Sunday, May 1, 2016

Seven Months In - a #Sheep365 Update

Seven months ago today, I started a little self-indulgent project that I called "#Sheep365."  I wanted to share a photo of our small-scale sheep operation everyday for a full year, and I decided to start the project on the day that we turned the rams in with the ewes.  Everyday since, I've posted at least one photograph of my day's activities on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Now that I'm more than halfway through with the project, I'm realizing several things about my effort, about social media and about our operation:

  • Photographs are more meaningful (at least to me) if they tell a story.  I find myself taking lots of photos (all with my iPhone) in an effort to capture something about the particular day or time of year I'm documenting.  I don't always succeed, but the photos that I like the best tell a story or convey a sense of action.
  • I'm more aware of other farmers and ranchers who are doing similar projects.  Alan Haight at Riverhill Farm (check out @riverhillfarmers on Instagram), and Jill Hackett of Ferndale Farms (check out @humboldtherder on Instagram) are taking especially wonderful photos.  I encourage you to check them both out!  Also, be sure to check out #sheep365 on Twitter - there are sheep producers in other parts of the world who are posting some pretty cool things!
  • My photos generate some learning opportunities - I've had a chance to explain our operation and sheep-raising in general to a variety of folks.  I've tried to share both positive images and those that reflect the more difficult side of farming and ranching.  I've been able to explain why we use antibiotics to treat infection.  I've been able to talk about why we're concerned over the arrival of wolves in northern California.
  • Finally, I've been able to compare conditions this year with previous years.  One photo in particular demonstrated the difference between normal rainfall and grass growth (this year) with the impacts of a fourth year of drought (last year).
The next 5 months (or the next 152 days, to be exact) will see us shear the sheep, wean our lambs, market our lambs, irrigated our pastures, and prepare for yet another breeding season.  When #Sheep365 ends, my work as a shepherd will continue.  While I don't think I'll post daily photos beyond September 30, I will be more conscious of photographing the story of our farm - and comparing conditions with previous years.

Note: I'm considering producing a calendar with 12 of my favorite photos from this project - let me know if you'd be interested!

In the meantime, here are a few photos from the last couple of months!  Enjoy!

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