As the sun rises higher in the sky each day, winter is gradually replaced by spring. Some days the birds sing joyfully, seemingly to announce each drip from the roof, each water droplet freed from it’s crystalline form, each new rock that emerges from beneath the snow. Spring is on it’s way, but winter still rears it’s head regularly. Some days all is still and grey, the cold takes hold once again, and snow falls slowly from the sky.
The farm awakens from it’s slumber, and animals and people fill the farmyard with life. The animals mainly stand around lazily, while the people move back and forth carrying things here and there and conversing with one another. If we look closer we can see the trees also busying themselves within, mobilising for a new surge of growth.
Threshing is finished, and two stacks of freshly split wood are growing rapidly on the edge of the forest. We had very little snow this winter (only about 1 metre haha) so it seems as though it will finish melting earlier this year. Already a strip of ground on the south side of the house is bare, which doesn’t usually happen until mid april.
Threshing went fast this year with the new threshing machine. We also found a way to remove the awn from the barley, by cranking the threshing machine really fast and passing the threshed grain back through, twice. After that, nearly all of the barley is awn-free. Now we are just about finished with drying the grain, and that’s all the grain-proccessing until next harvest!
Last year we grew naked oats, but when we threshed we found there were quite alot with husks on. We think maybe the seed was not completely pure, and there were some hulled varieties mixed in. Now we have a project to sort at least 2kilos of naked oats, for sowing this year. We are removing all the ones with husks, and will only sow 100% naked oats, to get some pure seed for sowing again next year. Then hopefully in about 3 years we will have enough for a field of almost pure naked oats. I also spent some time experimenting with removing the husk from the oats. In the end I found the best way with the equipment we have, is to mill it twice very coarsely, and then winnow it. That way you get rid of most of the husk, then when I want to use it I throw it into a pan of water and scoop off any remaining husk, which will float, while the oats sink. Now we can have homegrown oat porridge again!
A few weeks ago we slaughtered our much loved ram Ramson. He had become too strong for his own good, and was breaking alot of gates and escaping, which meant we could no longer keep him outside, and had to lock him in the ram cage. We thought it better to slaughter him than keep him confined like that, and either way we want to get a new ram, so we can increase the flock a little. He died well, and though it’s always sad to kill, we feel it was the right thing. I made haggis from the lungs, liver and heart, and the meat went in the freezer. The meat is good and quite different from lamb. It has more texture and flavour somehow, though not the same juicy tenderness of corse.
We tanned the skin, though it was very difficult to scrape since it was completely fresh. With the lambs we butcher in the fall, we nail the skins up to dry them, then moisten them a little before scraping them. This method is considerably easier from our experience, and it means we can tan whenever we have time. We tanned our first sheep skins last month, three so so far, and we have about 9 left to do! The first one went a bit wrong as the wool loosened from the skin when I was washing it, but the other two are good. I will try to put together a post soon about how we do it.
Auðhumbla had her second calf almost a week ago. The calf is strong and lively and independant. This time, to our surprise, she gave birth by herself and everything went well, but her mothering skills didn’t seem to have improved much on last year. (See Audhumbla’s first calf) She was crazy, bellowing angrily and pushing the calf away and we had to tie her so the calf could suckle. Then we put the calf in a separate pen and milked the cow. Just two days later she had calmed down and seemed more interested in the calf than afraid of it, so I let them be together. She mooed alot but perhaps in a motherly way, and let the calf suckle. It was amazing to see her change so fast, and become a loving mother, after last year.
Now we have them together in the morning, evening and night, but separate them during the day, so we can also train the calf to bottle feed. We saved all the colostrum and milk from the first 4 days that the calf didn’t need, and soured it to feed to her later. We milk Auðhumbla twice a day, but let the calf feed first, and right now we can take about 12litres a day. It’s great to have milk again after four months without it! Yesterday I made cottage cheese, and now we have started to eat porridge again. Fortunately, we have been well stocked with butter over the winter, since we saved alot of butter from last year. We still have about 10 kilos left in the freezer!
We plan to keep the calf at least until July, when Hornfagr will calve too. Then maybe we will slaughter them both, or keep the youngest. When we have both cows milking (finally! (hopefully!)) then we will try to make lots of hard cheese and brunost for the winter. It will be the first time with both cows milking during the summer, so it’s exciting, but a big challenge. Especially since it will begin in July, when we also plan to cut our hayfield entirely by hand for the first time!
The chickens are laying alot of eggs now! We have just put 73 eggs in the incubator, so we’ll see how that goes. We want to try and sell some chicks, and also sell some hens later in the year. And the cockerels will most likely end up in the freezer again.
The house is filling up with seedlings of all kinds. Yesterday we transplanted four types of cabbage, brusselsprouts, romanseco, broccoli, lettuce and rocket; about 120 plants in all! I also have tomatoes, parsely and sage which I started from seed and I’m trying out an heirloom soybean variety which might possibly be able to grow here. I have no idea if it will come to anything, but it’s worth a try! Soon I will start off courgette, pumpkin, beans, and also a rare flint corn variety from north america/canada, which is one of the earliest I’ve heard of. Again, no idea if it will work. Last time I tried to grow corn it barely even flowered before the frost came.
This year I’m trying to grow onions and leeks from seed (again). The previous years have not been a great success especially with the onions. The first year I sowed masses, but at some point they seemed to just stop growing, and when I planted them out most of them died, or barely grew. Some though grew to full size, which gave me hope. The next year they seemed ok but once I planted them out they didn’t grow much, and ended up as baby onions. This year I hope to succeed! I found out the problem may well be that they didn’t get enough light as seedlings, so earlier in the year I bought some growing lights (LED grow panel) and they seem to be thriving! I also started them off much earlier this year (end of february), so hopefully they will be big and strong by the time I plant them out in may. The leeks I have in the window, and they seem to be doing fine there.
Recently I made the first sourdough bread from our own wheat. Previously I had experienced that the bread made from only homegrown wheat (dalalandhvete) was very sticky no matter how long I baked it. But with the sourdough the texture was much better! Last year we got a very poor harvest from the wheat, because so much of it collapsed on the field. We were advised that it mght be due to over-fertilisation, so this year we will use less manure and see if they manage to stand up until harvest!
Over the past few weeks Dan has been working up at our portable sawmill, sawing planks and materials for repairing the buildings. This winter he is working on the top of the hill, where the spruce trees are slow grown, which makes for very good quality timber. He is making new panels for the storehouse, and a new tabletop for the kitchen, among other things. Since he has been away in the forest sawing timber, he taught me to use the chainsaw so I can continue proccessing firewood. I thought I would hate using it, but it’s actually fine. (Though I much prefer splitting wood with an axe! Unfortunately the woofers get to do most of that.)
We are fortunate to own enough forest for all our firewood needs, as well as for building materials too. Over the past couple of winters Dan has cleared a patch of the forest close to the farm to make a new pasture for the cows. The rest of the forest we intend to manage sustainably, by taking trees here and there, rather than felling large areas. In this way we will be able to preserve the natural ecosystem while still supplying the farm with wood. The horse will play a big role, by dragging the logs out to a place where we can proccess them, and by bringing the wood back to the farm.
We are expecting lambs any day now, and hopefully two from each ewe. Previously we have only got one from each, so if all goes well we will have 10 lambs this year.