on the road

on the road

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Gourmet Sheepherders

I have the honor of serving as the vice president of the California Wool Growers Association - the oldest livestock organization in the state. I recently asked my fellow officers, all of whom are of Basque heritage, to share their favorite lamb recipes. I can't wait to try them!

I should say that most of the sheep ranchers I know gravitate towards the lower priced cuts of lamb. That's not to say we don't enjoy a good rack of lamb or loin chop when we have the chance; rather, I suspect that most of us would rather sell these expensive cuts - or save them for special occasions.

Here are the recipes they shared!

Ryan Indart, President
Ryan and his family farm and ranch in Fresno County. I've always wanted a recipe for Basque beans - can't wait to try this one! He says its a combination of recipes from Wool Growers Basque Restaurant in Bakersfield and Louie's Basque Corner in Reno - two of my favorite places to eat!

Basque Beans
Ingredients
1-1/2 bags dried kidney and pinto beans
1/3 cup bacon or salt pork
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
8 oz can tomato sauce
1/2 tsp dried thyme/oregano/basil
pinch red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
3 cups water or beer/wine mixture
2 cups beef stock
3/4 lbs boneless pork (cubed)
3/4 lbs ham steak w/ bone
1 bay leaf
1/2 lb Spanish or Mexican chorizo or linguisa
Lamb stew meat

Soak beans overnight or do a quick soak (google it!). Rinse beans and return to pot. Add enough water to cover 3/4 inches. Bring to a boil over high and then reduce to a simmer for 2 hours. While beans are cooking, cook boneless pork, bacon, lamb stew meat, and chorizo for a few minutes (don't cook all the way) along with onions and garlic - use white wine and butter. After the beans have cooked 1 hour, stir in the meat/garlic/onion mix, along with tomato sauce, thyme/oregano/basil, pepper flakes, salt and pepper. Cook for one more hour and let rest. Eat the next day.

Sheep Camp Stew
Ryan says he makes this recipe during lambing season.




































Lamb Shanks or Ribs
Ryan says this is one of his favorite recipes!

Ed Anchordoguy, Secretary/Treasurer
Ed raises sheep in Sonoma County - and he's the money guy for our association! He sent the following recipes:

"Two very simple ones which you probably know. Leg of Lamb- Cut Rosemary into small sprigs and skin gloves of garlic.  Make holes in leg with a knife and stuff both a sprig of Rosemary and a clove of garlic into each hole.  Make holes all over both sides of leg.  Put salt and pepper on the outside of leg if you want and either bbq or put in oven. Lamb Chops- Chop up rosemary and garlic gloves in a Mezzaluna wood bowl with Mezzaluna knife until you dice it all into almost a paste.  You can also create the same paste in a blender or food processor.  You can add salt and pepper if you want.  Put the mash on thick on one side of the lamb chop (loin is best of course, lamb steaks work well also), the side with paste up on the bbq.  If you are putting them in oven you can do both sides.  You just don’t want it to burn much, just crispy.  There is a small company in Clovis called The Basque Co.  They make a Meat Tenderizer- BBQ Sauce which is excellent to marinate any cut of lamb.  I have been using it for years.  You can buy it in most major grocery stores.  You can also order it directly from the source and have it shipped to you.  They also make a great Seafood Marinade." [Note: We've used this marinade for years - it's our favorite for just about every kind of meat!]

Ed also forwarded this recipe - he says that once his friends have tried it, they always ask for it again!





























Frankie Itturia, Immediate Past President
Frankie and his family graze sheep in the Bakersfield area and along the east side of the Sierra. He preceded Ryan as CWGA President. Frankie's dad, Paco, was CWGA President when I worked for the California Cattlemen's Association more than 20 years ago (which, as I like to remind my cattleman friends, is the second oldest livestock organization in the state!). Frankie shared a number of great recipes from the Bo-Peep cookbook put out in Kern County several years ago!










































































I think I'll need to acquire one of those cookbooks!

Finally, I'll share one of my family's favorite recipes. As the only non-Basque member of our current officer team - and as the only Scotch-Irish-German (and other various ethnicities) officer, I thought I'd share a decidedly non-Basque recipe! My family usually has this on Christmas Eve.

