Summer 2011

Posted by on Aug 7, 2011 in Skyelark Ranch

I could quite probably begin every ‘Ewesletter with the phrase ‘It’s been busy here on the ranch’, and the last few months have been no different. The sheep have been injected, inspected, and absolutely everything but neglected.

We had the shearer come out a few weeks ago and after a long hot day they were all as happy as Clambs: free of wool, ticks, and stickers. It’s just as well, too, as only one or two days later saw the start of summer proper. Although we have been having a fairly mild summer with temperatures staying in the mid nineties for most of the time, every so often the mercury breaches the 100-degree line and all work, useful thought, and movement, promptly come to a grinding halt and we make the necessary migration to the creek and to its cooling relief.

We are very lucky to live in such close proximity to one of Northern California’s best-loved and most beautiful rivers. Cache Creek is a favorite for rafters, floaters (the human kind), and those folks from the surrounding area who just need to escape the searing summer heat. So, when the shade of the almond trees loses its ability to keep us cool, you will find us sitting with our ‘toes in the water, and ass[es] in the sand’ somewhere on the banks of the creek. We have also joined the masses on a couple of occasions and spent an afternoon floating down the more fast-flowing sections of the creek on patched-up old tractor inner-tubes. That is a lot of fun if you remember the three golden rules: don’t let go of your tube, feet first, and butts up! Cache Creek is traditionally a fairly seasonal creek, flowing only when the winter rains are filling its tributaries, nowadays however, the majority of the flow comes from the dam at Clear Lake, released for the benefit of the thousands of acres of productive farmland around Sacramento that rely on the water for summer irrigation. The flow is such that the water is fast and the rapids roaring. However, there is always the chance of a sharp rock, barely hidden under the water, waiting for any unsuspecting floater to bounce off, necessitating the almost continual cry of ‘Butts Up’ from every group on approaching a rapid.

Yesterday was another busy one with no time for slacking off or lounging around on inner tubes. Since we got our sheep, apart from the daily watering and fence check, weekly pasture moves, and the shearing, we’ve not spent much time with them. So we decided yesterday was to be the day for doing all the routine maintenance tasks we’ve been meaning to do since they first arrived. Although we don’t live in a wet climate where problems with foot rot can be an issue, it’s still necessary to check and trim their nails to prevent any hoof problems from occurring. We also needed to carry out a herd-health evaluation to get an idea of their individual weights and body condition going into what is hopefully the early stages of pregnancy, check their teeth, and treat them all for nasal bots (aka, runny noses).

The day went pretty smoothly with Alexis running the show with her big hat, notepad, and pen. We set up the chute under the eaves of the horse barn with Michelle O’llama, Gertie the pig, and Daphne the horse all hanging around for moral support and adding a bit more confusion to the mix of bleating, grunting, snorting, and whining (and that was just us)!

We both have a new-found respect for folks like our shearer who, with apparent ease and little effort, can handle and maneuver these beasties around in what appears to be complete control. It took both of us to ‘tip’ each of our ewes and when it came time for Hector’s evaluation I was amazed that we were able to hold him still for even a minute, let alone the time it took to trim his hooves and check his vitals (they’re all good, by the way).

The only incident (worth mentioning here – excluding, for obvious reasons, the one that ran me over, the one that kept coming back, and the one that got away, twice) occurred when Alexis was trying to wrangle a particularly feisty ewe. The ewe in question came out of the chute like a blazing ball of wool and, with Lex holding on for dear life, proceeded to race around the pen. Our (probably unconventional) method of restraining the ewes involves one of us going into the chute, pulling the ewe out by whichever leg we can safely grab (it’s OK, they’re tough), and lifting it up, while the other sweeps its back legs under to upend the beastie therefore rendering it incapacitated. This one, however, wasn’t entirely convinced of our methods. Halfway through the lifting and sweeping action, it decided to take off at a trot, and before I could get a firm grip of a leg (either the sheep or Lex’s), it was gone with Alexis perched high on it’s back like something out of a Monty Python rodeo skit. After a few minutes of uncontrolled laughter from me and cries of help from Alexis we finally got her under control and were able to complete the operation. After some serious scolding about my lack of effort in helping to restrain the runaway, we proceeded through the remainder of the flock and they were sent running back out to the pasture where they’ll spend the next few days.

Other than the sheep, which will hopefully be lambing by late November to provide us with next year’s crop of lambs, we have a little bit of news regarding our other products. We recently came into the ownership of Gertie, a 200lb gilt (young female pig), for whom we are currently seeking a suitable male companion. We have had several requests for pork so hopefully next year we will have some piglets and will be updating you on the progress of that as the months roll on. We are also about to order the first of our fall runs of pastured chickens, so keep your eyes open as news of processing dates and availability become known. As for right now, we still have a few frozen spring chickens available for those of you that can’t wait until Fall. Let us know if you if you would like to order any chickens, get more details about up coming products, or would like to schedule a visit, we love showing people around. We’re currently all sold out of lamb.

Thanks for your support, and Happy Summer!