Skip to main content

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!


Popular posts from this blog

Trade Offs

As we were building fence for the soon-to-be-lambing ewes this morning, someone drove by and asked my partner Roger how long it took to set up the electro-net fencing we use for the sheep. Roger replied, "It's not too bad," to which the driver said, "Seems like a lot of work." Roger's answer - which both of us use with some frequency, was, "Yeah - but this way we don't have to feed any hay!" The driver, who obviously wasn't a rancher, didn't understand - and I suspect even some of my rancher friends don't understand the trade off we're making. Building electric fence is a lot of work - wouldn't it be easier just to feed hay?

The paddock that Roger and I built this morning encloses about 5.75 acres of high quality forage. Since the ewes are on the verge of lambing, their forage demand is peaking. They're eating nearly twice as much grass now as they need in the late summer - after all, many of them eating for three (and p…

No Easy Answers Part 2

In mid October, some friends who graze their cattle in the mountains of western Lassen County (less than 200 miles from our home), became the first ranchers to have cattle “officially” killed by wolves in California in nearly a century. Wildlife officials confirmed that the Lassen pack killed a 600-pound heifer; four more heifers died (and were partially eaten by wolves), but the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) couldn’t confirm the cause of death. While I learned about the depredations shortly after they happened through the rancher grapevine, news of my friends’ losses weren’t made public until the California Cattlemen’s Association and California Farm Bureau Federation issued a joint press release this week. The October 28 edition of the Sacramento Bee ran the story.
If you’ve read my previous blogs about wolves, you’ll probably know that I’ve frequently been frustrated with the Bee’s coverage. The paper has run guest opinions disguised as news articles, and appar…

Humbled and Excited

More than 20 years ago, I went to work for the California Cattlemen's Association (CCA). After two internships, I'd been hired by my friend and mentor John Braly as the membership director in 1992. By 1996, I'd been promoted to assistant vice president - pretty heady stuff for a young guy who hadn't grown up in the industry. I started looking for new challenges. Dr. Jim Oltjen, who was (and is) the beef extension specialist at UC Davis (my undergraduate alma mater) suggested that I think about going to graduate school to prepare for a career in extension. I considered it, but the timing wasn't right.

Fast forward to 2013 (or so) - I'd been working as a part-time community education specialist in our local University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) office for several years. The farm advisors in the office - Roger Ingram and Cindy Fake - suggested that I consider getting a master's degree and applying for a future farm advisor job. This time the id…