Getting ready for Soay breeding and winter feeding – Chapter I

Yesterday’s snowfall at nearby Crater Lake, together with the rapidly shortening days, reminds us that the grass is about to stop growing, breeding season is upon us, and it is time to prepare for feeding hay and the beginning of the rainy season — all closely related events.

Preparations for breeding are pretty routine by now:  we have started flushing the ewes to increase our percentage of twins, and the lucky flocksires have been selected and are eager to get started in a couple of weeks.
Other fall chores are not particularly appealing, truth to tell; it is a time when I am just as glad to settle for traditional gender roles — the men out in the field, to be specific.

Earlier this afternoon Steve reluctantly set out to load the summer’s accumulation of trash-headed-for-the-dump into Willie (as in Nelson), our trusty 1988 F150.  Ordinarily we would be content to let the trash accumulate over the winter, hoping against hope it would magically disappear.  But this summer most of it piled up right where the tractor needs to navigate to get to the winter hay supply, so Steve had no choice but to deal with it.  All well and good, until he realized his 2-way radio, an essential communication tool on our long but narrow farm, was missing.  We checked all the usual places to no avail.  You can imagine Steve’s distress when I called him and the faint sound of my voice rose from the bottom of Willie’s back end, underneath a truly vile assemblage of “stuff.”  I gave fleeting consideration to recording the entire search process but thought better of it.  I will leave to your imagination to envision Steve digging through this mess to recover his radio.


Meanwhile, our ranch hand, Shawn, was not faring much better.  He drew the duty to clean out the accumulated waste hay and sheep droppings from the winter feeding areas, a chore that did not become any more appealing for having been postponed all summer.  I have to admit Shawn was not amused at my delight in seeing all this potential fertilizer piled next to my garden where it can “cook” during the winter and be ready for tilling as soon as the ground warms just a little in February.

Mucking out the feeding areas actually helps keep our flock of Soay sheep healthy.  At the start of the winter rainy season, we want a clean layer of crushed rock (we use 3/4 minus) underneath the winter feeders to minimize the amount of wet ooze the sheep have to stand in.  Not only does it prevent foot rot, it also lessens the possibility of respiratory problems.  The same characteristics that make the feeding area muck so good for garden fertilizer argue for getting it out of any place where our sheep will be standing still several times a day during the winter.

How to get the men in your life to undertake these yucky chores?  The promise of chocolate chip cookies, warm from the oven, works well on our farm.  Time to turn on the oven and find the hidden cache of Nestle’s semi-sweets.

For now …

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  1. robson says:

    Mmm, cookies!

    Glad Steve found his radio. Life would not work without those radios.

    Hi to all. Looking forward to chapter 2!