Scotch Broth
(Adapted from the Fannie Farmer cookbook)

3 lbs lamb breast or neck slices
8 cups cold water
1/2 cup barley
3 TBS butter
2 carrots, diced fine
2 stalks celery, diced fine
2 small white turnips or rutabagas, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, diced fine
Salt
Freshly ground pepper

Remove most of the fat from the meat and cut into small pieces. Put it in a pot with the cold water. Bring to a boil and stir in the barley. Simmer, partially covered, for 1-1/2 hours, or until the meat and barley are tender, adding more water if any evaporates. Remove the meat from the bones. Cool the soup and skim off the fat. Melt the butter in a skillet and add the carrots, celery, turnip (or rutabaga), and onion. Cook over low heat, stirring often, for 10 minutes. Add to the soup. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and cook for another 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Serve piping hot.

What's your favorite lamb recipe!? I challenge all of my fellow sheep producers (foreign and domestic!) to share a recipe in the comments section! Let's have some fun with this!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

52 Weeks of Sheep: #1

Here's my first attempt at vlogging! Enjoy! And let me know if there are specific questions or topics you'd like me to cover in the next 51 weeks!



You can subscribe to my YouTube channel, too - flyingmulefarm!


Saturday, September 2, 2017

52 Weeks of Sheep - a New Video Blog

As a part-time shepherd with a day job, I've come to realize that I have an opportunity (perhaps, even, a responsibility) to talk about the day-to-day realities of raising sheep. Many of my full-time sheepherding colleagues don't have time to tell their stories; their days are consumed with caring for sheep. There are exceptions, obviously - be sure to check out these Instagram accounts of a few of my favorite California shepherds: @californiasheeprancher, @starcreeklandstewards, @wookeyranch, @humboldtherder, @skyelarkranch and @jaimegreywin!

Nearly 2 years ago, I started a project I called #Sheep365 - I took (and talked about) a photo of our sheep operation each day for a full year. I found it to be a fun - and challenging - project! Having something to say everyday is not as easy as it sounds (even for me).

This year, beginning this Saturday, I'm going to try something different. While I'll continue my written blog, I'm going to start a once-a-week video blog (or "vlog") focusing on whatever it is we're doing with the sheep. This week's installment is a short video clip about starting the process of flushing the ewes. Flushing means we put our breeding flock on a rising plane of nutrition, which increases ovulation and (subsequently) our lambing percentage. Today, we moved the ewes from dry annual rangeland near Hidden Falls Park west of Auburn to our irrigated pastures closer to town.

To follow my "52 Weeks of Sheep" project, follow me on Instagram at @flyingmulefarm. I'll also post links to my Flying Mule Farm Facebook page (at www.facebook.com/flyingmulefarm).


Friday, August 25, 2017

21st Century Shepherds in California!

In the 30 years we've raised sheep, we've sold sheep in lots of ways - in parts (as meat), directly to processors, through livestock auctions in Escalon and French Camp, and to our friends and neighbors. We've seen our lambs leave the ranch in our gooseneck trailer, in a pickup with stock racks, and in the back of a Subaru station wagon. In 2017, we're trying a new marketing technique: next month, we'll be offering a Shropshire ram lamb and two crossbred ewe lambs in the first ever California Wool Growers Association Online Niche/Specialty Breeds Sheep Sale! Welcome to the 21st century!

Just as this marketing technique is new to us, it's also new to the California Wool Growers Association. As vice president of the association, I feel like it's my obligation to support the sale! CWGA has long managed the California Ram Sale, a live auction that currently takes place in Porterville each April. This sale is focused on commercial range operations - some buyers may purchase 30-40 blackface or Rambouillet rams. Smaller scale producers (like us) don't typically have a use for that many rams, and these breeds don't typically fit our programs. This online sale is an exciting new way for CWGA to meet the needs of members like me!

Perhaps a bit of historical perspective is necessary - it occurs to me that some (most) of my readers don't know much (anything) about the California Wool Growers Association! CWGA was founded in 1860 - making it the oldest livestock organization in the state (which I take great relish in reminding my friends who are members of the California Cattlemen's Association). My predecessors in CWGA formed the organization to help market their wool - fiber was far more important than meat in the 19th Century! These forward-thinking sheep ranchers secured a ship to move their wool around the horn to the East Coast wool markets. I'm sure in their day, they were considered cutting-edge marketers!

