Thoughts While Mowing

I spent about 6 hours mowing the fields this weekend.  It was past time to cut down the woody overgrowth and encourage new, more palatable growth for the flock.  Jim and I attached the bush hog to his little 18hp tractor and off I went…like a herd of turtles.  18hp is just enough to power the mower, but I couldn’t go too fast without bogging down the engine.  It gave me some time to think.

Some thoughts:

  • Crows are definitely bird-sona non grata no matter where they land.  I watched Eastern Kingbirds and Redwing Blackbirds mob crows anywhere they’d land.
  • When you start the engine of your tractor, herring gulls will arrive within a half hour hoping to see you run over something tasty.  The gull tailing me was out of luck, as best I could tell.  I never saw it land.
  • Usually, my thoughts regarding the sheep involve phrases like “I really need to _____ “, “I should have finished ________ last week” and “I’d better _________ before ______ happens” and other behind-the-eightball feelings.   This year, I actually feel on top of things!  The lambs were weaned on time.  I have a plausible timeframe for getting the rams away from the ewes, and an intriguing idea for this year’s meat processing.  Once the rams are out, I can increase the grain for the ewe lambs and ewes, and hopefully get some more growth going.
  • I am also pleased with how the sheep look.  Everyone seems bright and healthy.  The 4th Doctor is almost fat, the ewes all in good flesh and the BFL lambs are growing well.  The only lamb lagging behind in either group is Mr. Peanutbutter.  He was lean from the start, and an earlyish weaning probably did him no favors.  He’s growing, nevertheless.  I’ve noticed that “Failure to Thrive” is typical in an lamb or two from every crop in the Cormo flock, so I’m not as concerned as I could be.  I’ll just file that under Cormos: Genetic Issues.
  • The main pasture looks much better this year than it did last year.  I mowed in time to head off the thistle bloom, so hopefully I can suppress the thistles (which sheep won’t eat).  I also caught the bedstraw before seeds set, so hopefully that’s killed, too. The donkey pasture is as marginal as before.  I’m not sure I can squeeze much performance out of that patch.
  • I noticed two Bobolink nests with chicks near fledging in the field I mowed.  I managed to avoid hitting any bobolinks, and also left patches of unmowed grass where the nests seemed to be.  I’m hoping that’s enough to keep them safe and fed.  I really couldn’t avoid mowing because I’d have no fodder in a week or two otherwise.

mowing

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Talking about Solace

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I’ve been feeling sad for the past week or so.  Even though the attack in Orlando feels very personal to me, it’s not one particular event or situation that’s upsetting me.  I think that it’s the tone of conversation I’ve seen over Orlando, Black Lives Matter, Brexit, the presidential election, and even topics that are important but not ultimately tremendously significant, like merging local school districts.  I’m less upset that terrible things happen than I am at how poorly, shortsightedly, and provincially we handle them.  I am most upset at how people talk about other groups of people.  When we forget that large groups are made up of individuals who are as complex and contradictory as we all are, terrible words and decisions follow.

So I turn to my sheep in search of peace.  In June, I usually find them relaxing under their shade, taking pleasure in the comforts of home and company.  An ear shakes off some flies with a quick flick.   They turn to see me and usually baa an acknowledgement.  Sometimes they all get up, hoping I’ll set up a new pasture.  But sometimes, I can just sit down, and a few will come and visit, and gradually we’ll all sit down together.

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What goes right, what goes wrong.

I had a long to-do list for last Saturday.   The 4th Doctor needed shearing and the lambs needed to be weaned, which entailed moving them to a field near where I work.

The first trip, at 9:30 in the morning, was to set up the paddock at work in Cambridge, 35 minutes from the farm.  We got this done rapidly, though the pasture had to be carved out of the middle of the field so that the sheep would have a shelter tree.   With the portable fencing all set up, we plugged in the charger for a final check.  It clicked twice, and then was dead.  Crap.  We figured maybe we had left it on, and decided to swap the battery.

Knowing we couldn’t fix the fencer right away, we had a moment to run to The Cupboard (Cambridge’s best source for donuts and sandwiches) before heading home to shear the doctor with Phoebe.  Purchases in hand, we returned to the parking lot to find the passenger rear tire nearly flat and hissing hard.  Crap.

The handy thing about our location was that we were 100 yards from a gas station and 100 yards from an Aubuchon Hardware.  So I went to buy a tire patch kit, and Matt rolled the tire to the Free Air device at the gas station.  Forty-five minutes and a few perilous crossings of VT Route 15 later, we were back in business.

Thirty-give minutes back to Williston, and patient Phoebe was ready to help us round up the sheep and to shear The 4th Doctor, two hours later than our initial 11:30 meeting time. Getting the sheep in from pasture was entertaining, insofar as Eleanor and Marianne couldn’t figure out how to walk up an embankment and ran back into the paddock to baa and panic for a while.  I eventually just left them there.

My initial plan to just tie up The Doctor and shear him upright failed, so Matt, Phoebe and I restrained him in various configurations while I sheared his wool off.  The wool is beautiful, but the ram wound up looking a little rag-tag.  I’ll do better next time.  I’m thinking I’ll home-shear the BFLs but pay for the Cormos, since they have much more wool.

We loaded the lambs, and off they went to Cambridge.  We dropped them in the pasture and plugged in the electric fence kit from the sheep at home- the one we knew worked.  Some frantic googling and a few phone-calls later, and we realized that the only farm store that might have a replacement power unit was our favorite place, Guy’s Farm and Yard, all the way back in Williston.  So back to Williston we went, hoping we’d make it before closing.  In we ran, with 15 minutes to pick out a new energizer.

Matt took a half hour to put the fencer back together with the brand new energizer.  He added an extra battery for increased storage on rainy days, which we’ve had without break since!

Some weanlings in the field near where I work, taking it hard, as you can see.

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