Friday, November 30, 2007


Apples are one of my favorite foods. I can eat them all year 'round. Raw, cooked, sauced, baked, fried, sweet, savory, in salads, main dishes, desserts, ...CIDER!... anyway, anyhow. This year we're innundated with apples! My daughter works for a winery/orchard/vineyard company and we got to pick main varieties after their harvest plus pick varieties that were left unpicked. The CSA we belong to, Terry's Berries, has had apples in the shares almost every week. One of our big new projects is making cider - hard cider. The primary fermentation is just getting going and smells so yeasty/apple-y, it's wonderful!

One of the things I've had more time for since retiring, is cooking. I used to cook a lot. Then work and dogs and other busy-ness stopped most of my kitchen experiments. (So true, I seldom follow a recipe exactly.)

So here's the sharing part! Recently I made a dinner and a breakfast with apples. I think they're too good not to share. :-)

Sausage, apples and squash.

This is a classic combination.
(We also get LOTS of winter squash with our CSA shares - delicious!)

Single serving - or scale it up for however many people you have:

Cook/fry 4 sausage links (homegrown is best, but I used store bought because our most delicious homegrown pork is long gone - boo hoo!)

While sausage is frying, cook 1 small winter squash (I use the microwave - put halved/quartered, seeds and strings removed, squash in a ziploc with a couple Tablespoons water, cook on high 5 to 10 minutes till soft.).

Core/slice 1 apple ( any variety - they're all good! Empire, Jonagold, Yellow Delicious, Liberty, Gala, Granny Smith, McIntosh, Winter Banana... some cook more firm, some more soft, some sweeter, some more tart)

Add apples to the sausage and fry on both sides as the sausage finishes cooking. (Alt - you could cook the apples in butter- yum!- or just steam them) Sausage cooks somewhere around 10 minutes, apples 3 to 5.

Assembly - Scoop out cooked squash into a bowl - or use the halved/quartered squash in-the-skin as a bowl. Pile sausage and apples on top. I added a bit of butter to the cooked squash and kind of mashed it in the bowl before adding the sausage and apples.

Two - I just finished this as my (late) breakfast. MmmmMmmm Bowl-Licking Good. :-)

Franna's Fractured German Apple Pancake

Single serving, scale as needed. Heat oven to 350F

1T butter (I like butter!) - put it in a big custard cup and melt it in the heating oven.
Meanwhile, slice 1 apple.

Add 1 to 2 T sugar (depending on how sweet the apple is, and how strong your sweet tooth is) and 1/4 t cinnamon to the melted butter. Mix.

Add sliced/chopped apple and toss to coat. Return to the oven for about 10 minutes. Toss again after 5 minutes and 10 minutes.

While apples are cooking:

Beat 1 egg very well. Add 1T milk and beat some more. Add 1T flour and mix until blended.

Pour over the partially cooked apples and return to the oven for 10 - 15 minutes or until the egg is cooked. It will puff up about double in volume. Protect your oven by putting the custard cup on a baking sheet. do I know this ?

It will be hot! and a wonderful breakfast for a chilly morning. And just look at the food groups! Dairy, eggs, fruit, grain. It has to be good for you. :-)

Sharing of a different sort:

After thinking and composing in my head for many months, I wrote a (web) paper on sheep color inheritance targeted at the Gotland upbreeding program. It's a final draft. I need to get one more person's permission to use their photo, plus put together my list of references and correct a few typos before publishing it. My goal was to write presentation-style for people who are not well versed in genetics, yet be technical enough that those who do understand genetics-speak will find it useful.

Dear Blog Readers, would you please take a look and comment?

