Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Buttoned Up

With winter closing in we need to get the barn ready.  This building becomes our entire world during this season.  Windows that were taken out to allow more ventilation are put back in, if we have those windows, that is.  If we don't, we nail sheets of plastic over the openings....anything to keep the cold winds out.  A barn can't be too tightly closed up or the sheep get sick.  I don't have to worry about that.  This classy old barn is huge - 240 feet long and 40 feet wide - and has many "holes" for air to get in.  The animals are out of the wind and are dry but it still gets very, very cold.    The sheep are still grazing and will continue to do so until the snow over the grass is too deep.  Once the drifts are so high that they can't get to the grass we start forking hay twice a day.  That requires climbing ladders to the hay mow where the round bales are.  We've already started forking in the evening.  Matt is working on fixing the giant sliding East End door.  The wooden slats on the door have long been bashed and broken by sheep herding in and out.  He's going to build a small door within the door so the big door can be closed but the sheep will have an opening to get in and out of.  Sheep like to eat snow and I want them to be able to go out and get some sunshine on nice days.  The concrete slab at the far end has to be cleaned off before Matt can work on the door.  Mud slides down the hill and settles in front of the door.  The slab was put there for cows and I'm glad to have it.  The land directly in back of the barn is marshy - future pond site? - and the slab keeps the flock's feet dry.  We'll get through winter, we always do, but it's a lot of work.  All water has to be toted out of the milk house and poured into hanging buckets.  I've tried various ways to keep the flock watered.  Giving them all the water they need twice a day works best.  There is no bulk tank to get dirty or pooped in, or for lambs to drown in. When sheep are on hay they are much thirstier than when they are grazing on juicy green grass.  The milk house drain will freeze and I won't be able to wash my wool in there until spring.  The bunnies will be switched to aluminum bowls instead of bottles.  I can bang the ice out of the bowls a lot easier than defrosting bottles.  The bunners need water twice a day, before work and in the evening.  No need for trips to the gym here, just yoga every day while my bath is filling up, to keep these old muscles from pulls and spasms.   Then there will be lambing come March.  Am I nuts?  I don't know.  I think I have one or two more lambing seasons in me.  A shepherd with no lambs?  Nah, don't think so. Just wouldn't be right.

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