The Grovestead

Farm, Family, Fun.

Sheep Week

Good Shepherd

Oh my word. The sheep. First of all, they are so pretty out in our pasture. A group of fluffy white in the middle of all our green just feels right. They are pretty and pastoral. Their lambs are darling. And their loyalty to their shepherd demonstrates so much of scripture, lived out right in front of us. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd, I know my sheep and my sheep know me.” Rory and his sheep are tight. He’s a good shepherd and they’ve got a special bond.

Flock of sheep in pasture

I, on the other hand, don’t feel quite so connected to the sheep. Mostly because I’m not out there multiple times a day caring for them. But also because sheep are pretty aloof if you’re not the one bringing them their food. The goats have big personality. The sheep seem indifferent.

Anyway, Rory is trying this rotational grazing thing that is good for the soil, good for the sheep and good for sustainable land practices. He has nine paddocks set up in our orchard for the sheep to rotate on. They’ll live in one paddock for a few days before being moved to the next one and on and on. In the end, this will be a really low-key way to pasture the sheep.

But this year it has taken some serious set up. On the advice of another farmer, we didn’t let our sheep out on the pasture until June 1, so that the grass and alfalfa could establish itself after the winter. But it turns out that this year, that date was way too late. The grass took off the last week of May, and by the time we realized what was happening out there, the grass was taller than Rory!

Grass growing out of control

Sheep like young grass, the shorter stuff. Not the tall stuff. So Rory has been out there FOR HOURS mowing down the tall grass in each paddock making it ready for the white fluffs to come and lay down in his green pastures.

Mowing Tall Grasses

And then this was the week that we finally found someone to come and shear our sheep. And just in time! These poor guys have been wearing their huge wool sweaters all spring and tomorrow is supposed to hit 99 degrees here. The shearing was eventful and stressful. We had an older farmer and a neighbor come to help us with the hopes that we might learn how to shear on our own.

Shearing the sheep with Lloyd and Gary

Rory and Farmer Lloyd wrangled the first sheep out on the concrete so the wool wouldn’t be mixed with the bedding of the stalls. They wrestled that sheep to the ground and in the mayhem Rory got his finger bit so hard that blood was dripping all over that clean concrete floor. He left to clean his wound, and I left with the children, discussing what “stressful” means on our way into the house. Later, I went back out to see how it was going and a different sheep spotted me in the window, got spooked and pulled the halter loose and began running pell mell all around the barn with half a fleece trailing behind her, through the dirty bedding. I quietly backed up and pretended I hadn’t returned.

In the end we decided that we will gladly hire this job out each year. And we will forever stand in awe of 4-H children who shear their sheep with confidence and ease. Actually, we will stand in awe that 4-H children can even move their sheep from their stall out to the arena for showing. We will watch these sheep events with much more appreciation this year at the fair!

And finally, because of the heat, and because our fruit trees are still too little to provide shade, the sheep will need shade in each paddock. So Rory worked the past few nights out in the barn building a mobile shelter. It’s pretty awesome.

Portable Shelter

All in all, this whole week has been about the sheep. They even found their way out of their electric fence and into the neighbors back yard. But when Rory called to them, they came back right away. Because he knows his sheep and his sheep know him. He’s a good shepherd.


Minnesota May

Waterlogged garden

How does your garden grow?  Minnesota doesn’t seem to appreciate all the effort we put into Spring planting. Our Zone 4 official planting day is around May 15th each year. Last year saw a hard frost descend a few days following setting out my tender starts. This past week gave us daily 40-degree temps and nearly 8 inches of rain. This, after a hot, dry, 90-degree weekend.

Everything in our garden is waterlogged and stunted. My tomatoes and peppers barely survived and will take weeks to regain their composure.

Waterlogged tomatoes

Sweet corn appears to be rotting in the soil, and carrots, lettuce, and beets are mostly washed away. They never stood a chance. The biggest drawback to Back to Eden Gardening I’ve found is that under heavy rains the woodchips will fall down over rows you have just seeded, preventing sprouting. With average rainfalls of <1″ per week and temps in the mid-70’s this time of year, that is rarely a problem. But the last two years have seen abundant rains (8″ last week!) and 30-degree below normal temps. That combo just isn’t conducive to growing annuals.

Strawberries flowering

The crops that don’t seem to mind much are the perennials: raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, and asparagus. Except for the blueberries which lost most of their fruiting flowers during the strong winds, these have all fared well. Perennials are deep-rooted enough to withstand the harshest surface conditions (like Minnesota Winters).

I am researching hoop houses now to cover the entire garden. It may be too late this year, but with May being such an important–and unpredictable–month weather-wise, it would make a significant difference to create some shelter from the storm.


The Grovestead Newsletter – Spring 2017

The Grovestead Newsletter Cover Vol 1 Issue 1

Our first quarterly newsletter is finished and ready for download! We intentionally made this newsletter to be printed and enjoyed when you have time to read it. So brew a cup of coffee or grab a cold beverage, put your feet up, and enjoy!

Click here to download:

Or copy and paste this link into a web browser:
https://thegrovestead.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/The-Grovestead-Spring-2017.pdf

 

 


Holy Week Lamb

Baby lamb a few days old outside with mom

When we came home from church on Palm Sunday, there was one sheep going making all sorts of noise in the pasture so I told Ivar he had better go see if everything was okay. He hopped out of the car and ran to the barn. A while later he came in, “I think a lamb is going to be born! Fluffy Cloud has a very, very red butt!”

So Rory ran out to the barn, and sure enough, still in its sack, found a baby lamb and affectionate mother cleaning it.

Little lamb minutes after birth

Mama sheep cleaning up her baby lamb

He stayed to make sure everything was going smoothly, separated the other two sheep from the new mama and her baby and filled the water bucket with warm molasses water.

Other ewes outside

I got lunch for the kids and put Hattie down for a nap. I asked Elsie if she wanted to come out to the barn with me and she commented, “No, because one time I saw a goat being born and it was very gross to me.” True story. She did watch a baby goat literally come into the world and it left a serious impression on both of my kids! We didn’t make her go to the barn until later that evening…

But I went out to the barn and the little lamb was already trying to stand on it’s legs and nurse. Everything was going so smoothly, much to my serious relief. We are so new at all of this and even though we have been reading our go-to sheep book and asking questions and watching youtube videos, there are some lessons to learn that you just have to experience. But it’s scary! We really love our animals and want to care for them perfectly, even as we learn everything from scratch.

Baby lamb standing for the first time

We named the little lamb Sunday, as he was born on a Sunday and quickly discovered the lamb was a boy…just like our two goat kids are male. We’re ready for a lady! :)

The next day we found the lamb jumping around, trying out it’s legs, kicking and dancing all around the pen. All the sheep (except the ram) were let outside on Tuesday and it was so fun to watch Sunday bound around the field. It is amazing to watch how quickly these barn animals get to their feet! In human time, a kid isn’t jumping and leaping for 18 months, maybe 2 whole years. And here, on day two of life the lamb was kicking around his sturdy legs.

Easter is full of lamb imagery. Jesus is the pure, spotless lamb of God here to take away the sins of the world. These words have a whole new meaning as we behold our little, sweet lamb bounding happily around the barn.

Baby lamb a few days old, relaxing with mom


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