We've reached the point in our sheep year that I enjoy the least. The lambs are weaned and most are sold. The ewes are dried off and grazing on dry (and flammable) vegetation west of Auburn. And we're moving water - seven days a week, we're dragging K-Line irrigation pods across our irrigated pastures. For me, the summer doldrums have arrived.
Dislike is too strong a word, but I think I enjoy summer chores least out of all of the work we do with our sheep, largely because of the heat. While the first few 90-degree days always shock my system, my body generally acclimates to hot daytime temperatures. Hot nights, however, are another matter. Hot nights make sleeping difficult; waking up hot tends to make me a little grumpy - and definitely less than rested.
Beyond the heat, though, I find the lack of variety in our work tedious. Each day starts with a trip to our irrigated pasture. Irrigated with K-Line means that I drive four-wheeler over the same circuit across our irrigated pasture every day from mid-April through mid-October. While I'm grateful to have the water (especially in a year like this), the monotony of irrigating starts to grate on me by mid-July, even when everything goes right. But like any ranching activity, irrigation doesn't always go right. Clogged sprinklers, broken lines, and low water pressure are a constant battle. We need the green grass to feed our replacement and feeder lambs, and to get our ewes ready for breeding in the fall. Growing green grass in the summer in our Mediterranean climate means we have to make it "rain" every day for six months.
Then July arrives - my least favorite of the summer months. In June, summer still seems fun - perhaps because I can still remember the cold days checking the lambing ewes in early March. August is better than July - mostly because we almost always have a day in August that feels like autumn is coming. But July is just plain hot and monotonous.
Farming and ranching require many skills and a great deal of knowledge - animal husbandry, financial management, regulatory compliance, biology, soil science; I could go on. Farming or ranching at any scale, however, also requires a great deal of stamina - working through fatigue, doing the same thing day after day after day. Little breaks from the tediousness are helpful for me - a trip to a mountain stream for an afternoon of fly-fishing, an overnight backpacking trip, any meal that includes homegrown tomatoes and sweet corn, or a Sunday afternoon nap with a ballgame on the radio. And the knowledge that I'll be flipping the page on my calendar in about 2 weeks!