It might take several short readings to digest the content. Short comments can be posted here - longer ones should come to my email address:

Thank you!
- Franna

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Around the Farm

Thought you might enjoy a few random shots of the Farm:

The cats don't get much publicity. I'm a cat person. I like cats and love to have one purring on my lap. This is Squeeker. He is one of the three cats we got from the "Feral Cat Rescue" folks. Although he's come a long ways toward being "tame" his job is to stay in the barn area and control the rodent population. Squeeker now has a healthy glow to his coat, comes up for ear rubs and stroking - with one hand only. He's still pulls back when I start to scratch him with both hands.

This is "Princess". It took weeks before she let us even see her, more weeks before she'd come out in the open, and now she lets us stroke her a little while she's eating. She, too, has developed a nice (plump?) body and healthy glow to her coat. I see them out of barn and in the open more and more. The third cat disappeared shortly after we let them out of quarantine. I hope she's doing as well.

Now, this little guy, Stars, is auditioning for House Cat. Originally, he and his sister, Stripes, were barn cats extraordinairre. Something happened to Stars, and he has some nerve damage to his left hind leg. It's taken some time, but he's getting around fairly well and finally maturing into a beautiful cat. ...long time readers might remember that Stripes disappeared a while back :-( Stars is extremely affectionate, underfoot, and hasn't learned to keep his claws sheathed when he's kneading. The straw bale doesn't care, but I sure do! He's still an outstanding mouser/ratter/mole-er.

The sheep are always curious about the cats. Here Bessie, Bits and Niblet try to reach Stars. I wonder what they'd do if he let them? He doesn't seem too concerned. Pumpkins! After Halloween, I bought 2 pallets of "Tiger Baby" pumpkins from a local fruit stand/corn maze/pumpkin farm. The sheep actually like them, though they go for the "gourmet" parts - seeds and strings and leave skin scattered all over - picky sheep!

Jack'O'Lantern didn't get quite made up this year. Finnsheep Freckles is doing her part to get to the gourmet parts of Jack. Finns, Brain and Pinky, are waiting for Freckles to do the hard work.

In the house, here is my domaine. Papers everywhere! Why in this age of computers and digital data, is there still so much paperwork? Well, this is where I spend way too much time, but I sure enjoy keeping in touch :-)

Clifford likes being close. It probably feels like some throwback shelter cave to him, under the desk. It doesn't hurt that he gets plenty of ear scritching when he comes up and lays his head in my lap.

Thomas appropriates the "best" dog place in the house. We had several of these dog beds until one by one they were chewed and eaten and de-fluffed. Now there's one. It is hardly ever vacant. When one dog gets up, another quickly finds the warm spot. ...amazing that Thomas got caught in a still moment.

Back out to the sheep - you knew I couldn't leave out the sheep, eh? Here are our three remaining Scottish Blackface lambs. The rest of the flock has been loaned out until we get to our 20 acre farm. Left to right are Sweet Pea, Eve, and Butch Cassidy. Sweet Pea and Butch are 50% UK bloodlines; Eve is 75%, from our second generation of UK breedings. They've had a lot of socialization, so are much less flighty than Scotties usually are.

These two are mother and daughter. Asa is our oldest ewe at age 8 1/2. She is a lovely Shetland from Puddleduck farm, and is as gentle as they come. Her half Gotland daughter, Bunny, is our overall nicest Gotland to date. Her conformation and fleece are very Gotland like. They make a pretty pair.

It's difficult to get a nice photo of a black sheep. I like this picture of Midnight, one of our Shetland ewe lambs. Midnight is 62.5% UK breeding and shows a lot of promise for crimpy, fine fiber with decent length. Now, if she'll just figure out that I'm her friend....- Franna


First thing when I get up (really! the very first thing) I look out the window. This morning the first thing I saw was Buddy pacing the fenceline by the lane... and a sheep that looked like Elora the Shetland gulmoget (one of the bachelorette ewe lambs) "in" Kibbles pasture. What???? Looking longer and more focused, I see the ram-boys in the bachelor pen pacing and looking longingly at Buddy's group. A couple of black (black???) sheepie bodies were parading by the ram-boys. Hmmmmm, Buddy's harem is all brown ... ewe-lamb sheep break! (I could also see DG and Amy, the other members of the bachelorette group, in their proper place.)

