The goats and sheep have made good progress in the 24 hours they've been on site at the Canyon View Preserve. Based on what they've consumed so far, I think this first paddock will take them about 5-6 days. Here's a photo of the goats and sheep in the midst of the blackberries.
We turned 15 goats and 45 ewe lambs onto the Placer Land Trust's Canyon View Preserve in Auburn today. We're using the critters to graze/browse invasive brush, including blackberries and scotch broom. Stay tuned for updates on this project. Believe it or not, sheep do a great job on brush (if they're "trained" to eat it)!
For years, we've tried to find a way to re-use the feed sacks that seem to pile up around any livestock enterprise. After a farmer's market customer showed me a shopping bag made from a wheat sack in Africa, we hit on the idea of Barnyard Bags - shopping bags made from feed sacks. Since I'm not much of a seamster (I guess that's the masculine version of seamstress), Sami has been designing and making these great bags!
Since we rely on grass for our livelihood, the first real rain of the fall is a big event. We generally need at least a half an inch of rain to germinate the grass, and the earlier in the fall it comes, the more grass growth we'll get before the cold and dark of December brings things to a halt. While we've had a few sprinkles since the autumnal equinox, tonight marks the first sustained rainfall of the season. This should be our germinating rain Of course, while the rain is welcome, it complicates our outdoors work. I just returned home from moving 3 groups of sheep (in Grass Valley and Auburn). While the border collies love working in the rain (it's part of their Scottish heritage), I need more protective gear to make the day somewhat comfortable. Even the best rain gear leaves me somewhat clammy when I'm working; I've found that a wool shirt is the best underlayer for keeping me warm in the wet weather. We also worry about the sheep in weather like this, par…
Value is a term that is not often applied to food. In this country, most of us seem more interested in affordability (some would say cheapness) when it comes to our food. Indeed, we spend the lowest percentage of our income on food of any developed country in the world. Our cheap food "policies," intentional and otherwise, have serious consequences for the environment and for the people who grow our food (farmers, ranchers, and the people who work for them). We produce grass-fed lamb and beef for local customers. What does this mean? For us, it means that we feed only grass to our lambs and steers. Producing a high quality and delicious product strictly on grass requires significant expertise in pasture management, animal husbandry, and animal selection. Unlike producers who sell into the commodity market, this means that we must manage the entire process - from raising the animal to processing the meat to selling the final product. As a example, for me to sell one pa…
Last May, we purchased roughly 50 older ewes from another sheep rancher in the Delta. While most sheep are seasonal breeders (that is, they only breed when the days are growing shorter), these ewes were "out-of-season" breeders. When we got them home, we turned our Blueface Leicester rams in with them. About 150 days later (last Sunday, to be exact), these ewes started lambing.
I love lambing season - there's something about new life that makes the days exciting. This is our first year lambing in the fall, however, and we're finding it a bit different. First, the feed quality is not what it is in the springtime (when we normally lamb), which makes meeting the nutritional needs of the ewes more difficult. We're finding that we need to supplement the pasture grasses just to keep the ewes going. Second, since it's been warm (actually, downright hot), we've been somewhat worried about dehydration in the lambs. Third, since these ewes weren't raise…
I spoke tonight to the Future Farmers of America chapter at Del Oro High School in Loomis. After I talked about our farm and about the Placer Ag Futures Project, I asked the kids to tell me what would motivate them to become farmers. I asked the same question to a group of FFA members at Bear River High School three or four years ago. Interestingly, I got the same answers both times - more money and more information. In other words, some kids wanted to make more money than small-scale farming generally provides. Other kids wanted more information about the fact that small-scale farming was actually a career.
I think this suggests several courses of action for those of us who are worried about where our food comes from. First, our society generally places very low value on the production of food and fiber. Our nation spends the lowest percentage of gross income on food of any developed country. Food, and the way it is produced, is just not very important to many people. We nee…
On Sunday, October 10, we hauled sheep and border collies to the Forster Ranch in Ophir as part of the 2010 Placer Farm and Barn Tour. We've been part of every Farm and Barn event, but this was the first time we've demonstrated our dogs. We thought you might enjoy some photos!
This summer, we've had the good fortune of running sheep on the Elster Ranch between Auburn and Grass Valley. This ranch has been well-managed with cattle by Bill Boundy for many years. George Nolte, who purchased the ranch several years ago, has been working to improve the ranch's productivity even further. With Bill's help, George has installed a new K-Line irrigation system (go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I1pQDYYqoQ for a video) and has planted a number of new irrigated pastures. Our grass-fed lambs have been the beneficiaries of these improvements.
I love watching big league baseball in person, and one of my favorite things about going to the ball park is the moment when I first see the field. A well-kept ball field shines like an emerald - it's so green it hurts my eyes. Seeing the Elster Ranch pastures for the first time was a similar experience. I came over a low rise and saw the most beautiful clover and grass pasture I've ever seen.
We took sheep (all from the Celtic world) to the KVMR Celtic Festival in Grass Valley last weekend - great fun was had by all! Thought you might enjoy these pictures of a faerie princess with her North Country Cheviot ewe, Falfa!
As I wrote several days ago, today marks our new year (at least in sheep terms). Today, we split our ewes into breeding groups and turned the rams in with them. In the process, we evaluated the condition of each ewe (her degree of fat cover, the health of her feet, etc.). The day marked one of our regular chances to check in and take stock of our successes (and failures) as shepherds.
Overall, we marked our successes today. The ewes were in appropriate condition for breeding. The rams, based on their behavior once they were with the ewes, were also in VERY appropriate condition.
Our interns, Paul and Alice, were a huge help today! They helped gather, evaluate and sort the sheep, and they helped put them in individual paddocks. I can't thank them enough! For more information about our Shepherd Apprentice Program, go to http://www.flyingmulefarm.com/shepherd_apprenticeship_program.
The true test of our success over the last 6 weeks (and through the next 6 weeks of breeding s…