The Grovestead

Farm, Family, Fun.

Category: Our Field (page 2 of 5)

Sheep & Apples

Sheep grazing in the background with apples in the foreground

The story of our getting sheep started with a hunt for hay baling equipment. Every year we lose one-third to one-half of our hay crop to delays. We rely on a neighboring farmer to cut and bale our hay, and being one of the smallest acreages on their list, we often miss the best weather for cutting and drying. Needless to say, this has been a source of much aggravation each Spring.

Every year as the farmer comes to chop and haul away the wet, rotting hay I resolve once more get my own baling equipment and start making my own hay. Just a few problems. Baling implements are expensive and my tractor isn’t powerful enough to run them. By the time I’d finished making all the upgrades I’d be $15,000 in the hole. That’s a lot of debt for 3 acres of hay.

So I did what I always do when faced with an unsolvable problem. I prayed about it. The Lord told me I hadn’t done enough research. There were creative alternatives I hadn’t considered yet. That’s when the hints about sheep started appearing. “Little Lambs” started appearing everywhere, starting with Harriet’s shower gifts. She received three lamb stuffed animals from three different people. Then a friend asked if I would consider raising sheep this year because he wanted to buy locally grown lamb. I finally got it.  The creative alternative: Don’t bring the hay to the animals, bring the animals to the hay.

Two sheep grazing

Three sheep grazing

The sheep have been wonderful to keep. They baaa incessantly every time I enter the barn to let them out or shut them up. Although its more of a maaa, as in “maaa! give me more hay!”

They are more skittish than the goats, who are as friendly as dogs. But they are getting more tame over time. Their propensity to waddle through cockleburs, those velcro-like seed pods that stick to everything, means we won’t be getting much usable wool out of them.

Sheep grazing among the apple trees

It has taken most of the summer, training the sheep into various fencing configurations, but I finally was able to fence them into the alfalfa field surrounding my apple trees, which are planted in the corner of our hay field. Its the perfect setup. The sheep get fed mowing the grass around my trees. It had to be sheep, because goats or cows would certainly eat the trees as well!

Sheep's pasture

 


A farm needs a barn

Workers place posts in ground

It has been an exciting few weeks here at the Grovestead. We broke ground on our new barn project in mid-May and, weather-permitting, the activity hasn’t stopped since. In a swift two days the ground was leveled and made ready for construction using 80 cubic yards of clay from our own hillside.

Bull dozer prepares the site pad for new barn construction

Bull dozer pushing dirt

Skid loader smoothes out clay pad

The site was built up as much as 5 feet in some places. But the excavators did such a fine job of smoothing out the hillside where they scooped up the dirt, you’d never know they were here.

Dumping sand

Atop the clay pad was dumped 5 truckloads of fill sand.

Happy boy

One boy in particular was happy watching all the real-life “toys” moving about the property.

Boy atop excavated hill of topsoil

After hours Ivar and Elsie played in the dirt berms and clay pits. This became a smooth hillside 12 hours later.

Kids playing in excavated trench

The workers arrived a few days later and began squaring the site for construction.

Squaring the site for new barn construction

Barn materials arrive

Most of the materials arrived the same day on two flatbed trucks. The posts were so long the forklift driver had to raise the skids 7 feet off the ground to avoid hitting the apple trees 30′ apart.

Materials are carried to site from truck

Holes being dug for posts

Holes were dug and posts dropped into place at breakneck speed, considering there were only two workers and 40 posts.

Placing first post in ground

Overall the construction has been going very smoothly. Only a few minor delays, mostly weather-related. We’ve been holding our breath a lot around here, watching to see how our simple plans-on-paper take shape in real life (“…those are really tall poles!”). But mostly we have been thrilled with the progress.

Posts are finished for new barn construction

 


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