Live Through Us at The Burrow


May 2011

Wool today, Schnauzers tomorrow

We bought a flock of 7 sheep:

One ewe-“Momma”

 One yearling ram

 One lamb-boy (he’s fine, just looks dead)

 One ram-Buck

 One lamb-girl (two pics, one lamb)

 One white ram

 One yearling ewe

We did not plan on shearing this year.  They were past due.  We had to learn everything quickly.  We also had to buy more.  Suffice it to say, I did NOT learn quickly or easily, or quite frankly too well.  We shopped online and bought a clipper at Tractor Supply.
This is the brand everyone said to get.

 Oh what a nice little box

 Oh my-ummmm….

 These were “sheep blades” according to the salesman there (that we are quite familiar with by now) of the same brand.  Now, here’s where it gets complicated-GASP:
They sold us Lister Star-clippers of about 80 Watts for clipping horse manes and cattle for shows.  The blades are for shears-specifically made for sheep and wool.

We took it all back and bought actual shears online from a US Lister dealer.  Furthermore, EVERYTHING sheep comes from the UK…period.  The company called us to tell us we don’t want shears, we want clippers b/c shears are for people who know what they’re doing…..BUT, the clippers they were selling us are the Lister Laser 2.  A significantly more powerful machine (about 140 watts or so).

 And bigger

And heavier…

 And…more complicated…

 They also convinced us to purchase an extra set of blades as one pair will only do so many b4 you have to sharpen them.

 So, yesterday morning, we set out, scared sheepless to have to shear these things.  My main fear being of them getting hurt, or getting scared and hurting us.  Marcus stayed in, but came out later around sheep #5 to watch.  The first sheep took probably 30 minutes or more.  You have to oil, oil, oil, and it’s good we bought them b/c I tried to roo more and they wouldn’t.  Only that one ewe, only on her neck area…hmm..  SO, We did “Momma” first b/c we wanted to start with an easy one, but not a lamb.  I got to her poopy rear and literally fought back wads of vomit and tears as I noticed maggots crawling out of her flanks.  Blowflies.  We have opted to shave all sheep all year around the rear to prevent this and to dock all lambs not intended for slaughter as well.  Trust me, I love animals, and docking is far preferable to this.  Look it up, I couldn’t bring myself to take pictures. Momma is a nursing mother, and we couldn’t eat an animal in that condition.  We were worried.

I did a horrendous job.  I got better and managed to trim up some of the first ones when I got done.  I was truly grateful for the extra set of blades, and not having shears.  I still have to clean them.  I then found treatment for the blowflies and sped to get it and hoof clippers (the tin snips would not cut them) along with treatment for foot rot.  I ran back and we treated Momma (who actually appeared grateful), and clipped all but Buck’s hooves as Buck will soon be ground lamb burgers.  They have foot rot.  I trimmed what I could and plan to trim again when I retreat Momma after 7 days and treat them for it.  They were so overgrown, and I am so inexperienced, that I wanted to trim more later if that makes since.

The after pictures-no laughing please, I did my best.  And I might add my entire arm from the neck down hurts like I ran the marathon on one arm-that thing is HEAVY!  I give you my little Schnauzers.

My strawberry collection

 Four leaf clover

This one looked like a shriveled up woman in person.  The hook on the bottom was her chin.

 The canteen

 The muppet

 The grumpy old man

I just cut the cheese!!

We made our first mozzarella batch today.  Utilizing this for the first half, and this for the second half, we were able to make our own.

We bought vegetable rennet online.  Let me explain rennet.  At first, I was very angry.  I thought rennet was a new thing for making pasteurized milk work instead of raw.  I was wrong.  Rennet has been around for millenia.  It is extracted from the stomach of dead calves and other ruminant animals.  Well, I just think that’s awful.  The vegetable version is cheap and easy to find, please use it.

We started with a little over 9 pounds of milk, or one gallon.  We used whole, unpasteurized milk.  In fact, I normally strip the cream of every batch of milk 24 hours later.  So, I actually poured my little container of cream in with the milk that was pretty much skim in order to make it “whole” again. 

Our milk

Is strained and weighed immediately after collecting

  Actual directions for cheese making are as follows:

Bring milk to 88 degrees F using medium heat (I had it around 5).  I used an old fashion candy thermometer, so it doesn’t have to be perfect.

