I don’t know if it’s that it’s springtime or if the Ultralight that flew over the farm this morning got the sheep going. But they all came running in from the back pasture and when Constance and Robin started bumping heads Asher broke it up chasing Robin, into the barn.
There was a bit of frost on the grass this morning and the sheep ran right past it into the brushy area of the pasture that borders the stream. They foraged around there for a while then made their way to the open pasture.
I got the fences in the back pasture done today. It feels good to know they’re secure and that we can let the sheep graze there without having to worry about them going onto the neighbor’s property.
I let the sheep and donkeys into the pasture when I was done. For the first half-hour they were too busy eating the grass that had grown up since they were last there.
But they soon went exploring.
Constance was the first to run to the place in the fence the sheep went through a week ago. But she backed away after seeing that she could no longer get to the other side. Then Robin did some exploring as you can see in the video below. Constance joined him, I guess just making sure she didn’t miss anything.
When I went to the barnyard two hours later to bring the sheep in, they were already back at the barn. It seems they had their fill of grass.
It was not how I planned my morning. When Jon and I got home last night, we closed the side pasture where the sheep had been grazing while we were away. They ate the grass down so now we’ll let it grow up again.
This morning I gave the sheep hay but they followed me to the back pasture and before I could even open the gate Constance slipped through the five-wire fence. Suzy started to follow her, but once I had the gate open she decided that was easier.
While the sheep grazed I went back to the barn to muck it out, visiting a bit with the donkeys who were still eating hay.
About ten minutes later I thought about how easily Constance slipped through the fence and went to check on the sheep in the back pasture. Asher, Issachar and Socks were on top of the hill by the pine tree, but the rest of the sheep were nowhere in sight.
So I walked the fence line and saw that the mesh fencing I’d put up a couple of years ago in front of the five-wire was down. And there were the rest of the sheep on the other side of the fence on our neighbor’s property enjoying their very green grass.
These are the same neighbors who freed Kim when she got stuck in the fencing a few weeks ago, so I knew they’d understand if they looked out their window and saw the sheep grazing.
I looked down at Fate who was looking up at me eagerly and thought about Red. Without a dog who could get the sheep back, it was up to me.
So I stepped over the fence onto my neighbor’s property and called to the sheep. To my surprise, they came running.
They followed me to the fence, but once I went over it again, they turned back to that green grass.That’s when I knew I needed grain.
I called Jon who was in the house and told him that the sheep were out. He was getting dressed and said he was on his way out.
I went back to the barn and filled a bucket with grain. I shook the bucket and called “here sheep, here sheep” as I walked back towards them. Once I got to the fence in the back, still shaking the bucket, the sheep came running.
Again they all stopped at the fence, looking at me, but not coming any further.
So I backed up, and when I did, I got my feet tangled in the mesh fencing that was laying on the ground. But by the time I got my boots untangled, Biddy and Kim had come through the fence and were sticking their heads in the bucket of grain.
Now there were five of the eleven sheep on our side of the fence.
I knew the sheep on our neighbor’s property weren’t going anywhere. There was too much good grass. So I shook that bucket of grain, and the five sheep followed me back to the barnyard.
As soon as I got the five sheep into the barnyard and closed the gate, they started calling to the sheep who were not there with them.
Then, the six runaway sheep started calling back.
Sheep are smart enough to know there is safety in numbers. They don’t like to be separated. As long as they can see each other, even if there is a fence in between them, they feel safe. But that had changed for the six sheep who were now on unfamiliar ground and separated from the rest of the flock.
Within minutes, I heard, then saw the rest of the sheep come running. I opened the gate just enough to let them through.
That was when Jon showed up. He kept an eye on the sheep while I went to the barn and brought back some temporary fencing and baling string to shore up the fence that Constance originally got through.
So instead of spending the day, putting up pictures from our trip and working on my Calendar Cat Quilt, I’ll be spending it putting up some new fencing.
I also have potholders to put up for sale in my Etsy Shop, but that will have to wait too.
This is the only time of year the sheep show any interest in breaking out of the pastures.
This afternoon I’ll open the north pasture for the sheep to graze for a couple of hours. From now on we’ll be doing rotational grazing. The sheep will graze a couple of hours twice a day in each pasture.
Since the sheep have tasted the spring grass, they’re not interested in hay anymore.
