When Your Sheep Want Something You Can’t Give…

We are at the point in the grazing season where the sheep’s desire for green forage and the availability of it are at odds. We have loads of beautiful hay, but they’re not having it. They want green grass, and some of them aren’t going to stop until they find it.

It was an interesting grazing year, with fairly good forage going into the season but it was a dry summer and the grass didn’t grow back quickly as we (and the sheep) would hope. We had to work pretty hard to keep the flocks on lush forage. We moved the big flock across the road twice and then into new areas of the home place once they returned a few weeks ago. We added fence in the far reaches of the south and east pastures where the sheep had never yet grazed. It was a bit of an adventure having them so far from home – harder to keep an eye on them – and for the first time in a number of years we had some escapees. There’s usually always one or two who ignore the fence occasionally, but these past few weeks there has been a small band breaking away each day, literally searching for greener pastures. One of them was a younger ewe who we call The Jumper. She’s very tall and has been jumping fences from the time she figured out she could. The rest were old, seasoned ewes. They probably have to work harder to keep themselves full, with ageing teeth and bodies. And, they have experience on their side. They’re smart and doing what they need to do to. Who can blame them?

We moved the whole group back in closer to the house last week, ahead of the cold weather, and started serving up some really nice hay. The little band of escapees has not given up on finding green. They’ve been leaving every day and returning to the rest of the flock at night. Finally the others noticed and by Sunday whole throngs of sheep were leaving. In some ways, it’s no big deal, as they are only escaping to larger, more open swaths of pasture on our own land. They’re kind of hanging with the cattle and the donkeys. But, it stresses us out, watching them graze close to the treeline where the coyotes and mountain lions surely watch and plan their attacks. And, it stresses Biscuit, the dog who guards the big flock. He gets agitated when they’re out, understandably. He’s of no use to them if they’re off on their own in a paddock he can’t access. And, we can’t have sheep going wherever they decide, whenever they decide. Next, it will be the neighbor’s spring wheat field or the roadside ditch that beckons, and these escapes would be problematic.

I worked all day, yesterday, trying to remedy the situation. I beefed up the fences hoping to deter the escapees. They blasted right on through. I changed tack and tried to entice everyone to stay in by serving up the very best hay, although I hated to use it so early in the season. A lot the crowd bought into it, for the time being anyway, and I imagine the snow that is falling now will help to keep the escapees in come daylight. I hope so.

It’s Soap Season!

After taking a brief hiatus from soap-making this past summer in order to tackle some long overdue home projects and maintenance, I have cranked the soap-making machine back into action! My soap-supplies’ pantry is reorganized and restocked, I’ve rejiggered the website (hope you like it!), and I have been making soap! It feels sooooo good!!

I absolutely love getting to work with such beautiful natural organic ingredients – sumptuous coconut, hemp, olive and sunflower oils; rich and nourishing shea and cocoa butters; and all the amazing essential oils which bring so many wonderful benefits to the soaps, not the least of which for me is the joy of being ensconced in the gorgeous scents while making the soaps. Oh. So. Good!! I have my favorite scents and scent combinations, and it seems that a lot of the people who use our soaps have their favorites as well. I try to pay attention to that and to keep those faves in stock for my wonderful customers.

One of the reasons that I am drawn to soap making is that it presents a fun opportunity to indulge in creativity on a number of fronts while also producing something that we need and use. I passionately enjoy trying out new combinations of color, texture, and scent, and I especially love getting to utilize beautiful and interesting ingredients from the natural world to acheive these result. As I meander along this path of creative botanical wondery, I am learning so much about the incredible powers that plants possess. I am awed each time I decide to try a new ingredient and discover the many benefits of the particular plant as I research how to use it in my soap. So many of the plants we can find all around us – many of which are considered weeds – are a literal treasure chest of medicinal and nutritional benefits. I am enamored of these plants and their amazing properties.

People who know me are probably used to my perennial photos (on the social medias) of emergent mulberries, the first dandelion in the yard, the first yarrow in the pasture, the blossoms on the apricot trees, the flowers on the grasses that produce the delicate and brightly colored dangling fringe, the sunflowers that blanket the roadsides, the juniper berries that suddenly pop to life adorning the trees with a periwinkle blue shawl. All so special, and each year I am struck anew with wide-eyed wonder that the world contains such magic. To be able to utilize some of these beautiful and highly beneficial plants and flowers in my soaps is beyond the pale.

Yesterday, I made my first batch of a soap I’ve been wanting to try for a couple of years. It’s a coconut and olive oil based soap that includes JUNIPER BERRIES!! I got the recipe from a beautiful book, written by Jan Berry, The Nerdy Farm Wife, called Simple and Natural Soapmaking. Her recipes and the information that she shares about the ingredients and making soap are so inspiring.

Juniper berries have a whole host of benefits, including being highly nutritious (and delicious, in my opinion). In aromatherapy, juniper berry essential oil is thought to provide a calming effect and to balance emotions and support mental health. In soap, juniper berries are noted to help with oily skin conditions and acne and eczema. This soap contains ground juniper berries along with juniper berry essential oil. I’m super excited to try it out! If it’s as good as I think it will be, I’ll be adding it to the collection soon!

Bringing home the sheep

We got the big flock home yesterday, with the help of Scott and Renae and our neighbor, Steve. Hank and I have been talking about trying to walk them up the road instead of loading them twenty at a time into the small stock trailer and making the bumpy trek that way. That takes the better part of the morning, if we’re lucky, and can be pretty physically and mentally exhausting. The sheep are so good at coming to us for any kind of food, so we thought we’d bring a bucket and hope for the best. We chose early Sunday morning when traffic is slim to none, set the reinforcers at their posts, and called the sheep. We’d envisioned that Hank would lead them with the tractor but they got a bit distracted and so I started shaking the bucket and calling, and they followed! Took us two passes – turns out a huge half of the group had been hiding out past the pond when we first called them. Second run went just as well as the first, and Biscuit, the sole guardian of the flock, was amazing. Led the way, and went straight into the corral, past geese and chickens and what have you. He’s a keeper, for sure. Anyway, good to have everyone home again.