When it gets there, add the rennet. 

Every rennet is different.  You will have to follow your rennet’s directions and possibly play around a bit.  We had to dilute our rennet 20 times in water before adding.  This is because our rennet is an extract.  Extracts are made using alcohol of some sort.  The undiluted alcohol would cause problems in the milk.
We did not use ANY cultures.  You do not need cultures for mozzarella with raw milk.

Stir and bit and raise to 105 degrees.

At 105 degrees, turn off the stove and put the lid on the pot for 20 minutes to start.  Our rennet said 45 minutes.  Like I said, follow you directions, etc…

The directions say 1/8 tsp does 2 gallons.  I used 4 drops.  40 minutes later, there were no solid pieces, so I added about 1/4 tsp.  It immediately started coagulating.
Solid pieces immediately started to form

 A peak under the lid later

Pour into cheesecloth over another pot.  The good stuff won’t go in the pot, so it doesn’t have to be a good one.  Be sure your cheese cloth is secure and doesn’t fall in the pot.  We tied ours under the rim with nylon string stuff.

Tie up the bundle and hang over night (or if you do this in the morning, hang all day).
Yeah, we’re fancy that way

The liquid is whey, and we gave it to the chickens/ducks. 
Remove the cloth and

Heat one gallon of water with 1/2 cup of salt to 170 degrees F.  Cut the cheese into little pieces (I told you I cut the cheese) about 1-2 inches square.  I had a bunch of whey come out at this point where it was trapped inside pockets or something.

Put the pieces in the water and stir around a bit.
This is where the camera’s batteries died and we could find any that would hold a charge.  So, I’m sorry.
Now, at this point, it’s supposed to melt and stick together.  Ours did that just fine.  It’s also supposed to start getting where you can stretch it out.  Ours didn’t do that.  The second link above said she had batches that just wouldn’t sometime, so we just continued on.  Drain a bit and squish the cheese into balls.  Mine made 3.  Place in a bowl of cold water for a few minutes and then drain on paper towels on a plate.  We made about 1 pound and 7 ounces out of one gallon of milk—WOW!!

The salt water gives it flavor, so don’t leave it out even if you don’t stretch it.  Trust me, it needs the salt.

Sheep ahoy!

We have been so insanely busy, I haven’t been able to post.  In fact, this is nothing but words really (they’ll be one or two pics at the bottom).  And trust me, once you read the sheep story below, you will understand how impossible pictures would have been, and how desirous at the same time.  We were working on the upper fence, see below, and Arlis went down to check on Booger and Betsy.  All of a sudden, he yells up, “There’s two!”

 I come down there to see the new calf that Betsy does NOT want us to see.  He’s up, still a bit wet, and running around without a hitch-awesome.  We can only assume she’s had them taken away in the past or something b/c she hides hers crazy like (as you can see from the pics below.  That’s the best I can do).  In the meantime, we have been milking Booger with good results, and using the milk.  Yes!!  Grocery bill decreased again!  And there’s the convenience benefit, the health benefit….  She comes to the barn to be milked all on her own now-NICE!

Now for the good part.  Arlis finally won, and we went to get sheep.  He wanted Suffolk.  He really wanted them to look like Shaun off the show.  We didn’t find Suffolk, but we did find Shetland.  This poor woman’s house burnt down, and we bought her seven sheep for $700.  Three rams, two ewes, and two lambs-one of each gender.  They’re in great need of hoof trimming and wool shearing.  We planned on doing that next year.  So, on top of everything else, we’ve had to spend a huge amount of money on sheep shears-NOT cheap!!!-and hoof trimmers, and vaccinate and do everything else we were hoping would already be done.  They do not appear to have foot rot though, for that I am thankful.  They will roo, but it was going to take a very long time.  

two curious rams

One of the ewes appears to be about two (you count their teeth), and one of the rams appears to be in my belly soon (we’re going to give them three months pasture time to “flush” their systems).  Another ram we will sell/eat as time goes by.

(Words cannot do this justice-sorry.)

