The Lamb That Fell From the Sky


Last Friday I went out to talk with my sheep and spread some hay when I noticed the smallest lamb I have ever seen. She was standing alone, in a helpless hunched over position, still wet from birth. I have seen many sheep born the last few years but this was the first not being protected by its’ mother.
All our sheep have been born on pasture, cleaned by their mothers and they started nursing within minutes. That is one of the reasons we chose Gulf Coast Native Sheep. The main reason is the taste.
We did have an incident a few weeks ago when an older ewe could not let her milk down for a few hours and we decided to give a bottle to to a lamb, but she never an abandoned her baby and the baby kept trying to nurse.
Ringo, the donkey noticed the tiny, lonely lamb and went over to comfort it. I looked around and he had it in his mouth so I decided I needed to take it with me. It weighed in at 4.5 pounds, not half of what the last few lambs weighed, but walked fine, tried to nurse Mojo, the dog, much to his chagrin, and was real happy to get a bottle of milk.
Our friends at Blue Heron Farm said they might take it in because they were set up to bottle feed and we are not. A very kind gesture indeed, but something happened that afternoon that made it impossible to take them up on the offer. I got back from market on Saturday and started on chores, and everywhere I went that lamb was sure to follow. She tagged along, heeling like my dogs do not, lying down when I stop, and heading out again when I move on.
We have seven ewes who were too young to be bred in the fall and obviously one snuck out in the middle of the night (and we now know who you were) for a midnight rendezvous with a rambunctious ram. We never saw any blood nor a placenta, so I guess it was an easy delivery of a tiny lamb. Often the moms eat the placenta, but I doubt that a ewe that didn’t even have the instinct to stay with her baby would know that predator protection technique.
So now I have another chore for a few weeks. Lambs need to eat three of four times a day and one this small cannot miss a meal. I have to go to Houston today, so guess who is going to be in the dog crate in the truck.
So maybe she is an alien and we need to name as such or maybe she is just a miracle. We have been known to have those around here.

Gulf Coast Winter Farming

IMG_4540It is late January and this is the busiest time of the year for this farmer. I am starting to plant spring broccoli and pak choi, 1500 tomato plants need to be bumped up to 3″ pots and the hoop house they are going in needs some repairs. I am potting basil, separating lemongrass and grafting persimmons. In a couple of weeks I will begin grafting citrus.
Right now is the time to prune all the dormant fruit trees and grapes.
I have to keep my baby chicks at 95˚, which is sooo easy in the summer, but today it requires some extra monitoring.
It is lambing season and though the Gulf Coast Native ewes do all the work, giving birth on pasture, cleaning them up and nursing them, we spend some time weighing the babies, recording info, tagging ears and monitoring the mamas’ health. And heck–just looking. That’s what the blue chairs are for. I consider that work.
Nursing ewes are always requesting some alfalfa pellets and they drink a lot of water. Yesterday morning the hoses were frozen, making me truck water from the house. It was only 29˚ and they were thawed by 9:00. The weather has been glorious this winter.
Fruit trees are selling out, we are running low on lamb meat and the broiler chickens will be sold out before the new ones are ready.
Add to that the fact that the sun is only up about 10 hours a day. Ten beautiful hours.
In the north winter is a time to sit inside as much as possible and plan. For me that would be August.
This is a great job.

Pastured Lamb and Chicken at the Farmers Market

I will have a limited amount of lamb meat available this Saturday at the Eastside Farmers Market. We raise Gulf Coast Native sheep, noted in the Slow Foods Ark of Taste. “Meat of the Gulf Coast sheep is extremely tender, moist and balanced with a mild, clean earth flavor.”
Chef John Besh in his “My New Orleans” cookbook, calls the meat “leaner, richer, and more flavorful…”
The Gulf Coast sheep are also listed as critical by the Livestock Conservancy

I will also have whole, pastured, organically fed, freedom ranger chickens, raised by the “Label Rouge” production standards, a grassroots, chef and farmer driven program the French introduced in response to the factory chicken.

Buy Local and keep millions of dollars in our economy

DSCN0900Even though it is 68˚ at 4:30 am on December 11, people are preparing for the Christmas season and often that entails spending money on gifts, food and decoration this time of year. If you spend your money at a department store or supermarket, most of that money goes out of the area to middle men, trucking companies, China, Mexico…
If you spend the money on something produced locally and sold at a farmers market or many local shops, most of that money will be recirculated in the community.
We used to write on past due invoices at my old company, “Please pay us, so we can pay him, so he can pay you.” Money moves, and when you can help direct where it moves, it benefits friends and neighbors.
If 10% of the people in the greater Houston area spent $100 for locally produced Christmas goods this year, over $50 million would be recirculated in the local economy.
If 1% of the people in the greater Houston area were to spend $50 per week at a farm or farmers market for an entire year, that would contribute about $130 million per year to our local economy. That would support a lot of farms.
We consumers make a lot of decisions that effect our economy. We often complain about the federal reserve, congress and the jobs in America, but consumers choose where to spend some of their money. Don’t send money to China or Wall Street this year.
Invest in your local farms and shops.
Whether it is fruit trees, gift certificates, art, meat, cheese or vegetables, make sure some of it is locally produced.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Happy Kwanzaa, and enjoy the solstice.

