..... sheep that is. The sheep are moving out to pasture. "Out to Pasture" - it is such a common phrase that I remember hearing my Mom and Dad say when I was a young girl. Until I was involved in raising sheep, I never really thought about its origins but of course it comes from the agrarian language of the past. Now it is part of my everyday language.
It's not a bad thing - For humans the term "out to pasture" has connotations of uselessness and lack of worth. For me, I think of Out to Pasture as more of a restorative part of the year and cycle. The winter is my out to pasture time of the year. During those shorter days of the year, it is time for me to restore my creative juices. To make things. To rest up until the next cycle of the year - the growing season - happens when on a farm, it is very busy.
This past week, we sorted ewes and loaded up the handy/dandy landscape trailer - 16 to 18 animals at a time. It's a bit complicated. The goal is to only move out the ewes that have older lambs that no longer need their milk. (It takes several loads over several days - if you are sharp, you will notice that the sky is different colors in these photos.) Before, the ewes are sorted, the temporary electric fencing must be set up at the field the sheep are grazing. That is a project in itself for The Farmer.
We gather sheep into a small area in the barn using wire hog panels as a tool. Luckily sheep are animals that flock - one moves and the rest follow. It's not exactly easy but it happens. The Farmer backs up the truck with an attached trailer to the fence. (Thank goodness he is good at it - I stink at backing up anything.) We secure the panels so no one escapes. I open the gate and hope one of the ewes will remember that last year there was green grass at the end of the ride. With any luck, the ewes will go on up onto the trailer. I count as they move through the gate.
We close the trailer with about 15 to 20 ewes aboard. Off they go to the greener pastures in Leyden, MA where they will spend the summer and fall. Here they are running off the trailer at the Zimmerman Farm where many sheep will be spending the grazing season.
The ewes run off the trailer, knowing that at the end there will be green grass to eat. They have been eating hay (which is grass actually - only it is dried or preserved in a myriad of ways).
I like to compare the ewe's first grass to the first green LOCAL asparagus of the season.
Alongside the road of this particular field, there is a quince tree blooming......
I must ask this summer if I can have some quince for some jam....
Here in western Massachusetts - aka The Pioneer Valley - aka Asparagus Valley - the vegetable asparagus is a Rite of Spring. Here at our Farmhouse, we have been eating it EVERY NIGHT for the past 2 weeks. I cook it simply - steamed and then dressed with some butter and a bit of an acid - either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar. We are yet to tire of it. The season is coming to an end.
The ewes must find this grass to be of a similar taste after all the preserved food they have been eating since November.
I love this photo of the ewes looking at me - waiting to see who else will arrive at the field. Many of the ewes are just being separated from their lambs and will dry off to be bred again in August or September. As a Mom, I can understand their apprehension and relief as their lambs move on to live their own lives. The ewes quickly settle in to their new routine of grazing and sleeping. They need to restore their systems for breeding season which will begin again in August.
It is a cycle of life on any farm. I appreciate the connectedness I have with the land and Mother Nature. It is a gift.
If you are in the States, I hope you are having a relaxing Memorial Day!