Spinning, Knitting, Crocheting, Organic Gardening, Living off-grid, and chasing sheep - because- I'm, like, NOT SANE!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Uh, okay, Planting Week

Sometimes I think bigger than I am. Sometimes I outright fantasize and convince even my skeptical self that I am some sort of super hero. Planting day? What was I thinking? Okay, maybe it was insanity spurred on by realizing a terrifically difficult goal. In just 1.5 days, hubster and I fenced the entire big garden and planted the aforementioned plus a 30 ft, (3 wide) row of carrots and beets in another row. Four of corn, 6 of beans, all manner of brassicas (broccoli, kale, kohlrabi - try this mighty root - you will love it, cukes of all kinds, and have only the tomato seedlings to go in some evening when I am not so sore that I winced at movement. Really, ALL we have left to do is fence in the 'front yard' and plant the squashes and pumpkins, the herbs, and some lettuce. We can't put the lettuce in the big garden because it gets so much sun that it makes more of a lettucy stenchy thing. Then, it is back to knitting, fiber, yarn, and the animals that make it all a reality.
We are trying something different this year. Our land is mostly old timberland and pasture is few and far between. Fencing it has always been a challenge as the ground dips and turns in between trees and such and, as you know, sheep have this hair on their backs that doesn't seem sensitive too much to electrified shock. The farmers, however, will definitely give you an accurate fence test (and a few new insults if you're looking to brush up on trashy conversation). So, instead of playing the eternal 'put up more fencing as they have already eaten everything in there and are breaking out every day' routine - we decided this: Four months out of the year we have to walk in and out of this place because the dirt road becomes slush and impassable unless you want to buy a new car every couple of years or spend all your free time putting new ball joints, brakes, etc. on the clunker you have now. Our little homestead is remote and, sometimes, kinda eery. Should there not be some benefit for all this that we do to walk softly? Instead of trying to keep them in - we are letting them out. Fencing in the gardens is a much more economical and doable job. In addition, they get to take out lots of saplings that would otherwise clog the woodland and harm the older trees. They get shade, they get a great and diverse diet, and they cannot break out of their pasture and steal my garden before my very weepy eyes. The pilot test has gone well so far. Let's face it, folks, sheep are, well, chickensh*t about pretty much everything. Sure, when I let them out each morning, they run about like wild hellions and pretend they are tough and free. But, one bark from the dog, or a sack rattling in the wind, and they run home balling and needing some security. The llama has done well, mostly staying with the sheep UNTIL this morning - when he headed for the hills and was spotted at the end of the road. We got him back home and he seems so shaken by the whole catastrophe that he's pretty much stayed in the yard all day. I'm not worried about it because we plan on putting a gate up at the end of the road with the next paycheck. He is a pack animal, after all, and as long as the road isn't blocked, he follows it. Mostly, this system is working out awesomely. My lambs are healthier than I've ever seen. In fact, the yearling that I kept to become a replacement ewe from last year is about the same size as the spring ewe I kept this year. It's not just grass they need, I am finding out, they need all the roots and minerals and trees that they are getting now. Proof? Usually they hog up all the mineral blocks we can put out - now they sit in the barn untouched. Of course, the wild raspberries will be sparse this year - as the ewes are wise to the enormous healing virtue of the leaves and have pretty much mowed every cluster they can find. Nonetheless, this method feels right so we'll stick with it until it doesn't anymore.
The critters were confused at first but seem to be figuring it out, now. This past weekend, they even started putting themselves up at night - and in correct fashion. The ram went into his pen, the llamas and mamas in the other. They were too tired to fuss, even, when hubster went down to latch the gates. This is my proof that peace can prevail - you just have to be creative and flexible about it. Course, if they get in to the garden - it will be war! (wicked laughing ensues)

Note of interest: In trying to discover what makes this silly llama head for the hills some days and stick around obediently on others, I have come upon one curious consistency - on a day after hubster has been home for a day or two, say Monday (or this blessed week - Tuesday - thanks for that extra day of ball-breaking work in the garden) Merlin takes off just as soon as I let him out and I look EVERYWHERE for him. Hmmm. I think he's trying to tell us he misses the only other person on this farm who can look him in the eyes. At 6'2", hubster can just about meet his tall gaze. Just another reason we all long for the day when our work is the farm, instead of him working 50+ hours a week elsewhere and us trying to tend the farm on his 'days off'. Am I getting old or crotchety, or both? GAh!