Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Animals of the knob...

I have good intentions.  I start flipping through the pictures, the first few bring smiles and pleasent thoughts of reminising; but soon my emotions turn to awwww followed by sniffles.  I just don't know how to interpret all the various emotions I am feeling right now.  Just minutes ago I was outside, toes curled over the edge of the hillside overlooking the bay.  I thought to myself, last full moon here at the 'knob.   I continued to question why it is I am having such a hard time?  I knew it would be hard, but it's still all so confusing.  Ladies and Gentlemen, don't let me fool you, things could not have lined up better; its hard to argue against what seems to be fact; it is all just meant to be.  We did well, we quite possibly saved a magical place and homestead from being torn down and built upon.  We bought our first place together, learned to become comfortable with who we are (okay still working on that, he is still annoying sometimes... just kidding) we learned to be shepherds, ride a clydesdale and remodel every square foot of this place!  But alas, the chapter here has closed and it is time to move forward.   

But still.  It's difficult for me!  As I flipped through the pictures, I found some of the first animals to visit the knob.  I had already been keeping chickens for about a year when I came up with this great idea.  I of course couldn't just buy new chicks, I wanted to hatch and raise my own.  So, I built an isolated breeding pen for each species and set up pure breeding pairs.  Eggs, brooding hens and voila, I hatched my own chicks. 

 Of course there was Drogo, named after the parishiner of good shepherds, St. Drogo.  What a character.  Full of sas, but ever dutiful, Drogo was so patient with us as we learned our new roles as shepherds.  He fit in with the ladies, protected the energetic lambs and minded the rams the few times they had to interact.  Drogo was purchased along with the sheep.  They traveled together and now reside on their new farm in Wisconsin (Observatory Hill Farm). 

The original first 7 ladies of Windy Knob and their first night fall at the farm

Soon after the sheep of Windy Knob arrived in 2009.  A dual purpose sheep, they lived up to be everything I had expected.   A lot of lessons learned, lots of lambs born and a lot of late nights later, I wouldn't trade it for the world.  It's just funny looking back, as I even find myself going "wait you then did what? Ulicny what were you thinking?" 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Back in the day...

Moving is more difficult then I remember.  Sorting through stuff, finding a new place to put it...  I spend hours packing and shuffling tons of stuff only to load the truck and come back to something that doesn't look like I even made a dent.  And I don't even have that much stuff! 

I'm trying to set aside time to reflect and think of all the memories here at Windy Knob.  When looking back, it's hard not to start at the very beginning; May of 2008.  Just the other day I came across a letter from the previous owners which had been dropped off on our first morning in the house.  "To The New Home Owners" its read, and it spoke of what a magical place the farm is.  And you know what Sheila, you were absolutely right.  Windy Knob lived up to every expectation I had and then some!  It truly is a wonderful place.  That letter meant a lot to me as I'm a sentimental guy (some of you laugh, go ahead, but I am dang it) and will cherrish it for years to come.  I don't have anything but positive things to say about this experience and will want to look back years from now and reflect on it.  And when I pull that letter out and read it, I can still feel myself standing there in the dark brown panelling of the 1970's kitchen, reading the letter on top of the harvest gold laminate countertops with loose linoelum square tiles shuffling under my feet.  But you know what, the view was just as incredible that day as it is right now...

One of my favorite things is finishing a project and looking back at what it was.  It was almost comical to me when I came across the orignal appraisal dated April of 2008.  It shows the exterior of the house and a few interior pictures.  My oh my we have come a long way! But even so, I was still enamered with the place back then, just as I am today. 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Sign Here.

May 1st 2008 was the day Dan and I moved into our house, which would soon retain the name “Windy Knob.” It was an incredible feeling; purchasing our first house together, going from our “first homes” and making this huge step (okay more like leap) in caliber of home and connecting with the nostalgia and history of a truly unique property. I distinctly remember our first night, eating pizza on a set of crummy old fold out chairs placed smack dab in front of the big picture window. We slurped down cheese and pepperoni while gazing out over Grand Traverse Bay as if we owned every gallon. Potential filled the air, and I was bursting at the seams with anticipation of what could come from our new “farm.”

And with that I’m announcing today, that May 1st 2013, will be our last day here at Windy Knob Farms. Even the move out date is poetic; five years to the day.

Remodels. Sheep. Chickens. Dogs. Books. Horses. Lambs. Cats. Family. Remodels. Magazines…

My head spins just thinking about all that has happen in this five year span. Oddly enough I feel like I was able to define and come to terms with myself and who I am, just to end up lost again in the end. And of course I ask myself, as my family has (as well as the buyers in fact) how could you leave such a place?

