Free Workshop!
Creating a Vision for Your Farm/Ranch

Do you know what you want
your farm or ranch to look like?

How about your finances, watershed, or family?
Do you have a picture of what your life will look like in 5 years?
Step out of your endless chore loop and choose a new path.

In this free workshop Jenn Colby shows you a manageable process to develop a vision, whether you are figuring it out by yourself or bringing the whole farm or ranch with you. You’ll walk away with a step-by-step guide to take home, and we’ll go through how to vision in person or online (it works!).

Join On Pasture on January 25.  Let’s set ourselves up for success! ______
For More on Jenn and her process, check out this month’s “Thinking Grazier.” It’s an On Pasture Open Access Article.

Be sure to sign up for the Solace Farmer Blog in the box to your right ->

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Soil Health 101: Virtual Workshop

Join NCAT Agriculture Specialists Felicia Bell and Nina Prater January 25, 2022, for a free, online introduction to soil health. What makes soil healthy or unhealthy? Why is soil health critical to long term farming success? What are some guiding principles all farmers can follow to build soil health? This virtual workshop will address those questions, and there will be a Q & A session to answer participants’ questions.

Soil Health 101: Virtual Workshop

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New webinar from Seed Savers Exchange!

Seed Savers Exchange is excited to announce the first seed rematriation webinar of a four-part series.    This series will highlight 2021-2022 seed rematriation work with seven partners funded through a North Central SARE Partnership grant awarded to Seed Savers Exchange.    Join us to learn how Indigenous farmers, activists, communities, and nations are welcoming seeds home to grow and share.    Our first webinar will be held Tuesday, January 18, 2022, from 1 – 2 PM Central Time (US). Find your time zone.  
This webinar is open to the public. Space is limited for the live event, but the event will be recorded and shared with everyone who registers. Even if you are unable to join us live you will be able to watch it at your own convenience. 
Register Today
Seed rematriation addresses the desire for Indigenous communities to actively reclaim their ancestral seeds and traditions. Moderated by Shelley Buffalo, this session features panelists Dr. Rebecca Webster and Kellie Zahn sharing information on
–  their experience with the rematriation process
–  their chosen seed varieties
 – farming techniques like high tunnel and Three Sisters mound gardens
  -ways this partnership could be modeled for others looking to engage in this work
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Safety for Sheep and Shepherd

By Linda Poole, Regenerative Grazing Specialist

When NCAT’s Livestock Team recently held a series of webinars for people considering a new livestock enterprise, many folks indicated they were thinking of getting sheep. Sounds good to me! Sheep were first domesticated 11,000 years ago, and for centuries women and children tended sheep or goats while men managed larger, potentially more dangerous stock, such as cattle and horses. Today, sheep can be handled without a lot of expensive infrastructure, and well-socialized sheep are friendly, calm, and fun to be around.

But with their small size and cute-and-fuzzy-factor, it’s easy to underestimate sheep. It’s also a fact that they can maim or kill you. This is not intended to cause you to fear sheep; it is fair warning to respect them. Safety is especially important if you’re working sheep alone, without someone to watch your back or lend a hand if things start to go sideways.

Safety with sheep is a topic better suited to books than blogs, but by paying attention to these common-sense guidelines, shepherds can work more safely:

  • Source your sheep from a reputable breeder. Those cheap sheep on Craigslist or at the auction barn might harbor health or behavior issues that you just don’t need in your life.
  • NEVER turn your back on a ram, and this goes double during breeding season. Tame rams can be the worst, going from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde in an instant when their hormones surge during breeding season. Don’t play with or pet rams. Petting a ram is like feeding a bear – neither usually ends well for the animal.
  • Ewes can thump you, too, especially when they have baby lambs. Stay attentive to the body language of sheep around you.
  • Keep your head up and eyes open when you bend or kneel to eye level with sheep. This can invite a charge, and it puts you right where a sheep can inflict maximum damage.
  • Instill respect in your sheep. I train sheep to keep at least a few feet away from me unless I invite them in closer. My tool for this is a plastic grocery bag tied to the stout handle of a 6’ long leg crook. Working the flock, I hold the stick still beside my leg until I want the sheep to move off, then I gently wiggle the bag low to the ground. If I want more energy in the sheep, I lift the stick higher and give the bag a stronger shake. If necessary, I can use the stick as a prod to repel a disrespectful sheep. To catch a sheep, I herd it into a stout fence corner, and then use the crook to carefully catch its leg without ever getting my head down where I could get rammed.
  • Always be alert, fair, and firm. Practice low-stress stockmanship. Good stockmanship is essential to safety for sheep and shepherd!
  • Many old shepherds, myself included, have bad knees and sore backs from foolishly trying to block or catch a running sheep. Use your brain, save your body: set things up to keep sheep from stampeding in the first place. And if they do, step aside and let them go. Then start over, this time keeping things calm.
  • Working yards don’t need to be large or fancy, but they must have good footing, good visibility, and sound fences in a sheep-smart layout.
  • Implement biosecurity. Some diseases are communicable between humans and sheep. Good hygiene practices reduce the risk of passing diseases between species. If you develop an unexplained malady, tell your doctor that you raise sheep.
  • What’s your emergency plan? Do you have an escape route? Got your mobile phone? Does someone know where you are, when to expect you back, and what to do if you don’t show up?
  • One of the most useful references on safety for shepherds is (ironically) the Beef Quality Assurance Handbook. For sheep-centric information, consult the guide Safe Sheep Handling.

