Yes, the summer we'll all try not to remember here. It's too cold and damp to be 'here'...2nd cutting hay isn't growing like it should because there are few warm days. If I close my eyes and just sniff, I would be positive that I am near the ocean somewhere on the Aleutian Chain (where it's always in the 50's for the highs and 40's for the lows). I can smell the ocean. Now, granted, we are only 3 airmiles or so from the ocean here, but it's the 'inlet' and mixed heavily with fresh water so that even if you are standing next to the inlet, you don't smell ocean smells. Where are these smells coming from??!! The air is heavy with humidity and salty smells...it's not been warm enough to warm up the earth so that the hay can grow well again. Instead, the grasses are limping along. In fact, it's been so wet that my rose buds are molding and falling off before they ever get a chance to bloom......
now, that is wet!!
Being a farmer isn't easy. Low hay yields mean worry. Especially here. It's not like we can drive 8 or 12 hours with trailer in tow to find a place that has good hay for sale...ha! Some years you can drive 6 hours north, into a totally different weather area and buy good hay. This year, our friends 6 hours north are experiencing record flooding! The whole town of Nenana is under water.
Hello? This is the first week of August??
I called a local farmer yesterday about his big rounds. I talked to a young person there who took my message. A few hours later while in the barn I heard someone drive up. The farmer had a bale of hay in the back of his truck - he found our address through the phone number and thought he'd stop by. That was interesting! I know him casually, he was taking a round bale home to feed out because it was higher in moisture than it should have been and would go off in a week or so. He offered to sell me the bale so we rolled it off his pickup into the yard. Today the sheep are feasting on a fesh bale of hay. It's ok, not great, a little stemmy, but not bad, and they can eat free choice till their eyes pop out.
So, right now it's early morning and only 50 degrees out. Damp, showered last night, and cloudy. July was one of the coldest on record, with 25 days of measurable precipitation. Outrageous!
Predators must be popping up all over. Scared dogs in Illinois and in Missouri. Too many people no longer hunt predators, thinking they need to increase in numbers and return back to 'normal numbers'. Ahh, save the wildlife! Hello?! Who's going to feed the American public if all of their lambs or ewes or rams get eaten by predators. How about the calves and cows and pigs and piglets too? Yes, predators have a place but they also need to have learned a fear of going to close to humans. They need to be reminded that wildlife is there for them to eat, not domesticated animals. When we protect predators too much, we have humans getting attacked and eaten too. A bear just attacked a young man on his way home last night. Another bear attacked a young woman up here for the summer to work at a Princess Tours lodge - and she was attacked right next to the lodge! Yet another was attacked while running on the paved city trails in the middle of the city of Anchorage. What is going wrong with our preservation of wildlife? Have we gone too far the other way now?? There must be balance...we created this situation, we need to manage it responsibly.
Last night we had an intruder at 3am. The dogs kennel next to the sheep pen did a great job - they went nuts, warning us of an intruder. Rifle in hand and jumping on the 4 wheeler, Rick chased it down and scared to bejeezus out of it. We think it was a big black dog as it sped away full speed since it's life depended on speed at that point. I have to do a lamb count later today when my herding students arrive and we can do sorting with the dogs, part lesson and part farm work. I'm not sure all of our lambs are still here, at least not in the unregistered sheep paddock. The registered ones are kept close to the house and they have remained safe.
And to close my thought pattern here this morning......
why bother to pasture sheep with predator numbers on the rise. I mean, really, that isn't free feed they are eating. What if you put them in smaller paddocks instead, mowing the grass into hay bales, kept them close to the barns or sheds, and save yourself from predator losses? Which costs more? Making hay or loosing sheep to predators? Only you can decide that, but I think us shepherds need to get as creative as possible in this recession/depression. I've been mowing the lawn and grounds and feeding it out to the sheep. Instead of mowing once a week and feeding them too much so that they waste it, I mow several times a week, as the weather allows, and feed them longer. You might even consider asking your neighbors for their grass clippings if they don't use nasty stuff on their lawns or yards...free feed. How about the yard grooming service companies in your area? Bet they would LOVE to have a free place to dump a days worth of lawn clippings. And that would save a bale of hay here, a bale of hay there...and still give your sheep fresh grass. Could be a win-win situation!