Farm History :: Part 1

When we were looking at the farm, the previous owner shared a lot of information with us about the history of the place. He told me that while this home has been here “since the 1800’s” there was a home here before that – which was burned in a fire. My number one itchiest question is –

Exactly when was the first home built on this land?

Once I figure out the answer to that one, I should have the answer to question numbers two and three – by whom and where exactly? Was it on this same homesite, or somewhere else? There is a spot labeled, “old home site” on the plat map that is at the very tippity top of our property line – who lived there and when?

After the family that farmed the land for generations (the Logans), the farm was used as an “artist community” (not a commune….?) and possibly a silk screen operation known as Inky Press in the 1960’s and 70’s. The property changed hands in 1984 and again in the late 1990’s, before finding its way to us in 2014. Since moving here I have spoken to the just previous owner extensively, the brothers who have been cutting hay off the pasture for nearly 20 years, and a woman who stayed in our rental cottage in the 1980’s. And fortunately, there is one living descendant of the Logan family living not far from here (he grew up on the farm); I hope to reach out to him this spring to collect his history. Along the way I have asked everyone who has photos or stories of the place to share them with me but so far, this is all I have found:

The farmhouse circa 1984

The farmhouse circa 1984

She’s come a long way, eh?

The farmhouse circa 2014

The farmhouse circa 2014

Event Calendar Added!

Now that we are starting to have on-farm events, I thought it was time to add an event calendar to the site. It doesn’t have much Owl Moon Farm stuff on it {yet!} but I’ve added some regional events that I thought were interesting. If you have an event to add, send the info to hello@owlmoonfarm.com.

Click here to view the calendar!

Recipe :: Homemade Yogurt

Thank you, Emily, for your super duper, easy peasy recipe for making homemade yogurt. Even with raw milk this worked perfectly on my first try, which really is saying something….

My first homemade yogurt!

My first homemade yogurt!

Ingredients:
1 quart whole milk {raw will work}
1 Tbsp. yogurt {I used Seven Springs Organic, Plain}

Instructions:

  1. Heat milk over low to medium heat to 18o degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Turn off the heat and let the temperature drop to 110 degrees.
  3. Pour warm milk into quart-size mason jar or other suitable container.
  4. Stir in yogurt and put on the lid.
  5. Place the jar of milk and a second jar full of hot water {I boiled water while the milk cooled} in a cooler. I also stuffed an old towel in the cooler for extra insulation.
  6. Wait 24 hours and enjoy!

Of course the result is plain yogurt, so if you prefer something sweet, you can sweeten it with honey or maple syrup. Add vanilla for a little extra something.

Enjoy! {OvO}

Product Review :: Darn Tough Socks

Halfway through the snowiest winter I’ve ever lived through in the lower 48, a good friend of mine in Pennsylvania turned me on to Darn Tough socks. We were talking about socks for ourselves, and for our kids, and how hard it is to find durable, warm, wool socks that don’t cost an arm and a leg. She suggested I give Darn Tough socks a try.

“Oh,” she said, “and they have a lifetime guarantee!”

“A what?!? On socks??!? Do they come in kid sizes???” I asked.

When she told me they did indeed come in kid sizes, I decided to give them a try. Our local outfitter {Eastern Mountain Sports} does a Buy 3 Get 1 Free deal on all of their socks, so I got some Hike/Trek socks for the kids and myself. I was impressed by the quality right away. The colors are vibrant and funky, and the cushioning is thick and comfy.

1455_Glacier_270x267The kids socks only come in the thicker, hiking-style sock, which worked really well for us inside snow boots, and around the chilly house. And because wool is anti-microbial and breathable, we could wear the socks for a few days at a time without washing. Darn Tough socks keep me toasty warm and very, very rarely are they too warm, even at night under a down blanket with my toaster oven bedmate.

One of my kiddos is picky about their socks and has complained that the arch area is a little tight. The hikers are made with built-in arch support, and are woven tighter in that area, which might take a little getting used to at first. But I can all but guarantee you won’t notice within a few minutes of wearing them. At least no one here can.

