Monthly Archives: September 2010
Here’s a video featured on Canadian Geographic talking to the shepherds at shearing time at Topsy Farms.
Ian has been wrapping up haying, working to bring home the bales from all the far-flung fields that we rent, while Don and Chris have been working hard on sheep handling (checking feet, separating those that need any treatment, vaccinating, keeping a daily eye on all flocks, watching the pasture they are in and having a checkerboard plan of the next move to greener eating, keeping water available at all times etc.)
Ian can move 29 bales at a time, stacked two wide and two high on two wagons.
On a very rare day when nothing is pushing him for finances, house, me, The Wool Shed, laundry etc, he can manage 3 loads. With over 1400 bales out there, that’s a LOT of hauling to get the haying finished.
Yesterday, Chris was able to join him for part of the day (his wagon holds 23) and plans to again today, while Don does the dirty job of cleaning out one of our huge grain bins, to ensure that it contains only the fresh grain mixed appropriately for our lambs. At first they don’t like the grain much and have some difficulty digesting it. We purposely give them oats, their least favorite so they just nibble, and gradually adjust their digestive systems. In another month, we’ll be changing the ‘mix’ of the grains they receive but cautiously as there is such a thing as ‘grain overload’ which will make them very ill. It doesn’t seem possible with Canadian conditions to ‘finish’ a pasture-born lamb without some additional nutrition as the pasture fades. This year we will be adding our ‘baleage’ to the mix for the first time, so we’ll have a learning curve there too. We are hoping it is easier for their digestion, and also that our costs will be less (eventually).
I helped with my first big sheep drive in ages.
We were taking the lambs from the corner called Emerald, where the Front Rd turns to gravel and there’s a turnoff, south. They were in McCrimmon’s pasture there, but had run out of grass. We took them south to the first corner at the Second Concession then turned them east quite a long way to get to the ‘Beehive Field’ about 4.5 kms. We had our 3 men on ATV’s and a neighbour on his; Carl joined us on his bike, and I was in my car. One severe danger is the blind hill that approaches that intersection. I parked my car with flashers on at the verge near the top, then stood in the middle of the road where a driver would see my head first – also where I could help turn the sheep at right angles along the Second.
It all went smoothly. We started at 6:30 – not wanting to move them in the heat of the day – as a solid red ball of rising sun was trying to cut through the mist. Everything was dew wet and shimmery. The small hills and curves of land around the homes were so lovely. The sheep were eager for fresh grass, and kept trying to cut through someone’s lawn or open laneway or sagging fencing to grab mouthfuls. (Before the ATVs we used to have an army of kids on lousy bikes.) It was a deep pleasure to be a part of it all again; by driving in the back, I freed Christopher to take off on the ATV, skirting the herd, chasing in the most adventurous. I stopped off at Shirley and Keith Miller’s for a brief visit.
Meanwhile, Ian’s meat chickens have been suffering badly between a very clever raccoon and the heat. Some years we’ve actually processed more chickens than the 225 three week old chicks we’d purchased (they count generously.) It won’t happen this year. They’ll go to the butcher this Friday and next. Meanwhile, I’ve been contacting our list of customers, as we try to sell as many of the first load of 150 as we can, to make freezer room for the rest. Somehow, Ian’ll have to find time to defrost all 3 freezers in the next few days…
The Wool Shed had a really good month in August, despite our only going to the Sheep Dog Trials – not a weekly Farmer’s Market. Just didn’t have the people power. I get bothered some times, when folks show up during my 2 hours off in the morning or the brief lovely evening time I’m not hooked up. On the other hand, we’ll miss their income next month. Ian will start the Queen’s Farmer’s Market in Sept sometime.
Christopher is on a government advisory committee – I think this is his 6th minister of Agriculture, and is very active in the provincial sheep marketing agency (OSMA). He’ll be off to England again in Sept to visit his mom. Don’s off next week to see his folks on their anniversary, but only for 3 days.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to set up our big private lamb marketing organization. We’ve over 300 names on our list now, that I contact annually, most of whom I talk to 3 or 4 times each. All potential new customers take a long time to advise, so they can get what is most appropriate for them. It keeps me occupied as my beloved garden winds down.
Right now its utterly lovely. We’ve bees and hummingbirds and butterflies abounding, as well as scads of flowers and lots and lots of veg. I’ve done a deal with the newly reopened Café in the village. They get weekly bouquets and tomatoes, and my kids get a credit to spend at the café. And I get to feel a part of it all.
I wish you all could be here. I’ve just gotten a good start on a garden veg soup – potato, onion, scarlet runner beans, broccoli, zuc, tomatoes, basil, oregano carrots, kale – all of which I picked this am. I’ll add in the lamb stew Ian made a couple of days ago with garlic, wild mushroom and a bit of other frig stuff, and it should be good. Smells it.