Small ruminants are wonderful creatures and can be the basis of a rewarding, fun, and profitable business — so long as you always think of safety first.

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Roast Leg of American Lamb with Potatoes & Lemon


  • 1 bone-in leg of lamb, about 5 pounds
  • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 12 cloves of garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 pounds yukon gold potatoes, quartered
  • 2 organic lemons, cut into eighths
  • 3/4 pounds shallots, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried rosemary
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine


The night before cooking, use a paring knife to make 24 1-inch punctures around the leg of lamb. Rub it inside and out with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, 2 teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Place ½ clove of garlic inside each puncture. Cover and refrigerate the leg overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 tbsp salt, oregano, rosemary, and ½ tsp black pepper.

Toss together the potatoes, lemons, shallots, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, and ⅔ of the spice mixture in a large roasting pan.

Rub the leg of lamb with the remaining spice mixture, and place it on top of the veggies in the pan. Pour the vegetable stock, lemon juice, and white wine into the bottom of the pan.

Place in the oven and roast until the internal temperature of the lamb leg reaches 140 degrees F, about 90 minutes, using a metal ladle to spoon the pan juices over the vegetables every 30 minutes.

Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes before carving + serving.

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Lamb and Chanterelle Mushroom Phyllo Pie


  • 2 pounds ground American Lamb
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1 ½ cups chopped yellow onion 
  • ¼ cup cubed pancetta 
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic 
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • ½ pound sliced fresh chanterelle mushrooms (or any mushrooms)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary 
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme 
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • ¼ cup port, or dry sherry
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 ½ cups broth of your choice
  • 10 phyllo pastry sheets


Preheat the oven to 350F.

 Heat a large pot over medium heat, and add the lamb. Cook, stirring, until evenly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour off some fat, if desired. Add the butter, the onion, tomato paste, pancetta, mushrooms, garlic, rosemary, and spices, and cook until the onions are soft, and the flavors have melded, 5 to 7 minutes. Deglaze the pot with the port, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Sprinkle in the cornstarch, and pour in the broth. Stir, and simmer until thickened. Remove and discard the bay leaf, and allow it to cool slightly. Note: USDA recommends ground lamb be cooked to an internal temp of 160 degrees. 

 Brush a 9 -inch pie dish with olive oil, and layer sheets of phyllo pastry in the dish, turning it as you go, and brushing each sheet with olive oil until the phyllo has covered the entire dish. (Olive oil spray is great for this!) Pour in the lamb filling, and bring the overlap up, scrunching it around the edges. Brush the phyllo with olive oil, and bake until golden brown, 25 to 30 minutes. Serve warm with your favorite sides! 

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Holiday Drawing

Alpaca Fiber is luscious and a local Alpaca Shepherdess sold me some lovely fiber…Sadly I have discovered that I am very allergic to Alpaca Fiber. I will be giving this softness away in our next Holiday Drawing. I will be drawing 4 names from the list of those who enter.

What do you need to do to enter? Simply Comment on this post A or B or C or D and be sure to sign up for our Blog/Newsletter. Winners to be announced December 15, 2021

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Lamb Shanks with Yogurt



  • 6 lamb shanks – American Lamb
  • ¼ cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh black pepper ground
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • Onion water (2 grated onions squeezed using a paper towel)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 onions cut in half
  • 2 heads of garlic
  • 3 whole cardamoms
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 cups stock

Yogurt Sauce

  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste
  • ¼ cup fresh dill, minced
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes (optional)


  • Fresh parsley and dill
  • Pomegranate arils
  • Toasted pine nuts
  • Cracked Black pepper


Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

In a large bowl add the lamb shanks and flavoring ingredients (from the top until the olive oil only) and toss well.

 Spread the lamb in an oven safe baking dish. Add in the whole spices, cut up onions and garlic. Try to squeeze them in the dish and divide them evenly so the flavor spreads evenly as well. Pour the stock over the lamb dish and cover the plate with foil. 

 Roast the shanks until tender–this should take between 100-120 minutes (depending on the size of your lamb shanks).

 Once ready, remove the foil and if the lamb requires more browning, leave it in the oven for an extra 10 minutes. Note: USDA recommends cooking lamb to a minimum 145 degree internal temperature with a 3  minute rest.

 n the meantime, make the yogurt sauce. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl until blended.

