Parking the Sheep

Once again, it’s mid-July and we’ve had no rain for weeks. Some finally fell this morning, and a major storm is brewing as I type, but it’s too late for us. We’re leaving in 3 days for an actual trip, and there’s not enough grass for the sheep/cattle/llamas to eat while we’re gone. There might be grass in 6 days, but we’ll be gone by then.

So, what to do? Wave to the farmsitter as we drive away and wish her luck?

Nah, we wouldn’t do that. We like Bonnie and want her to keep coming to the farm.

So we have no choice but to set up big round bales for them to eat. Luckily the neighbor cut and baled our north pasture, so we actually have bales.

Each group of animals will have its own spot with shade, water, and hay. I call this ‘parking the sheep.’ Instead of the animals moving to a new spot every day, which they can no longer do because they’ve eaten all the grass and the grass needs time to regrow, they’ll just hang out in one place and munch on hay. Well, actually they’ll complain bitterly to Bonnie every day about the lack of fresh grass and make her feel bad, but when they get hungry enough they’ll eat the hay.

The rams will be safely behind the 8-wire fence. The cattle will be in the upper east pasture which has been inundated with Virginia creeper, which we hope they’ll eat. The sheep hate it, so it’s taken over a big chunk of the pasture.

This is why it’s a good idea to have a diverse farm—sheep will eat some weeds that cattle won’t, and cattle are supposed to eat some weeds that sheep won’t. When we return from our trip, I’m hoping to see all the Virginia creeper gone.

The sheep will be next door in the lower east pasture, on what is usually the lushest grass. If any grass is going to grow while we’re gone, it’s this grass.

So tomorrow Melissa will put the hay spear on the back of the tractor, and move the bales.

I’d show you a photo of the tractor, but… ahh, no camera.

I’d show you a photo of the hay bales, but…once again, no camera.

So here’s another piece of artwork which I did when we hosted an outdoor painting class on our farm. It photographed poorly, but doesn’t look half bad in person.

We’ve got to get a camera soon. I’m running out of artwork.

5 thoughts on “

  1. Deep sympathies on your lack of grass– we have the same problem here, but for very different reasons. The rain never STOPPED falling, and we’ve had one of the wettest, coldest summers on record in Maine. There wasn’t enough sun to keep the pasture grass growing at a good rate, and now the cattle are punching the overgrazed areas into mud. Needless to say, we set up round bales too.

    The one bright spot–feeble weather joke– is that our hay gal baled up 18 round bales for us just before the June deluge destroyed everyone else’s hay crops. It’s wrapped and curing in a field two miles down the road. Every time I drive by that field, I can’t help breaking out into a grin.

    Hope you have a lovely trip, with all the critters safely parked!

  2. I love your artwork!!! As only a person with hay-eating critters can appreciate the beauty of all those lovely round bales…AHHHH…. We too have had a rather dry year, although we’ve been getting just enough rain to keep things growing. We don’t have alot of acreage, so we keep hay in front of our animals most of the time. We used to have a couple of sheep a few years back, and for a time they ran with the cattle. There are some weeds that neither one will eat, unfortunately. (we moved them out of there because a little bull calf was pretty mean to them) Goats are really great for the weeds, but they have a few,too, that they save until everything else is gone before they’ll touch it.
    Have nice trip, Hopefully everything will be nice and greened up when you get back!

  3. I would love to send you some of our extra rain! Here in East-Central Missouri it’s been raining a little or a lot every day for weeks. The corn in particular is unhappy about the wet feet, although the tomatoes seem to be loving it (and no split tomatoes so far this year!). We have no sheep (yet!), but the chickens don’t seem to care whether its wet or dry.
    Hope you have a nice (dry) trip!

  4. You mention you write about the things that go wrong in farming, and that appeals to me.

    I’m no farmer but my partner and I are two American city boys who have rural landed in New Zealand. We have an olive grove and we’ve been learning how to care for the trees and for our new chickens.

    We also lease some of the land to a stock agent who runs cattle and sheep — which means we don’t need a farmsitter if we go away, but we would need a chickensitter.

  5. Yes, yes, please send rain. We were in Colorado–LOTS of rain. They’re getting LOTS of rain in Florida where my sister lives.

    But here, in MN? Not so much….

    Olive trees in New Zealand—sounds amazing!

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