Summer was finally here! Our mulberry tree with its large low-hanging branches was producing more mulberries than we could ever eat. The kids helped me pick the mulberries each day, which we used in yogurts and smoothies. I also made some juice from it, which I preserved in bottles so we could enjoy it for the rest of the year. We often encountered our little flock of sheep relaxing under the tree while they were chewing their cud. I think they enjoyed the company of this tree as much as we did!
Little Ferdinand was growing up fast and we had to make a decision about his castration. The testosterone produced by a ram can change the flavor of the meat to a point were it becomes inedible. There are differing opinions whether this is always the case, however; some believe that the intensity of the flavor can be bred out of the animal and thus it depends on the breed and/or gene pool of the sheep. We weren’t sure about the genetic history of our lamb and so we decided to go ahead with the castration. We didn’t want to risk loosing the meat all together. I had witnessed lambs getting banded earlier in the year and it didn’t seem like the procedure was too painful for them. Unfortunately I learned from Dr. Ron, our farm vet, that we had missed the window for banding him. The loss of tissue and chance of infection would be too great at this point. Instead, he recommended a surgical castration, which would only require a small incision on his scrotum and another small cut across the two seminal ducts. I must admit, I squirmed at the idea, but our vet reassured me that he will receive anesthetics and not feel much discomfort.
Dr. Ron and his assistant Jen arrived on a beautiful sunny summer’s day. Ironically, he picked the sheep’s favorite spot under the mulberry tree for the procedure. Poor Ferdinand! He was never going to enjoy being under that tree again! I helped set up the area by spreading out a tarp on the ground, filling a bucket of water and stringing an extension cord from the carriage house to the mulberry tree. Dr. Ron also asked me to get a comfortable chair. I didn’t realize it then, but the chair was meant for me, so I could hold the lamb between my legs as he was working on him. I wasn’t quite prepared to be this much involved in the process, but maybe this was a good thing?
The procedure was actually not as bad as I had imagined and I was quite glad to have been there for all of it. I think it helped that Dr. Ron’s assistant Jen was so relaxed and chatty the entire time. She was telling us a story about a friend of hers, who had recently given birth and whose husband had collapsed in the delivery room because he couldn’t handle the sight of all the blood. I was trying to focus on the story and not on the operation. After a little while though, I was getting used to this strange situation and my curiosity was taking over as I watched the vet remove the testicles and stitch up the seminal ducts. Ferdinand was pretty calm thanks to the anesthetics. As soon as the vet was finished with the procedure, Ferdinand was up on his feet again and reunited with his mom on the pasture. He seemed a bit groggy for the rest of the day, but by the next morning he was back to his old self.
We harvested our onions and garlic in late June. An indication that they’re ready to be picked is when their leaves are turning yellow and getting droopy. Both garlic and onions need to be cured for a week or two before they can be stored. We put ours onto old screen doors, which we placed on the beams inside our smokehouse. Here, they were protected from the weather and the air circulation helped dry the outer layers of the garlic bulbs and onions. Once the curing process was finished they were ready for storage. I get quite the enjoyment out of braiding onions and garlic bulbs into long strands and hanging them all over the kitchen and pantry. It is a very calming, almost therapeutic activity, which leaves me with a great sense of accomplishment.
(Here is a video of me braiding onions: https://www.facebook.com/340644732802758/videos/613966725470556/)
The summer was coming to an end, which meant that it was time to start planning a fall garden. I usually don’t do too much gardening in the fall because I am pretty much “gardened out” at this point and feel like I deserve a little break. This year, however, I wanted to give brassicas, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage and kale another try. I didn’t have much success growing them in the warmer months due to a huge cabbage worm infestation. I had to pretty much walk away from my poor little brassicas, that I had cared for since the beginning of the year. I was hoping I’d have better luck growing them in the fall, when the weather is cooler and there are fewer insects around. I planted Brussels sprouts toward the beginning of August, crossing my fingers that they would have enough time to develop sprouts around the time of Thanksgiving. I still had to keep an eye on the cabbage worms at this point, but only for another month until the weather got cooler. I was pretty happy with the results so far…
To be continued…
Sneak – peak at next week: The big butchering-day is here.