Today, CWGA represents sheep producers of every stripe and scale in California. Most of the large-scale operations are members; increasingly, many of the small-scale outfits like ours are as well. We find strength in numbers - we can purchase vaccines, supplies and feed at a discount; we can work with our state legislators and regulators to address issues of concern. And we can sell sheep over the internet! After 157 years, we're still cutting edge!

Just in case you're in the market for crossbred ewe lambs or a Shropshire ram lamb, here's a few photos of the sheep we're offering!
A nice Suffolk/Hampshire ewe lamb - she'd
be a great ewe for a 4-H or FFA exhibitor!

This Suffolk/Hampshire ewe lamb was born
as a quadruplet! A great looking ewe!

One of our Shropshire ram lambs - if you know Shropshires in the U.S., you know Fred Groverman!
This lamb is 6 months old in this pic - and weighs 110 lbs on nothing but grass and hay! Great genetics -
and Fred is offering a group of Shropshire ewe lambs who would be a perfect match to this big guy!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Charlottesville 2017

Several years ago, I came across a letter that my dad sent to the editor of the Union Democrat newspaper in Sonora in 1968. As I was just over a year old, I didn't know about the letter at the time. His letter was sent in response to the assasination of Robert Kennedy in June 1968. My dad, a teacher in a rural school district in Northern California, advocated gun control in response to Kennedy's murder. I still stand in awe of my dad's courage in writing such a letter. I imagine his letter had ramifications for his career and for his relationships in his community - but he wrote it anyway. And so I must write this.

Times have changed, obviously (a letter to the editor seems almost quaint in light of the instant gratification of Facebook and Twitter). And yet I can't help but admire my dad's response as I consider my own feelings following the events in Charlottesville yesterday. And I can't help but remember my granddad (my dad's dad) who crawled into the tailgunner's turret of a B-29 based on Guam during World War 2. Much as my granddad fought the evil of his time (fascism), my dad fought the evil of his days (racism).

The violence that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, yesterday is reprehensible on all sides. That said, the white supremacists and Nazis that precipitated the violence must be held accountable. Had a person of color, or a Native American, or (God-forbid) a Muslim, driven a car into the crowd, we'd all be howling "terrorism." The fact that our government cannot (will not?) call the act of a white, Christian(?) young man terrorism frightens and angers me.

Perhaps a blog post isn't a particularly courageous act - it doesn't feel like much in light of this weekend's events. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to stake out my perspective on what happened on the other side of this continent yesterday. I feel compelled to call out racism and intolerance when I see it. I feel compelled to join my dad and my granddad in my own small way.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Descending Towards Autumn

I could never live somewhere that doesn’t have distinct seasons. I’ve enjoyed Hawaii and the Caribbean when I’ve visited, but the sameness of the seasons suggests that I wouldn’t enjoy living in those places. While some would argue that my part of the Sierra foothills doesn’t experience the seasonal extremes of places like the northern Rockies, Alaska, or the tip of South America, I do enjoy the distinct changes in light, weather and internal attitude that come with the changing of the seasons.

As I write this in mid August, I recognize that we’re still in the midst of summer. Even so, the changing light (and shortening days), the moderation of our sizzling July temperatures, and the fact that both of our daughters are (or will be soon) back in school confirms that we’ve started descending the backside of the calendar - autumn is just around the corner. At some point in the next several weeks, we’ll have a cool morning and a breezy, cool(ish) day that reminds me that fall really is approaching.

Autumn, for me, has always been a season of transition and juxtaposition. The cold nights and warm days of October transition to the stormy weather and colder nights of early December (we usually have our coldest mornings just after Thanksgiving, it seems). As we “fall” towards the closing of the year, I find myself taking stock of what I’ve accomplished over the last 10 months - agriculturally and otherwise. The lambs (most of them) are sold, so we know whether the year will be profitable (or not) in a financial sense.

This feeling of wrapping up, however, is contrasted by the new beginnings represented by the start of the school year. It’s further contrasted by our preparations for a new crop of lambs. In my childhood, school started after Labor Day; our youngest, Emma, started high school last Tuesday. Lara, our oldest, will start her second year of college at Montana State University at the end of this month. Also at the end of the month, we’ll move our ewes back to irrigated pasture and begin feeding them barley in preparation for turning the rams in with them in late September. While the shorter days, falling leaves, and sense of melancholy that autumn brings me, I always get excited about the new possibilities of a new school year and a new “sheep” year. In some respects, these contrasting emotions make autumn my favorite time of year - that and the knowledge that we’ll soon be past the 100-degree temperatures of summer!


