History of a Vermont Sheep Farm
Getting Started: You Can Farm Too!
A Flock of Your Own Icelandic Sheep
A Flock of Your Own Chickens
Growing Your Farm: How the Numbers Work

Storey's Guide to Raising Sheep
by Paula Simmons and Carol Ekarius has an expanded format and newer information on medications. Wonderful pictures of lambing positions and shearing. From the shearing pictures you can easily learn to handle a small flock.

Dreaming Vermont: Relocating and Living in Vermont


Vermont Farms in Spring: A time for friends

Vermont Life's spring edition would have you believe that spring on a farm is awash in pale greens and bright flowers. This would be true.. in June. At the end of March there is simply no nice way to gloss over the realities of a spring barn yard. Muck dominates the landscape. Waste hay compacts to a squishy mass underfoot and mud sucks boots off feet. What appears to be adequate drainage any other time of the year sends spring runoff straight into the sheep sheds, turning the inside world into mire if not equal to that of the outside, running a close second.

Visiting children need boosts before they'll pop out of the mire with their boots on. Truck tires spin, spraying brown goo across the yard. Even dogs bog down and, after trying to run though the muck, collapse in melting snowbanks to cool off.
But no amount of muck beats a spring chicken coop for foul. Home poultry management books suggest that winter coops allow a buildup of bedding on the floor of the coop. This is to provide an insulating layer for the birds, as well as a tacit acknowledgement of certain realities: in winter there is nowhere for the average homeowner to put chicken waste.

Layering fresh bedding under your hens works very well… as long as temperatures stay below freezing. Come spring, however, the ammonia which was frozen, turns to a gas. Most unfortunate, because that ammonia which is so unpleasant when you open the coop door is also a valuable fertilizer. When a farmer says "profits are evaporating," sometimes they mean that literally.

At the same time profits are evaporating in as a noxious gas, the hens are focused on spring. There's a reason we celebrate Easter with egg hunts. Chickens, as the days grow longer and the temperatures hover consistently around 45F, eggsplode. The farmer, lulled into complacency by a reasonable winter production of a few dozen eggs a week suddenly finds a dozen eggs a day, a dozen and a half, two dozen…. In days of yore with no refrigeration and few means of preserving the bounty anything that used up eggs in quantity must have seemed like a really good idea. Especially if that something involved hiding the little blessings with the hopeful consequence that some of them might not find their way home.

Someone, rather cleverly, decided that the Easter celebration should include the Easter ham… and under the combination of freshening cows, storms of eggs, and left over ham, a clever cook created the quiche.. A great many eggs can be hidden in a quiche. A dozen eggs can, in fact, be hidden in a quiche. That's a little less than a day's production right now. Thankfully, quiches freeze well.

In another month we'll leave the excess egg production for the broody hens to set. Around our place the greening spring is celebrated with lambs, the growing spring with chicks. Mud season, not very sensibly, is celebrated with puppies. A new one arrives this weekend. Another set of paws to track in mud, and on short legs, a little belly to drag dirt in with too.

But today is the day we handle the ewes, getting them ready for their lambs. The cavalry arrive.. young friends to keep the girls occupied with corn treats and a strong back for lifting. With a little help we make quick work of it: hooves, injections, check for udders, make sure they're healthy, and off the stand. Hefting a particularly wide load our friend remarks "they're much heavier!" My experienced ewes are bloated on both sides.. twins at least. My yearlings aren't showing yet, prompting the annual worry, are they pregnant? The husband consults his standby medical tome, the Merck Manual: "Proof positive of a pregnancy is the delivery of a fetus," he says solemnly. "Not helpful," I tell him.

A cry from the chicken yard, the kids can't get the door closed. Another cry… someone is stuck fast in the mud! Doors are slammed, kids plucked from muck, we set the ewes free to leap out into deep spring snow… and sit around on a piece of machinery squinting from the glare, talking summer.

A visit, a snack, and off they go to capture the last of winter. Neighbors stop by to chat in the sun, and leave with eggs. More friends drop by, out for a drive on a sunny March day. Another excuse to speak of spring things; of wood to cut and hay to find, of how his brother's sugaring is going, and whether his son will hunt turkeys this year.

"We'd like to visit your farm," the emails say "with our children, they've never seen a farm." They have seen a farm, of course, in their picture books. Where the chickens haven't molted away their feathers, and the sheep aren't knee deep in ooze. In the picture books children run barefoot in the barnyard by choice, not because their boots have been sucked off their feet and left behind in the mud.

"In June," we write back "we host visitors in June." In March we host friends.

Keep an eye on the farm at FarmCam!

(Visit the Stowe Vermont Physical Therapist we depend on for Manual Therapy and Myofascial Release Techniques)


Stories From a Vermont Life:

Camilla Blue
Frozen Gifts
Making Wreaths
The Fourth of July

The Farm at Morrison Corner raises Icelandic Sheep on the last hill farm in Mansfield, VT.  Learn about Raising Icelandic Sheep, Raising Chickens, Moving to Vermont and Living in Vermont on this and our other sites.

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