So we show up to the RV she’s living is as her house gets built.  She’s kept everything is good looking condition (yard wise), so she’s obviously a good and decent person with a bit of pride still.  She grabs a loaf of bread from her truck, I assume for lunch, and takes us to the field.  This is where she goes, “Here baby!  Tum here babies!” and tosses them slices of bread.  OK…  They are pets and cute as can be.  She answers our questions and we decide to go ahead and get them.  This is where it gets fun.  We didn’t bring the horse trailer, we used the stock racks.  We should have brought the horse trailer.  Arlis starts with the biggest ram.  That was my idea to get it out of the way.  He grabs a hold, and the ram drags him in circles around the stall while the other sheep get trampled and do some trampling themselves to Arlis.  I start laughing so hard I can no longer see what’s going on.  He lets go and is now covered in…well you can imagine.  He finds his hat and spits out…I didn’t ask.  I laugh harder.  At that time (quoting Mary McCormack) I was a “love challenge” I’m sure.  He grabs a smaller ewe, not much different at first, but he was able to pick it up and shove it on the truck.  Then her lamb, the next ewe and lamb, and the smallest ram.  The two big rams are all that’s left.  He jumps on top of one, wraps around it’s neck, and rolls it over.  He is then able to lift it and scream for help as it weighs more than he can lift.  I grab the back two legs, get nasty flung all over me, get kicked a few times, and we carry it to the truck.  Last one…he gets out of the stall while we’re carrying big boy to the truck.  Bread will NOT coax him into the stall THIS time!  We herd him in, it took 5 of us (her granddaughter was there), and proceed to do the same method on him.  He drags Arlis around first for good measure, knocking my feet out from under me in the process.  We get him in, shut up the truck, and wait for the woman to stop laughing.  She thanked us and told us we have given her one memory to look back on.  Glad to be of service.

Unloading wasn’t a problem.  One lamb got out and into my strawberry patch.  I was able to catch it when it tried to literally jump through the fence and got stuck.  Of course, the truck smelled like sheep until the second rain, not the first, the second.
We kept them in the calf pen until just recently, as we had to put up smaller fencing over the barbed wire.  This resulted in us working 8 hours in the freezing rain and acquiring several new incisions on our hands.  This also resulted in another set of manure laden clothes as the wire got drug through the patties near the fence line.  And with all the rain we’ve had, you can imagine how joyous laundry day has been.

Well, that’s it for now.  Soon, I’ll be able to post about the milk from Booger, wool shearing, and then I’ll update with the duck journal.  So, how was your last adventure?

It’s a Bull!!!

The quick and easy, with captions, is in black.  The long and detailed (mainly for those who truly wish to be educated), is in purple.  Some of these pictures are graphic, please review before having children see them.  They will learn where babies come from :)!  Pictures can be greatly enlarged by clicking on them.

We read and read and researched all we could before our first calving.  Hopefully, our experience will add to your mental experience, and make your first calving more confident as well.  I give you, our first calf:

I had quite a day yesterday.  So, this morning I woke up late-7:15-sore and tired.  Arlis was the same.  First order of business, look out the window and count cows.  Booger was by herself.  Now this is not unheard of, but somehow you just know-like knowing the difference between manmade and organic.  So I yelled, “Arlis, Booger’s off by herself, we need to watch her.”  Now, I’m not sure he heard me, he’s not very alive in the mornings, and it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s a dream.  I don’t know how many times I’ve had an intelligent conversation with him only to hear, “Give me that paint brush!”  “What?”  “You’re painting the sky the wrong color!”  Of course, he never remembers any of this.  

This was supposed to be a relaxing day, a day where minimal chores were done.  You know, cleaning house and such, no major projects.  We were looking forward to putting the ducks out today with the chickens.  All that went on hold as I grabbed the binoculars and screamed, “I think this is it, Arlis!”  She looked like she had something hanging out.  Her vulva has been so swollen lately, it could have been that.  I take another look from outside.  “I see a head!”  At this point my husband actually awoke and said, “So help me, if you’re wrong about this, I’m going to use you for a lawn mower!”

I wasn’t wrong.

It’s nose was hanging out, and its hooves proved it to be in the correct position.  For that we were thankful.  We have no idea how long she had been in active labor, and she was acting distressed.  She was pushing, and there was no movement of the calf’s position  Perhaps we should not have intervened, but we did. We thought the calf dead, and therefore, spent our efforts to save the heifer (obviously now a cow).  We have Dexters.  Dexters are known for easy calving, but she never mooed once!  Look on youtube for cows in labor and tell me what we were expecting.  She acted like it wasn’t that bad.  Dexters are also small.  Booger it tiny.  She looks like a calf only a few months old.  She has short legs.  Fargo is the bull (see pictures and captions).  He’s actually shorter than Betsy (Booger’s mother), and is long legged.  This calf had Fargo’s head.  This calf is large.  It’s her first, and I think we did the right thing to intervene.  

