Thursday, September 25, 2008

Hay, Hay, Hay, It's Fall!

Fall is a crazy-busy season.
All summer we've been lying semi-low, keeping one step ahead of parasites and short pastures, but more or less letting things beef up on their own. But as winter starts sniffing around the apple trees and maple leaves, the randy rams and hyper-randy turkeys, we find we have a lot of work to do.

First and foremost is separating the rams and ewes. Autumn frost sets sheepy hormones aflame, and there's been quite a bit of jousting and jumping up out there. We don't want questionable parantages or early season lambs, tough enough to support the little guys when the weather cooperates, so we divvy the flock up. "Boys" in the "down pasture" and "girls" up by the main barn.

While divvying Sunday night, we checked condition and were pleased to note that the flock was healthy and worm free (Yay!). This is especially good news after the worry and wetness of summer 2008.
I've been developing my own mineral mix to help the sheep maintain under the worst of the summer wormload and perhaps the mix has helped some. "The mix", for all you shepherds out there, consists of 2 parts standard sheep minerals and one part goat minerals (Goat minerals have copper which sheep DO need.... but in moderation. Research indicates that Icelandic sheep may have a greater need for copper than more "developed" breeds. But be careful-- Too much can kill them!) To this mineral base, I add kelp, yeast-based selenium/E powder, and flax seeds. I've also been offering the flock black oil sunflower seeds, which they are developing a taste for. Oh, and they've been scarfing apples. A LOT of apples. So, whatever the reason, our flock is in pretty good condition here at the tail end of parasite-worry season-- a happy discovery!

We expected the ram lambs might take the separation hard, but surprisingly, even Connor-- who stuck to his Mama Louise like glue all season, seem quite happy in the "down pasture". And they have been tussling and jousting and acting just as you expect a bunch of rammy youngsters might. Here's Champ, one of our few unspoken-for lambs:

My attempt to get the flock to eat pumpkins last year (EAT! EAT! You know, You're SUPPOSED to LIKE pumpkins!!!!) resulted in a hardy, feral pumpkin plant grown all on it's own. Here it is, with the male half of our flock in the background:

Another big fall issue is hay. We need it. BAD. We always need it, and it is always more expensive than we expected. This year, Dan's been stockpiling a van-load at a time in the hay loft. It's been slow going. But we were were extra lucky this week; a dairy farmer friend managed to arrange delivery of 80 more bales at only $4.00 each! Yay! We were able to borrow her hay elevator which made the storing process about a hundred times easier. The kids had a great time playing in the haypile and even helped load it into the loft.
We still need more-- we ALWAYS need more. But it's a good start anyway.

Fall also means wood. We need it. BAD. (Sense a theme here?) Although Dan's been putting every spare minute into chopping. Spare minutes are few and far between around here and we weren't helped much in the way of windfalls (our best source of weathered logs) so we are still pretty durn low this year. Here's our winter supply so far:

And here's the ATV loaded up with a bit more:

Not much for a wood-heated house. We may have to (gulp!) buy a few cords this year.... um....maybe....

And then there are apples, beautiful rosy apples desperately needing picking. When do we find the time? Well, that's the crux of it.... we haven't. Yet.

Oh, and there's shearing and butchering to do, not to mention the girl's birthday parties! And Holidays.

So that's fall in a nutshell: Busy, busy busy.


Able Oaks Ranch Alpacas said...

Bless your heart to take on a sheep farm and 2 full time jobs. But hooray for you. Your pictures are great.

I just finished dusting my alpaca and llama adult males with Sevin dust to kill lice, which move into the fleeces when the night air starts to cool down. Last year 2 of my weanlings went buck naked because of chewing lice. So I wanted to get a head start this year. Do you get lice with the iceland sheep?

woolies said...

We just paid $15.75 per bale for bermuda hay for our horses.
I hear that people are dumping their horses (in the middle of nowhere) cause they cannot afford to feed them. I have 1-2 students and teach beginning riding lessons, just to help pay for the hay. And here, we have absolutely NO pasture, it is the desert southwest, so the horses are on hay alone.

Christy said...

Man, you have been busy! So much to do to keep a farm going.

rooster said...

nice hay! i've heard there is a hay crisis in some places. we get ours from a local dairy as well and his price when up a tiny bit.

your turkey stories make me laugh. i totally relate. this year, no turkeys for us, but we have 50 assorted heavies growing out there destined for slaughter.

P said...

We haven't had any lice issues, knock on wood. Sheep sometimes get "keds" I hear, but none so far.

$15.75 a bale! Sheesh! Even without the crazy hay prices of some places, hay is a huge expense for us. Last year we spent over $3000 on hay and our usual minimal feed. I must admit I soooo envy those farmers/shepherds with hay fields and the equipment to work them.

And after the last few weeks, I take back all the nice things I ever said about turkeys!