February 28th 2008 - A New Season begins with our first Grandlambs



On February 7th - Miss Blanca surprised us - as seems to be becoming a bit of common occurrence with us - with our first babies from girls born on our farm.  A beautiful pair of twins (again as is our tradition) - a girl Babe and boy Bo.

 They were a surprise because we decided to broaden our genetics this year by breeding with a handsome new dorset ram - Joshua.  Joshua was quite happy to have breeding begin almost immediately after his arrival on November 4.   This lambing would begin in April and I planned accordingly.

We thought we had retired the proud father of all the HimmelAlm-born  flock members.  As it turn out he gave us some marvelous parting gifts...

Bo and Babe arrived  - quite fortunately - just before I had scheduled to be away on business for two weeks.  I returned on Saturday evening - February 23.  The next morning - Miss Domino presented us with another set of beautiful twins - Dominic and Choo Choo (the black and white girl in the photo).  Miss Felicity - Domino's mom was expressing great interest and we let her in and obviously liked being close to daughter and babies as they bonded in their jug.

I expect that you will be hearing more about Choo Choo - she is perhaps the friendliest lamb we've ever seen (at least before we bond with them in the milking parlor).  She will run up to your feet - come to a dead stop and wait to be petted.  If you attempt to walk away - she will sproink, sproink, sproink until she right in front of you.

I am very sorry that I was so lax in updating the web site last year - I don't plan to let that happen this season.  There is far too much going on!   








September 8th 2006   A time to every purpose under the heaven


What a wonderful year we've had on the HimmelAlm - learning of sheep, milk and making cheese.  We have met challenges.  We have had a few disappointments - but our perspective on those was changed today...

Late in the afternoon my 9 year old daughter burst into my home office yelling "We have a lamb!"  I thought to myself, "Yes - in fact we have a number of them in the main pasture."  I thought perhaps one had found its way into the milking girls' pasture.  Yet my daughter spoke with such excitement and urgency that I had  to ran down to the sheep to see what had  happened.  As I approached,  I did see a  lamb in the milking girls' pasture.  Not one of our strapping 6 month old boys and girls, but a precious tiny lamb - a NEW lamb!

As I came closer - I saw that it was Miss Lucy tending to a newborn daughter.  In the early spring, Miss Lucy gave birth to a  ram lamb - Shorty - who could not survive long.   Miss Lucy told me, in her way, to let him go, but I didn't heed her wisdom.  Shorty was gone two days later.  Lucy's milk dried up quickly  - it wasn't difficult to see her sadness - all her peers had fine healthy babies and were in the milk line or nursing their youngsters.

Our senior ram, Abram, was the proud father of all of this year's lambs.  Our junior ram Amram wasn't strong enough to compete in the fall - but as spring approached, it was clear that he was NOT going to be shut out

We had the flock sheared in April.  After our ewes were sheared - the boys took their turns.  They looked (and smelled) different after losing their winter coat - and took to butting heads to reintroduce themselves.    I'd heard thuds like this before, but this time was different - young Amram must have had his head slightly cocked - his neck snapped, he slumped to the ground and  was gone in 30 seconds - with Abram  gently nudging him, as if he were asking his  apprentice to stop kidding around and get up.

Before we lost  young Amram, we thought it might be easier for Lucy if she joined the weaned lambs (and the boys) in our main pasture.  However, my wife noticed that Amram was frequently chasing her - we didn't think the added stress was good for Lucy so we brought her back with the milking girls.

Amram, to our great surprise, and Lucy's abundant joy, HAD indeed come into his own.  Lucy now stands with radiant pride with her frolicking daughter Lucky.  We'll have fresh and delicious sheep milk for our morning coffee and cereal this winter - a pleasure we had expected to do without.  Amram will live on in Lucky's offspring and their descendants.  What was lost this year, the Lord has, in His time and in the wise manner of His choosing, marvelously restored.

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:  A time to be born and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;  A time to kill and a time to heal; A time to break down and a time to build up;  A time to weep and a time to laugh, A time to mourn and a time to dance."

Ecclesiastes 3

  May 20 The cheese "cave"

Slowly the our cheese "cave" is filling up.  We are using our basement  for storing our hard cheeses. We are controlling the humidity with a room humidifier - we are relying on mother nature and the stone walls to keep the temperature suitably low.  We are still working to find a natural cave (there are many here in East Tennessee) for aging - especially as we move on from hard cheese to bacteria ripened cheeses.  

