Monday, December 18, 2017

Preparing for Christmas

Like most of my readers who celebrate Christmas, I'm in the midst of preparations for the upcoming celebration. I'm nearly done with my shopping (earlier than normal, for me). We finally picked out our tree last weekend - we'll decorate it once Lara is home from college tomorrow. We've decided on our Christmas dinner menu and begun assembling the ingredients. But unlike most of my readers, I suspect, we're also spending time planning out our sheep grazing strategies for the coming weeks. I've come to realize that these preparations are part of the traditions that I cherish.

As with all ranchers, our Christmas Eve and Christmas Day include chores - feeding the horses, mules and sheep at the house, gathering eggs, and feeding the dogs. We also must check the sheep and feed the livestock guardian dogs at our rented pastures (the ewes are currently about 7 miles from home; the rams are 3 miles away). The ewes are (hopefully) pregnant, but their nutritional demands won't really ramp up until mid January. Our grazing planning involves estimating the amount of forage they'll need and building new paddocks that will allow us to avoid having to move sheep on for a week or so - shepherds need a break at this time of year, too!

This Saturday, my partner Roger and I will build a 5-6 acre paddock for the ewe flock. We'll move the ewes onto this fresh feed; they'll stay for a week or maybe more. We'll also move the rams (who are grazing a separate property). On Christmas Eve, I'll go to both pastures to feed the livestock guardian dogs; on Christmas morning, my daughters will join me (it's a tradition we all enjoy - including Sami, who gets an hour or so to herself). On the day after Christmas, our family travels to Sonora - and Roger will handle the chores for a couple of days.

Traditions are an important part of Christmas celebrations (at least for me). I still hang the stocking my Mom made for me as a kid. Our girls (who are 14 and 20) still put cookies and eggnog out for Santa Claus. We still take turns opening presents on Christmas morning. As a shepherd, these traditions include planning out where our sheep will be (and what they'll be grazing) for the week before and the week following Christmas. These traditions include bundling up after breakfast on Christmas morning and piling into the front seat of the pickup with my daughters. And these traditions, for me, including saying a prayer of thanksgiving that livestock are a part of my livelihood - and my life. Merry Christmas!
Christmas Morning, 2016 - Merry Christmas!

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