As another year is nearing its end, I am reflecting on 2019. It has been a full year with many changes, challenges, successes and everything in between, which seems to summarize the essence of farming and family life really.
Caring for Our Sheep
We finally did our last round of ultrasound to confirm pregnancies. This year we bred 16 ewes, 10 Gotland ewes from our flock, 2 ewes for a client and 4 Romney ewes from our flock (stay tuned to find out why we are keeping a few Romney ewes). 4 ewes were bred with AI and should lamb at the end of January, the others will lamb between beginning of March and beginning of April.
Why do we use ultrasound? Once I match the result of ultrasound with all the notes I take along the way, It allows me to have a better idea of when each animal will lamb. Mostly I choose not to use marking crayon although this year I used it on a few ewes. I find that it leaves lasting marks on fleeces and ultimately damages their quality and selling potential.
Right now, on the farm, I spend a lot of time feeding, cleaning and watching everybody. The shepherd is like a mother to its flock. Although my husband is the veterinarian I am always the one who notices if one of the sheep is not well. One of the advantages of a small flock is the individual attention each animal gets.
Winter is a good time to network, talk to shepherds, farmers and potential customers. Winter is also a time to plan future classes. Check out our June Skinnfell class taught by Anette Skoog. Also coming up a great two part-class on growing plants for dyeing wool and other fiber, and making felt using different technics, this class will be taught by Faith Hagenhofer. (More info really soon).
Winter is also a good time to plan the future garden. I will be putting in orders for seeds shortly. I am also figuring out systems for the upcoming season. One of my goals is to grow a larger crop of strawberries.
Winter is also a time to work on new ideas for the farm. Appletree Farm is going to offer its first Farm Stay. Starting late this Spring 2020, we will have a small studio available on the farm. Stay tuned for pictures and updates as we are working on renovating it. This space will offer a comfortable living space with locally sourced supplies (dishes, silverwares, art) and recycled materials (building materials, furniture). My goal is to provide a wholesome experience centered around our everyday farm life as guests
Within a month we should have our first lambs. These first lambs are out of AI and hold great promise for the future of our flock. WE have also selected 2 great rams (one from our flock and one from FFC in Southern Oregon) to breed some of our ewes. Breeding Gotlands really means upbreeding a Gotland flock. Because they are non native to the US, at the base we are working with 10 approved foundation breeds and imported semen. Our flock is in the 90%, and the reason why using semen still feels important is because we are limiting chances of traits from the foundation breeds to come out. At least we know that we are working with 100% Gotland traits on the sire side. The semen we are using is from the best Gotland rams selected in Sweden through their evaluation system.
Within a month, we will also be seeding the first crops in trays and in the greenhouse and yes within 4 or 5 weeks the first tomatoes seeds will be seeded in trays on heating pads under lights because we do like early tomatoes! I never buy store bought tomatoes so my family is indeed ready for tomatoes in June.
Here are some highlights of 2019: Great lambs out of AI, 4 nice rams sold far and wide (one in Wisconsin, one in Colorado, one in California, and one in Montana), a couple of beginner flocks sold locally and in California, some really nice fiber wethers sold in the Pacific Northwest.
We sold out of raw fleeces, and pelts,
We sold out of CSA produce shares,
We built a great addition to our barn,
I took a great class from the Vermont Farm School (I highly recommend Kim’s class and forum)
I made some really nice connections with shepherds, farmers, parents, and people all over the world.
I visited my family and our family farm in France.
Here are some things to look forward to in 2020: raw fleeces, lamb meat, pelts, breeding lambs, rams to improve the Gotland breed, more produce-flower-egg CSA, a trial early spring cut flower CSA (A few shares available), Applecreek Merinos-Appletree Farm Gotlands blended wool CSA (still 4 shares available), classes (Skinnfell, Dyeing-felting), our annual children’s summer camp, the launching of our Farm Stay,
We will also launch a new line a products with our new (not so new) farm LOGO, and we are working on improving our web site (stay tuned!).
We have amazing Gotland and Gotland-merino yarn available, including 100% Gotland lamb-charcoal grey yarn.
Last but not least, it is not too late to enter our contest to win some Wool Dryer Balls. All you have to do is write a review for Appletree Farm and your name will be entered for a chance to win.
We look forward to hearing from you, we love to have visitors on the farm, we love to get your feedback. If you are a returning CSA customers and would like to see a specific crop in your weekly box we’d love to hear from you. If you are looking for Gotland sheep most likely we can work with you and a reasonable budget.
All the best and a good 2020!
Stephanie, Paul, Romain, Elari and Peter