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  • Writer's pictureElie Ravitz-Basser

Winter Blog Post

This winter was a mild one. Here in Northern Virginia we experienced no more than half an inch of snow (which was actually more like sleet anyway). That being said, it was incredibly cold in January. The wind was fierce, making it difficult for me to gather the strength to journey out of bed on cold days. January passed and quickly the weather became more mild. We're in the third week of February right now, and each day hovers around 40 degrees (shockingly warm for an East Coast February). This winter was a busy one for me. I had my academic responsibilities, namely a research paper and a string of exams and quizzes. In addition, I also prioritized my extra-curricular activities, like singing, tennis, and veterinary tasks on the farm. Speaking of which, I am currently raising two lambs who were abandoned by their mother. Read on to learn about the babies, Muffin and Cupcake, and some delicious recipes. :)

Finding Muffin

On a bitter cold day in early January, my dad and I were walking the field when we came across a shivering brown and white lump. As we approached, it began to take shape---it was a newborn sheep. White with brown speckles, she was standing and crying for her mother. Clearly, she had been abandoned. All of the sheep were in another pasture, and the lamb hadn't received any colostrum yet. I wrapped her up in a blue fuzzy blanket and we drove her back with us to the house. Immediately, she took the bottle of colostrum I prepared for her. I named her Muffin, and Muffin was so famished that she drank almost 6 ounces of colostrum.

After taking the colostrum, Muffin quickly settled in for a nap. I noticed her shaky breathing and small coughs, a sign of pneumonia in lambs. Pneumonia is extremely common, especially in newborn lambs that are abandoned or left out in the cold for long periods of time. Pneumonia strikes quickly, weakening the lambs and causing immediate high fevers. I injected Muffin with a shot of Norocillin, similar to Penicillin for sheep and goats. While Muffin definitely did not appreciate the injection, it was definitely worth it...she felt so much better the next day.

My family and I did not predict how quickly Muffin would grow. She's a very big eater, and enjoys frequent meals. Now, she's approximately a month and two weeks and she's already heavier than our one-year old goats. Muffin still has her brown dots on her back, ears, and tail. She loves to be with people, which she expresses through her jumping and frolicking.

Raising Muffin has been so fun and informative but little did I know that I'd also be adopting another abandoned newborn sheep only three weeks later...

Cupcake, the Tiniest Lamb

In the first week of February, a tiny 2 pound black lamb was born. Cupcake's mom abandoned him, most likely because of his weak state and small size. He was so small that reaching her body for milk was an impossibility. Walking the field, we found him on his side. Cupcake was so small that he could fit into the cup of one's palms. His energy was so low that he did not even notice when we picked him up to bring him inside and give him colostrum. Giving milk to Cupcake was difficult, as he hadn't developed a sucking instinct. I had to repeatedly stick the bottle nipple into his mouth and slowly help him suck. Immediately after drinking half an ounce, Cupcake began to aggressively cough. His body was shivering and clearly his lungs were weak. Pneumonia had struck. Cupcake received repeated Norocillin injections as well as oral banamine for fevers.

Cupcake's path to recovery has not been linear in any way. His breathe is still labored, as his lungs are still recovering from pneumonia and aspiration, when liquid gains entry into the lungs. However, we are doing everything we can to keep Cupcake safe and healthy. He's still small, weighing only nine pounds at three weeks old. Most of the day, he spends indoors curled up next to me on a blanket. He enjoys his naps but when the weather is warm, he also loves to go outside.

Cupcake and Muffin have become the best of friends. Muffin has taken an interest in Cupcake and lets Cupcake sit next to her. When the days are warmer, they spend time outside together, walking and jumping.


In honor of Muffin and Cupcake, I've included two delicious recipes for both types of tasty treats below!!

Lemon Poppyseed Muffins

for the batter:

3 C all-purpose flour

1 C sugar

2 tbsp poppy seeds

1 tbsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 C plain whole milk yogurt or low-fat yogurt

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice, optional

1 1/2 tbsp grated lemon zest

2 large eggs

8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled

for the dough:

1/4 C sugar

1/4 C lemon juice

coarse sugar for sprinkling, optional


Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease 12-cup muffin tin.

Whisk flour, sugar, poppy seeds, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, whisk yogurt, lemon zest, and eggs until smooth. Gently fold yogurt mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Fold in melted butter. Do not overmix. If you overmix, the muffins will be dense.

Divide batter evenly among prepared muffin cups. (I like to use this ice cream scoop to make it easy) Bake until golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes. Rotate muffin tin halfway through baking.

While muffin are baking, simmer sugar and lemon juice together in a small saucepan over medium heat until it turns into a light syrup, about 3-5 minutes.

Remove muffin tin to a wire rack. Brush with lemon syrup. Sprinkle with coarse sugar. Let muffins cool in tin for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool for another 10 minutes before serving.

Red Velvet Cupcakes

2 large eggs, room temperature and separated

1 and 1/3 cups (166g) all-purpose flour* (spoon & leveled)

1/4 cup (32g) cornstarch*

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

4 teaspoons (7g) natural unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup (200g) granulated sugar

1/2 cup (120ml) canola or vegetable oil

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon distilled white vinegar

liquid or gel red food coloring

1/2 cup (120ml) buttermilk, room temperature


Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-count muffin pan with cupcake liners. beat 2 egg whites on high speed in a medium bowl until soft peaks form, about 2-3 minutes.

Sift the flour and cornstarch together to make sure it is evenly combined. Whisk this, along with baking soda, cocoa powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy – about 1 minute.

Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together fairly well. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed.

Add the oil and beat on high for 2 minutes.

Add 2 egg yolks and the vanilla. Beat on medium-high speed until combined. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the vinegar and the food coloring– until you reach your desired color.

With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients in three additions alternating with the buttermilk, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients, and mixing each addition just until incorporated. Do not overmix.

Fold whipped egg whites into cupcake batter with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. The batter will be silky and slightly thick.

Spoon batter into cupcake liners filling 1/2 – 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 20-21 minutes or until the tops of the cupcakes spring back when gently touched and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Don’t overbake; your cupcakes will dry out.

Allow to cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post!! :)

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