But they do have nice round bellies from five days of continuous grazing while we were away. So it’s not that they don’t have enough to eat, they just want more.
And I can’t blame them. I had my share of lobster when we were away and if it was as easy as slipping through a fence to get some more, I’d be doing it too.
The sheep still need to remind themselves of who is who after shearing. This morning Lori and Socks were bumping heads. Lori was clearly trying to keep Socks away from her. Socks being much older finally moved to the other feeder. In this video you can see Liam sniffing Socks. One way they identify each other is through smell.
This morning the older sheep, Suzy, Socks, Liam and Biddy left the hay and followed me into the back pasture. Even though the grass is still low, they are grazing and prefer it to hay. Kim, Merricat and Constance followed them.
We won’t open the north and south pastures for the sheep to graze until the grass gets higher. When the grass is low they can pull up the roots when grazing and ruin the pasture for the rest of the season.
There was a slight breeze and the sun was warm. I so wanted to lay the fleeces out on the lawn to dry. But of course, that wouldn’t work on the farm, not with the chickens and cats roaming around.
I could just imagine the hens scattering the wool far and wide as they scratched and pecked and pooped on it.
So I laid it out on the front porch, four fleeces in all. Asher and Issachars are big and thick. Suzy, Socks and Constance’s fleeces fit on the wicker benches and table. All of them soft gray. I think I can mix them together and leave some natural then dye the rest.
These were the sheep we sheared on Saturday when it was raining. Ian suggested I lay the wool out in the sun because it was damp.
The rest of the wool is white, from Liam, Constance and Kim. Lori’s and Robin’s wool is too short to make into yarn.
By the end of the day, the wool was dry.
Sometimes I worry so much about the wool, what I’ll do with it, how clean I can get it, if it’s long enough or too long. And I forget to appreciate its beauty, its gift.
But this evening, as I sat on the floor of the porch squeezing Asher’s fleece back into a plastic bag, I paused.
Instead of just grabbing the wool and pushing it into the bag, I felt in it my hand. It was springy and soft, moist with lanolin. After that each handful I stuffed into the bag reminded me of digging in the rich earth of my vegetable garden. Of smoothing the soil over the seeds with my bare hands.
When the bags were full I rubbed my hands together working the lanolin into them. Then I put them to my face and breathed in the smell of my sheep. Sun warmed snow, dry earth, hay, fresh rain, winter bark, and seasoned manure.
The past year on the farm is in that wool. There’s memory in the crimp, each fleece a story told.
Ian was back as planned and he finished shearing the rest of the sheep and clipping their hooves. It even stopped raining when he got to the farm.
I have to sort through the fleeces and see which ones I can keep and which are too short. Issachar and Asher both had the most beautiful fleeces, although they do have a lot of pieces of hay in them so they’ll be tough skirting. Also, their wool was a little damp from the rain even though I put them in the barn at 11am and Ian got to the farm at 4pm.
Tomorrow the sun is going to come out and it’s supposed to be warm, so I’ll spread the damp fleeces out to dry.
Robin was the last to be shorn. His wool was so short I was debating whether to even shear him or not. But I wanted to make a clean start of things since I’ll only be shearing the sheep in the spring from now on. I didn’t want Robin to go a year and a half with shearing.
When it was his turn to be shorn, he was hiding in the corner of the barn behind his mother Lori. Kim and Merricat were also gathered around.
Sometimes when shearing a sheep, they get nicked by the clippers. When that happens the shearer spays the cut with an anticeptic spray. The one Ian used on Issachar for a small cut is purple. That’s what Kim has around her eye. She didn’t get nicked, but she rubbed up against the cut on Issachar and got some of the purple spray on her wool.
Issachar was not bothered by the small cut. I was careful to take my earring off so he couldn’t try to eat them again, but He continued trying to eat my hat and the tops of my boots, before and after he was shorn.
Sometimes, like the sheep themselves, I have a hard time telling them apart after their wool is gone. The sheep sniff each other to get reintroduced. I often confuse Asher and Issachar and Suzy and Socks, especially from a distance. But Issachar has a faint white streak on his nose, Suzy has those big eyes, and the older Socks gets the more white she has on her face.
I won’t be bringing the wool to the mill till sometime in June because I’m on a six-month schedule with the Vermont Fiber Mill. They won’t start working on my wool till July or later. I’ll get it back as yarn and roving in September or October.