Planting non- tropical fruit trees in Texas


DSCN0289Non-tropical fruit trees are usually planted when the tree is going dormant, the weather has cooled off a bit and the ground is moist but not saturated. The best chance of having good conditions is late November, December, January and February in Texas. This gives the tree time to acclimate before it starts putting on leaves in the spring. Most fruit trees like full sun, but berries and muscadines can do well in partial shade, and can, therefore, be used as an understory plant.
For blueberries see my earlier post on planting blueberries.
For all other trees, muscadines and berries that I sell:
Remove the weeds and grass in a five foot diameter circle. In the center dig a hole twice as wide and just the depth of the pot or, for bare root trees, large enough to spread all the roots out without bending them. Keep the graft (if grafted) a few inches above the ground. Make sure the ground drains. Fill the hole with water and if it does not drain in 3 or 4 hours you must build a raised bed. Spread about one cup of rock phosphate or bone meal in the bottom of the hole. Remove the plant from the pot and set it so that it is the same depth in the ground as it was in the pot, or even an inch higher. For bare root trees, make sure all the roots are below ground and the graft is a few inches above. Replace the same soil you took out of the hole around the plant, working in another cup of phosphate and a cup of azomite would help, if you could find it. You do not want fertilizer or compost in this soil. You want the roots to grow out far and wide seeking nutrients. Water thoroughly. Put five gallons of compost around the tree 6” from the trunk out to 2’. Mulch the five foot diameter area with at least 3” deep mulch. Make sure the mulch does not touch the trunk of the tree, as this will create a habitat for fungus and insects.
The first year they require frequent watering, equivalent to an inch of rain a week in the spring and fall. In the summer in Texas, they require twice weekly soakings the first year.
I sell fruit trees at the Urban Harvest Farmers Market on the second and fourth Saturday of each month. This is the inventory as of Nov. 1.
Fertilization schedule

Red meat and the WHO

I have always been a moderate meat eater. Most of the meat I eat comes from a trusted source. Usually me or a farming friend. I raise chicken and lamb on the farm.
This World Health Organization study condemning red meat is not what the media is presenting.
This is a collection of data from random trials. When you study a group of people who eat a lot of hot dogs or other processed meats, you are probably not studying people who spend a good deal of time in the gym. These studies are based on questionnaires, not, as best I can see, on controlled scientific studies. Do they sit on the sofa in front of a TV while consuming large quantities of sausage or do they eat the sausage after a five mile run? Or even better, do they eat a grass-fed lamb chop with an organic salad and beets after a hard day of farming?
They make no distinction between grass-fed and grain-fed red meat. Meat processed by salting, fermenting, curing or smoking is different than meat preserved with sugars and nitrates.
My father died of colon cancer and I do not take the risk lightly, but I feel that the conclusions made by the WHO are not warranted from the information in the study. Possibly the average American eats too much meat and most of the meat is raised under unhealthy situations. Cows, lambs and goats cannot digest grain well and most are raised in horrible confined situations. Can we connect the stress the animal is in to the quality of the meat? Does it matter that the people raising the animal have no regard for their wellbeing?
If this declaration makes more people choose to avoid the fast food hamburger and forgo the hot dog, it will have a positive effect on the world’s diet. It should help the meat consumer become more aware of the quality of meats, and therefore, should help the small, local farmer who raises meat responsibly.
However, if you read the report, you will find that the conclusions are not good science.

Cornbread with vegetables

1 1/4 cups of cornmeal
1 cup wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter
1 cup chopped mustard greens, kale, collards, bok choy, etc.
1 cup corn kernels
1 chopped red bell pepper

Chopped jalapeno pepper is an option

Caramelize onions or saute mushrooms and add before baking

Preheat oven to 350˚. Mix the dry ingredients and beat the eggs with the milk in separate bowls. Melt the butter in an iron skillet. Then stir the milk/eggs and the butter in with the dry ingredients. Mix in the vegetables, pour into the buttered skillet and bake for 30 to 40 minutes.
Of course you do not have to use an iron skillet, but it is what I use. If you do not melt the butter in the baking dish you will have to grease the baking dish. Experiment with different vegetables.

Growing fruit trees and berries by organic methods

On Sunday, February 8, 2015 I will be teaching a fruit tree management class.
We will discuss chill hours, root stock, grafting, planting, variety selection, soil reports, soil amendments, fertilization, pest control, compost tea, beneficial insects, pruning, and a lot more. All information will be presented from a holistic, organic perspective.
We will plant fruit trees, berries, and muscadines. We will prune fruit trees and vines.

This class will not include production of annual fruits like tomatoes, melons and strawberries.
Class is from 2:00 until 4:00 and costs $45.00 . sign up for class



Saint Arnold and the lamb

IMG_2724Not only does Saint Arnold make a great beer, but you can fit a nipple on the screw top. Kenan chose to use a “stout” bottle because this lamb needed a little extra vim and vigor. For those of you panicking, we filled it with milk and supplements, no alcohol. Only two times have we had to take a newborn lamb in, warm it up and feed it. Gulf Coast Native Sheep are very good at birthing and tend to be very good mothers. However, yesterday at 37˚ and raining I found a 3 day old ram lamb, born small to a first time mother, alone 25 feet from any other member in the flock. It was lying on its side, which is not normal. When I felt in his mouth it was cold. Quickly I wrapped him in my coat, took him to the house and put a lamp on him. It took about 12 hours for him to start standing again. With help from the foster grandkids we got him back on his feet. I took him back to the flock at 7:00 this morning and his mother, Loretta Lynne, met me at the gate. Loretta was too young to be bred (rams jump fences) and has a severed nerve in her foot. But all day today we have seen the mother and child reunion. They are together every time I go out. Hopefully she will become the mother all her aunts are.

The art of a tree

Today I did my morning chores, planted some more winter crops, had some problems of sheep running wild, and when all was under control I sat on the low boy trailer to take a break when this leaf fell on my leg. I realized that I had spent much of my life doing art and growing plants and animals and that I had never created anything as beautiful as something that just fell from the sky and settled on my leg.