 On a serving plate, spread the sauce. Add the lamb shanks on top and garnish with your choice of garnishes. 

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Looking at your farm as an interdependent entity means evaluating how each aspect, crop or product interacts with the ecosystem of your farm.  Most farmers only think about these things when it comes to growing zones and choosing plant varieties. There is so much more to this equation if your long-term goals include stewardship, sustainability, and consistent profits.

Farming is a challenge under the best of circumstances.  Weather and rising cost of inputs being only two of the variables you must accommodate to succeed.  By examining the micro-environment of your farm, you can make informed decisions about plant and animals that will not only grow and make money for you but will continue to enhance the ecosystem of your farm.

Monocropping (planting only one type of plant or raising only one type of animal) only makes your farm subject to the whims of the market and attack by pests. This type of single mindedness will need a large amount of inputs like fertilizer and pesticides to bring your ecosystem even close to being back into balance and ready to monocrop year after year.  This type of farming is not only riskier and more costly but unsustainable.

Holistic Farming works with the environment not against it. By having diversity in your crops and animals you not only work with nature to create a sustainable farm, but you create multiple income streams. Both of these factors are important in creating a sustainable farm.

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Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.


The dream of someday living on your own farm is one shared by many.  The lure of a quieter life away from the bustle of consumer driven living is a strong one.  Being able to grow your own food and know exactly what you are eating is also a big motivator in today’s world of industrial food production. Wanting to be socially responsible by taking care of our planet is also a very powerful motivator to farm.  How to begin to make this dream a reality is often overwhelming.

Buying property, what crops to grow and what animals to raise are just a few of the questions that you need to answer for yourself. Hopefully before you begin the process of spending time, effort, and money.  Are you going to farm organically, traditionally or a combination of the two? Is your goal to be self sufficient or do you want to create an income with your farm?

Often the first discouraging advice you will here is “You can’t farm unless you inherit the operation and even then, you will never make any money at it.”   My response to this kind of helpfulness is to ignore it.  After 25 years of farming I have come to realize the value and truth found in many of the old adages so often spoken by the successful Farmers who mentored me. The above quote exemplifies some of that wisdom and encouragement.

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Understanding Soil Health. Understanding Life

November 2, 2021

Written by: Lydia Griffin

Soil is the basis of all life. In fact, without the diversity and functionality of soil, plant and animal (yes, that means you, too) life could not exist. But how is this possible? How is it that soil accepts back that which came from it century after century, while still serving as a host and origin to so many life forms? 

This introduces the concept of soil health, which the National Resource Conservation Service defines as the capability of soils to ceaselessly sustain the vitality of all players in a living ecosystem (NRCS, 2021). You see, with no soil, there is no life; and when you know soil, you know life. Whether you’re a soil scientist, farmer, gardener, or mailman (that’s right, walking on the grass decreases soil quality), we all have a role to play in maintaining soil quality. This section is about the basics of soil health. Understanding the definition of soil health is the first step needed toward learning how you can make an individual contribution. 

Other than knowing that soil sustains plant and animal life, you may want to know what the other benefits of maintaining a healthy soil are:

  • The soil acts as a filter for dirty materials and other pollutants that could harm you, me, or your dog (just in case you don’t care about you or me, I know you care about your dog). Rather than allowing potential pollutants to infiltrate into drinking water, there are physical, chemical, and biological processes that decompose the harmful chemicals. This is all happening right underneath your feet! The soil also acts as a reservoir to store the majority of our drinking water. Thanks soil!
  • The soil cycles nutrients (carbon, calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, to name a few) which are taken up by plants, which are then eaten by you and me. Thanks soil, for our food! The cycling of nutrients for plants means that a healthy soil also plays a significant role in carbon capture, which is important for lessening the dangers impacts of climate change. Thanks soil!
  • The soil serves as an engineering medium by providing support for infrastructure and recreation (roads, housing, sport, etc.). The management of the soil in combination with its environment often determines its success as an engineering medium. For example, you would not build a skyscraper on slippery, unstable soil. Likewise, you would not build a road on overly dry soil, which could lead to cracks in the road. In other words, the soil is the home for your home. We now have food, shelter, and water covered, all thanks to soil!