Arlis goes in, and by now, the herd is taking notice.

Fargo investigates:

Betsy is getting closer by now as Booger waddles here and there.

Fargo tries to help:

Arlis runs them off:

At this time, I am needed.  Fargo, we believe was trying to help by licking the calf a great deal.  That might have actually saved its life by allowing it to breathe.  This is a delicate situation, as I am sure you can imagine.  Us out there with a bull and a birthing mother…fear had to take a back seat though as we sprung into action.  I ran to get the pantyhose (I was told to use them to tie to the legs to pull to avoid damage).  I opened the gate and closed cattle alley in the hopes of letting the herd go to the upper field and not get in the way.  It worked perfectly.  The pantyhose slipped right off, so I grabbed and my hands slipped right off.  I grabbed again and pulled hard.  Booger ran off.  Arlis retrained her and I pulled up to his eyes.  That was it, I was pulled out.  She had a contraction, and hit Arlis’s rib with her horn.  Thank God it was his rib, or we would have forgone the birthing to the ER.  My turn, to hold Booger by the neck while Arlis pulled.  He got it to the shoulders.  I had to run into the house for something, I don’t know what, and as I came out I heard, “It’s alive!”

There was much hooping. 

Such a proud father.  That black is where his eyes water a lot.  We didn’t tag him, he came that way.

That tiny speck in the back is Arlis.

Zoomed in at 4X:

The proud grandcow stands watch.

Arlis yelled for me to come and to bring the camera.  I assumed all was over.  Nope, still not out completely, and Booger is sitting on it a great deal.  

Still only halfway out.  It being long legged didn’t help matters.

I grabbed one hoof, Arlis grabbed the other, and together we were able to pull hard enough to get it out.  I’m happy with my work out for the day.  God was not.

The whole crowd gathered.  Dog, cat…  Arlis makes another call to tell someone about the calf.

He’s cute.

She’s not really licking him off or anything, just laying there trying to survive.  We pull him around to her face where she sniffs him a great deal.  A few licks were attempted.  I took the dog in, and came back out to see her eating the placenta.  We thought this occurred much later…hmmm…

Booger eating the afterbirth:

Mom, seriously, you’re going to eat that?

Now, Marcus asked if I had to eat his afterbirth.  Arlis explained the difference between people and animals and why it is so crucial for animals to eat it.

Boog’s having a hard time walking.  Her hips aren’t working too well, and the calf isn’t getting up.  We came back in an hour or two, after taking the ducks out to the chickens, cleaning out the brooder, filling the chicks’ water and feed, etc.

Bear in mind it’s after 10:00 by now, I’m still in boxers, a tank top, and boots.  From my boots up is nasty from high grass and other things, and my arms have been in a cow making sure the hind legs were OK.  So, Marcus gets a shower, Arlis and I got to wash placenta off up to our elbows and I cooked pancakes and eggs.  After breakfast, all clothes were removed, and a great deal of nasty was removed.  Now, I have trekked all the way to Booger-who is in a “ravine” on the farthest back area of the lower field-and back at least three times.  Time for more.  

We take her a bucket of water and check up.  She’s leaving the calf and going to the woods b/c the flies are unbearable.  Mainly due to all the birthing fluids.  Arlis gets to dirty up his next set of clothes and carry the calf to her.  She’s upset with him, but grateful.  I’ll leave out the rest and simply say that he had to carry it to the barn/shed thingy by the watering tanks.  It was slow as we had to wait for Boog to catch up. 

Obviously, if your cows aren’t as trusting of you, do NOT try this!!!

Poor little Booger could barely walk, her hips just weren’t working. 

They finally settled in the barn (in the shade!), and she got to eat some grass and drink her little heart out.  Betsy was brought down from the upper field for when she has her calf (soon).  He can’t walk yet.  He has tight tendons and walks on his knees, and the first joint.  We have read that this is normal, especially for large calves, and will clear up in a few days.  We’ll see how that goes.  He appears to be nursing and has passed a good poo, so, from what I’ve read, that means he’s getting a good supply of his colostrum.  He has to kneel to nurse anyway…

Arlis milked Boog and put it in a bottle.  She wasn’t too cooperative, but he got a cup or so.  The little guy didn’t want that much, but did drink some.  We’re choosing to hope that means he’s gotten enough from momma already.

