Oct. 5, 2015 Sheep Are Exactly Like Computers...
Our sheep are, anyway. They make it possible to work "easier", by mowing grass that prevents us from harvesting our chestnuts and hickory-pecans. "They'll make my life easier!" - we fantasize. So - we wind up doing more work than before. Because we can. Here we are, moving the sheep from the other side of the farm so they can prepare the hickory-pecans for harvest-
And here they are, hard at work.
The word "bucolic" has nearly disappeared from our language- but look it up if you need to; then apply it to your understanding of these photos. And understand- you are not looking at a "hobby", or the production of luxury crops - you are looking at an agricultural system that can feed cities.
And we're insanely busy harvesting the nuts right at the moment; protein, oil, and carbohydrates-
July 16, 2015 Speaking Leadersheep
Just like with fossil fuel lawnmowers; if you're using livestock to mow grass; you need to keep careful track of how much fuel they have available. An empty tank on your gas mower - means running out of fuel in the middle of a job, possibly far from more gas. An empty tank on your grass-fueled mower - means sick sheep, low growth rates, and possibly dead animals in the winter. So - we keep careful track of how much graze is left in the paddock.
Right now our sheep are mowing under our main nut producing chestnuts- both to eat the burdock down to zero again, depleting the root systems so we can hope to prevent seed formation; and also to eat volunteer chestnut seedlings, which will confuse our data- and which the horses will not touch.
The sheep also avidly eat chestnut leaves they can reach; which we appreciate- it makes it possible to move in the grove. And they strip invasive tartarian honeysuckle completely, and most other invasive woody plants also. They don't touch mature chestnut bark.
Having Leadersheep genes in our flock means - the sheep tell us the state of the graze; whenever we walk by. Literally. The first picture below is how they greeted me just now, as I came to check. Supreme indifference. Meaning; graze is ok at the moment. But- the two top ewes both spoke to me; both Minnie and Bridget gave me one "baaa" each, as they lay down. On a new paddock, they will not speak. Two leaders speaking means, specifically - "It's ok today; but we can see it's going to run out before long." Meaning; the paddock will need to be moved tomorrow; or the next day for sure.
And in the picture below - you can see the flock simply expressing interest in me. They got up and came to see what was going on; when I stayed at the fence, came a bit closer, and started taking pictures. A little more baaaing, but not much; and very casual behavior. They understand the entire process of moving the paddock- and are interested.
In the normal course of things, when I repeat my inspection tomorrow, instead of just Minnie and Bridget baaaing, there will be 5 adult sheep speaking as soon as they see me: which translates as "We'd appreciate a new paddock today; but it's not exactly urgent." If they're in the same paddock on the next day - the entire flock will speak - loudly- as soon as they see a human.
It's very, very useful.
Update: as of this evening, they are making it clear - casually - that they want a new paddock tomorrow morning. We'll oblige.
Badgersett is looking to add a livestock manager!!
We're hoping to find a person, or a couple; willing to come and live here (minimum tenure 2 years, maybe...) and take primary responsibility for the Icelandic flock - and likely the horses as well. If you are among those looking to get into farming- but without land; this may be your opportunity!
We need to / hope to have an "openings" page soon; but in the meantime, if you are seriously interested in the possibility, email me at philip.rutter at badgersett.com. We have, we hope, ways for you to make a living here, while learning and expanding both our enterprises, and yours.
Yes, the Shuttleworth Flash Grant is making us sweat this summer. How? Why? Because?
I'm inside this very minute; with my tiny 35 year-old made in Taiwan 12VDC fan evaporating sweat already generated- cooling off so I can go sweat for Shuttleworth some more.
We're moving the sheep paddock today. The sheep are in our apples at the moment; we've got about 5 acres (?) I planted and grafted decades ago. The sheep love the apples, and vice-versa. Many "heritage" apples were selected from orchards that were always grazed by sheep. The apples just may remember that; our russets seem to.
But- for the first 30 years of their lives, our apples had no sheep. So- there are multiple places in the apple orchard, and on its peripheries, that are not "electromesh friendly". Branches block straight lines, droop onto fence tops, or will droop if soaking wet from a thunderstorm. And some places aren't human friendly; either. Overgrown with raspberries, or with tangled apple branches.
Making the decision to go permanent - means it is now time to stop just avoiding unfriendly tangles; and cut them out. So that next year, and the next- the paddocks can be rotated almost effortlessly.
Effortlessly next year requires sweat, right now. Get these barriers out - permanently.
So. We're sweating. And offering praise to Shuttleworth under our breath, constantly. :-)
|Spent paddock, 6/14/15|
|The Test Winter of '13-14|
For the past 4 winters, we have kept the flock outdoors; no barn or full time shed. They have done extremely well though the winters in that state. The winter paddock does not move - since the ground is frozen, the moveable electromesh is impossible to re-position; but this has worked for us. Of course, they are given hay daily. Water? They refuse to drink water, if any snow at all is available; they greatly prefer to eat snow.
As you can see, though- we did not shear them in the Fall, which is standard practice in most Icelandic flocks. So many reasons! But- knowing they were wintering without a barn, we did not shear; and since they are kept on snow; not hay- the winter fleeces do not become matted and dirty, but remain very clean, until Spring shearing.
Managing and selling "whole year" Icelandic fleeces is a special task; there are few sold this way. But it all depends on the quality of the fleeces- ours can be terrific; as you can see in this photo.
Many more details, as we have time to add them!