Friday, November 24, 2017
Heading into the Dark - #52weeksofsheep
I've visited more northern latitudes during the fall and winter months, but Auburn, California, is as far north as I've ever lived for an extended period of time. I know that many folks grow depressed in the dark days of winter; I've always enjoyed these shorter days. I love the cooler weather (although this week has not been especially cool). I love any excuse to have a fire in the woodstove (our only heat). And I appreciate the opportunity to sleep in a bit, especially on the weekends.
Since we try to match our sheep production calendar to the forage productivity cycle, the next 6 weeks (the darkest part of the year) coincide with the slowest time of the sheep year. Our entire management system revolves around the onset of rapid grass growth - in other words, we want to start lambing in late February, which means we put rams with ewes in October and early November. We separated rams from ewes on November 10 this year; we'll let the ewes settle in their pregnancies until next weekend. Next Saturday, we'll haul the flock to our winter rangeland (which is at a slightly lower elevation than our summer irrigated pastures). Once there, our work will focus on moving sheep every 6-7 days until it's time to vaccinate the ewes in late January. Our work slows as we approach the winter solstice.
For me, these long nights provide a chance to re-charge. I sleep longer. I read more. I rest. I don't find the long nights and short days of late autumn and winter depressing; rather, I find them rejuvenating. I'm thankful that our sheep husbandry coincides with this seasonal slow-down. I enjoy heading into the dark.
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