Sarah Jane Humke

The life of a traveling, reading, writing, spining and knitting shepherdess.

Settling In June 9, 2015

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The last couple of weeks have been all about learning about and getting used-to the new members of the farm. The sheep are getting not only used to us, the humans,  but also to the other animals.  They are fascinated by the farm cats and will start a small stampede following one of the poor nervous felines right up to the fence!  Dusty, my little fuzzy white dog makes them all pause and investigate as well much to his discomfort.  If I sit down, often they will come right up to me and sniff my neck and nibble my hair, which I take as a compliment.


The flock is remarkably quiet.  Everyone on the farm knows if someone has gotten out of the fence because one of the girls just goes nuts.  She has a high-pitched bah and if the flock was a high school class then the noisy one would be that one girl who always (loudly) said, “Hey! You aren’t supposed to be doing that! Wait for me! Wait for me! I’ll tell if you don’t wait for me!!!”  But honestly, that is about the only time that they make a noise other than chewing (they are loud chewers) or belching (ditto).


Memorial day was all about worming and vaccinating.  I didn’t take any pictures.  You’re welcome.  We also moved the flock which didn’t go all that well (ahem).  Shetlands aren’t one of the strongest flocking sheep breeds around.  Plus most of these are young ewes.  All in all you have a recipe for some cabbage in the garden to be eaten!  We probably shouldn’t have tried to move them when we were tired from all the vaccinations and worming fun and they were all keyed-up from being vaccinated and wormed.  Lesson learned.

set 3set 4However, we do have a flock leader now.  Her name is Abigail and she can be by turns both amazingly easy to work with and a complete brat.  We’re still working out the kinks in the relationship:-) Only a handful of the sheep have names at this point.  Buddy, the big black wether, Abigail, Herbert (his scrapie tag is 1938, during the Great Depression [though I know not during Hoover’s administration, but he looks like a Herbert too]), and Liberty.  Her scrapie tag is 1976.

Miss Abigail being good.

Miss Abigail being good.

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Abigail and Herbert.

The sheep are amazingly good at keeping the lawn mowed and seem to relish their job.  They are also insanely curious about the chicken flock who have been moved to temporary outdoor quarters with the sheep (electric fencing and jealous wethers are added protection from the ravenous raccoons we have around here).  So far our county hasn’t been hit with the avian flu so we are keeping our fingers crossed that we can keep these girls alive since the cost of eggs has skyrocketed already.

set 5

set8set 9


Homework. Yet Again. March 3, 2015

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am taking a class through Annie’s Project.  It is a program that is designed to help women engage in farming in a different way.  In the past, women were there to raise the children and cook the meals and often to help with farm work when needed, but were often left-out of making important decisions about the future of the farm or even what their part in it is.  Since a lot of women inherit farm land, it is important for them to be able to make wise decisions about how it will be used and who will use it.  Also, an increasing number of women are taking-up farming or taking-over family farms.

I still don’t feel comfortable telling you all what kind of operation I am planning with this class.  I will share it with you all eventually, I promise.  However, this class has been excellent for me to clarify what still needs to be done, what I’m not going to be doing (which is often as important as what you are going to be doing), and figuring out what my strengths and weaknesses are in this endeavor.  Sometimes, being able to simply look at something in black and white is really motivating.  It has helped me look at nearly everything I do as either forwarding my goals and dreams or not.  Which is important.  Really important.  But it’s easy in the day-to-day to forget the big picture or lose sight of the bigger goal.


The class comes with two handy things.  One is a workbook that we are working through to develop our business plans.  The sustainable in the title isn’t an environmental statement, rather it is about if a business is able to sustain itself.  The other is a lovely faux-leather notebook that I keep calling my Trapper Keeper.  It was prefilled with handouts and resources that could help us outside of our class and workbooks.  I have been keeping my records in it and since it zips closed they have stayed in it:-)

In other areas, the hat is finished.  Yay!  I’m not totally in love with it as it turned-out smaller than I had intended.  But I will see what the boyfriend thinks before I start in on another (I have enough of the hand-spun to make another:-)).  I am now working on the Christening blanket/shawl that I spun 1200 yards of hand-spun laceweight for.  It’s not going to be exactly like the pattern as I am working it in the round rather than on two needles and sincerely don’t feel like purling every other row for hundreds of stitches.  However, it is turning out nicely so far.  We’ll see if it continues to behave….


Autumn Harvests October 24, 2014

Fall is a busy time around here.  The farmers are in the fields hurrying to get the corn and soybeans harvested before winter comes.  The combines and tractors run 24/7 in years that there is a lot of rain or bad weather.  Everybody is trying to get their homes and yards ready for the onslaught of colder weather.  Leaves and temperatures are dropping, adding urgency to everyone’s preparations.  The weather people on TV and radio begin whispering that dreaded word: snow.