You now know soil better, but how do we keep it, and thus ourselves, alive? Here’s how:

  • Less soil disturbance contributes to the longevity of a healthy soil. Disturbance includes tillage, compacting the soil (with vehicles or foot traffic), or using pesticides, herbicides, or fungicides that detrimentally affect soil biota. Less disturbance also allows the soil to maintain its high water-holding capacity for plants and us. 
  • Plant a diverse array of plants. Like humans, microbes need a diverse diet. Covering the soil with varying plant types, or rotating crops each year, encourages the microbes in the soil to maintain a high and consistent population. This allows soils to function at their highest efficiency.
  • Keep the soil covered. If soil is left bare, it can erode into waterways and sidewalks and become hazardous. Additionally, if soil erodes away, it is not in place to feed plants, and therefore people. Keeping the soil bare also hinders its role and ability to mitigate the effects of climate change, as there are no plants to capture carbon. You can cover the soil in ornamental plants and grasses, mulches, or tall trees that provide a canopy for the ground. 
  • Feed the soil! In other words, feed the microbes. Soil microbes contribute to many aspects of soil health. Adding organic matter like manure, old grass clippings, leaves, etc., allows for the microbes to break down the material into more soil. Over time, any soil that was or is ever lost by natural or human process can be added back this way. It takes 100-1000 years to make 1 inch of topsoil, though it takes way less time to lose it, so add amendments regularly. 

Now you have the fundamental knowledge, and hopefully care, to learn more about how to upkeep our soil. Soil is the common denominator between you and I, and has the ability to connect people, plants, microorganisms, etc., from all over the world! The soil was here long before we were. The likelihood of it sticking around for the benefit of future generations is dependent on us. When you save the soil, you save life. Check out the resources below on how to further dive into the realm of soil health. 

Natural Resources Conservation Service. Soil Health | NRCS Soils. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2021, from

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Farming is more than a business; it is a lifestyle choice. It is a 365 day a year job requiring long hours filled with ever changing tasks and challenges. Successful farmers will tell you that it also takes a great deal of stubborn determination, resilience, and optimism to face the challenges and losses that are a part of the agricultural life. They will also boast that no other career will be as rewarding as taking care of the land and animals, building a life, and providing food for their community.

Farmers are stewards, they cannot succeed if they neglect the constant care of their land, crops, and animals. Many lifelong farmers will tell you “The secret is to take care of the land”.  You will often hear the word “balance” when talking to these wise people who have managed to not only endure but succeed through the hard times.

In 21st century terms they are talking about conservation, sustainability, and environmentally sound practices. 

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Interesting Tidbit on Winter Feeding…

Feeding methods cost:

A three year wintering investigation was conducted at Dickinson Research Extension Center in North Dakota to determine the effect of hay feeding methods on cow wintering cost. The average amount of hay wasted needs to be calculated when determining how much hay to provide to cows every day or when making forage purchases. A conventional method of rolling round bales out on the grounds was compared to either shredding rounds hay bales on the ground with a bale processor or feeding hay in a tapered-cone round bale feeder. The cows used in the study were in the third trimester of pregnancy and were fed for an average of 59 days during the test period. This study compared cow wintering performance, hay consumption necessary to maintain cow body condition, labor inputs, wintering cost, and hay waste, when hay was either rolled out on the ground, shredded with a bale processor on the ground, or fed in a tapered-cone round bale feeder.

Cow growth, body condition, hay intake, fat depth, and waste data were collected for three years. Cows were weighed, visually condition scored, and measured for rib fat depth using real-time ultrasound at the beginning, middle, and end of the 59-day study between the 12th and 13th rib. Hay waste was estimated manually and with GPS special mapping. Cows were fed to maintain or improve their starting body condition prior to calving.

Cows fed using the conventional method in which bales are rolled out on the ground gained less than when cows were fed with either the bale processor or tapered-cone feeder. Starting, ending and condition score change differed between years, but there were no differences due to method of feeding hay. During the first two years of the study, cows fed using the tapered-cone feeder had greater rib fat depth increase than either the roll out or bale processor methods. There was no difference among feeding methods in the third year. Hay intake to maintain body condition was greatest for the cows fed with the bale processor and lowest for the tapered-cone bale feeder. On average, when compared to the tapered-cone feeder, 5.0 and 15.3% more hay was fed per cow using the roll out and bale processor methods, respectively.

Waste contributed to the increased amount of hay required among the roll out and bale processor cow groups to maintain body condition and subsequent production. This study indicates that if you are feeding hay on the ground, add at least 15 percent to the total amount fed or purchased to compensate for waste. For example, if you normally feed 28-30 lbs per head per day, increase that amount to 33-35 pounds of hay to ensure that adequate nutrition is provided to the cow on a daily basis. If you are feeding on mud, then doubling the amount will help compensate for waste. When calculating the amount of hay needed to feed the cow herd during the winter, remember to compensate for waste.

Source: Landblom, D.G., G.P. Lardy, R. Fast, D.J. Wachenheim, and T.A. Petry. 2006. Effect of hay feeding methods on cow performance, hay waste and wintering cost. Dickinson Research Extension Center North Dakota State University 2006 Annual Report.

