Sunday, January 1, 2023

new year, new ewe


In sincerity, I love the energy of getting through the holidays (I'm a complete grinch) and the opportunity of a clean slate on January 1st. This year I’m embracing the art of writing things down in lists and attempting more structure for myself, Saipua and the farm.

The iterative aspect of farming (every year a new crop along with a new crop of participants) is one I have grown to appreciate as an unusually long game, a race that starts in March and finishes in December.

January and February are achingly quiet and frozen months here, with very little to do but feed and water animals.

Inside I'm on the phone a lot, hovering around the woodstove, interviewing farmhand applicants and chatting to their interesting and varied references.

I'm also planning residencies (thanks to those of you who put your deposits down on 2023's Floral residencies!) short form classes, volunteer schedules, budgets and working on the perfect Worlds End buckwheat chocolate chip cookie which I plan to have on offer at the Coyote Cafe (opens May 14th!).

Buckwheat is a great crop for our wet clay soil and one day, mark my words, we'll grow it, mill it and make that cookie and give it away on Sundays. If you believe in my deep-time, anti-profit ventures; bless you.

Tess, or ‘Tuna’ as I sometimes call her, has been settling in with us at the farm, working sheep and providing great companionship to me. She is 8yo and came to me from the working border collie network - a woman who trains her dogs for trials found herself limited with Tess because she lacks some of the focus and precision needed to win at sheepdog trials. Her other dogs were getting more time on sheep and Tess dropped on the totem pole. She decided to adopt her to me knowing Tess would get more work here. What a great world of dog people there are out there, I feel very grateful.

The communal living experiment continues to evolve beyond the confines of the human campus - in the specific ecosystem of Icelandic sheep and Maremma dogs up in the permanent pasture.

The trouble we were having with Donnie chewing on sheep this fall (unfortunately a common 'playful' behavior with adolescent LGD's) seems to have subsided for now though I still don't trust him with his 'favorite' ewe - No. 32 a rare black and brown mouflon born last spring.

Inspecting Donnie’s chompers. We also had Donnie neutered a few months ago which should level his hormones out and help him get more serious and settle into his responsibilies.

She gets the princess treatment along with her young sisters; they come in the barn for safe keeping every night (Donnie is triggered by boredom early in the morning before I get up there to feed him) and get fed not just hay but also alfalfa pellets. This treat has them trained to come in without much coaxing and also helps get these lambs’ weight up as we've bred them a tad earlier than some shepherds would.

Here she is - her front right leg nicely healed, little No.32 our first Mouflon ewe - It’s relatively rare, we’ve never had these genetics present in our flock.

The greenhouse and gardens are now all officially resting. Mark and I are anticipating a most excellent set of gardens next season after so much work in 2022 setting up the greenhouse and renovating the flower fields - solarizing large portions to smother and eradicate the perennial weeds that prove difficult to fight without landscape fabric (I just hate the stuff) and building up beds with manual shaping and the addition of compost and topsoil.

As always with this time of year I'm bored with the 'necessity' of winter rest and aching for the sprint that lies ahead - the fury and its foments.

There will be more ways than ever for you to get involved with the farm this season - no matter where you are. In a few weeks, I'll release volunteer dates - opportunities to come live and work with us for 2-week stints this season.

I'll also be describing a new subscription-based educational service that will be comprised of video content and text-based documents aimed at sharing our work here with a larger audience. It's going to be Worlds End TV and will include everything from the much anticipated 'Lamb Cam' to floral arranging tutorials to soil science to Susan's 'perfect scrambled eggs instructional.'

Till then I'll be here at my computer more than I care to be; making spreadsheets on sheep breeding and finagling budgets, longing for the heat and chaos that lies around the corner. 

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