Archive for I got all livestock. I got all livestock.

It’s a sheep vacation!

We were down to about seven bales of hay when we got the call from some local friends.  Our pasture was slowly rebounding from drought but not yet ready for the stampede of hooves or the voracious palates that accompanied them.  Anxiety was ever-present, the nagging problem of how we were going to feed those thirteen ungulate mouths hung overhead like the diesel stench of a dump truck idling in front of you at a stoplight.  “We have two acres of overgrowth in our back yard – we were trying to figure out how to mow it.  Full of poison ivy.  Would you be interested in putting your sheep back there?” The call from the friends was received in much the same way one would receive news of winning big.  “YES!” we said, without a moment’s hesitation, and I imagine now that it would have been completely appropriate to have clicked our heels mid-air, in a leprechaun-style leap of glee.  Were we slightly more nimble, we might have done just that.

So we packed them up and drove them down the road a piece and sent them to an All-You-Can-Eat Fat Camp.  They didn’t even register our leaving as they began gorging themselves on greens the likes of which they hadn’t known for months.  They’re there right now, feasting contentedly while simultaneously clearing out the overgrowth that had made the parcel impassable for our friends.  The jury’s out though, on the poison ivy.  There seems to be no reason why they can’t eat it but they choose to do so sparingly, clipping the random plants interspersed with the good stuff but ignoring the big patches of it.  Goats, I hear, are great for clearing out poison ivy but we are blessedly short on goats.

The lines between old and new paddock really are that delineated.  The sheep do good work.

There’s an eery quiet here now that’s taken some getting used to.  We have no sheep here, have no sheep in our day save for the scheduled visits/paddock moving every two days.  There’s no lack of attention for them, though.  Our friends seem to be enjoying the company, letting them out to explore the yard proper or hanging with just Munson.  I suspect it might be hardest to get him back home when the clearing-out is done – that guy makes fast friends with all he meets.

I miss my flock, though, ecstatic as I am that they are getting 3+ squares a day.  Don’t we all come to appreciate our kids more when they’re gone away at camp?

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The dark side of Free Range

It’s the same story every Spring.  This year, I think, I will finally make something of these flowerbeds.  This year, I did.  Isadora adopted one for her own and we filled it with shade-loving plants.  She took a Sharpie marker and even went so far as to label one plant’s marker with “most prized possession.”  So sweet, I thought, with slight misgivings.  I didn’t want her to become too attached to the bed and its plants.  There was a reason these beds weren’t yet established, one that can be summed up in three words.  Free. Range. Chickens.

Geranium cuttings, nurtured all year indoors, made their way to the lovely ring bed right outside the back door.  There was no rain, then no rain, and still yet no rain.  Captain Daddio took upon himself the task of watering, did it with relish.  He nurtured that little ring bed, letting the hose soak it for lazy minutes on end.  One day, those geraniums bloomed and we rejoiced!

Then I became The Crazy Lady Who Runs From The House With a Broom And Much Shrieking to chase away the chickens ready to dip their toes into this newly discovered dust bath.  Nevermind that it wasn’t the least bit dusty.  Nevermind that we had all worked so hard to get that bed in bloom.  Nevermind that we had, in exasperation, ceded the front beds (including Isadora’s) to their bathing needs.  Nevermind that they had the entire shaded perimeter of their coop to bathe in, plus those two holes rudely placed square in the middle of major farm thoroughfares, the very same that we’ve been meaning to fill for years.

Perhaps I turned my back for an hour too long, or perhaps the heat had sapped my will to live just long enough to stop caring.  In a heartbeat, the bed was toast.  I rallied for one final advance, then swiftly surrendered.  Some days I think these vandals make a strong case for confinement reared poultry.  Other days I can be heard muttering to myself, “Ah, well.  There’s always next year.”

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Shearing Day

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Unplanned Pregnancy

Bet that got your attention.  To be clear, the pregnancy is not mine, thank goodness, but Garnet’s.  Seems she’s quite the Fertile Myrtle.  My highly-advanced shepherdess ciphering indicates she conceived these little sweeties just a month after her ram lamb was born.  Wowee.  She’s due for a nice, long, breeding-free vacation.  But neither she nor we would wish away these delightful twin lambs.  Sophia is the freckle-nosed ewe; her brother Shall Not Be Named.

I was utterly and blissfully unaware that Garnet was laboring.  I had suspected she was near her due date, but was currently being steamrolled by a combination Chicken Butchering / Death in the Family punch in the face.  Had I known she was in labor and felt the slightest inclination to drop everything and help her…I’d be writing this post from the padded confines of the Deep End, where I surely would have plummeted.  That said, once the lambs were discovered (Isadora: Mom! You’re never going to believe this, but Garnet has had twins!) little Sophia seemed a bit lethargic.  I couldn’t quite tell if she was eating well enough.  Then I realized she was too weak to stand and I kicked into Sheep Midwife gear and gave her some warmed colostrum from the freezer via a rubber tube that I carefully guided down her throat.  Then I worried. A lot.

But she bounced back, quite literally, and has stolen our hearts.

OH! I just remembered that I promised you a recap of shearing.  I think that should be possible before the week is through.

fighting over the one teat that’s exposed

With Munson, for reference.

 

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Please put away the Slip ‘n Slide after each use.

Or else.

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Mister Munson

Munson-in-film exists only at arm’s length or closer; there shall exist no shots of him from any real distance from the camera because once your presence is detected, he’s at your side in a flash.  Steady, true Munson.  He’s a dear.  95% of his time is spent as a sheep, with the sheep on pasture, learning to graze.  In the slim 5% margin left, he’s at our side – drinking from the bottle, assisting Daddio in his garage workshop, climbing the trailers with the kids, or poking through the garden with Momma.  We’re so glad he’s here, despite his sad entry into our home. But now that he is, we’ve integrated him nicely into the workings of the farm, and we’ve discovered some interesting possibilities as well.  We’re a 4-H family now, gleefully, and we’ve just received our book of entry possibilities for the summer fair.  One entry in particular has gotten our attention:  The Class U Sheep Costume Class, which involves adorning a sheep in a costume.  I know I haven’t properly represented our collective love for creative costumes in this blog space, save for our yearly cowboy/square dance attire at the Sugar Maple Music Fest, so you’ll have to take my word for it when I say that we get into making costumes in a big way.  That we can apply that creativity to a sheep and then parade it around the show ring at the county fair?  Oh. Can’t tell you how it’s begun to capture our imagination.  Can’t even begin.  Stay tuned to this one, folks.  The outcome is quite promising.

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Pasture reclamation

Three…

two…

one… blast off!

The purging power of fire has reduced a mountain of junk wood to ash.  Never fear – I didn’t want to waste a single useful piece either.  I spent hours one day sorting out the useful bits from the soft, punky, crumbling-in-place bits and set those aside before the flames hit.  What I wouldn’t give for a pack of worker bees to swoop in and clear out the ash, top with mulch, and sow some pasture seeds! Barring that option, we turn our attention briefly to other tasks while our muscles regroup.  Meanwhile, the sheep grow nervous while the pasture is eaten faster than the rains replenish it.

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