What a wonder it is to see the manifold ways our forefathers crafted over time the processes to fashion the marvelous variety of today's cheeses  - all starting simply from the gift of milk.  What a wonder it is to see our pastures transformed to milk by our girls.

  April 29 Got cheese?

This evening we transformed two gallons of our girl's milk into curds (just cut on the left) and whey.   The curd was sliced (upper right) and placed in brine - we are patiently waiting now on our feta.  No restraint was required or exercised with the incredible ricotta (upper left) which was produced from the whey.

In honor of the occasion we dined on Il rotolo di pasta.  A thin sheet of fresh pasta - covered with our fresh ricotta and spinach, rolled up and boiled.  Then it is sliced and briefly baked with a sauce bechamel (made with more sheep milk!) - topped with a sprinkling of pecorino romano (not ours, yet).  Sorry - no picture, it went too fast.

  April 23  Got milk? What a difference a lamb (or twins) make...

Yesterday evening I separated the milking moms from their lambs for the first time - making me somewhat unpopular; protestations were heard periodically throughout the night.

After church we visited the milking moms and a collective sigh of relief and a prayer went up from the HimmelAlm -  we collected 14 lbs of wonderful milk.

Violet and Rosie will join the ranks of working mothers when their babies have had enough time on mama.

 Meanwhile its cheesemaking time in Tennessee!

  April 22 This time for sure...

Miss Rosie - youngest of our starter flock- who we had assumed politely sat this dance out - gave birth to Bud - a handsome young ram in the middle of a thunderstorm last night.

Final Lamb Tally - 6 ewe, 4 ram. Bringing our flock to an even 20.

We've separated the milking moms from their (almost 3 month old)"babies" today - they have a nice green pasture to munch on, as do the new mom's, new babies, old "babies" and our manly men.

Our next adventure will be shearing. 

  April 21 Next Stop Cheese!

We hosted an Easter Sunday brunch for a dozen friends and one of our contributions was homemade sheep's milk vanilla ice cream.  The verdict of our fine panel of judges was unanimous - it was wonderful However, before we embark on our cheese making,  we hope to bring our milk production up.  To this end we will try separating our lambs (the oldest will be 90 days old in two weeks!) from mom during the day  - since these robust boys and girls are nearly half the size of their mothers, we suspect that mom will appreciate a respite.

A surprise: the youngest of our starter flock - Miss Rosie - will also be lambing this spring!

  Happy  Easter!

As Christians we believe that the gift of eternal life was purchased for all by the sacrifice of an innocent Lamb  - the Son of God who became flesh. lived perfectly and died on a cross for his fallen children.  This Sunday we celebrate his return to life on the third day following his crucifixion.

As a father and now a shepherd - I am more in awe than ever of the love that was shown us.  I am more ashamed when my actions demonstrate why this sacrifice was necessary.  Yet  I also rejoice more heartily when I know that the Lamb is risen and reigning on His throne - and if I believe, I will one day join Him in heaven



  Lambing ends with Violet's April Fool's

In the very early morning hours of April 1st, Violet - our last girl to lamb - gave birth to twins.  As is our tradition thus far - it was a pigeon pair - boy and girl (left).  I think Miss Violet put it off as long as possible because she knew what was in store. Despite her very obvious discomfort, she persevered and took to her mother's duties right off.  I had already forgotten how small these precious one's are when they are born.

Thus ends this lambing season - we'll shift our focus entirely to milk, yogurt and cheese.

The magnificent seven lambs (above left) who preceded our last continue to thrive.  They are quite happy feeding alongside the older generation - but aren't too proud to grab a bit of mama's milk.


  March 21 - Our first taste!

Today the portable vacuum system for our bucket milker arrived.  We wheeled it down to the barn and turned on some work lights (by this time it was dark) on the stanchion.  Miss Lucy volunteered (more accurately was bribed with some corn) to be the first to be milked by our new machine.  While the exercise could not (as yet) be characterized as a ballet in precision - it was definitely simpler and cleaner than our hand milking.  Lucy was calm and quiet  during the whole process and there was no opportunity for her to stick her foot in the bucket.  We hurried back up the hill to sample the pearl white prize - absolutely creamy and delicious - transformed from grass by our own wonderful girl.  Amazing!