1620-darn-tough-womens-merino-wool-portland-light-cushion-no-show-socks-lime-21793I wear the thinner, Lifestyle style socks during the warmer months instead of cotton gym-style socks. They are breathable and anti-microbial, so my feet are comfortable and don’t stink, even after a full, hot day on the farm.

Knowing that the Hike/Trek style socks are 67% Merino Wool {29% Nylon, 4% Lycra(r)}, and the Lifestyle style socks are 62% Merino Wool {36% Nylon, 2% Lycra(r)}, and accepting the fact that wool shrinks, I decided to order a size bigger than I would normally wear. My socks did shrink considerably, so if you are able to be diligent about your laundry and will never, ever let them into the hot wash or dryer, you could go ahead and get your normal size. But, if you’re like me and you have a house full of people with dirty laundry and questionable laundry skills, you might want to go up a size.

Darn Tough ATCI got Farmer Tripp his first two pairs for his birthday this year. His hikers have the Appalachian Trail AT logo on them, and 5% of the sales of this style goes to help support the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s outdoor education programs and maintenance of America’s first national scenic trail. How cool is that??

And did I mention they are made in Vermont?

Bottom line: We love Darn Tough socks and would recommend them to anyone looking for warm, funky, made in the USA, wooly socks. {OvO}

 

Our first baby!

We noticed as the girls were being shorn that Rose’s udder was more full than Flower’s. And, since our veterinarian recommended checking for lambs every 4 hours {especially overnight} when the udder is “full,” I wondered: What does a “full” udder look like, exactly? It struck me, again, how much information is available for all sorts of things, like, “You should shear the sheep before lambing to make it easier for the lamb to find the udder,” but not for the most basic, practical things, like, “When the ewe’s udder looks like a basketball it’s full of milk and she’ll delivery her lamb within 48 hours.”

So I got up the first night and walked down to the barn at 12:30am. It was cold and I had a very hard time getting back to sleep. I didn’t think she looked like a ewe in labor {you know, at least not like any of the other zero ewes I’ve ever seen in labor}. I decided to look for a more reliable sign than relative udder fullness.

So I did the only thing I could think of: I Googled it. That’s right, I pulled up the trusty old Goog and typed, “ewe udder prior to lambing.” Among the Images results was a link to this page. And of course it answered my question immediately. It’s a collage of photos of the writer’s ewe, every day or so, from the time her udder looked “full” to the day or two before she lambed. The ewe’s udder looked like Rose’s udder in the first photograph. And there are 9 photographs.

So I had a pretty wide range from “check her every 4 hours, especially overnight,” to “it could be two weeks before that baby is born.”

Did I mention I’m totally new at this?

I decided not to wake up the second night. I had a late meeting and didn’t get to put the sheep in the barn until 10:30pm and figured I’d check on them first thing the next morning. Instead, I found this:

Surprise!

Surprise!

I guess you could say I was caught a tad bit off-guard. I can see the nursery paddock from the house and had zero clue that Rose was in labor. I saw no suspicious behavior. Heck, the dogs didn’t even notice! The great news is that Rose delivered her baby without complications, right out there in the field, and not at 3am or at below freezing temperatures. Just the way sheep have been doing it forever.

Of course I woke the kids and they helped me put together the lambing jug, feed Flower, and then I grabbed the baby lamb and brought her to the barn as Rose followed. We went to bed at 12:30am, once they were all toasty warm and safe for the night.

Phew!

Rose and baby, Dot

Rose and baby, Dot

Shear Madness!

OK, so it went really, really well, but I was SO nervous beforehand! I am new in town, and don’t have any experience with shearing sheep, so I had a tough time figuring out how to get the girls shorn, before lambing, and when it’s not 14 degrees (or colder) outside. You know, in that teensy window during the winter to spring transition. Oh, and you can’t shear wet sheep. And they really shouldn’t get wet for a few days following being shorn. What’s so hard about that?

