The Slowcook at Spydog Farm The Slowcook at Spydog Farm

New Lambs

March 28th, 2017 by Ed Bruske

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We normally don’t see new lambs until April. But this morning when I stopped by the paddock to feed the animals I found these two little girls fresh out of the womb and eyeballing their new surroundings.

We don’t have a barn for lambing, just a three-sided shelter, and last year we lost several newborns when a freak April weather system sent temperatures plunging to -20. Otherwise we keep our rams separate from ewes until the first of November at least for the five-month gestation and hope for the best. That gives the lambs five or six months to grow before we sell them in the fall.

Meanwhile, these two little ones will stay with their mom for a couple of days in the pen where we keep the hay, time enough to bond.

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Spring is in the Air

March 19th, 2017 by Ed Bruske

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I attended a memorial service over the weekend in Annapolis for my recently deceased father-in-law, Dave Green, and was besieged by fans of the Slow Cook all asking the same question: “When are you going to start writing again”? This was a first for me. I even met one friend of my father-in-law who said that whenever a new blog post was published he would get a call from Dave wanting to talk about it.

Of course I felt guilty and did a lot of soul searching on the way back to the farm. For years I had been writing almost daily on The Slow Cook and now weeks and months passed without a peep. Why? Well, the excuse I had most ready–that my phone didn’t work any more so it wasn’t nearly as convenient taking photos–didn’t seem to impress anyone. Truth is, I think I’ve been in a bit of a funk where writing is concerned. A sense of apprehension–dread, even–has been crowding out the excitement I felt when the farm was new.

The average age of a U.S. farmer these days is 59. I turn 65 this year. Will I really spend the rest of my days fighting the weeds that grow along our mile-long stretch of electric perimeter fencing? Or lugging water buckets through the snow? Or manhandling 100-pound bags of feed? Or stacking truckloads of firewood?

Our original plan was to find a young, farm-eager couple to live on the farm in our dotage and do the heavy lifting. Now I’m not so sure the risk-reward equation actually works.

But it’s more than that. My wife is a Type I diabetic and health insurance threatened to bust our budget before we moved here from D.C. Then the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) kicked in and suddenly a heavy weight lifted. Since the most recent election, however, we live under a cloud again. If our current insurance disappears, I don’t know if we’ll be able to afford the alternative, especially at a time when we have a daughter to put  through college.

My wife has talked about going without health insurance; about traveling to Canada for her insulin; about declining treatment in the event she gets really sick so as not to bankrupt us.

Suddenly, writing about the farm doesn’t seem so urgent any more.

But meeting so many of my readers was a fresh dose of reality–a kick in the butt, if you will. Maybe I need to get outside my head a little. And it’s not like there’s nothing going on here. We thought we’d see an early spring. Instead we got a blizzard that dumped 15 inches of snow. Our Jersey cow Emily should be calving soon. Baby lambs and kids will follow. We’re less than a month from the season’s first shipment of broiler chicks. And we still have work to do to keep those foxes away from our laying hens.

In other words, stay tuned….

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