  March 4 - The Magnificent 7 growing up

It is amazing how fast these young ones grow (above).  They're already enjoying chewing on alfalfa hay and our slowly emerging grass.  To keep from being bullied out,  the magnificent 7 can retreat to their creep feeder (left) where (despite some amazing attempts to squeeze in by the grownups) they can chew in peace.  The younger generation loves to play - they will all be bounding about together in the field - at least until one of the moms calls [despite their growing affection for solid food - there's still nothing like milk from mom].  Isaac and Spot already are practicing their dancing skills with the young ladies!

We continue to wait on Violet and Lucy.





  Feb 20 - Class of 2006 (so far)

Yesterday, after 3 days, Ethyl indicated that she was quite ready to leave her jug.  Her lamb Esther and Bertha's twins (Blanca and Spot) looked ready as well.  So we banded the tails of the three Amigos and let them run off to meet the four musketeers.  The newest mom's were a little anxious baaing and nickering as their young ones went off to play with the neighbor kids.  They all got acquainted, but in the evening the late moms and lambs retired to the lambing stall (minus jugs), while the early moms and lambs went to the recovery stall.  This morning I let everyone out and the yard became a race track - 7 lambs circling about at a gallop.  We continue to wait on Violet and Lucy who are sporting small but noticeable bags..




  Feb 16 3:00 AM EST (a warm but long night)

We've thought for some time that Miss Ethyl and Miss Bertha were ready to burst.  Tonight they did so - together.  At 3:00 AM Ethyl gave birth to a big beautiful baby girl. At 5:00 AM Bertha had twins - the first a handsome white ram with a perfect black spot between his shoulder blades.  Followed by a perfect white ewe. 

Once again the Lord has blessed us with two very good mothers.  We had to guide the little ones to their respective spigots - Bertha is built quite low to the ground; we had some trouble getting milk from one side on Ethyl.  After a bit of massage and a good tug - Ethyl's pumping on both cylinders (rather cones).  Meanwhile the four musketeers (above) continue to thrive.





  Feb 12 7:30 AM EST

A rare snow accumulation has blanketed HimmelAlm (right).  The four musketeers are warm with their moms in the lambing stall (above).  We are still waiting on Ethyl, Bertha, Lucy and possibly Violet - our senior ram Abram must have taken a brief break in September.  He gave me a bit of a surprise last night when I came down to find him lounging alone in the main stall with his favorite girl Emma and their daughter EmmyLou.  Freckles and Speckles were in the lambing stall and the all others taking shelter from the falling snow under the eaves.  Needless to say, all the moms and babies were gathered into the lambing stall and the others were gathered to keep Abram company in the main stall. 



  Feb 9 10:30 AM EST (following a rare snowfall) 

Miss Felicity gives birth in the main stall to our first HimmelAlm twins - a beautiful black  ewe (with patches of white) and a handsome white ram.  Miss Felicity(confidentially a favorite of mine) was kind enough to wait until daylight and we were able to witness the miracle of birth from start to finish.  Our ram needed a little assistance finding his milk the first time - but both lambs are, by His grace, healthy and happy.


  Feb 8 4:00 AM EST (another cold night) 

Miss Emma gives birth on pasture to our second beautiful lamb of the season.  The adoptive grandfather was again thankful that all went as the good Lord intended.  Yet to be named, Emma's daughter is a sprightly one.  Each morning we have visiting hours so our other girls and boys can see how the new moms and lambs are doing.  Abram - our senior ram and proud papa - came over, stepped up on a row of the jug panel and leaned into give Miss Emma a kiss.  He needed to bribed to leave when visiting hours were over. 


  Feb 6 11:00 PM EST (coldest night in a while) 

Miss Freckles gives birth on pasture to a beautiful lamb - named Speckles.  The adoptive grandfather was extremely grateful that all went as the good Lord intended - all he had to do was carry the lamb (with mother anxiously following) to their lambing jug.  Miss Freckles did a wonderful job - we hope our other expectant mothers were taking notes. 


  January  2006

All the girls but Rosie (our very youngest) are showing signs that Abram (our senior ram) has done his job well.

Lambs and milk are on their way!


  August 2005

The barn and yard are finished!

 The boys and girls get used to the routine on the HimmelAlm.

  July 2005

New barn is completed!  As with our perimeter fencing, 

  June 2005

We pick up the flock in Wisconsin and trailer them to their new home in Tennessee.  They are given sun shade and temporary shelter.

Construction begins on a new barn and yard - with raceway, feed room, storage.

  May 2005

Woven wire fence (with top and bottom board) is used to fence the pastures.