The pasture hasn't looked like this in longer than I can recall.
The drought here in California has taken a mighty toll.
Trying to look on the bright side, exposed earth like this allows me to find all sorts of crap that folks before us left on the ground. I generally find several dozen rusty nails, a handful of broken glass, and other treasures each time I walk through. It's part of my shepherdess job to remove these hazards to sheep feet.
Despite the dearth of grazing, the sheep anticipate with excitement the rotation to the next paddock. It keeps them happy to have a routine.
They don't find much, but are content with searching. their bellies are full from the morning's alfalfa hay, but they are sheep and need to follow a rhythm of graze, rest, graze, rest.
Meanwhile, we look to the sky and pray for rain...
I used to laugh at this play on words as a kid, but now as a sheep farmer it has taken on a more somber tone.
Straw isn't necessarily cheap, and good straw is not easy to come by. Hay is even more precious. Fifteen dollars a bale is a decent price these days, for good-quality alfalfa or alfalfa/grass mix (7 years ago I wouldn't have known the difference). We are loyal to our Loyalton alfalfa grower (pun unintentional) and travel the hour and a half one-way to load our Chevy with bales about once a month. Our own growing season is so short here that we can't rely solely on pasture to feed the sheep. Yesterday, I went along for the journey for the first time in about a year. One of us usually stays at the farm to keep an eye on things. But the lambs are sturdy, the spring is flowing, and I had a hankering to try out the Mexican restaurant in Sierraville.
Sierra Valley is one of the largest alpine (above 5000 ft) valleys in the U.S.
I had forgotten all the many twists and turns to get there, but the waft of sage through the windows made me glad I'd come.
Lovely alfalfa growing on the left, the hay barn up ahead.
Most other times I've made the trip out here the barn has been stacked, floor to ceiling, with hay. Where is it?
Gene's getting the last of the 2012 alfalfa. Our next trip will be for second-cut (another term I've learned in my new shepherdess life) alfalfa, probably in August.
Can you hear the ruckus from our sheep as Gene backs up the truck to our hay-storage hoop house? They know.
Tired from the long drive, we decided to pop open a beer, kick back and enjoy the view and save off-loading hay until tomorrow...
...which turned out to be a mistake. With no hint of warning from the National Weather Service, we had a hefty downpour last night, which left many of the hay bales soaked around the edges. We off-loaded them in a hurry this morning, leaving plenty of room between single bales, hoping that the now dry, windy weather will prevent them from molding. Another lesson learned; guess we'll be same-day off-loading from now on...