Monday, October 3, 2011

Beginnings and Preparations

Most people associate springtime with new life, but for me new life begins with the preparations I make in early autumn.  Since we lamb in the later winter and early spring, ovine biology requires me to think at least 5 months in advance.  Similarly, preparing our pastures for finishing lambs next spring and summer requires action during the fall months.  In many ways, our sheep year started today.

This morning, we brought all of the breeding ewes into the corrals and sorted them into two groups.  The first group, comprised of our our whitefaced ewes (mostly Border and North Country Cheviot, Dorper-cross, Coopworth and Columbia ewes, were joined by our Bluefaced Leicester rams.  Their cross-bred lambs are the "mules" that are the maternal foundation of our flock.  The second group, made up of our mule ewes, were joined by our "terminal" rams.  All of the offspring of this mating are marketed - the hybrid vigor of this F2 cross results in fast growing lambs.
Two of the rams - waiting to be unloaded from the trailer.

"We can see the ewes - let's go!"

Ready to go to work!

The ewes were ready, too!  Perfect!

After sorting the ewes, I overseeded clover into our largest irrigated pasture (about 20 acres).  I put roughly 45 pounds of Ladino clover seed and 45 pounds of Renegade red clover onto the pasture.  This planting is designed to take advantage of the fall's first rain storm (another beginning), due in tonight or tomorrow.  In about a week, we'll also fertilize the pasture to encourage the clover to become well established prior to next year's grazing season.  This 20-acre field will allow us to finish next year's lambs entirely on forage (grass and clover).

With the beginning of this year's rainy season, we're also enjoying our first fire in our woodstove this evening.  The ladies in our house are somewhat cold-blooded - they wanted a fire tonight, so I obliged.  We're still gathering this year's wood supply, but it's reassuring to know that we're the only people responsible for a warm house during the coming months!

My work today lays the foundation for the year to come.  In 150 days (plus or minus), we'll see our first lambs.  In about 180 days, we'll graze the clover I planted today for the first time.  The rains that will start this week will germinate the grass that will sustain our sheep in the coming year.  The wood that I split tonight is the first of lots of wood.  I'm lucky to be so connected to the the rhythms of the year.

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