Monday, August 30, 2010

Sheep Out to Eat

Sometimes circumstances cram you into a really nice spot you never would have gone to otherwise.

It’s practically impossible to move the sheep fence after the middle of June without a brush hog. But the New Holland and the brush hog had gone to John’s mother’s farm to cultivate John’s cornfield, and they never came home. So when the sheep pasture got overgrazed, I couldn’t move the three lengths of fence. Then Joshua, my four-horned problem child, got tangled in one length. Like so tangled he had 50 loops around each of his four horns. We had to cut him out of the now completely useless section of fence, arrivederci sixty dollars, and the overgrazed pasture was even smaller than before. The hay for the winter had not yet arrived, so in a moment of sheep starvation panic, I turned the fence off, opened the end of it and walked out into the orchard with the three sheep following curiously along behind. For an hour they stuffed themselves as fast as they could on multiflora rose leaves, ash sapling leaves, orchard grass, poison ivy and windfall apples. Then I walked back inside the fence, they followed me, and I locked it all up for the night. This worked so well, I have continued doing it even though there is plenty of hay in the barn now. In fact, it has become one of my favorite things to do. I take a book and a step stool and I go sit there for an hour in the goldenrod while my friends chow down. When everyone is visibly larger in diameter and burping up clouds of cider breath, we go back in. We’ve done it so often now that the sheep are the ones who decide when they’re full and it’s time to go home.

I have no idea how long it takes to re-chew that much plant material, but it has to be awhile. It seems to take about 24 hours for me to need my refill of orchard time.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hay, You!

Lot of water over the dam since the last time I wrote. We’ve frozen some pesto and some Granny Puzo Sauce, put up some jam and froze not enough blackberries, started taking the sheep out to eat early each evening (outside the electric fence, that would be), and my submission to the Fair won the third place ribbon in the class called Flower Arrangement Under Five Inches, In A Thimble. I have heat rash AND hay rash, so you can tell it’s still summer.

The hay arrived this morning, fifty bales of first cutting, which ought to see us through the winter. The neighbor brothers who raise it and deliver it have at least one gas well between them, which makes me wonder why they still bother to sell hay. I guess they like it. I am reminded of the old Midwestern joke about the farmer who wins the million dollar lottery and is asked what he’s going to do with all that money. “Well,” he says, “I guess I’ll just keep farming til it’s all gone.” If I had a million dollars, that’s what I’d do.

So the hay room is full, the jam shelf is populated and the heating oil has been paid for. That means all we have to do is lay in a few cords of firewood and we’ll be ready for winter.