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Servings: 8 Preparation Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 3-4 Hours


2 guajillo chiles

2 ancho chiles

1 garlic clove

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1 teaspoon cumin

1-1/2 teaspoons piloncillo or brown sugar

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water, or more as necessary

2-3 pounds boneless leg of American Lamb, trimmed of most fat visible


Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Rip open the chiles and remove the seeds, veins and stems. Heat a large skillet over medium-low, add the chiles and toast them in the dry pan, turning them over until they are fragrant, about one minute. Transfer chiles to a saucepan with enough water to cover chiles and bring to a boil, then cover with a lid and let rest for 10 minutes or until the chiles are soft. Drain the chiles and discard the water.

Combine the drained chiles, garlic, salt, oregano, cumin, honey, apple cider and water in a blender and puree until the mixture is thick but smooth.

Pour some of the chile sauce into a large Dutch oven or ovenproof casserole with a lid and top with the meat. Rub the lamb with enough chile sauce to generously coat it. Close the lid and transfer to the oven immediately. Bake the lamb for 3-4 hours or until the meat is very tender. Alternatively, you can marinate overnight in the refrigerator and back the next day.

Remove the casserole from the oven and let the meat cool. Coarsely shred the meat with forks, discarding any visible fat. Serve with corn tortillas, avocado and salsa, or any remaining chile sauce.

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When Is It Safe To Graze Alfalfa Fields?

Grazing alfalfa in the late fall can be a great economical feed source. However, with these warmer fall temperatures (or lack of hard frosts) and high cattle and lamb prices can create a situation where bloat could be very costly. There are no “for sure” rules to determine when alfalfa is “safe” to graze, however below are some things produces should consider when turning out on alfalfa fields: 

1. Use caution when alfalfa plants are just beginning to show frost damage, this is when alfalfa grazing can be the most dangerous for bloats. Hard frost/freeze ruptures alfalfa cell wells, resulting in more soluble protein being immediately available for consumption by the animal. The increase in the soluble protein increases the rate of rumen fermentation, thus increasing the risk of bloat. Alfalfa generally becomes “safer” to graze after several consecutive frost in the 20’s that cause visible plant damage and drydown. 

2. Fill calves or lambs up with good quality hay prior to moving onto alfalfa fields. Not only will this help reduce animals from gorging themselves, but is also important to allow the ruminal microbial population to adapt to higher quality feeds. This is especially important if animals are coming off low quality forage (corn stalks, dry grass/range pastures). Animals should be turned out in the late morning or early afternoon, rather than early morning.  

3. Provide bloat blocks or bloat preventing additives in the water for several days before and after the start of grazing alfalfa fields. Monitor cattle several times per day when animals are turned into a new pasture.

Submitted by Sarah M. Smith

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Cheese Adventures

The Aged Cheese Journey …

What do you do when you have a lovely Jersey Milk Cow who gives you 3 gallons of creamy milk every time she is milked?  When we were younger and had 4 growing children I was lucky to have extra milk to make ice cream. As the years passed we added Nubian Milk goats to the farm so I could make soft cheeses (which in this house is a staple) like Feta and Paneer.  Now that we have we have grandchildren (not yet teenagers) I am finally getting to experiment with making Aged Cheese.

The process is pretty straight forward as long as you are precise in following a recipe. The hardest part for me is having the patience to age the cheese. My favorite beginner cheese making book is “A Cheese Maker’s Journey” by Mary Jane Toth.

The difficult part for me has been accumulating the equipment including a Cheese Press and weights. As you can see in the pictures I am using the grain weights from my antique grain scale. I have since found and ordered a nice 10 lb weight from www. Sausage but until it arrives these old iron weights are working just fine.

Any advice from you more experienced cheese makers is much appreciated.

Now the adventure begins as we move up from Cheddar to Stilton….I will keep you advised on the journey. 

  • Jersey Cow
  • Cheddar pre waxed
  • Cheese WAX
  • Cheese Press

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Mindful Living on the Farm

I bought John Seymour’s “Self Sufficient Life and how to live it”. I have been wanting it for years and finally bought it for our Farm Library. I have only gotten to page 23 and already have learned much. Seymour states “There should be no need for a garbage man on the self-sufficient farm.” I have for years fed or composted everything I could but this simple statement made me evaluate what else I could recycle to benefit my farm (without becoming a Hoarder of Junk). We only make “dump runs” once every eight weeks but I think fully 20% of that load would easily be burnable in my stove in the garage or compostable as well. I have lamented that I never have enough ash for the garden….yet I have been happily paying to let the county burn it. Do you ever have those “Duh” moments? Living simply really means Living Mindfully. Sometimes I just go into auto pilot until something triggers the ‘change your perspective’ button.

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Dreaming of Farming?

How much land do you need? How many and what kind of animals? Start where you are and take small steps toward your goals…you will get there. The important thing is to start.

For years we talked of farming, being self-sufficient and someday; then one day we realized that was what we had been doing all along. You don’t need a large homestead to farm – hundreds of acres and just as many animals. All you need is to make the most of what you do have. If you are a good steward of what you have it will grow and before you know it you will be asking yourself if you want to take on more or be content with what you are busy doing now.