Here it’s been both the same and different.  I’ve spent some time doing this:

The view from the driver's seat.

That’s a picture taken while I was combining.  It’s one of those jobs that is very boring but very important.

I’ve also been making a lot of these:

autumn 7

Those are pears in medium syrup.  Yes, the pears that Elise and I picked when I went to Kalona are finally ripe.  I have two crates finished and two crates still to go.  I’ve put up about eighteen pints and half a dozen quarts so far as well as a bunch of different jams and such.  I’ve also put away a few gallons worth of pear juice for making pear jelly later on in the year.  Last year, the pears from this tree were very small and difficult to work with because of the drought.  This year, they are huge by comparison and very, very juicy.  One of the interesting things that I have learned from working with so many pears this year is that pear juice is very fragrant when being cooked.  It really smells lovely, though not especially pear-like.

Autumn 4

The above photo is of apple and pear juices.  As you can see, they look very similar.  Different batches of both juices will be different colors of pinky-gold.  Thus, it’s really super important to label them.  Here’s how I label my canned goods:

autumn 6

I’m fairly simple in how I label my canned goods.  What’s in there and the month-year.  I don’t write down the day it was canned as it just takes up space and time and isn’t usually all that necessary.  Some people do in case there is a “bad batch” of something, but for me, often having the day on it would only narrow it down to two or three batches (and that’s if I’m not in the full-swing of canning that day!).  Sometimes I don’t put what’s in it if it’s something like plain green beans or my standard sliced pickles.  Everything else though, gets labeled to avoid confusion.

Before I started in on the pears, I was working my way through the rest of the apples.  One of the jams I tried for the first time was a lovely cardamom and apple jam.  The flavors blend remarkably well and the cardamom adds an exotic kick to the more plebeian apples.  I’ve also seen one for pears with cardamom which I will try, but I’m a little worried that the more delicate flavor of the pears will get overwhelmed.  So we’ll see about it.  In the photo, you can see the cardamom pods still in the jam.  I also do this with vanilla pods when cooking with them.

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I’ve not been doing a whole lot of knitting or crocheting.  I’ve been working on some Christmas socks when I have free time and a crocheted blanket when I’m sitting watching tv shows.  My sweater in progress has been sidelined for the moment as the holidays are approaching and that knitting needs to take center stage.


What are you looking at?? May 18, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 5:32 pm
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I’m sorry that I’ve not been on here much.  My internet at my apartment in Ames sucks big-time and the past few weekends I haven’t had a lot of time at the farm for stuff on the computer.  I promise that I have several posts that I hope to get up this coming weekend with lots of pictures of what I have been doing and where I have been going.  Suffice it to say, it is spring and I am busy!

However, I don’t have the time to do a proper blog post right now, but I am going to leave you with some fun goat pictures.




Heartbroken February 28, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Sarah Jane Humke @ 9:16 pm
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There are times that being a farmer really sucks.  No, strike that, when being a human really sucks.  Those times that make you realize that life is way to short and way to precious and can be taken from you in an instant.  This is one of those times for me.  You see, early this afternoon Red died.  It was extraordinarily sudden, even for a young animal.  At morning feeding she was her normal loud, hungry and insistent self and by noon she was seriously ill and shortly after she died.

I never thought that I would fall in love with a goat.





Edited to Add:

The vet decided that Red died from Enterotoxemia or “Overeating Disease”.  It was unusual that a kid as old as she was succumbed to it as this tends to be a disease of very young kids and lambs.  There is some great information here about it.  The rest of the kids are being vaccinated against it make sure that none of them die as well.  Red had gone to the vet on a prior occasion for diarrhea several weeks ago but had not had any symptoms right up until her death.


Strangers in the Dark February 4, 2012

Tonight I finally met the farm’s resident skunk.  Before you all start sending sympathy emails and comments, let me assure you no bodily fluids were exchanged.  He went one way and I went the other…quickly.  I had also just let all the dogs out and Red was heading towards me with her early evening feeding like a tomahawk cruise missile locked-in on a convoy of tanks.  To say that there was a mad scramble to get everyone back in the house before they noticed the little black and white Mephitis mephitis would be a massive understatement.  That Malcolm didn’t see our malodorous visitor is something of a small miracle as he was right beside me when I spotted it and he probably has better eyes than I do.

Everyone safely back in the house, I led Red back out to the feed lot (she had followed me all the way into the house looking for her dinner) checking carefully for monsieur Pepe Le Pew.  He had decided to return to his quarters and we were able to finish dinner without the addition of a putrid perfume.

I hope we remain strangers.


All I Can See is Red Red Red Now February 1, 2012

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Red is starting to get some darker patches on her back and all of her hooves have them as well. It's sort of like socks on a cat, only the opposite.

It's hard to capture her hoppy little run with a photo.

Red's milk moustaches are epic!

Happy girl in the sun.