Agriculture


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Look at this stuff. It is like Reed Canarygrass on steroids. In fact you can see it surrounded by RCG, which suddenly looks like Fine Fescue by comparison! I am seeing it here and there in the pastures because it came by seed from some Eastern WA hay I bought last February. I was running out of hay, just needed a few more tons. My local hay guy was out, so he trucked me over some first cutting hay that was pretty seedy. I noticed the milo-like seeds piling up in the barn under the hay troughs; and wondered what potentially monstrous thing I had brought in, and if I would regret it.

I think this is some hybrid variant of sorghum-sudangrass, but it is hella productive and the sheep really like it. I had seen a different version when I was at a KHSI Expo in Tennessee. We had toured a farm there where an NRCS guy had seeded it into his pastures. There, it looked nearly like corn, tall with very wide leaf blades. (Which is a reminder to us that corn is actually a strange species of grass.)

This has been a good summer for Sudangrass, hot and dry. Alas, I’m not sure if it’ll stick around, since it doesn’t like cold. But I won’t mind if it does!

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I spotted this branding at the grocery store last winter. What in the world? A product of New Zealand, labeled as “Atkins Ranch- Founded in San Francisco 1989”. COOL seems like a good thing here, preventing defrauding the consumer into believing they are buying a local/domestic product when they aren’t. I can’t figure: are they hoping consumers will just be in a hurry and not notice this discrepancy? Or do they think consumers are that dumb? Are consumers that dumb? Or willing to purchase product that’s so deceptively labeled? If I were shopping for lamb at the store and saw this, it would annoy me and I would buy chicken instead.  (more…)

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I am feeling very nicely caught-up lately. On Sunday, I weighed all the lambs and also vaccinated them. Today after work, I mowed the chicken pen with the tractor. I love how neat and tidy it looks when the grass is short and the fencing is straight and taught. The chickens will enjoy the overturned goodies and new grass growth. You can see how tall the surrounding grass is already. In April, I was hand-wringing about too little forage for grazing when the ewes started lambing. Now, there is too much and it’s starting to seed out. It’s early for this, but the grass is likely somewhat stressed from a drought-ey May, so it decided to push out seed heads already. I’m not thrilled that the sheep are grazing stage III growth, but I’m also reluctant to cut any of it, lest we have more drought and this is my stockpile for the summer. So I’m working with it and the sheep are eating it, though I’m sure it’s not their favorite. It is so challenging to manage the timing of grazing just right. (more…)

Bobtail2.JPGOh, wow, it has been a long time since I have blogged! In the blink of an eye, lambing season has come and gone, and I should write more about that! But today, here are some prized trail cam photos of a sneaky wildcat that lurks on a woodsy trail behind our barn. I’ve been getting blurry half-shots of him for some time, and keep thinking “is that a bobcat?”. But for some reason, the camera doesn’t catch him as easily as it does coyotes, which constantly come and go, and frequently pose for portrait-quality shots. I almost wonder if I’m placing it too high to catch this shorty kitteh?  (more…)

imageI’ve been stressing for a couple of years about a succession plan for our two remaining border collies, Maggie and Gene. They just turned thirteen and fourteen. Though they can still help with farm chores, their endurance is short, they aren’t fast enough to catch renegade sheep anymore, and they pay for it later- sore joints for a day or so. They love it and will want to do it til the day they die. But obviously that’s not practical. Yet, facing getting a replacement dog is also facing that they are getting old and we’ll someday lose them. That’s hard too.

I’d mentally waffled between replacement options. Getting a  young pup has the advantage that they usually bond best and make the best pets and companions. You can train them exactly how you want. Plus, you get the longest useful life out of them. But housebreaking a pup when working full time has its challenges. I didn’t think I’d have the time to put into that, plus also training the pup on sheep. Some border collies aren’t ready to even start working sheep until they are yearlings. I thought about whether I could send it out for training, but sending a housepet to a kennel situation for a month is a little cringe-worthy. Bottom line, a pup would be a big investment.

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SanJuanFerry

Here is the only picture I captured from Saturday. I went to the Washington State Sheep Producers (WSSP) Sheep School. There were several sessions held. This was the last one, and the only one I could swing schedule-wise. It was on a farm in Friday Harbor, on San Juan Island. So a bit of a travel effort to get there. Mostly a hardship in catching the 6:20am ferry in Anacortes, Freezingwhich is an hour away. The ferry trip is 80 minutes, but I was able to work on my computer the whole time, so it didn’t feel like travel time. Not to mention, the San Juan ferry route is beautiful. This view was from my seat on the ferry on the return trip. Sometimes I think of ferry travel as a pain, and it is. But, it’s also such a lovely aspect of our region, how can you not adore an excuse to ride on a big boat through gorgeous waters to an island destination? The enthusiasm of all the tourists on the ship reminded me of how lucky we are to consider ferries mundane…

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I’m finally getting around to analyzing my lamb yield from last spring, driven by my need to plan vaccine purchases for 2017 lambing, which is driven by my need to analyze what went wrong from last season!

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