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Fig- Stuffed Boneless Leg of Lamb


  • 4 pounds boneless leg of American lamb
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (optional)
  • 1 cup mixed herbs combined (parsley, mint, thyme)
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 5 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
  • 7 Orchard Valley Choice Mission Figs
  • 3 tablespoons pistachios


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Start by making the marinade.

In a food processor you’ll add the garlic, lemon juice, herbs, olive oil, seasoning and a dash of nutmeg (optional).

Remove the marinade and leave about two tablespoons of it in your food processor, to which you will add the filing ingredients. 

Add the feta cheese, pistachios and the figs. 

Process the filling in the food processor until it’s chunky.

Take your boneless leg of lamb and place it on a piece of parchment paper.

Spread the marinade all over the outer part of the lamb, and then flip the lamb to the other side. 

Spread the filling evenly all over the other side (the inside). 

Use the parchment paper as a guide and roll the lamb like a cylinder, tucking it well as you roll using the parchment paper.

Use kitchen twines cut into 6 inch ropes to tie the lamb very well about half an inch apart.

Place the lamb in the oven and right away drop the temperature to 350 degrees F.

Roast the lamb uncovered for about 50-60 minutes. Use a meat thermometer and make sure the internal temperature is 145 degrees F for medium rare, then let the lamb rest for at least 3 minutes before slicing.

Serve the lamb with an extra side of rice, some dried figs and a sprinkle of pistachios.

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Shepherd’s Pie



  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 pounds ground American lamb
  • 1- 1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn


  • 3-4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, warmed
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (more or less, to taste)


Heat the olive oil in a large cast iron pan over medium low heat. Add the onions and saute until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add the carrots to the onions and cook for another 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a plate or just push off to one side of the pan.

In the same pan, add the ground lamb, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Season with the salt and pepper, then mix the lamb with the vegetables and cook, stirring and continuing to break up the chunks of meat frequently, until the lamb is browned, about 10 minutes.

To the lamb and vegetable mixture, add the Worcestershire sauce, tomato paste, rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes, and nutmeg. Stir to combine. Sprinkle with the flour, then stir in to the meat mixture until evenly dispersed, cooking for 1-2 minutes.

Add the beef broth and cook for 3-5 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed. Then stir in the frozen peas and corn. Remove from heat and let cool while working on the mashed potatoes. Either leave in the cast iron pan, if it is oven safe, or transfer to a square baking dish.

Place the potatoes in a large pot with enough salted water to cover them by about an inch. Bring to a boil and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender enough to be easily pierced with a fork. Drain well.

Add the warmed cream, butter, and salt to the potatoes and mash using a potato masher or ricer, then use to top the shepherd’s pie filling in either the cast iron pan or a square baking dish, spreading to the edges and leaving craggy swirls on top instead of smoothing out.

Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees F until hot all the way through and the mashed potatoes on top have nicely browned spots in a few places. You may want to place a pan under it in case any filling drips out. Let cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

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March Madness

March is the month when January planning and February preparing begins to pay off. The lambs and kids have begun to arrive by now as have the piglets. The seeds I ordered, after pouring over the seed catalogs, have also arrived and will soon all be nestled in the soil germinating. The chickens have begun to lay, so now the routine of checking on and turning eggs in the incubator has been added to the day.

     The renewing of life as spring fast approaches is a delightful time and a hectic time. The first fleeces are off the sheep. I always try to shear before the ewes lamb for two reasons. First, it makes it easier to watch over their progress toward lambing and secondly, it makes for a premium, clean fleece to work with. Now the dilemma is over which fleeces to sell raw, which to make into batts or roving and which go into my private treasury.

     March is also the month for marketing to be kicked into high gear. The annual farm letter goes out to alert our loyal customers that they need to place their orders for meat animals for this year. Web and print advertising go full scale as we are weekly adding Breeding Stock available for sale and soon the spring’s first crops of fleece and seedlings as well. It is wonderful to have the explosion of production and now is the time to share this with our customers.

      Amidst all this activity there is the list of preparations for spring planting as well as fence repairs on all the paddocks. I swear there are gremlins riding the deer who delight in breaking wires and pushing posts over in the spring thaw.

     This is the time of year when I often allow the excitement of renewal to turn into worry over all that needs to get done and finding the time to do it. This is when the planning and preparing of January and February becomes the ever growing “to do” list of spring. Having a Check List on the fridge helps me track my progress, keeping me feeling like I am gaining on the tasks at hand.

     I often remind myself that Christ said, “Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Keeping my focus on the tasks of today leads to enjoying the delights of spring from the first returning robin to the first tomato sprouts. This is the way to relish a farmer’s life in the midst of all the activity that spring brings.

