23 December 2016
The darkest day of the year has been and gone, and so the sunrise makes it’s slow journey to the east, rising ever higher in the sky, and setting ever further to the west. Winter came early this year, and brought us a fiercly cold November, that felt more like january. And so somehow we ended up fixing the roof in -15°C. The roof over the front of the house was rotten, and the gutters were completely useless, so we took off the old roof plates and everything that was rotten and replaced it, with new gutters we got from a friend. It was bloody cold thats for sure, and took longer than expected, but now we have a shiny new roof. It’s really satisfying to know that we can restore the buildings ourselves, even if it’s not professional.
While Dan and I were working on the roof, our woofers were taking care of the firewood supply, bringing down all the wood we made last winter, and stacking it in the woodshed. This year gravity was on our side, and they could just throw the wood on a sled and pull it down to the farm. It was lucky we already had a good layer of snow too.
This year we branched out with the salted lamb, and made sausages too! It’s a kind of Norwegian sausage (spekepølse) that is salted and dried, and so you eat it on your bread (like salami i guess). We made some just from meat, and some from offal- liver, heart, kidney and lungs. They take some time before they’re ready, especially when it’s so cold, so i’ll let you know how it turns out. Besides the sausages we made the usual salted ribs (pinnekjøtt) and legs (fenalår).
Our cow Audhumbla dried up at the end of November, so now for the first time in 16 months we dont have any milk! We should have been milking our other cow Hornfagr, but she had a miscarriage in the summer and so didn’t start producing in July like we had expected. Now we have to wait until April, when Audhumbla should calve again. Fortunately, we managed to save plenty of butter and pultost, for the next few months, but it is a pain not to have fresh milk, or cream. What is nice is that we don’t have to get up so early to milk, and there’s no dairy work at all, so that gives me quite a bit more time!
We had the vet here recently because both of the cows have some kind of infection in their hooves. At first I thought that Audhumbla was lame, and thought maybe she had just twisted her foot or something, but later I noticed that she had a nasty looking wound just above her heel, and there was some strange yellow crust all round. I checked her other hoof and it was not so bad, but had some kind of lesion. Hornfagr also had the same kind of crusty stuff on one of her hind feet. The vet advised to give them foot baths once a day and try to keep their stalls as clean and dry as possible. It seems like it’s healing now, but slowly, so we just have to keep an eye on it. For me keeping animals is the most challenging part of the farm. I get so worried when I notice something is wrong, and it’s so hard to know if it’s serious or not. Animals are so complex!
On the day that the vet came, Ramson (our ram) disappeared. The sheep spend most of their time outside even in the winter, and it was mating season so we had him together with the ewes. He was there when i fed the animals in the morning, but after breakfast he had gone. He likes to explore so we didn’t think much of it at first. And we thought he can’t have gone far, afterall, where would he possibly go?? Quite far it turns out! Not long after the vet had gone, we got a call from a farmer down in the valley. He wondered if we were missing a Ram.
We left as soon as we could, following the walking path down the snowy hill. He had rammed the gate until it broke, and toddled off 2km to the nearest sheep farm. By looking at his tracks in the snow, it was quite clear he knew where he was going. When we got there we apologised to the farmer, remarking that he might get some interesting looking lambs in the spring (since our ram is an old breed with horns, and long black/grey wool). Oh that doesn’t matter, he said. Then came the long trek back home, with the frustrated ram on a lead. Fortunately he’s very tame, but that doesn’t mean he made it easy for us. He was naturally upset about having a rope tied around his horns. Or so we thought. Dan led him as far as he could bear, and asked me to take over. I was not keen, seeing how difficult it looked, but when I took the rope he followed politely after me, stopping now and then to nibble some snow. After that, it was only the hill we had to fight against.
When we got back to the farm, we closed off the large enclosure and reunited Ramson with his ladies. We covered the main gate with a tarp, because they don’t ram if they can’t see through it.
In the morning he was gone. Again. This time i went by myself, and not long after i left, i could hear the sound of bells, and far down in the valley there was a flock of sheep running round and round their enclosure. As I led him back to the farm, I wondered how many perplexed people glanced out of their windows and spotted me walking my Ram.
Now we have shut him up in the barn. It’s sad and he hates it but we don’t have a choice. Our gates and fences are not designed to contain a determined fully grown ram- if he wants out, he just butts and butts until the gate cracks, or the post loosens or the catch breaks. Now we are thinking maybe it’s time to let him go, and get a younger, calmer version.
December has otherwise been very relaxing, and I’ve taken time to spin wool, and learn tablet weaving. It’s so nice to finally slow down and enjoy the long evenings indoors, with a fire, the cats and sackfulls of wool! Im experimenting with different techniques, and making different kinds of yarn. Until now I’ve only spun knitting yarn, but I’ve just started practising to spin weaving yarn too. The warp especially needs to be very strong, as it has to stand up to quite alot during weaving. In the olden days they had a special technique to prepare the wool where you use combs instead of carders, and it is spun slighly differently too, and often much tighter to make it extra strong. Dan knows alot about the old techniques they used in Norway, so I’ve learnt alot from him. The old norwegian sheep breeds have very different wool, made up of two layers. One is shorter, finer and crimped, and the other is longer, straight and coarse. These are called cover hairs and protect the sheep from rain, while the undercoat is mainly for warmth. They used to separate the wool to some degree and use most of the cover hairs in the warp, since it makes a much smoother, stronger yarn. The rest would be spun and used for weft. Until around the 1700s all yarn was spun on a spindle, rather than a spinning wheel. I was completely dumbfounded when Dan told me that the yarn used to make the sailcloth for the viking ships was spun on a spindle!!