Thursday, October 28, 2010

Vegetable-Eating Sheep

This year we were blessed with an abundance of cucumbers, zucchini, and yellow squash from our garden.  We ate as much as we could and preserved some of the bounty.  However, we had much more left over; our sheep friends enjoyed the harvest with us.  Not only do they like the vegetables, their health seems to benefit from the variety in their diet.  
Doug feeds Dale vegetables. (Dale was our very first sheep. She was given to us by our neighbors as a welcome gift.  Dale is a Columbia, Hampshire, and Suffolk cross. She is the flock leader.)

We cut the veggies in slices so the sheep can easily eat them. Vegetables give the sheep extra nutrients.

Caramel and Carolyn eat their veggies.  During the fall harvest, they will receive carrots, apples, and melons.

Sheep Laundry

At Grace Valley Farms, most of our sheep wear coats to protect their wool from excessive vegetable matter and soil. It is necessary to change a sheep's coat three to five times a year, increasing the size each time.  For the Spring 2010 lambs, not only is their wool growing, but their body size is increasing also.  For a mature ewe, not only is her wool growing, but her girth is also increasing due to the developing lambs inside her. After shearing, each sheep will receive a coat three to five sizes smaller and the cycle starts over again.
After the coats are changed, we wash them and hang them out on the clothesline to dry. 

When the coats are dry, Emily mends any tears in the fabric. The clean coats are then stored until they are needed again.

Friday, October 22, 2010

We're Growing Wool!

The sheep at our farm have been busy these days... eating green grass and growing beautiful wool! We've had very pleasant fall weather this year so the grass is still quite green.

Autumn (foreground) and her friends take a break from grazing to get their picture taken.

Clarabelle (L) and Corinna (R) both have outstanding wool. Clarabelle is uniquely colored (silver-gray wool with honey-colored tips) and has a very long staple length.

Clover, one of our Romney-Hampshire cross ewes.

Brooke and Cathy

Murphy, one of our guardian llamas, keeps watch over his flock of sheep. His job is to protect his girls from a dog or coyote attack.

Murphy is devoted to his sheep and they look to him as their leader.

It is breeding time at Grace Valley Farms and this is Foreman, our white ram, with his group of girls.

Foreman has around 25 girls this year so he is a happy ram these days!

Happy Fall from our farm to you!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Bountiful Harvest!

The garden at Grace Valley Farms grew well and prospered this year! We were able to harvest large quantities of cucumbers, zucchini, sweet corn, and green beans earlier in the year. Now that beautiful fall days are here, we are harvesting other garden goodies in great abundance. Even though it frosted on September 7th, we have had many days in the 70s and 80s since then. These warmer days have extended our growing season and the garden continues to mature and produce for us.
The cantaloupe plants produced well over 150 fruit! We were able to sell a number of them to a nearby store specializing in locally produced goods. The store sold out in one day! As well as selling the cantaloupes, we ate many ourselves, and gave lots away. We even shared them with our sheep friends!
Montana has a relatively short growing season; as a result,  it is difficult to grow full-sized watermelon. We planted a special variety of watermelon this year. We were excited to get several large, ripe watermelons! Yum-Yum!
Our winter squash patch yielded numerous types of squash. Above are the Heart of Gold squash. They are our favorite as they are sweet and mellow.
We harvested a few Blue Hubbard squash, too! They are our largest squash with the larger ones weighing over 10 pounds.
Heart of Gold and Butter Cup squash are picture above.
Delicata squash are another family favorite. They are very tasty when cut in half length-wise and filled with butter and brown sugar!
We also grew decorative gourds; most were sold to the same store that bought the cantaloupe .
These colorful gourds are called Autumn Wing.
Our Turk's Turban squash thrived this year; we picked numerous beautifully colored specimens.
Here is an early sampling of our yellow, red, and orange tomatoes. We had an abundance of tomatoes this year, as you will see in a future post!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sheep and Turkeys

Grace Valley Farms and the surrounding farms are home to a flock of around 30 wild turkeys. One evening after we brought the sheep in from pasture, we noticed some visitors in their corral. A few of the turkeys had meandered into the corral and the sheep were watching them closely.
Hazel and Hattie, two of our Hampshire ewes, don't seem to mind the new visitors.
Bernie keeps an eye on two turkeys.
Darcy, our youngest lamb, watches out for danger too.