Autumn, like every season, holds uncertainty for farmers and ranchers. As a shepherd who depends on grass, I enter every fall wondering when (if?) we’ll get a germinating rain that will get the grass growing. I wonder whether we’ll have an early cold spell that will put the new grass of autumn into early dormancy. As I grow older, I also recognize that the days seem to speed by ever more quickly - Lara’s four years of high school went by quickly; Emma’s are likely to seem even more brief. Even so, I always look forward to our annual descent towards autumn. 

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bozeman to Los Angeles: The West from 30,000 Feet


A much longer post is percolating - having to do with daughters, dads, college experiences, and what it means (to me) to be a Westerner. As I stew on these themes, however, I wanted to share a few observations on the somewhat surreal experience of starting my afternoon in Bozeman, Montana, and ending it (at least till I board my next flight) in Los Angeles, California.

This was my third trip to Bozeman - in the last three years, I’ve taken our daughter Lara to visit Montana State University for the first time; our whole family delivered her to her freshman year last summer; this summer, I helped her get her car to Montana. This trip marked the first time that I’ve flown for either part of the journey; in years past, I’ve driven to and from Montana.

The drive to Bozeman (at least the way we do it) takes about 15 hours to cover the 900+ miles. While the drive is long, I enjoy the slowly changing western landscapes we drive through - from the granite and conifers of the Sierra to the sagebrush flats of central Nevada and the juniper-studded mountains of the northeastern part of the state. As we enter southern Idaho, the land (with the addition of center-pivot irrigation) transitions to more intensive agriculture. The Snake River plain of eastern Idaho, in turn, transitions to the timbered mountainsides and broad river valleys north of Ashton. Once we leave the depressingly touristy town of West Yellowstone, Montana, we enter a slice Yellowstone National Park and descend the Gallatin River into Bozeman. The length of the trip gives my mind (and my body) time to adjust to these changing aspects of the American West.

Flying, however, is another experience altogether. As my United flight climbed out of Belgrade, Montana, I watched the hay and grain fields of the Gallatin valley reach up to the steep slopes of the Bridger Mountains. Clouds (and this summer’s ever-present smoke) obscured most of the next hour of my flight, but I caught a glimpse of the Wasatch Range and the Great Salt Lake as we turned southwest towards Southern California. About 40 minutes later, I snapped a cellphone photo of the canyon lands of the desert southwest. I have to say: seeing the interior West from 30,000 feet is not nearly as interesting as seeing it from ground level!

Our plane hit some minor turbulence as we flew flew over the mountains marking the eastern edge of the Los Angeles basin. As we approached LAX from the south, I saw the Pacific Ocean in the distance - the western edge of the American West. The packed freeways (even at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon) and expanse of concrete and rooftops stood out in stark contrast to the fields and mountains I saw when I left Bozeman several hours earlier. This is probably not a shock to anyone who reads this blog, but I far prefer fields and mountains to concrete and rooftops.


Technology (airplanes, computers, and such) have shortened the distances between communities and people. In many respects, this has been a plus - connectivity usually gives us greater empathy for others. But in some respects, these connections present a double-sided challenge for rural communities - and for the West in general. If I can get from Bozeman to Los Angeles in less than three hours, perhaps I’ll decide that a summer place in Montana and winter place somewhere warmer (like LA) is doable. Driving around Bozeman - and flying out of the Gallatin valley - revealed significant new suburban development; condominiums instead of crops. Concrete and rooftops permanently change the ecological and cultural attributes that (at least for me) make the west the West. Flying, rather than driving, underscores how quickly these transitions can happen

Friday, July 21, 2017

Epitaph for a One-Lane Bridge

Roughly 10 years ago, we leased a ranch north of Lincoln along Doty Ravine. The quickest way to get from home (in Auburn) to the ranch was to drive Joeger Road to Mt. Vernon Road to Wise Road. As we approached the low ground in Lincoln on the east end of Wise Road, we'd cross Doty Ravine on a one-lane bridge. I crossed that bridge nearly every day for four years. Today, as I drove Wise Road on my way to Yuba City, I encountered a detour - Placer County is replacing the old one-lane bridge over Doty Ravine.

