Tuesday, July 26, 2011

I used to think picking starthistle was bad...

...and I still think it's a lousy way to spend a summer morning. But did you know that if accustomed to it and given little other options, sheep eat star thistle for breakfast, lunch and dinner this time of year?!  The seed heads are high in protein when most other free-range sheep feed is too dry to be provide for their nutritional needs. If you are not familiar with star thistle, this is what is looks like up close:

This is what an entire hillside of it looks like:

And this is what sheep who can absorb the protein from star thistle will do to it! 
Brown = grazed star thistle, green = new paddock
When I was young and an "indoor girl" I was occasionally required to weed a hula-hoop sized section of star thistle from our water deprived yard during the summer. Oh the pain, agony and complaining this chore inspired!

Now I volunteer to tromp through a field of waist high barbed weeds and bang electric fence into hard, crusty earth on the weekends. Oh how things change, how we are led to places we never imagined in our youth. Who would have thought such a heinous childhood chore would now incite smiles at a difficult task well done?

Friday, July 15, 2011

My Ideal Life

Farming, family and vacation, need I say more? But I will...

I finally got a chance to catch up with our not-so-little lambs. I haven't seen them since I chose them over a month ago because they have moved up the hill to a beautiful irrigated pasture in Nevada City. My ewe lamb (eventual breeding stock) was sheared earlier in the week and Matt's market lamb (eventual grass-fed dinner) will be sheared next week. Dan decided to shear all the lambs himself this year; less wool means the animals won't lounge around in the shade as much, thus prompting more eating and ensuring quicker weight gains.

Need to work on my showing skills

Matt's wether was more compliant
One of the other lambs was bitten by a rattlesnake, so I got some practice giving an antibiotic shot.  This makes me nervous but is an essential skill when raising livestock, so the more practice I can get under supervision the better. And I keep reminding myself that giving a shot is more caring than letting the lamb get sick or lose a limb.

Later that weekend, on a mini-vacation with family at Lake Tahoe, I chanced to see a sign for the King's Beach farmer's market that would be open the next day, so a group of us went.

The King's Beach market was much smaller than the Auburn market (11 stalls), but the location can't be beat. There were even two vendors there who also frequent the Auburn market.

 And though it's always a little sad to come home from a vacation, the sunset drive through the Sierra mountains was breathtaking.

A final moment of bliss, Matt asked me to marry him! (I said yes, of course!)

Sunday, July 10, 2011


The candles were Matt's touch
This week we had a tasty, summer weeknight feast; slow cooked mutton shanks (from Flying Mule Farm) marinated in Mexican adobo and beer sauce, last minute cous cous from a box, sweet water melon and good company. The adobo marinade was given to me by a friend from work who loves meat and loves to cook. It is made with vinegar. chilies, paprika and other spices. Before refrigeration became so common, adobo was used a a method of preserving food in warm weather but now it used mainly as a way to flavor meat. After about 10 hours in the crock pot, the dark meat was falling off the bones and chock full of homemade flavor.

Well, we couldn't have such an amazing dinner and finish it off with store bought dessert, so homemade peach frozen yogurt it was! Matt's mom so generously gave us an electric ice cream maker and I wanted to try it out right away.  Working with ingredients I already had or could get at the moment, I followed a very simple recipe that came with the maker.

First thing, freeze the bowl that comes with the maker for at least 18 hours (2 or 3 days is even better), so it is cold enough freeze your yogurt or cream when it is whipping. When the bowl is cold enough, take one can of peaches (fresh peaches would be even better, I'm certain) and chop them up in the blender. To that add 1/3 cup sugar, 1/2 cup juice from the peaches and 2 cups of yogurt. Blend it together, set up the ice cream machine (4 parts, very simple), turn it on, pour in your yogurt mixture and let it whip for 20-30 minutes.
Who knew making frozen treats was so darn easy?
The machine has a hole in the top, making it way too easy to taste test (to make sure you get a good consistency, of course) throughout the whipping process. When it is a consistency you like, you can either eat it right away or put it in the freezer for an hour or two to firm up. One awesome aspect of making frozen desserts like this is that it makes more, volume wise, than what you started with because air is whipped into it.  More dessert is always better in my estimation!

Some day I would like to make ice cream with an old hand crank ice cream maker. Similar idea, but you get to be even more involved in the dessert transformation.

I really could not believe how easy this was and it tastes so wonderful. I have to admit I was intimidated by the thought of making frozen yogurt and ice cream, however it is just as easy as making a cake and easier than pie.
We added some rosemary sprigs just to be different
Next ...vanilla sheep's milk ice cream!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Weekend in the West

Sometimes sheep will wait their turn

Saturday I enjoyed working at the Auburn farmer's market (beef and sausage this week!), then sweated through moving sheep in Rocklin in the afternoon. I absolutely admire people (and animals) who work and live outdoors everyday; a life so weather dependent, so different from working in a temperature controlled office, with a ceiling.

After I was done in sheep-land, I headed out of town (via a drive around shimmering North Lake Tahoe) to visit a friend in the pretty and quiet desert town of Minden, NV.
On Dan's recommendation, we sat down to dinner at JT Basque, a local family style restaurant, no menu necessary. We received a green beer bottle filled with red wine and shot glasses to drink it from; then bread, soup, salad, beans, french fries, beef stew, a choice of entree (I had roasted rabbit and carrots, my friend tried lamb chops for the first time), ice cream and coffee! The food was well prepared and full of flavor and the company was awesome and we had leftovers, yay.  

And yet, the weekend was not over. For the 4th, we went to a beef brisket bbq at Dan's and I hardly have to say, the food was great!

I had a hard time putting my fork down long enough to get a picutre

The dogs got to have a little fun working sheep (a border collie's most favorite thing to do).  Watching everyone else with their fantastic dogs really gets me thinking... 

Paul and his new border collie, Ben 

 The littlest shepherdess

A weekend filled with family, friends and food, I don't think it could have been any better!