Well, after taking care of business and ushering the dogs outside, out I went. Sure enough, four little ewe lambs had gathered and were fixing to enter the yard and close proximity to two more breeding groups!

Fortunately, they readily followed me with a couple flakes of hay for incentive (or were they following the hay with me being just a nuisance?). They were reluctant to traipse through the mud in front of the barn. Elora came first (trying to get back into my good graces?) and gave Midnight, Pepper and Cinnamon enough incentive to pick their various ways through the mud.

Thinking I must have left their gate ajar, I was surprised to find it closed. After ushering them through and giving them their delectable (?) hay reward, I found the opening. Amy (the llama) has been pushing over the hog panel lane fence, grazing the "greener" grass, and had finally wore through the baling twine ties at one of the fence posts. It was open just enough for enterprising little sheep to go exploring. Gotta replace that e-topline on the lane fence!

Amy, The Long Neck Enabler!

DG, the Innocent Bystander - isn't she cute... for a Mutt-Sheep (Finn/Scottish Blackface)
Elora, the Gang Leader, with Cinnamon, Guilty by Association. Don't they look Innocent?

More Innocence... Midnight and Cinnamon (again) with DG providing backdrop.

And Cinnamon (the camera hog!) with sister, Pepper, being coy.

All are safely back in their chastity pasture, though I'm checking more often! ...gotta get that hot wire up....

- Franna

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

2007 EverRanch LAI

November 17, 2007

It is difficult to get a high lambing rate with traditional artificial insemination in sheep. Their cervix is convoluted and hard to penetrate, so cervical AI in sheep gets 20 to 30% lambing rates. With the high cost of importing semen ($60 to $110 per straw!), 20 to 30% is not high enough to be economically feasible. Some years ago now, laparoscopic AI was developed in sheep. The lambing rate is 70 to 80% with LAI, making the process more economically feasible. I've estimated that each LAI lamb has$100 to $150 more invested than the naturally bred lambs. When you're bringing in a new breed (Gotlands) or working with a very small gene pool (Scottish Blackface) or want characteristics from the "mother country" (Shetlands), LAI can be well worth the investment. Of course, the animals that don't work out, are just (more) expensive lamb chops. :-\

We decided to concentrate on the Gotland upbreeding program this year. We identified 16 ewes, both foundation ewes and half Gotland ewe lambs, for our LAI group this year. Another local shepherd, Joanne Martinis, became very interested in the Gotland breed after reading up on them and seeing our half Gotlands at the Puyallup Fair (see why we go to Fairs???). Joanne got together 4 foundation ewes of her own. We were disappointed to learn that due to the FMD outbreak in the UK, Gotland semen was limited this year. So both of us scaled back to 13 and 3 ewes each. As time got closer, a few more straws became available, so the final count on November 17th was 15 for us and 4 for Joanne. (Chart lists sheep, hormone dosage and time, LAI times, cleanup ram groups... details, details, and the empty straws with the teeny, tiny labels.)

We borrowed this deluxe sheep cradle from Horned Dorset breeder Peter Janicki (Thanks, Peter!)

Bunny, our Shetland-Gotland ewe lamb, demonstrates the first step - Sheep Bondage! Front and back legs are secured (???) into the cradle. It is really hard to get the legs completely secure, so a person is stationed at each hind leg to make sure they stay.

Bunny is really, really not sure about this whole Bondage thing.

Joanne's Finn ewe, Zilla, goes toes up in the cradle.

Here are Dave, Joanne, Martin and Zilla, deep into the LAI process.

Dave takes a split second to mug for the camera while Martin gets the straw of little wigglers ready for their chance at fame!

Martin has plunger at the ready to deposit millions of eager sperm in the sweet spot. Each of us got to push the plunger (highlighted below) to inseminate our own sheep.

