My sheep work has undergone a significant shift. Two weeks ago, I was hefting hay into the feeder, which the sheep eyed wearily. They seemed to be saying “Hay…again?”
Fast forward to this week. It’s going to be hard to describe this experience without getting nauseatingly bucolic, but I’ll try. The recent rains left mist over the rolling fields where my sheep graze. The distant hills are hazy and the apple trees are starting to flower. I’m moving five long sections of Electronet fencing from the just-grazed paddock, trying to decide how best to utilize the pasture on the next section. I want to leave out the part that has a lot of tall, dry seedheads from last fall- seedheads could lodge in the sheeps’ wool and degrade its quality. I want to include enough fodder to sustain them for two days without damaging the grasses. Giving them just enough pasture with none to spare will force them to eat bedstraw, a nutritious but unpalatable plant that constitutes about a quarter of the pasture. It’s like making them eat their peas.
Hauling netting across the field, I discover a toad, frantically digging itself into the soil. If I were a better person, I would have respected its desire to be left alone, but instead I held it and photographed it first, then released it. In the trees, Wood Thrushes and Hermit Thrushes compete with their tinkling fluty notes. As the sun sets further while I am staking the net into the ground, a Barred Owl joins. I’m getting tired, but the fence is nearly set up. I’ve included enough space and fodder to keep them eating for two days but to force them to “eat everything on their plate” as it were.
I open the gate for the sheep and out they run. I’ve set up some old netting to encourage the girls (Janet in particular) to run straight in to the opening of their paddock. As you might imagine, this practice came about after an incident of having to round up loose sheep for 45 minutes when I really needed to be at work.
I hope that it keeps raining a little while longer. The grass grew a fair 4 inches after the first rain in a few weeks on Friday.