together when  squeezed in your hands
  6.  Now divide this mixture in half to make two balls by squeezing it all together. Compress and flatten the balls to form two large disks.
  7.  Wrap disks tightly with plastic wrap and chill for 30-60 minutes.  You can freeze them for two months by adding a foil wrap to the covered disks.

Want a no sweat blackberry pie?  We’ll make one for you!  Shoot us an email and Mark will make you a hefty and delicious pie for $20.  Or if you are the gambling type, come by the farm stand this weekend and see if you can snag one that Mark puts out.

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Quality of Our Pork and How to Buy It

A Few Quick HighLights

  • Our pigs are fed high quality grain from a local mill, veggies from our garden and the local grocery store and tidbits from an island bakery
  • They are free to run, root around, wallow in the mud and bask in the sun
  • They are antibiotic and hormone free
  • Our pork is delicious, tender and moist
  • Now also available as USDA pork by the pound at our farm stand

Our Pigs

We are thrilled to have our two sows.  Black Betty is 100% Berkshire and Red Rosie is a  Duroc/Berkshire cross.  We are super excited to have Berkshire sows since it speaks to our desire to breed heritage animals and offer premium meats. We love Betty and Rosie and they are part of our farm family and the main stock for all things piggy.  Ms. Betty is the nicest pig you’ll ever meet and is an excellent mother to her piglets.  Ms. Rosie is a little more stand off-ish but an equally good mom.

Here is a little history on the breeds and what to expect from the meat.

Durocs are red pigs with drooping ears. They are the second most recorded breed of swine in the United States and a major breed in many other countries. In 1812, early

“Red  Hogs” were bred in New York and New Jersey. Large litters and the ability to gain quickly were characteristics Durocs possessed from the beginning.  Their advantage in muscle quality combined with their well-established ability to grow fast has positioned the Duroc breed as one of the standards for farmers.

Berkshires – Three hundred years ago – so legend has it – the Berkshire hog was discovered by Oliver Cromwell’s army.  After the war these veterans carried the news of the wonderful hogs of Berks throughout the world.  The excellent carcass quality of the Berkshire hog made it a favorite with the upper class of English farmers. For years the Royal Family kept a large Berkshire herd at Windsor Castle.

Purebred Berkshire pigs produce chops, roasts and other pork cuts that are well marbled and consistently sweet, tender and juicy. Berkshire pork receives a premium status due to its superior eating qualities.

How To Buy Rolling Bay Farm Pork

  • Soon you will be able to buy our delicious pork USDA approved by the pound from our farm stand.  We also sell by the whole or half hog.  Read below for more details!
  • We sell by  HANGING WEIGHT or the amount the pig weighs when it arrives at the butcher with its head and internal organs are removed.
  • You pay the farm a price per pound for the hanging weight of the hog and the butcher a separate fee for slaughter and to cut & wrap your order.   Typical butcher fees are about $1/lb of the hanging weight.
  • Whole-hog hanging weight is approximately 160-230 lbs.
  • 180-pound pig (hanging weight) may include approximately 64 half-inch pork chops, 20 half-inch steaks, 4 roasts, 2 rib racks, 14 lbs. sausage/ground meat, and 56 lbs. ham/bacon & 4 hocks. This is an approximation.
  • You may request other parts of your pig, i.e., soup bones, lard, organs.
  • Don’t panic ….we will help review cut options with you to clarify your custom needs and ensure you get what you want such as additional ground meat, fresh or smoked hams, more ribs or less bacon, spices in the sausage, etc. It’s your choice!

Pricing

Rolling Bay Farm’s hanging weight price is $3.50 per pound for Duroc/Berk cross and $4.50 lb for the Berkshires.  Add to this your custom order butcher fees (typically $1/lb).

Contact us at info@rollingbayfarm.com

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