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Plan and prepare

Life on all farms is hectic. There is always something to do, which is why I loved it growing up. When all my city friends were bored on their summer vacations I was busy from sun-up to sundown. As an adult though, there are times that I find life a bit too busy and this winter is going to be one of those. Planning and preparation should help to lessen the load.

In case I needed a reminder of what hectic is like, our oldest son got married in January this year. He and his new wife took care of most things themselves but the last few days were a definite reminder of how handy having prepared food in the freezer was. The kids were busy with decorating and rehearsals. My husband and I were running other errands plus we had no idea from day to day how many people I was feeding or when. I was very happy that we had Christmas leftovers in the freezer. Then we realized that in fact we were to start lambing February 15 this winter.

Back in August when it was warm outside and our rams kept breaking out of their pen to “frolic” with the ewes, we made a decision to just let them stay out. If we had to check for lambing it might as well just be the whole flock. Somewhere in that decision it wasn’t really talked about that mid-February in Manitoba is cold and we no longer have six people living at home, but like most things we do it sounded like a good idea at the time.

From winter calving we have learned that having healthy, not processed, foods to keep us going during busy, stressful times minimizes disease. Before we started this we were guaranteed horrible colds during baby season. Since we started planning and organizing, stress will be minimized as much as possible, thereby we will stay healthier. There really is nothing worse for family relations than running on lack of sleep plus being sick. Due to lambs being much smaller they are more likely to freeze faster than calves, so we have been spending some time discussing what is going to be needed. The one thing that has become very clear is that we will not have a lot of time for taking care of humans. Considering that we will not have a break between sheep, cows or goats this year, we are in deep planning stages. While the men are preparing outside, my daughter and I have been trying to come up with a strategy for make-ahead meals and streamlining the chores so that we don’t drown in dirty laundry or starve.

For foods, we will depend mostly on freezing as well as some extra use of the pressure canner possibly for soups (quick to heat). When stocking up on food/meals it is important to avoid foods that don’t freeze well.

  •  Fruits or vegetables with high water content or a delicate cell structure do not freeze well. These include lettuce, tomatoes, watermelon, citrus fruit sections and cucumbers. You can freeze some of these foods, like tomatoes, for use in cooked dishes, but they are not like fresh tomatoes when you thaw them. An exception to this is freezer coleslaws and pickles.
  •  Sauces and gravies thickened with flour or cornstarch frequently separate and break down when frozen. Therefore, it is better to freeze stock for gravy and thicken it when using.
  •  Cooked egg whites tend to get rubbery when you freeze them. Raw eggs freeze very well. Freeze in ice cube trays then freeze in bags so they are very easy to grab and use one egg at a time.
  •  Mayonnaise will break down when it is frozen. Use salad dressing instead of mayonnaise when you make sandwiches or salad mixtures for freezing.
  •  Cakes frosted with butter frosting freeze well, but cooked frostings or fluffy egg white frostings do not freeze well.
  •  Well-done pastas may be too soft after reheating. If you want to freeze macaroni, spaghetti, or foods containing these, undercook the pasta. Cooked chunks of potatoes become soggy or gritty, but mashed potatoes or twice-baked potatoes freeze well.
  •  Most natural cheeses can be frozen with good results, but they may crumble more when you thaw them. Yogurt and cultured sour cream will break down and separate.
  •  Breads also freeze well so two weeks prior to baby season we plan on baking enough bread for a month. Pizza crusts can also be made and frozen ready to be filled providing a supper in less than 30 minutes.

As far as house chores we will have to work more together. There will be chore lists so that we can keep track of jobs inside and out, in case someone needs to sleep when they would normally be doing other jobs, so we all know what needs to be done. We will need to remember we will all be tired and that this too shall pass. That is another thing we were reminded of with the wedding. As much as it was an exciting and busy time, when it was over we had time to catch up and relax and no one died because the vacuuming didn’t get done. This next three months will be the same. My hope is that we can all just enjoy the new babies and stay healthy throughout all the sleepless nights and straw in our beds. †

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