Luckily, when the veterinarian came out last week to check on the girls I asked him for a referral. I called Drew Mackey over the weekend, and to my surprise, the guy that shears 70+ animals per day, was able to come out on Monday, the third of three sunny days. Turns out I got him just at the beginning of his busy season. Drew sheared the girls in no time flat, even with all of us crowded around asking questions. He showed us his tools and explained what he was doing every step of the way.

Even with no power in our 1/4 sided barn, we managed. We keep our generator in the barn, and used it to power the lights and the clippers. We used our 2 sheep/goat panels (cut down into 6, 5/6-foot lengths), hooked together with zip ties, and created a chute and shearing area. I was pretty proud of our ingenuity and we didn’t lose a sheep! Overall, it was a great day to be a farmer!

IMG_4544 Flower's 2015 fleece IMG_4545 IMG_4543IMG_4553 IMG_4556 IMG_4560

Seed Starting

We’ve been planning and scheming and getting ready to start seeds. Two weeks ago I thought I bought a seedling heat mat but when we got home I could not. find it. anywhere. Farmer Tripp set up the trays and the mini greenhouses in the workshop while I was at the National Ladies Homestead Gathering Annual Board Meeting in Georgia, but we still haven’t started a single seed! I searched the garden shed, the car, and finally the Google for the 4-tray heating mat I found at Fifth Season Gardening in Charlottesville, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I checked with my dad twice to make sure we didn’t leave it at his house, before finally giving up. I called Fifth Season and asked them to send me another one. These starts better be good!

Seed-Starting Setup

Seed-Starting Setup

Four trays with vented covers plus a 48″ shop light with 2 Kitchen & Bath (5000K) and 2 Sunshine (3000K) bulbs. Once the heating mat arrives we’ll be growing all kinds of veggies in the workshop! Can’t wait!

In the Garden :: January

Raspberries Before

Raspberries Before

Our raspberry patch was one of the many reasons we knew this place the THE place. But we’ve never had berries before, so before doing any pruning, Tripp and I started with a Google search… Here’s where we started:

  1. Remove last year’s canes,
  2. Narrow the row,
  3. Cut out the weaklings,
  4. Attach the canes to a trellis.

Then, in the garden, just like I often do, we watched this:

Our biggest question, after narrowing, and cutting, was what to do with the tops of the canes. The Fine Gardening article mentions cutting out the canes with gray, dry bark – but there were none like that in our patch. Nearly every cane had a dry bunch of leaves and dead berries – but all the pictures I’ve seen show NO fruity tops, so we were unsure. We went ahead and whacked them off – I just hope we made the right call!

Raspberries After

Raspberries After

Next, we need to build a trellis to support the canes. A good friend in Doylestown has a sweet little berry patch and I’ve always admired their trellis, so when we moved here I asked for some photos.
IMG_1504

IMG_1510

Germination Test 2015

After putting together the garden plan, and our 2015 seed order, I looked through our seed box and found nearly every seed we wanted already on-hand! Some of the seeds were a few years old, so I decided to do a germination test. Plus, it was a great chance for the kids to see some seeds sprouting indoors!

We placed 10 seeds of most varieties (we didn’t have quite enough for 10 of all varieties) in a wet paper towel, and placed those paper towels into two Ziploc bags. I put the bags on the mantel above the wood stove and checked them occasionally to make sure there was condensation in the bags. We checked them all after 3 days, and again after a week.

Germination Test Kentucky Wonder Bean

Kentucky Wonder Bean – 100% germination!

About a third of the seeds sprouted in 3 days, and most were sprouted within a week.

Germination Test Garden Journal 2015

Germination Test Results (Thanks C & O!)

In the end, we ordered Sungold Cherry Tomatoes from Johnny’s Seeds and Scarlet Nantes Carrots, Old Virginia Tomato and Tennessee Red Cob Corn from Southern Exposure. Now we just can’t wait to get started!