After a busy Saturday, I planned to spend Sunday at home getting caught up on some chores. Of course it was raining most of the weekend, and cold on top of that. I woke up to steady rain and fed the dogs, who’d come in wet after their morning trip outside. After breakfast I took my tea to bed and read for 90 minutes or so. I got up to do a little Internet research for a job, and after another hour went outside to check on the sheep and chickens. It was noon-ish by then, and the rain had mostly stopped. It was chilly though, with a bit of a breeze. I let the chickens out for the afternoon (there was a lone egg in the nest boxes, about all I’m getting each day this time of year), then went to let the sheep out.
I put the dogs in the car first – a trick treat for them (they think we’re going somewhere). The boys didn’t need to, but sometimes Daisy gets a little too enthusiastic about rounding up the sheep when they first get out of the pen. Since it had been a week since they’d last been out, and the ground was soft and slippery, I didn’t want her chasing them and possibly injuring any of them with a slip or a fall. And I’m glad I did, because they were so happy to be out and obviously needed to stretch their legs. As one, they ran into the pasture, they ran down the driveway, they ran around the garden and past the beehives up to the chicken coop, they ran around the house to the garage, then back to up the chicken coop, then back to the garage. It was fun to see them running as a little herd, and to see their obvious enjoyment at the movement, too. The Black Welsh Mountain boys lagged behind quickly – either because of their fat rolls or because of their age (the two older ones are about 5 years old now, the younger one is 4), compared to the Shetlands (3 and 4 for the two ewes, and seven months for the four lambs). Everyone was feeling their oats a bit, and it was nice to be able to let them out. They weren’t finding much forage though. The grass isn’t growing, and it’s soggy and mostly smothered in leaves to boot. And the brush must not taste very good this time of year; maybe the blackberry leaves get bitter in the fall, but they weren’t eating much of that stuff either, when normally they love it. They ate some fallen cottonwood leaves here and there (ones that weren’t too far along in the decomposition process), and some salal on the stump, but mostly roamed around looking for food as I raked leaves for a bit, then cleaned out their pen.
The leaf raking is going slowly this year. I hadn’t had much free time when the time was right (a month ago), and as a consequence the pasture is still only a quarter raked. I purchased a lawn vacuum in late October, in the hopes it would be the answer to making this monster job easier. It had to be shipped (Sears) and took two weeks to get here. Then, the first weekend I had it I wasn’t able to get to it, so it was Thanksgiving weekend before I broke him out of the box and assembled him. I was a little concerned about the wet leaves, but after first trying to escape (he rolled down the hill when I went back into the garage for something and I had to chase him down the driveway), he started up and did a nice job. Except for the fact that the wet leaves in the bag lifted his front end off the ground after about 100 yards. So I had to stop and empty the bag (which automatically turns off the engine) every 5 minutes. The leaves were beautifully chopped, but this would take me days – hand raking was faster, and with me at the rake, that’s saying something. I think if the leaves had been dryer (like a month earlier) it might not have been so bad. And if I were just vacuuming your average suburban lot, not two or three acres of pasture and hillside, it wouldn’t have been so tedious. Since it seemed silly to have a machine (that cost a week’s pay) that ADDED time to a task, I returned him to Sears only three weeks after I picked him up.
I hauled six wheelbarrow loads of wasted hay out of the sheep shed today, and there are at least three more I could have hauled out if I hadn’t run out of time. Two loads went up to the chicken coop, as it wasn’t that dirty and the chickens’ run needed some straw to help combat the mud. The other four loads went over to the sinkhole behind the beehives. I hope I’m not creating some future ecological disaster but since it’s just for the winter, I think I’ll be okay. Once spring gets here and the blackberry vines come back to life, I’m sure we’ll be fine. I can also throw some seed out there, to grow something that will enjoy the half composted hay and poop. Borage for the bees? Once I got the hay cleared out and the gate into the pen would open easily again, I filled the hay nets for the sheep. The boys had been milling about for a while, waiting for me to finally feed them, and were on the nets immediately. Cinnamon and her girls came in readily (behind my back, while I filled the other net in the garage), and of course Pebbles and her two played me for some grain. Minnie is becoming as sly as her mother, though she’ll go into the pen a little more willingly than Pebbles. She has her own bad habits, but right now she’s happy to be with the herd, so goes in there easily while Pebbles waits until she sees the grain before she’ll come in. I’m very trainable, it seems.