I can certainly understand the County's reasoning. The old bridge was probably a maintenance nightmare. From a transportation efficiency and legal liability standpoint, necking the two-lane road down to a single lane didn't make much sense. But I have to say I'm mourning the passing of this relic of simpler times.

Based on the stories that friends have told me about the roads between Auburn and Lincoln, Mt. Vernon and Wise Roads were not paved until the second half of the 20th Century (perhaps Jean Allender or Betty Samson can fill in the details). The Doty Ravine Bridge was a reminder to me of these simpler times - like the bridge, the roads were single lane as well.

More importantly, the one-lane Doty Ravine Bridge was a reminder (in an increasingly fast-paced world) to slow down. If someone was approaching the bridge from the other direction at the same time, both of us would decelerate (usually). We'd make sure that whoever was closest to the crossing made it over first.

This slowing down also required neighborliness. Most of the folks I passed crossing the Doty Ravine Bridge were strangers, and yet we nearly always waved at one another as we crossed. The one-lane bridge was a reminder, in some ways, that our destination wasn't more important than safety and politeness. In an increasingly busy (and rude) world, I'll miss this reminder.

I suppose I'm sounding like a curmudgeon. Progress is positive, right?! I expect that the county road department was tired of dealing with damage to the bridge caused by people who didn't slow down and wave. I expect the county counsel was tired of the liability faced by the county when people caused accidents. But with a two-lane bridge, I'll make it to Lincoln 10 to 15 seconds faster than I would have otherwise. I'd gladly give back that time. I'll miss this reminder of our rural roots.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Moving to the Country

In early May number of years ago - before the drought - I was moving ewes and lambs home for shearing. Since it was before the drought, we had more than 200 ewes - and (like now) we saved the 1-1/2 acre pasture at our home place for the 3-4 days that the sheep would be home for their annual clipping. As I pulled in to drop off the second or third load, a friend who kept bees in our pasture waved me over to tell me that a woman from the county code enforcement office had come by a few minutes earlier. Apparently, one of our neighbors had called to complain about "all of the sheep" in our pasture. I called the code enforcement woman back immediately - she'd already confirmed that our property was zoned "farm" - and when I told her the sheep would be there less than a week, she said, "I'll call the person who complained and let them know you have every right to have your sheep there - especially since they'll be gone in less than 7 days." We never did learn which neighbor objected to the sights and sounds of agriculture in our "neighborhood," but we suspect it was one of the families who had recently moved to the country. In some cases, I'm afraid, the expectations of those moving to the country fail to match the realities of living in a rural (or even semi-rural) community.

We've had other similar experiences with folks who encounter our sheep operation - even with people who ask us to graze their properties. I suppose the image of farming, for some, is one of bucolic bliss - peacefully grazing (and quiet!) sheep spread across a green hillside. In reality, grazing livestock can often be peaceful. It also involves hard work. Grazing animals make noise on occasion (especially at weaning time or during shearing). Livestock guardian dogs will bark if something threatens their sheep. Some of the grass that animals consume passes all the way through and comes out the other end (imagine that!). Grasslands and pastures that are grazed seldom look as "neat" as a mowed field (to some, anyway - I much prefer the look of a grazed pasture). To a shepherd, the smell of wet wool or of manure from animals that have been eating grass is normal (even pleasant, some would say); to some who move to the country, I guess, these odors, sounds and sights are objectionable.

Even in areas where we're asked to graze (for fuel reduction purposes or to control invasive weeds), we get questions like: "how soon will you be done here?" or "I didn't realize how much they'd smell" or "will you be able to get the manure off the road?" Most recently, some folks who asked us to graze their 4 acres (because they didn't want to mow it) decided they couldn't handle the sight and smell of sheep manure, and that the uneven look of the leftover vegetation was undesirable.

Sometimes this disconnect can take a dangerous turn. Placer County, where we live and raise sheep, still has a local ordinance on the books that allows the movement of livestock on county roads. For short moves between properties (of less than 2 miles) on quiet county roads, we much prefer herding our sheep to hauling them in the trailer. Nearly all of the drivers we encounter are patient and interested in what we're doing - most take photos or videos of our border collies and sheep with their phones. Occasionally, however, someone decides he or she can't wait until we can get the sheep off the road to let them pass - and so they drive through our flock. Fortunately, we've never had a sheep or a dog (or a person, for that matter) injured when this happens; other ranchers haven't been so fortunate.