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Welcome to Solace Farm

I am blessed to be a farmer and a shepherdess who shares my life with three generations here in the Pacific Northwest.  My days are filled with caring for my family, land and animals. Over the years I have been mentored by many knowledgeable and creative individuals and feel it is only right that I share the wisdom and skills that my life has grown around. 

My goal is to pass along my experiences in the hopes of brightening your day, encouraging your creativity, and possibly saving the lost arts of living a self-sufficient life in harmony with our world. 

I will cover many topics including Farming, Cooking, Gardening and the Fiber Arts to name a just a few. 

The products of our farm will be listed in our Farm Store and I hope to eventually to be able to put together some tutorials. 

Thank you for stopping by and spending a moment or two with me.

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Selenium and Lamb Growth

Increased Selenium Dosage Boosts Growth and Immunity in Lambs

In a new study published in the Journal of Animal Science, Oregon State University (OSU) researchers show that maximum selenium levels permitted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may be too low for sheep to reach optimum growth and health.

Selenium is essential for cellular function in animals and aids development. Large selenium doses can be toxic, but too-low levels can impair growth and compromise the immune system.

“When sheep don’t grow to their potential or have weak immune systems, it can be a sign of insufficient selenium,” said Gerd Bobe, co-author of the study and an OSU professor. “Our research shows higher levels of selenium can result in healthier animals that grow bigger and that can improve returns at the marketplace for farmers and ranchers.”

A challenge is that the range between selenium deficiency and selenium toxicity can be narrow; current FDA regulations limit the amount of dietary selenium supplementation for animals grazing on selenium-scare soils to 0.7 mg per sheep per day or 3 mg per beef cattle per day.

In OSU’s experiments, pregnant ewes were given selenium doses up to five-times higher than the FDA’s allowed level – an amount of supplementation researchers determined to be not harmful to sheep. The element is carried into the bodies of offspring, helping young animals during development.

At the highest selenium doses, ewes gave birth to lambs that grew to be 4.3-pounds heavier than average after 60 days. Furthermore, survival was 15-percent higher in lambs receiving the highest amount of organic selenium supplementation. As farmers look to sell sheep at five to six months old, weight and health metrics are keys to profitability.

A new generation of OSU research is attempting to determine how much selenium and in what form is best for optimal growth and health of sheep and cattle.

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Make A Drop Spindle

If you would like to learn how to spin, but buying a wheel just isn’t in your budget. Then here’s an easy and economical way to make you own drop spindle.

Go to a craft shop that sells wooden products and buy a wooden car wheel about 2-3 inches in diameter, this will be the whorl part of the spindle. The wheel has already been drilled with a hole in the exact center which will keep the spindle from wobbling when it spins.

Next you need to find a dowel rod that will fit snugly in the center hole of the wheel. This will be the shaft of your spindle. The dowel rods are 3 feet long when you purchase them. I cut my shaft at 9 or 12 inches, so 3 or 4 spindles can be made with one dowel rod.

After you have the dowel rod cut, push it into the center hole of your whorl (wheel) allowing about 1 to 1 1/2 inch to stick out the bottom. This is know as a low-whorl or bottom-whorl spindle.

Now, drill a small hole in the center of the shaft, in the end at the top. I use a 5/64″ drill bit. Purchase a 1/4″ cup hook and screw it into the top of the shaft. This acts as a “catch” for your yarn so that it doesn’t slip off the end while you are spinning. I usually sharpen the bottom end of the shaft to a dull point with a pencil sharpener so I can spin the spindle on a table top or in a small bowl like a top, if I want it supported.

You are now ready to add your “leader” yarn, to start your fiber on the spindle. You can use some home spun or store bought yarn around 12 to 14 inches in length. Tie this tightly to the shaft right above the whorl.

Next take the leader yarn over the side of the whorl, looped over the bottom inch that is sticking out, (this helps stabilize the yarn and balances the spin of the whorl) then back up over the side of the whorl and loop it onto the hook. Leave a couple of inches of yarn to start your fiber on.

Now you have an inexpensive tool to start learning to spin. Once you have mastered spinning on the spindle, learning to spin on the wheel will become much easier.

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Feedstuffs Slide Show

Ever wander what type of hay to feed and what other feedstuffs you can use to supplement the forage you have?

This Slide Show by Jeff Semler of University of Maryland small ruminant program gives a general over view of commonly available feedstuffs for your sheep, goats and cattle. Click on the Link below to access the slide presentation.


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Prolapse in the EWE

Genetics appears sometimes involved as some breeds can be more susceptible, and also some individual breeding lines can seem at particular risk.

by Suzanna Bell, Veterinary Investigation Officer, AHVLA Aberystwyth

Vaginal prolapses can occur in ewes up to 55 days before lambing, but more commonly in the last four weeks of pregnancy, or shortly after lambing. An incidence of one per cent in flocks is common with some flocks experiencing rates of more than two per cent.

