The Grovestead

Farm, Family, Fun.

Category: Sheep (page 1 of 2)

Wonder Woman

My wonder woman

Have you ever known someone that continually surprises you with newfound abilities? Who is always blowing past the boundaries of what you thought they could handle? And when you think about them, you are often left in a state of pure wonder?

That’s how I feel about my wife.

As I watched her expertly milk our Nanny goat this morning, after starting from scratch only a few days ago (both for her AND the goat), I was simply amazed. How did this suburban girl, elementary educator, and seminary graduate with no farm experience figure out how to do this? And she’s been doing it faithfully every day since we started, often giddy with enthusiasm.

Ready to milk

It’s not only the goats. She’s also the reason we have pigs this year (sometimes a point of contention), having researched and found a breeder, driving to another town to pick them up and bringing them home to their new stall in the barn. And then moving them two months later and 150 pounds heavier into their permanent home in another shed.

pigs

She has been relentless against the weeds in our oversized garden. It simply would not be possible for me to keep up this year without her dedication. (The beauty of Back to Eden gardening is that after the early spring weed-explosion, you don’t have much to contend with the rest of the summer. But you still have to weed or they can take over.)

She’s helped me chase broiler chickens into the coop at night and made sure the laying hens had enough water on steamy days. She fumbles with the electro-netting fence with me every few days as we try to move a herd of sheep into new pasture. When we had to shear the sheep early due to hot weather, she was right there with me in the stall, holding the ewes down or snipping off wool with the shears.

Shearing the sheep

She woke up nightly at 2am to feed our orphaned lamb. Something even I was unwilling to do.

Bottle feeding runs to the barn

After I dug the holes, she planted 25 pine trees with the kids (future Christmas trees).

Planting future christmas trees

She introduced beekeeping to our farm a few years ago.

Becca's bees

She was my only partner as we installed a 210-foot wooden-rail fence in only 2 days this spring.

Most recently she helped empty bedding from the animal stalls this week. Actually, she is the reason we got started at all. This is the worst chore on the farm folks, and she was knee deep in there with me pitching a winter’s worth of HEAVY manure.

Animal stalls

And let’s not forget, on top of all this, she also has an indoor farm to keep up with every day!

Indoor farm

She is one amazing woman. She is my Wonder Woman.

Farmwife

 


Morning Chores


Barnyard Roundup

Who are you looking at?

People keep asking me how big our pigs are now. And I never know how to answer that question. Real Big is my answer…and getting bigger every day. I am still quite a bit afraid of them. And I also think they’re pretty cool. And then intimidating.

Abraham up close

Chicken yard new fence

We finished our chicken yard this week! It’s awesome. We are so pleased with how it turned out and even more pleased to play in the rock box without chickens harassing Hattie.

Kittens play
Kittens playing

While we put the fencing up around the chicken yard, these two kittens were our constant entertainment. Better than a show on nova, our kittens are here to entertain.

Kittens still playing

Broiler chicks

I woke up this morning at 5:30 ready for the day. No kidding. I have no idea what that was all about but I felt great and the sun was bright and I was excited to do all the chores before 6. So I took off to feed the chicken Layers and then went out to let the chicken Broilers out of the chicken tractor. And before I knew it, I had 51 birds trying to eat my toes that were exposed as I was wearing my flip flops. It was terrible! I screamed and hooted and yelled and danced a jig to their feed bucket as fast I could and started dumping feed all over the yard telling them to “shoo!” “get!” “back off!” while stomping my feet and curling my toes. Also, we got all males this year because they grow to be a bigger bird and I think they’re missing the ladies. There is a lack of love in those eyes, don’t you think?

Pastured chickens

Miracle... lamb

And finally, Miracle. We have had a really hard week with Miracle. He hasn’t walked for five days in a row. For a while the vet said she thought he had Polio. But then his temperature spiked the highest it has ever been which made her think he has some sort of infection. So he went back on antibiotics. He lays in the grass up by our house all day long and we visit him and bring him fresh alfalfa and clover. He is still so, so sweet. Tomorrow we are taking him to the vet and I honestly have no idea what the outcome of that visit will be. In a sudden twist, he walked to the garage this afternoon, but couldn’t walk again after that, so now we’re more puzzled than ever.

But we are so thankful for our vet. She is incredible. Last weekend Rory got off the phone with her and said to me, “She is so sharp. I want to start bringing our kids to see her.” Ha! I thought that was the funniest thing ever, and a very high compliment. But she is that good. A large animal vet is an exciting person to know. One time I went to get medicine for Miracle and asked if she was in the office and the receptionist checked her computer and said, “no, she’s offsite in the middle of a surgery on a cow.” Can you imagine having dinner each night at her family table? “So, what did you do today, dear?”

So keep Miracle in your thoughts and prayers. Once again we have no idea how this story will end.


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.


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