on the road

on the road

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Pasture Envy

I'll admit it - sometimes I have pasture envy!  This condition is probably due, at least in part, to my decision to raise sheep in a Mediterranean climate - one that turns golden brown in the summertime.  And while there is much to like about living and ranching in an area with distinct rainy and dry seasons, I'm envious of those who graze their livestock on pastures that stay green most summers with little or no irrigation.

Montana pastures (photo: John W. Ross)


Green in July (photo: John W. Ross)
The latest bout of pasture envy comes as a result of modern technology and social media.  My friend John Ross, who works in Washington DC but whose heart is back home at the family ranch in Montana, recently posted photos on Facebook.  John was home in the Bear Paw Mountains for the Fourth of July, and based on the photographs, it's easy to see why his Scots ancestors (who probably raised sheep, I suspect!), settled in that part of Montana.

Facebook isn't the only instigator of pasture envy.  I've recently started trying learn how to use Twitter, and I've followed a couple of fellow shepherds from northern England.  Their photos of green summer pastures and stone walls and bridges are spectacular.  I hope to visit one day!
Yorkshire, England (photo: Amanda Owen)

The Lake District, England (photo: Herdwick Shepherd)

Rationally, I know that green grass in summertime always comes with a cost.  In our climate, we only have green grass in July if we're able and willing to irrigate it.  This time of year, I spend 10-12 hours a week irrigating what little green pastureland we have.  In Montana, I suspect, green grass comes at the cost of often brutal winters or summer rainstorms that can ruin a cutting of hay.  I'm sure that the shepherds I follow in England are coping with climate-related health and management issues that are entirely outside of my experience.

But pasture envy is not a rational emotion.  I look at the photos and think about how nice it would be if Mother Nature did my irrigating!  I start to calculate the carrying capacity of the pastures.  I can almost hear the sound of my sheep grazing on these lush green fields!  Sigh....
Our wonderful Mediterranean climate in Auburn, CA! 

1 comment:

  1. It's funny you bring this up. I have lost track of how many times I have daydreamed of endlessly growing lush fields of grass. Ones which allow for constant rotation of livestock with numbers that are always perfect for the paddocks and the desired outcome. I daydream about such simplicity but in the back of my mind I know that folks like us thrive on complexity and fighting against the curveballs that Mother Nature tosses our way. Still, I wouldn't be unhappy if someone developed a breed of summer hibernating livestock....

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