Monday, December 08, 2008
Tumultuous Times with Winter Arriving
Two degrees - that's what the thermometer said this morning. Winter really has arrived with a cold blast. So far just a dusting of snow here but some nice snow promised later this week. The sheep are now getting used to eating hay instead of nice green grass. The first few days, they aren't too keen on it but then their appetite gets the better of them and they all look forward to feeding time. The photo below shows The Farmer's Brother's hay, lined up neatly along his view at the top of his world - just waiting to be fed to his dairy cows.
We’ve had a few tumultuous weeks here on the farm. Last week, it felt like the world was falling in on me and my little family. I don’t want to share all the dirty details of it all – let’s just say the low-lights have been eight sheep being eaten by the coyotes, six sheep attacked and almost killed (let’s hope they get better). Everyday, we wake up and wonder what will happen next – how many animals will be injured, or worse yet dead. You don’t know how bad The Farmer and his wife (that would be me) feel upon checking your animals in the morning and find bloody animals or worse yet, a freshly killed 200 lb pregnant ewe with their stomach ripped out.
In the winter, our sheep live around the mountain from our farmhouse. We have a large greenhouse barn that has worked out really great for almost 20 years. But our house isn’t there and that means that noone is available to go out in the middle of the night to check on the sheep and the predator situation.
Eeyore the Donkey seemed to be doing his job for the first few days he was living at our winter sheep barn with the entire flock of sheep. (Jeremy our guard llama doesn’t seem to scare anything away anymore – the coyotes must be on to him.) Regular readers of this blog may remember a few weeks ago I spoke of seeing a pack of five coyotes about a mile up the road from the sheep. I was speaking with a wild life biologist yesterday and he said those five romping coyotes were probably a mom and her now full grown pups. I knew we would be hearing from those coyotes after I saw them. My heart sank when I saw how healthy and lively they were even though I also thought it was quite cool to see wild animals like that in broad daylight.
Everyday The Farmer put a new plan into effect to protect the sheep from the coyotes but as one sheep farmer friend said to him once – “No matter what you do, the coyotes will get in. They will find a way.” You would think five strands of high tensile fence with a charge that has knocked me on my butt backed up by hot electronet fence would deter them but I guess not. He just keeps trying.
For all of you who might want to suggest a guard dog or two -- yes, we have thought about them for years. Since we don’t live where the sheep are, The Farmer is too fearful of what those dogs would do to passersby. He feels it is too risky. We’re hoping to have the situation more under control by lambing season which starts in about 3 weeks. But as everyone knows, there really is no controlling “Mother Nature.” We just have to co-exist.
Worst of all, we had to tell Julia that the coyotes had killed her pet lamb Cora. Cora was Julia’s bottle lamb from a couple of years ago. She was a soulful, kind ewe. She let Julia rest on her fluffy wool backside, even after she was full grown and had raised her lamb. It was so hard to listen to Julia cry in disbelief. The only thing we could tell her was that we were sure there would be another bottle lamb next year. But honestly, I know, the next bottle lamb won’t be Cora. There will never be another Cora.
In the midst of all this, The Farmer has got to get this load of wood ash spread. (If you look real hard, you can see him standing in front of his tractor.) Instead of commercial fertilizer and lime, this year he found an alternative source of soil amendments for his hayfields. It’s an experiment that he hopes will increase the yields. That’s one big pile, isn’t it? The big pile of brown stuff next to it is wood chips for composting. The electric company has been trimming the trees along the lines. They were looking for places to get rid of the wood chips so we told them to dump them on our land for composting. It should turn into some nice soil amendments in a couple of years. And it was delivered for free – such a deal.
Never a dull minute around here.