Placer County, like many California counties, also has a right-to-farm ordinance that protects commercial farmers and ranchers from nuisance complaints associated with the normal course of an agricultural business. These ordinances are important - anyone who buys a home in rural Placer County gets a copy of the ordinance as part of the normal disclosure process. I suppose some buyers even read the ordinance! That said, our experience with these issues is not unique. As Placer County continues to grow population-wise, these challenges will only intensify. While I find it easy to complain about our new neighbors who have no idea what it takes to run a sheep operation (or any other farming or ranching enterprise), I am realizing that those of us who are farmers and ranchers have a responsibility to proactively reach out to people who move to the country. Who knows - maybe some of these folks will end up ranching one day!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Summer Routine

Several weeks ago, we weaned our lambs. This year, weaning was a multi-step process, largely due to the heat (we tried to be finished with sheep work by 9 a.m. on hot mornings). During the third weekend of June, we completed the physical weaning of the lambs - we separated them from their mothers and  applied permanent ear tags. The ewes were moved to dry forage (with a mix of still-green yellow starthistle); the lambs went back to irrigated pasture. The following weekend, we weighed the lambs and started marketing the feeder lambs. We also selected the lambs that we'll finish for our own winter meat. Last weekend, I vaccinated the replacement ewe lambs and the ram lambs that we'll market. I also treated the lambs for internal parasites (which can be lethal if left untreated). Finally, I sorted the thin ewes (those who had worked especially hard during their lactations or who had lost weight for other reasons). These thin ewes will get to stay on irrigated pasture; the rest were moved to dry annual rangeland. Last Saturday afternoon marked the end of this stage of our sheep year.

With the work of weaning behind us, we're settling in to our summer routine. For the next 50 days or so, I'll focus on irrigating our pastures and caring for the lambs. My partner Roger will focus on caring for the ewe flock on dry pasture. We'll help each other accomplish big projects (moving the ewes, shearing the lambs, moving the lambs to a different property), but much of the work is the same day after day - the dog days of summer!

As I grow older, I find that routine becomes enjoyable rather than monotonous. In The Solace of Open Spaces (which I highly recommend), Gretel Ehrlich writes that irrigation "is an example of how a discipline - a daily chore - can grow into a fidelity." In our current situation, my "daily chore" is comprised of moving the K-Line pod irrigation system every morning. On good days - when the ATV is running right, when the sprinklers aren't clogged and when I'm paying attention - irrigation takes about 45 minutes. On less good days - when the ATV isn't running quite right; when we get a load of aquatic weeds, trash, leaves, or fish clogging the system; or when I run over a riser and have to repair the system - irrigation can take a couple of hours. In either case, discipline is critical - no matter how tired I am or what I have to do during the rest of my day, the water must get moved. The pipe must get repaired. We haven't talked about this, but I suspect Roger settles into a similar routine of responsibility in July and August.

Fidelity, I think, comes from our dedication to the less glamorous tasks of raising sheep. Flushing the ewes, managing our breeding groups, lambing and shearing are all more "exciting" than moving sprinklers day in and day out. And yet I find that the deferred gratification of irrigating is rewarding in a different way. In some ways, irrigating is like saving money. Putting money in my savings account is much less exciting than buying that new pair of boots. As I get older, however, I find that I enjoy watching my bank account grow. Similarly, I enjoy seeing our irrigated pastures respond to my efforts to spread the water over them. Increasingly, I'm able to relish the days when everything goes as planned - and I'm able to laugh at myself on the many days when it doesn't! I'm beginning to learn that my success as a shepherd depends on my ability stay focused through the routine work as much as it is to manage the "exciting" times.

Irrigation season, in our part of the foothills, follows a chronological (rather than an ecological) schedule. The water arrives in our ditches on April 15. The water shuts off on October 15. No matter what else we might be doing, this means that we're moving sprinklers every day for 183 days. Now that the lambs are weaned and the ewes are moved, I'm finding that I'm looking forward to 50 days of simply moving water across our pastures. I'm looking forward to 50 days of watching the grass grow!