All progress, all success springs from thinking.
-Thomas Edison, Inventor
-Thomas Edison, Inventor
We’ve all heard of fixer-upper houses – how about a fixer-upper farm? That’s what we have been doing over the winter – preparing a neglected piece of farmland for its first crop in many years!
The property which borders our farm to the south has never been properly farmed in the 22 years we have lived here. It had been approved by our county for residential development. They were going to put 44 houses right smack in the middle of a farming area! Fortunately, we were able to make a deal with the developer to buy the land. Everyone in our farming neighborhood was very relieved, especially us.
We are now revitalizing the farm – we’ve torn down old fences, pruned trees, hauled junk away and burned weeds. We took out an old concrete feedyard, brought in an excavator, and re-graded the soil so that the entire farm will irrigate properly.
Once all the junk and weeds were removed, and the soil disked for the first time, what was revealed was rich, loamy, black soil – prime for growing crops.
This farm is now included with our homeplace and is part of Sweet Hills Farm. We’ve planted wheat on 1/3 of it and the other 2/3 will go into corn. In the future, other crops will likely include sugarbeets, seed crops, dry beans and possible alfalfa hay.
What with 2 billion more people expected on our planet by the year 2050 we need to preserve all the farmland we can, and this is just a very small step in that direction. Such a relief!
-Thomas Edison, Inventor
Sheep are special farm animals that can provide humans with two important things: food and clothing. Since the beginning of time, people have been raising sheep to eat, for their milk, and to use their wool to make blankets, clothing and other things.
Every year, a sheep’s wool can be cut, or shorn off. This is usually done in the spring, so that the sheep can stay cool during the hot weather months, and then stay warm during winter after the wool has grown back. The wool is cleaned and spun into yarn on a spinning wheel. The yarn can then be woven into blankets or rugs, or knitted into warm sweaters, socks, hats, or other pieces of clothing.
Wool is an interesting material. When it comes right off the sheep, it is coated with a substance called lanolin, which made the wool waterproof while still on the animal. The lanolin can be removed from the wool, and used for many other things, like hand lotion. The lanolin can also be left on the wool to make it extra waterproof.
Wool can also be felted to make a sturdy, water-resistant fabric. When wool is felted, thin layers are placed on top of each other, and then rubbed together with warm, soapy water until they become one piece of fabric. Felted wool is used to make things like rugs, tents, shoes and more.
Wool absorbs moisture, so it is a very good fabric for things like socks or coats. It pulls water and sweat away from your body, so that you stay warm and dry. Wool also does not burn as easily as other fabrics, like cotton, so it is used in making clothes for firefighters, soldiers, and other people who might come in contact with fire.
A single sheep can produce anywhere from 2 to 30 pounds of wool each year. The wool from one sheep is called a fleece. The amount of wool depends on the breed, age, and gender of the sheep. Sheep that are primarily used for meat produce less wool than sheep that are bred for their long wool and heavy fleeces.
In the United States, over 27 million pounds of wool were cut from sheep last year. Idaho is in the top-10 states for wool production, with about 1.7 million pounds of wool produced. Wool production is an important part of Idaho agriculture!
Ideas for Teachers
The Idaho Rangeland Resource Commission has a program called “Life on the Range” that showcases Idaho’s rangeland and ranching families.
Their most recent video introduces us to two Idaho ranching families, the Minks and the Jacas. Mom knows members of both of these families through her work with the Farm Service Agency.
For more videos and information, visit the Life on the Range website by clicking HERE.
If you strike a thorn or rose,
If it hails or if it snows,
When the fish ain’t on your line;
Bait your hook an’ keep a-tryin’-
When the weather kills your crops,
Though ’tis work to reach the top,
S’pose you’re out o’ ev’ry dime,
Gittin’ broke ain’t any crime;
Tell the world you’re feelin’ prime-
When it looks like all is up,
Drain the sweetness from the cup,
See the wild birds on the wing,
Hear the bells that sweetly ring,
When you feel like sighin’, sing-
Here’s a video of Dolly the Ewe finally being shorn. She’s so clean and white underneath it all!
Howdy Folks! Pinto the BlogDog here. Been purty quiet ’round my place, till just now. So, I thought I’d best write to all y’all.
You’ll remember back at Christmastime when I told’ya ’bout how M’Lady slipped a cog and brought home Dolly the Ewe to live on my farm. Then ’bout how M’Lady got another ewe named Big Betty. Well!
Over winter, she went ‘n’ bought 6 more ewes, and they’re all pregnant!!! We’re gonna have little lambs comin’ out our ears! Oh, am I excited, I love little lambs, how they smell, and they’re so cute and itty bitty!
But all these ewes, includin’ Dolly, needed to be shorn. The mamma ewes needed to have all their wooly wool clipped off before their little babies are born. So, M’Lady hired a sheep shearing guy named Ward.
We brought all the ewes into a pen in the barn, see. Then Ward muscled each ewe in her turn, and brought her out to the breezeway, plopped her on her bottom, and with the hugest clippers with the giganticist blades, just buzzed all that ole’ wool off! It looked so slick ‘n’ easy, he just handled ‘em so smooth. They just laid there all quiet like!
Now, hahahaha! The ewes all look naked, and I’ll bet they’re embarrassed to be runnin’ around with no hairy hair! And Dolly, well, she looks like a brand new ewe, what with all that ole’ horrid chopped up wool gone, and bright, clean white wool underneath! I can hardly recognize her!
In just a little while, the ewes’ll have their little lambys. The reason M’Lady sheared ‘em now is so that when the little lambs are born, their mammas’ll seek shelter ’cause they’ll be cold. Elsewise, they’d be happy to stay out in the cold, ’cause they’d’ve had their wooly coats on, see, and then their little babies’d freeze. So, this way, the mammas’ll be cold, too, and they’ll bring their little ones into the barn when it gets cold. Purty smart, huh?
So, now I guess I’m a real sheep dog. Don’t know nuthin’ though. M’Lady says she wishes I’d learn to take directions, so I could help her move the ewes to and from the pastures. She thinks I’m too old to learn. I say, give me a try, I wanna learn, Oh, how I wanna help M’Lady herd!
Well, gotta go stare wolf eyes at Dolly and her flock!
Keep your tail waggin’!