Posts Tagged ‘sheep’

 

 

There are few words to describe the drought we have been experiencing. It’s been like a twilight zone. This last rain system, we fortunately received over 8 inches of rain at Heart Arrow Ranch, but we need much more to have irrigated pasture this summer. It’s hard preparing ourselves to possibly sell off half of our animals, as we’ve been working hard to grow our business. So, we continue to pray for more rain! Despite all the uphill challenges, we are taking one day at a time with our work. Today we herded the sheep into the vineyard, and it was a joy to see them enjoy running around, let out of the lambing barn and heading for some green grass.sheep herding 1 sheep herding 2 sheep herding 3 sheep herding 4 sheep herding 5 sheep herding 6 sheep herding 7

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Lambing season started off a bit later than usual, and now that it is here, we are in full swing. We are setting up jugs (lambing pens) in the barn, which discourages mismothering. With all the newborn cries and probably hormones flying, ewes can nurse and bond in peace and order. This is an exciting time of the year.

Watch these twins take their first steps.

lamb resting 2 lamb resting 1 view of lamb nursery big lamb nursing colored ewe and lamb in jug ewe and lamb in jug smiling black lamb twin lambs dec 13

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Modern Shepherding

Our flock of sheep have been back at Heart Arrow Ranch for about a week now. Last night, we finished inventory of the flock and counted a total of 148 sheep, not including all the newborns.

Last week, we started hauling the sheep from Potter Valley, primarily because the livestock guardian dogs were being bad and wandering along public roads. We had just moved a couple ewes with newborn lambs, too. Out in the open pastures, newborns are more likely to be literally pecked off by ravens. We only have a 16′ livestock trailer right now, so it took us 6 trips to move everyone. We are not like the traditional shepherds who herd sheep miles and miles for the annual migration. If you are looking for a beautiful documentary film to watch while cozied up on your couch this winter, we recommend Sweetgrass. It follows the herding of sheep through Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth mountains. Check out the trailer:

When we move our sheep, sometimes they get a comfy ride 🙂

lamb in truck

It’s wonderful to have the sheep back at Heart Arrow. Now we pray that it rains so the hills will green up. Friday’s snow gave us some moisture, but we’re going to need more to make sure the grass keeps growing, especially during these very short days.

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Crafty Sheep

Rain soaked ground = fence down = movin’ on to greener pastures!

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Great Lamb, Great Wine

You could say the delicious symphony of a complex wine and flavorful lamb starts here. By “here,” we mean in the vineyard at Heart Arrow Ranch. This past Friday, we continued through the sheep cycle at our farm and herded the flock into the vineyard, starting at the far end in the cabernet sauvignon. Until then, they had been spending the relatively dry winter in the rangeland. In between the rangeland and vineyard, we had them in the corral for a couple days where we could check on new lambs, like this spunky guy:

He was one of the quicker ones. A couple lambs were not agile or big enough to keep up with the herd when we moved them, but luckily, they did not have to go very far, and Adam was kind enough to give a couple a lift on his ATV.

Needless to say, it took a bit of encouragement to get the flock all the way to where we wanted them at the far end of the vineyard. There was so much to taste along the way.

It is relatively simple to keep the sheep in where they are right now. Since the vineyard is fenced on 3 sides by deer fence, we just needed to put up electric netting on the 4th side. Four of the guardian dogs are with them.

The vineyard crew already pruned the canes in this section. While they went ahead and mowed the canes on the ground, they only mowed alternate rows that were not cover cropped. Some of the food value of the vineyard, particularly the sub clover, was lost because of that, but there is still plenty for the ovines to enjoy. We expect them to stay in this section for about a week before we need to move them to where there’s more food – the adjacent section of the vineyard.

Just today, when we went to check on everyone and feed the guardian dogs, we spotted the flock doing what they do best – eating, ruminating, and being generally peaceful in the shade and amongst the vines. Once again, for about a month and a half (until bud break), we get to experience the interconnected relationship of our sheep and the Goldens’ wine grapes. At dinner with good wine and good lamb, wouldn’t you want a gastronomic experience just as complementary?

Farm Fact of the Week

A couple years ago, we participated in a UC Davis research project to try to teach sheep to not eat the grapevines after bud break. This “aversion training” did not work for our sheep and our farm system; management-wise it was not practical. We found that even though the sheep may have “learned” that eating the vines was a negative experience, if there was not enough lush feed for them on the ground, they would want to eat the grapevines. Raising sheep requires some level of management, and when there isn’t enough fresh food in an area for the flock, they will try to look for more. So, it’s always better to have enough fresh pasture available. That’s also why we lease irrigated pasture for them during the dry months.

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Farming is like dancing – there are slow dances and fast jigs and every pace in between. We’re at another hurried hustle this time of year. Summer crops like tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers are giving bloated harvests that call for routine attention.

Making tomato sauce with black plum tomatoes.

Yet under the guise of bounty, nature is slowly inching toward the quieter time of the year – fall and eventually winter – when crops slow down and the land lays still. So we are simultaneously prepping the ground and planting cool weather crops (those biennials like broccoli, lettuce and carrots) and preserving summer’s warm wealth in curing, pickling, making sauce and making sauerkraut.

Romanze potatoes that supplemented Live Power Community Farm CSA shares a few weeks ago.

With the higher food output this year, we’re also striving to consistently provide for markets we haven’t worked with regularly in the past, like Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op and Ukiah Brewing Company and Restaurant. We’re also finding that the markets and nearby restaurants can’t absorb all that we are producing, and CSAs are not in high demand here, so much of our food is shipping to the Bay Area. Hopefully, we are serving our community not just with our food but by bringing outside revenue in during these challenging economic times.

The pick-up truck loaded with an evening harvest of Riverside onions and Russian Banana fingerling potatoes.

As busy as we have been expanding farm production this year, we haven’t had much time to write about the process here. But, we’ve been striving to document with photos the daily work we do to grow as much nutritious, flavorful food as possible. Part of the process has been spending money. As they say, you have to spend money to make money. This season alone, we’ve acquired many tools to help us grow more food so it’s more affordable to buy and so that we don’t strain our bodies:

  • three-bottom plow
  • flail mower
  • Farmall 100 cultivating tractor
  • toolbar & flex planters
  • 5.5 HP water pump
  • hog panels
  • poultry netting
  • 30′ x 70′ high tunnel
  • sunblocker shade structure

One of the flex planters on a toolbar we purchased in the Delta.

The shopping list goes on, and that’s only major capital investments. Fortunately, we don’t always have to buy things outright. Other farmers are lending us equipment or letting us make payments. A community of growers is so essential particularly when when you start out with nothing.

Berkshire pigs enjoying cucumbers

We’re also raising another round of pigs that will be ready in time for the holidays. Not only is pork really tasty, but our pigs will happily eat vegetable culls or whatever does not sell at the farmers market. Heritage Berkshire pork is delicious, so we’re definitely raising those pigs again!

The sheep grazing on irrigate pasture in Potter Valley.

We also bought a few more ewes and lambs to increase our sheep flock. Hopefully by the end of this season, we’ll have about 100 ewes. Our new Shropshire ram, Macho, should be getting familiar with the ladies now…

So, we continue to refine our farming system – doing trials of different crops to see what we can grow well, trying new feed rations and growing better hay and pasture for cost-effective yet delicious meat, fine-tuning all the mechanical processes, and improving relationships with all our customers. We’re very excited to be growing a lot more food this year. It’s a challenge, but the hard work is rewarding when we are able to partner with nature and people to nourish ourselves and our community.

About 1/3 of the onions

The durum wheat should be harvested soon.

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IN YOUR BASKET

  • Skyphos Butter Lettuce
  • Ripbor or Red Russian Kale
  • Perfection Fennel or Hon Tsai Tai
  • Tyee or Tarpy Spinach
NOTES FROM THE FIELD
   Welcome back to the “winter” vegetable CSA. We hope everyone is enjoying the spring greens that were missed over the rainy winter. The spinach – two varieties called Tarpy and Tyee – are rapidly maturing in this warm weather, so expect to see quite a bit more in the next couple weeks. To keep your greens fresh for a few days in the refrigerator, we recommend you wrap them in damp dishtowels. This will keep them a tad moist, just like the misters in the produce case do at the grocery store.

One section of the Coyote Field is planted with brassicas (cabbage family crops).

The first planting of broccoli is just barely starting to go to head (flower), so expect some later this month. We are growing a lot of cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbage at Heart Arrow Ranch and in Potter Valley. This past week alone, the kales have really taken off. Our chard is still quite small, but you can still expect some before the end of the CSA. Also, the beets have amazing greens and the roots should be sizing up this month. So, there’s a lot to look forward to. This week, it’s all greens, and we will have more harvests of arugula and radishes in the weeks ahead.

Here we are transplanting onions in Potter Valley

This week, the change to warm weather was marked by moving our sheep from the rangeland at Heart Arrow to irrigated bottomland in Potter Valley. We have them munching down the grass in a field where we plan to grow about 4 acres of melons and winter squash. The “natural lawn mowers” are quite happy helping us to remove all the organic matter so we can plant there on time.

Eat well,

Adam & Paula

A view of the sheep enjoying the rangeland at Heart Arrow Ranch a few days before moving to pasture in Potter Valley.

Spring Butter Lettuce & Parsley Soup

Adapted from PressDemocrat.com, 5/12/10

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 big head of butter lettuce, cored, washed and dried
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1 cup, loosely packed, Italian parsley leaves
  • 4 cups homemade chicken broth or stock, hot
  • 4 tablespoons plain whole milk yogurt (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh snipped chives
  1. Heat olive oil in a medium soup pot set over medium-low heat, add the onion and sauté until soft (about 15 min.) Stack the lettuce leaves and cut them into ¼-inch wide slices.
  2. Add the cut lettuce to the cooked onions and stir gently until the lettuce wilts (about 2 min.). Season with salt and pepper, add the parsley and pour in the chicken stock.
  3. Increase the heat to high and when the stock boils, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 4 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and cool just slightly. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup thoroughly. If the soup seems too thick, add water to reach your preferred consistency. Taste and correct for salt and pepper.
  5. Ladle into soup plates and top each portion with a spoonful of yogurt, if using, and a sprinkling of herbs. Serve immediately.


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