Did you notice that really cool headband that Joanne is wearing? That was her first spinning and knitting project! I thought it was wonderful - and really fit the cool day. In the morning it POURED rain. We usually have "rain" that goes on and on and on, but doesn't amount to a lot of inches at once. Not Saturday morning while I was finishing up on fences and getting pens ready for the post-LAI groups. Fortunately, it wasn't too cold, lower 50's, and the 2 heaters and 1 heat lamp in the garage kept it from being too cold. Sunday, the temperature dropped another 10 degrees, and Monday didn't break 40. But I digress....
The Headband!

Post LAI, the ewes should be as stress free as possible for at least 6 weeks (40 days and 40 nights....). I shuffled breeding groups - or should I say "cleanup" groups many times and finally came up with something that would work. Below is my farm map with breeding groups listed, locations on the map. Don't feel bad if it looks like gibberish. I got a lot of kidding about my detailed "Engineered" paperwork. At least each sheep had a destination. :-)

If you're really curious... (any Engineers out there???) ... The big rectangle is a planview of our farm boundaries, the "L" shape is the house, little rectangle next to it the Garage/LAI Surgery Room, big rectangle in lower right is the Arena. On the bottom of the arena is the Sheepie Hilton extension. The dogleg in the middle is the lane and its "kneecap" is the "Barn". Circles are various trees and bushes. Groups are listed in the margins, each lettered with corresponding letter on the map. Clear as mud? ;-)

The next morning found the Bubba (and Buddy) group lazing around in the Hilton. The LAI girls were taking it pretty easy, especially Asa (not in this photo) and Bibb (upper left), the oldest ones in our AI group. Standing is Bitterroot Bessie - NOT one of the AI girls, she gets to commune with Buddy as a primary. :-) She might wonder (if sheep are prone to such wonderings) why the others are being such stick in the muds on such a fine day. But, being a sheep, she seems content to just hang with them.

141 days and counting :-)

- Franna

(More photos are on our website: )

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Catchup Blog

...catchup, not ketsup. Okay, so my mind's wandering.

This morning we got up early-ish... 5:30 am... to pull sponges and inject 16 ewes with hormones. Saturday, Martin Dally is coming to AI same ewes with Gotland semen! This will be our second year in the "Gotland Program". Hopefully in early April, we'll have 20+ more % Gotland lambs at EverRanch!

Rolling back a bit, we finally got the barn and Hilton cleaned out. Wow! There was a lot of bedding built up! You can get an idea in the barn. This was the first "path" cleared in the bedding. It was mid-thigh deep!!!

We rented this nifty Bobcat clone from the friendly local Kubuta dealer. At the same time they delivered the Bobcat, they took our tractor to the shop :-(

DH had a lot of fun motoring around in the Bobcat - with no overheating and no hydraulic leaks!

Thomas wanted to help. There was only room for one in the cab when it was running. The safety interlocks were amazing! Seat bar, seat belt, deadman seat switch, double hand controls....

There was waaaaay more compost in the works than we had space for. The neighbor (with the beautiful gardens!!!) said "sure!" when we asked him if he'd like some. ...heh... then he went away for the day. I wonder if he expected THIS MUCH??

Would you like to be our neighbor??? :-)

More recently (Nov. 3 and 4), I was chairman of the Puget Sound Labrador Retriever Association's fall agility trials. (Yes, I was chair last month of the Welsh Springer agility trial... WHAT was I thinking???) Every year we take a group photo of all the labs we can gather.

Staging everyone:

And the 2007 Group!...

... with a few stragglers added. It's tough with a large group to get everyone looking with eyes open. My apologies to those who are "hiding". (The photo will "biggify" if you click on it.)

I hope to post news of the AI fun! Sometimes it gets so busy, there is no time for photo taking. I'll have the camera there, just in case. :-)

- Franna