The irony is despite all the steps that had to take place along the way for this sale to occur, I’m not sure how to leave it, it just seems to have happened. I had to find a place for the sheep and lambs and to not have them separated from each other, find a home for all the hardworking chickens that laid eggs for us, a home other than an oven, a farm full of “stuff” (you’d be amazed how much stuff can accumulate when there is space to be had), come to agreements with realtors and of course perspective buyers: all of this had to have the planets align and God to nod his head, so it’s very calculated, but my heart feels like it just happened. Momentum started with an idea, and while I have no clue where it’s taking me, certainly, I’m going somewhere.

I will sob like a baby when I close that door for the last time. I know the same water I will drive by time and time again will never look the same as it did from the window seat I built, but we should embrace change. And I am grateful for the experience and everything I learned in this process, the skills I picked up along the way. And yes, the sale was a positive thing and our hard work paid off, but as they say, the memories will last forever.

I wanted to honor Windy Knob so to speak, and as a form of self-help therapy, I’m going to write about my top ten memories for the final 10 days in the house. And like any journey in life there have certainly been some serious ups and downs over the five year period; moments that were no fault of the farm, but moments attached with living here. It’s my goal to reflect on the positive, and to make a toast I suppose, to the farm and the great memories I leave here with. I will work to accompany each with a photograph, even amidst the boxes and newly released “fur-bunnies.”

If you are up for it, “sign here;” the closing has occurred, it’s time to celebrate.

Let the countdown begin. Here’s to the top ten of Windy Knob.


Friday, July 27, 2012


A food blog.  Yeah, thats how I can get the word out about our grass fed lamb!  In just a few short weeks, our lamb will be made available, and being a relatively small farm, the lamb supply won't be around for long. 

With the kitchen remodel recently coming to a close, I couldn't think of a better time to experiment with lamb recipes, including my new favorite Lamburgers.
There are two parts to this meal.  First, there is the tzatziki sauce.  A simple greek yogurt sauce, it is truly what takes savory lamb to another level.  1 cup yogurt, 1/2 cucumber diced, 2 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp fresh mint, 1 clove of garlic minced and salt and pepper to taste.

Secondly, the lamburgers themselves.  Take 1 pound of lean, grass fed ground lamb (available through and with it mix in the following: 1/4 cup minced onion, 1/4 fresh parsley, salt and pepper to taste.  Now this time of year you can certainly grill them outdoors, or as I chose, broil them on a foil lined baking sheet for about 3 to 4 minutes per side.

Finally, brown both sides of your whole wheat pita bread and stuff with romaine lettuce.  Place two "burgers" in a pita pocket (now halved) and top with a helping share of tzatziki sauce and cherry tomatoes. 
Whole wheat grilled pita and grass fed lamburger

Grass fed meats are becoming a regular on grocery lists all across the country.  But finding local lamb, let alone grass fed, in this area is sometimes a feat in and of itself.  Windy Knob Farms is pleased to provide grass fed lamb below market prices.  This lamb is born and raised right here in Northport Michigan and processed at a USDA certified facility just outside of Traverse City.  Support your farms and support your community, all while gaining the health benefits of grass fed lamb.  Contact us today to place your whole or half order, and you too can be grilling lamb yet this summer!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Infamous Llama

Thirty some sheep.  Three dogs.  A cat.  A Clydesdale. And two of us.  And some barn mice I suppose.

But the Llama is the legend.

I bust butt on sheep management, breeding, feeding and I even ride a Clydesdale for pete's sake!  Nothing.  Tell my students I have a llama, and it's "Oh my gosh! You have a llama!"

Quick recap.  St. Drogo, the Parishioner of Shepherds, we needed a guard llama for the flock.  He needed a name... hench Drogo. (Drah-go)

He looks at you with ginormous eyeballs, all pupil, dark as night; contrasted with his locks of bright white hair (former name White Lighting, yes I'm serious).  And on a good day, he rocks his emo bangs.    He is simply a character and a half.   He walks up to you slowly, whenever anyone approaches the fenceline.  Cautiously, two toes at a time, he stares through you.  Judging.  Oh he is totally judging you.  To the point one starts to question himself.  Is there something on my face? Do I smell bad? What is it? Why is the llama looking at me like that?

It's just Drogo.  So uber confident, he makes even the best of us question ourselves.

That's Drogo the guardian of the flock, where the new lambs often leave Mom just to follow the pied piper.  Countless times I have seen Drogo, with two or three lambs in tow, followed by restless ewes chasing after their young.  Drogo is a rock star.
So much in fact, that Drogo has now gone A list on us.  An event that takes place tonight (4-14) in the the Grand Traverse Region, highlights local fashion designers and their abilities to resuse materials (once heading for a landfill) and turn them into promising, wearable fashions.  It is quite the event!   DJ, lights, stage, runway, bands.  It's one of those, you have to see it once in a lifetime at least.  And to think of the work these students from all over the area put into their pieces, it is really cool.  Well, Trashion as it is called, will sell trendy t-shirts to all of the people that attend.  Retro, trendy, fashionable, all key words when selling the marquis wearable item from Trashion.  And this year's 5th Anniversary design?  Well, a pop art version of Drogo of course!

