It has been a long year so far...
Farm life can be hard, and sometimes one finds that they have bitten off more than they can chew. As people who take commitment very seriously, Wayne and I feel the need to put 100% in to our animals... Sometimes though, there aren't enough 100%s to go around, right? When a hobby becomes a 2nd full time job, it stops being FUN and starts to be overwhelming...
I had expected an extended lambing season, and although it was no suprise, it was stressful. All of the little things that can and do go wrong in farm life seemed like huge obstacles... To the point where walking through a muddy pasture seemed like more than I wanted to deal with. So when something BIG would go wrong, such as losing a beautful healthy month old lamb who was caught in a section of electronet fencing (and electrocuted to death)... It was too much.
Wayne and I took a long look at what we have going on and realized that we had gotten too big for the resources we have... too many animals depending on our time, limited space, and limited finances... too many other hobbies which we would like to spend more hours developing (Zumba, weaving, spinning, RELAXING!!!)... So we had to make some hard decisions.
First of all, we decided to cut back on our ewe flock... we have steadily worked our way up to close to 25 - 30 ewes over the years... This is too many for us so we are cutting our numbers. We will keep our Merino ewe flock as it is and would like to maintain 5 - 6 brood ewes as our flock size. So as we raise or aquire nicer sheep, we will re-access our current ewes and cut back to maintain the highest quality flock. Our Merino endeavor feels right to us and seems to be going in the right direction (and faster than we expected).
We will keep our Clun Forest ewe flock at around 5 - 6 ewes. We have one old ewe who will be culled this year. She raised twin ram lambs for the 2nd year in a row but this year it seemed to take a lot out of her - It just makes sense to cut back those old girls who would require special care. I want to say that our clun lambs have grown exceptionally fast again this year and we see a demand for breeding stock in our area.
The Border Cheviot flock will be cut hard. They are my favorite sheep, and probably because of this we have grown our flock larger than it needs to be. Our three oldest ewes will go, I have also picked out two beautiful ewes who have been great producers who will be offered for sale in a starter flock package. We are also going to offer the 4 North Carolina ewes for sale. They had some really nice lambs and my goal was to cross them with my genetics and keep the resulting ewe lambs... Our goal is to cut back to 8 - 10 cheviot ewes which will allow us to keep our quality high and our flock young.
This past Friday we said goodbye to three animals. Barney could not possibly have made it through another winter and although he had been getting around pretty good, his weight had never built back up this summer and the flies were tormenting him... He is now buried next to Luke up in the circle of spruce trees. We also said goodbye to Akasha and Jag - probably the two hardest decisions in our lives. 'Kash had injured her hip many winters ago and had never been completely sound since, Jag was her very best friend and in his older age had become a very hard keeper.
In this terrible horse market, the thought of selling them and not knowing what kind of life they would have was terrifying. A very wise friend once told me that "there are worse fates than death" and perhaps truer words have never been uttered. I have seen horses that people have starved. I have seen horses suffering from terrible lameness and pain because someone can not bear to say goodbye. I have seen animals forgotten and neglected who no longer have the twinkle of life in their eyes... There are indeed worse fates than death.
Cody, our 13 year old paint mare was visited by three young children and their parents yesterday. They petted her, talked to her, fed her grass, sat on her back, and then sent me a note last night that they would love to give her a good home. I am giving this mare to them with the understanding that although she is without price, she is definately not without value, and judging by the interaction yesterday, I made the perfect decision for both Cody and for these kids. Plus she will only live 1.5 miles away so I will be able to see her and watch the relationship grow with these young horse-crazy kiddos... AND, they want to rename her Rayne which is a combination of "Rich" and "Wayne"... How sweet is that?
I have a lovely Meyers parrot who I have probably never written about - and doesn't that say volumes in itself??? Patty was hand raised and is the sweetest bird I have ever met. She loves people and loves interaction... But obviously TIME is the one thing I have least of to give. Luckily, my brother and his family are coming to visit from Minnesota tomorrow and they will be taking Patty home where she will get all of the love and attention that she deserves.
Things have not changed drastically and yet they have. Some recent decisions have been very hard - I will continue to feel a great loss at the three friends we have said goodbye to a few days ago... We will work to cut back our sheep flock to a manageable level... but I feel very sure that we have made good decisions for the right reasons and I know we are headed in the right direction.
This is my first posting in a very long time... I wish I could have taken all of you with me through the trials and errors of the last months, but I just needed to journey through it by myself. And not to say that it has been a dark time because we have really had some wonderful and rewarding times this spring and summer.
Here is a GORGEOUS little 2011 Cheviot Ram lamb...