Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from June, 2016

Getting Paid Once a Year

Several weeks ago, I posted a link on my Flying Mule Farm Facebook page to a story I wrote for a blog called Stories from the Valley (One Year to the Next), where I referenced a "bigger lamb check." When one of the regular visitors to my Facebook page laughed at the term, I realized that the concept of getting paid once a year is probably foreign to most folks.

First, I should say (as some readers will know) that I work off the ranch, so we don't rely on the income from the sheep business to make our living.  Regardless, we do treat our small sheep operation as a stand-alone business - in other words, the business has to cover it's direct and overhead costs, pay the partners a salary, and generate a profit.  Since the bulk of our income arrives in the late spring and early summer (through the sale of live lambs and wool), we have to budget our cash flow carefully.  We still have expenses in the midst of winter - the lamb checks I get in June have to carry us through…

A Shepherd's Spouse

As I wrote in my previous post (Pastoral? Some Days!) I'm currently reading a wonderful book entitled Of Sheep and Men by R.B. Robertson.  In the chapter I just finished, he describes the varied responsibilities of the shepherd's wife (at least as she existed on the Scottish borders in the mid 1950s):
"But the shepherd's wife, like the wife of the diplomat, the missionary, the innkeeper, and the man of any other profession where an interested and cooperative partner is essential to the performance of the work, must be a woman of a very rare but definite type.  It might almost be said that her qualities are more important than those of the shepherd himself, for certainly most of the year she works harder than he does, and at times her work requires more expert knowledge and a higher standard of skill than does his."She must know the job of sheep-herding thoroughly, for she assists at the clippin', the dippin', the lambin', and all other busy periods in…

Pastoral? Some Days!

At the recommendation of friend and fellow rancher Jill Hackett, I recently picked up a copy of a book entitled Of Sheep and Men by R.B. Robertson.  Written in 1957, the book is a humorous and (so far - I'm only five chapters in) accurate account of a year spent among sheep-raising families on the Scottish borders in the 1950s.  I'm thoroughly enjoying the book, and last night, I came across this gem:
"I too had been taught during my liberal education that 'pastoral' in the literary or artistic sense means a highly stylized form of expression, bearing no casual relationship or emotional connection with the shepherd's way of life...." Dictionary.com offers these definitions (among others) of the word "pastoral":
adjectivehaving the simplicity, charm, serenity or other characteristics generally attributed to rural areaspertaining to the country or life in the country; rural; rusticportraying or suggesting idyllically the life of shepherds or of the…

Livestock and Predators: No Easy Answers

Since we've raised sheep commercially (and even when our sheep enterprise was a hobby), we've been committed to trying to live with the predators in our environment.  Over the years, we've lost just a handful of sheep - several to coyotes, at least one each to mountain lions and rattlesnakes, and four in one night to a neighbor's dog.  Mostly, though, our commitment to nonlethal predator protection tools has worked.  A combination of electric fencing, livestock guardian dogs, sheep selection and grazing management (see Big Dogs, Hot Fences and Fast Sheep for the details) has allowed us to co-exist with the predators in our environment.  But as I talk with other sheep producers in California and elsewhere in the West (and even overseas via Facebook and Twitter), I realize that our approach won't work for everyone.  And as we face the prospect of wolves returning to our part of the Sierra foothills in my lifetime, I'm even more convinced that there are no easy a…