We hope he’s nursing here, hard to tell with the grass.

That’s Betsy in the back.

They were snuggled up together last time I checked.  I’ll keep updating as needed with the “knuckling” (the tight tendons) and health.

Calf update

Our little calf-still without a name-has really pulled through.  He was knuckling, and after two days is walking and jumping and loping on all four hooves.  We have watched him nurse on his own while his mother walked away (it was cute) and he kept trying to suckle.  He has filled out in the back area (a good sign he is getting enough to eat).  In fact, Booger was so swollen today, Arlis milked a whole glassful out of one teat alone before she walked away!  It tasted like melted butter-yuck!  It’s separating in the fridge for butter and skim milk:)  Supposedly, the higher fat content comes at the end, and he didn’t finish that teat!  That would be awesome milk for cheese and butter and cream and….!

He has also passed yellow poo with a tinge of blood.  That is still normal, and means he is getting his colostrum.  We think he weighs in around 30 pounds.

My Mother’s Day

For my mother’s day, my husband helped me:

Plant replacement zucchini (on the right)

 Plant sweet potatoes (in the middle)  I’ve never seen s. potatoes transplants for sale b4..

 And a whole bunch of tomatoes.  We bought some that were over two feet tall with tomatoes on them already for $2.50 each!  Wow!  They say they produce until the first frost…we’ll see.  We got to utilize almost all of those cages we got from the woman that sold us Shaun.

 And Marcus spent his money on a little petunia.  It replaced the Impatiens he (actually his teacher) got me in Kindergarten that died recently.  This is prettier anyway.

We found our corn.  It traveled a good ways and sprouted here.  We’re replanting ASAP.

 Above-she’s trying to travel via tunnels all over the globe.
Below-that day’s harvest.  (Yesterday we had almost twice that amount.  It gets bigger every day until the end)

 Once the berries are capped, put in containers, placed in the freezer, and logged in the freezer log, the scraps are given to really grateful chickens.  That’s always the fun part!

The Lost Sea

We needed a family vacation.  We can’t afford a family vacation (I’m still using my allowance to pay for my medical bills from last year).  But was CAN afford a field trip.  I love homeschooling.  We went to the Lost Sea today:


It was a beautiful day.  My irises were blooming.

The cows were very curious.

We passed Watts Bar lake/dam/whatever it is.

There were roses.

He’s so much happier with me

I tried to only include the good ones.  If they’re blurry, it’s b/c it was on night vision and my heart beat. (I THINK you can click on the pics to get a bigger one-we’re looking into a new camera)

Wow!  Are my clothes baggy!











If you’re able to get a bigger pic, look at the one below.  The fish at the bottom is sticking up to say hello.  They’re all rainbow trout.

Feeding time-they splashed me and I smelled the rest of the day.


On the way back through Pikeville, we said a prayer for the tornado victims we passed.




Now for some oddities.  On the way there, we noticed a train track…that had grown over a bit…



Yeah, I know it’s blurry, but you see those….WHAT…TREES!!!

Yep boys and girls, that would be trees growing through the tracks…I don’t think they’re used any more…

So we came home broke and exhausted to find…sprouted corn!  YAY!!!   Wait a minute…THOSE STUPID CROWS ATE EVERY BIT OF MY CORN-ARLIS!!!  The scare crow was put in place, every sprout we could was put in the mud, yes mud-it rained…again…  I froze to death and ruined my running/walking shoes as I sank literally 6-12 inches in the garden trying to salvage my hard work of beans and corn and planning some torturous demise for crows in the morning.  I came inside, yelled at everyone who talked to me because the strawberries were still frozen (I found some in the freezer that need to be eaten as new ones are coming in).  SOOOO…  I left the blender plugged in and waited by drinking a hot cup of tea, eating something I shouldn’t, and writing this.  I wonder if they’ve thawed yet…


May first.  I go out and…


Oh goodie goodie goodie goodie goodie!

They’re doing better than last year already!  Last year’s first batch was may 15th and less plentiful.

We each ate the few we picked.

And wonder why they taste so much better straight off the vine!

We’ll pick them everyday for the next month….

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: