Well, sad as I am to say it, I have decided to drastically scale back the sheep. We have one ewe who, if bred, will be food along with her offspring this fall. I have another ewe who will be sold (is for sale) – she’s gorgeous and exposed. I will also, I suspect, be selling my new ram – Haf – in spite of being in love with him. Why, you ask. Simple – this year hay prices shot up, about double. Most feed prices increased. As I have no real grazing, I’m stuck with hay all of the time. We’re working on developing a bit of grazing but I don’t want to be clearing land for the sheep. I really don’t. We moved here for the trees and the privacy and we’ll have neither if I start clearing. Anyway, I’ve called around a bit and although hay prices shot up ostensibly in response to the skyrocketing fuel costs, it seems they’re remaining at those rates regardless of the fact that fuel is dropping. So, there’s that cost and it’s a lot.
The other thing is – I don’t have a truck. We do have an excellent 4WD van that’s a powerhouse and we love but it doesn’t have a trailer hitch (although we’re working on that) and I can only take about 6 bales at a time in it (maybe more but 8 would by the most). That’s nothing for the current flock so…
What I’ve realized as I’ve been off work, is that we’re not as self reliant as I would have thought. My sheep cost hundreds per year just in feed (hay) and I can get local, healthy, etc meat for far less. If we stick to the smaller animals – chicks, ducks, bees, buns etc. I can feed them out of the yard and scraps if need be. It wouldn’t be great but small animals survived like that for longer than they’ve have prepared feed. The sheep however… that won’t work for them. If I scale waaaayyyyy back, I could have enough nibbling for them that in a pinch, we could do something. So, I’ve picked out a small breeding group and everyone else will likely go. Haf is the only question mark at this point but I suspect him as well. Why keep a small group? Simple – because I really do love them outside of their usefulness and so I feel like that’s the best compromise. I’m not the only shepherd I know in this position – it’s a sad thing.
There are some developments that may change this in the next few years and allow me to grow a bit again. One way or another I may end up with some nice pasture but I don’t want to keep holding onto these guys and making do until that happens. I’ve seen people with half assed operations and I’m not interested. I don’t think it suits the animals really, I know they’re tough etc but they didn’t ask to be here and so cheaping out just does not feel like a great option at all. I do, however, still feel the need to find that balance between having the option to be self sufficient (food wise) so we’ll offset the loss of sheep with a slight increase in the poultry. There’s space for them – I can use one of the sheep runs to house the poultry with the addition of a couple of nest boxes. The best thing is that there’s field fence between the two runs so the poultry can go back and forth between but the remaining sheep won’t be able to get to their food (one of my concerns about housing them together).
Other than that, there’s not much to say. I know it’s been a long while but things are just moving along. We have – had, really – about a million feet of snow. No joke. It was mid-thigh on me so about 2 1/2 feet (I do know that’s not really a million). But it’s raining and while not washing it away, it is compacting it into a thick, heavy mess.
The bees are confirmed, we’re just waiting on dates but likely sometime in May. Bunnies, cheeps and ducks are doing well. Geese are too -although they will have a considerably shorter life span than the others. I made the mistake of thinking that because I loved my ducks so much geese would be a great addition, especially as they’d keep the ducks safe. Ha! Not so much. They eat tonnes, poop tonnes and are actually a bit of a pain. And we’ve lots more ducks than ever and they harass the pyr who protects them so I won’t put them in with her. In short, they’re lunch. If they taste good however… I might keep a couple.
The sheep are lovely and doing well. They just weather anything that is thrown at them. It is hard to be out there and seeing Haf and thinking about selling him. He’s just too lovely to part with. Oh well. I suppose I’ll just see what the next few months hand me!