Sunday, September 18, 2011

So where is the Romance?

Recently, a seasoned farmer asked "is farming as you originally pictured it? I always find people have this romantic ideal of farm life."

It was a great question.  Here we are, just over a year after this great adventure has begun and I can't say I have one moment of regret.

I am also not sure if I came into this adventure with a romantic ideal of farm life. I knew it would be hard work, a lot of hard work.  I was prepared for the hours of labour involved.  I think summers working at garlic farms and in strawberry fields prepared me for that type of need.  What did surprise me is how easy it has been to learn so much in such a short period of time.

We were so apprehensive in the beginning, afraid to try anything that hadn't been field tested by hundreds of farmers before us.  Google searching every question we had, and comparing answers before we made any type of decision.

Now we simply fly by the seat of our pants, and try things to see if they work. It has been this cavalier approach to farming that has allowed us to invent new systems, create processes that streamline work, and find ways in which to cut overhead costs.

The best lessons that anyone can learn are from costly mistakes.

We have also found that we quite enjoy the work, and get a great feeling of accomplishment when we are able cross things off our white board.  We would have made great pioneers.

Having said all of that, I do still find that farming has romantic moments. Why just today I stood with my better half enjoying the most gorgeous sunset, as we stood amongst the sheep tired and weary from spending hours in the barn. Terribly romantic.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

And then there were three....

Since early man first learned to form tribes, they have depended on dogs to help them do their work.  Not much has changed in the world of sheep.  Nomadic tribes used dogs as protection from predators for thousands of years,  effectively protecting very large flocks in remote regions.

We recently added a third livestock guardian to our team.  Murdzo is a purebred Sarplaninac, and at 6 months he is already 100lbs! We were not certain how he would fit into our pack, but the transition has been seamless.  He has been readily accepted, and they are now a strong team.

His first visit with the sheep was wonderful, he did all of the right things. Approached them slowly, allowed them to smell him, and sat looking disinterested to show submission.  It's amazing that our ewe lambs will still run from us, but will run to the dogs! It is almost as though they instinctively know that the dogs are their guardian angels, there to protect them from things that go bump in the night.

Murdzo was a cherished  and much loved pet for the first 6 months of his life. His family was very sad to see him go but circumstances changed and they needed to find him a new home.  The farm was perfect, and it means they can visit him any time they like. We are truly blessed, he has such a happy go lucky temperament, and is a wonderful addition to our farm.  He has enjoyed his new found freedom, and spends his days with our other two dogs exploring the fields, chasing chipmunks in the forest, and watching over the sheep. 

Dogs with jobs, are very happy dogs indeed.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Wee Wooly Ones

Well, it's official.  After months of talking about it, and weeks of planning - the sheep have arrived. We were not quite ready, in fact we still have to finish fencing in the pasture, but thus far they haven't attempted to escape.

It has been interesting to understand the ways of sheep.  They are quite a skittish bunch. If I walk up to the herd, they tend to walk the other way. This is extremely helpful when bringing them in at night, but doesn't soothe the urge I get to dig my hands into their woolly coats and give them a big old fashioned bear hug.

Of our four donkeys, Whisky and Lucy are best with the sheep.  Clover and Radar have been very naughty, and spent hours chasing the sheep during the first two days.  The combination of the hot September sunshine and the thick woolly coats was not conducive to running laps around the pasture, so Clover and Radar have been relocated to the centre courtyard. They are not happy about this, and have made their displeasure known by loudly braying and complaining.  Each night when we bring the sheep in, we bring the donkey's in as well and house them all side by side. We are hoping that with time Clover and Radar learn to accept the sheep.

I am still not used to their droppings.  After months of scooping donkey poop, the wee tiny pellets produced by the sheep led me to believe we had been infiltrated by rabbits! Tiny.  Extremely tiny. So tiny that my manure fork can't pick them up. I have resorted to sweeping the concrete. Which works...kind of.

I have suggested to the better half that a giant shop vac would do a fine job. He gave me "the look".   I didn't understand what was so odd about vacuuming the concrete paddock area. Now if I decide to pull out the Swiffer, then I would understand the concern,.