Did we really doubt his abilities?  I think it was just a matter of time.  So while some of us here at the 'knob are in it for our five minutes of fame, don't forget there are still a slew of us that are working for a living.  Our class act of ewes did wonderfully on the lambing season, giving us a tremendous group of lambs for 2012 (including a bunch of ewe lambs).  And our spring shearing gave us quite a variety of colors including signature Moorit, grays, a black and of course the classic white fleeces such as Vera Lyn's, which was photographed just before being skirted (cleaned of all secondary wool and vegetable matter).    We have plenty a supply of yarn and fleece products available, so please feel free to contact us for anything on your wish list including yarns, roving, raw fleece and of course, lambs!  All from right here, our home in Leelanau County.     
Vera Lyn's 2012 Spring Fleece

Friday, March 16, 2012

All in a weeks time.

Oneida and her ram lamb
Here we are, finding ourselves in the middle of March, and to think we have been under 20 inches of snow, causing fallen trees and snapped branches that left us without power for over four days; and warmer temperatures which then caused flooding followed by sunny days and temps in the mid 70s. Man, what a week. Yes. That all occurred in less than a week.

Lambing has been an ongoing process. I have to say it has gone well in that there have been lots of healthy lambs and ewes. Things have gone smoothly for the most part and the lambs are just doing outstanding in their growth and development. With the variety of colors and new additions to our flock (at least until the lambs head to new farms) one can only say things have gone well. However, have things gone as planned? Um, no. If things went as planned, lambing would have ended a couple weeks ago. I even started breeding earlier this year, and yet I still find myself barn checkin’ for the remaining three ewes that definitely are pregnant and yet aren’t ready to deliver. I can’t help but smirk. Even when I think I have things “scheduled and under control,” I really don’t, not even close.

Lambing isn’t a negative thing of course; it’s just a lot of work (and I’m not even the one delivering the twins so really, who am I to complain). The work and 2am checks can add up and lead to stress, but I have to say there are moments that simply make lambing gratifying. Yesterday was one such moment where rolling up the driveway in the truck, I made the usual turn around the bend where I was quickly met with the usual view of the barn and backdrop of westerly views. Today however, every ewe, lamb and llama was out of the barn enjoying the unseasonably warm weather as much as anybody. The ewes were soaking up the sunshine, and with them, curled up in each of their bellies, was one, maybe two beautiful little lambs, just as content as they could be. What a site it was. I simply rolled down the window, propped my arm on the door and just sighed.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Black is the new... black?

Round Alaina
One of the many things that Windy Knob Farms prides itself in is its attention to details in breeding.  Having a background in the sciences and teaching genetics to high school students has paid dividends when it comes to selection and breeding programs with my sheep.  I will go as far as to say I am obsessed with the genetic possibilities.  While some mothers lay in labor hanging on the excitement of what lamb will pop out, I am yelling numbers at them and saying 'cmon 50% chance of a codon 171 with 25% chance badger faced ewe!  And yes. I do find that funny.

Last year there was one single black sheep on the farm.  Our amazing Alaina.  Her fleece is tremendous and to think its naturally colored that dark of black is truly amazing.  I hoped to bring that black color around in our flock, but time and time again I was getting variegated blacks and grays rather than solid black.  Until last spring when we had one black ram lamb our of Lisa.  His name was Peterson, after my favorite Peterson Park in Northport.

He of course became a keeper.  And I couldnt wait to use him in the flock breeidng managment, which I did this past fall. 

Helga only minutes old
Fast foward to last Tuesday, when Alaina became the first Ewe in labor and low and behold TWIN BLACK EWE LAMBS!  Wahoo!  I felt like Rosalyn Franklin, like I discovered something, not like Watson and Crick who just stole the idea.

Then came Rosalyns Baby.  A black ram.  Ella's Lamb? Black ram.   Holy cow people- I have black lambs running around all over the place!    Uh nice job Peterson.  Black is a gene that is hard to come by, but once you understand it and manage it in your flock, it truly is quite valuable and appearently predictable. 

Proud mom and her twins Ursula and Helga
We are now halfway in our lambing season, and things have gone quite well thus far.  Please visit us at where you can contact us to be placed on our list for desired breeding stock of both registered and naturally colored Corriedales.    By the way, the theme this year is a throwback to our heritage.  This year you will find traditional slovak and german names.  Pavol, Bratislav Fritz and Helga just to name a few!