Vaginal prolapses increase the risk of ewe death but can also result in abortion/stillbirths, difficulty with lambing (dystocia) and new-born lamb deaths. The timing of cases seems to coincide with the relaxation and softening of the soft tissues and bones of the birth canal, initiated by hormone changes during late pregnancy.

Genetics appears sometimes involved as some breeds can be more susceptible, and also some individual breeding lines can seem at particular risk.

Suspected factors that could increase the risk of vaginal prolapse in ewes:

1.Fat deposits in the birth canal further slackening the soft tissues: both genetics and over-feeding could influence.

2.Hormone imbalance: thought to be genetically influenced in some cases. Mouldy feed might in some cases affect the hormone balance due to the presence of toxins that are similar in action to hormones.

3.Possibly hypocalcaemia (low calcium): although many cases have normal calcium levels.

4.A short docked tail: this may weaken the muscles/ligaments attaching to the tail bones.

5.Lambing difficulties in the previous pregnancy.

Previous vaginal prolapse: 40 per cent of ewes will prolapse again in subsequent pregnancies.

Increased abdominal pressure is also believed to be a major causal factor in combination with one or some of the above factors:

1.Large pregnant uterus (womb): multiple foetuses within the uterus is associated with a much increased risk, suggested as a five times increased risk for twins and even up to eleven/twelve times the risk for triplet bearing ewes.

2.Large amounts of intra-abdominal fat: over-conditioned, over fed ewes. Particularly if the condition score is greater than four.

3.Rumen distension: from feeding bulky feeds, an excess of dietary fibre or gas build up secondary to acidosis/grain over-load.

Other suggested predisposing factors in some flocks include:Lack of exercise: prolapses occur more commonly in housed than outdoor flocks, longer periods lying down may also influence.

Poor body condition: condition score of less than 2.

Lying on steep slopes: sheep tend to lie with the head uphill and gravity may encourage a prolapse in some cases.

Develop a plan with your veterinary surgeon to reduce the risk of vaginal prolapse to the minimum.

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Finnsheep for the Farmstead

– Finnsheep mature earlier than most other breeds

– Finnsheep ewes naturally cycle out of season

– Finnsheep ewes naturally produce larger litters (2-3/litter) than competitive breeds

without flushing for increased ovulation rates.

– Quality Finnsheep possess better wool traits than other breeds known for high

reproductive abilities allowing farmers to shear a premium, saleable wool clip.

– The single coated Finnsheep fleece possesses better crimp, luster and handle than all

other short-tailed breeds, allowing a much more diverse use of the wool by a larger

variety of markets.

– The docile, friendly temperament of the Finnsheep makes them one of the easiest

sheep breeds to safely work with (children, adults and seniors).

– The Finnsheep is a polled breed, providing additional safety for handlers, preventing

the sheep from getting their horns stuck in fencing and eliminating the risk of

infections or infestations of the horn.

– The naturally short tails of the Finnsheep require no docking

– The Finnsheep crosses well with most other breeds, improving wool, temperament

and production traits in the cross-bred flock

– Scrapie resistant genetics are available within the Finnsheep breed.

– Finnsheep ewes possess excellent mothering abilities

– Finnsheep ewes receiving proper nutrition produce an abundant supply of milk for

typical Finnsheep litters (2-3 lambs/litter).

– Finnsheep meats are leaner as Finnsheep deposit fat around their organs, not

throughout their muscle tissue, providing a healthier meat for the consumer.

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Lambing Tipi

We have these in our lambing jugs during January and February lambing:

Even on the coldest night it can be up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in these with two or three lambs snuggled up tight.

Materials List

*I sheet of 3/8 or ½ inch plywood

* 4 8 foot long 2×2

*75 1 ½ inch deck screws

* 2 lightweight 1 ½ inch hinges with screws

* 10 3 to 4 inch deck screws


Always remember to put the screws in from the plywood side through to the 2×2 framing.

1. Measure the long sides of the two triangles and cut 4 pieces of 2×2 to fit that length. Screw the 2×2 in place flush with the edges of the plywood pieces.

2. Measure the length between these 2x2s along the bottom and top edge of the plywood. Cut 2×2 to fit those spaces and screw into place.

3. Place the “front sections” on the floor right side up and attach the access door at the center seam with the two hinges.

4. Hold the solid back section and the two sides sections up in place and measure the distance between the framing at the top and again at the bottom. Cut 2 pieces of 2×2 to fit each space. Center one piece that you just cut at the top and another at the bottom back and secure the extra set to your front section.

5. Secure the “Back” wall to the side walls by screwing plywood to the framing of the side walls. At this point you have a 32 sided structure. Place the front section in place and screw to the framing as you did the back. Take one long deck screw and screw into the framing at top and bottom at each joint. Your Lamb Tipi is complete.

6. You can place a safety heat lamb on the top of the tipi to provide extra warmth on those cold winters, early spring nights.  

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