Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Even Sheep Have Jobs on the Homestead


Hilda, Mac, Etta and Ian
Our sheep have three main jobs on the homestead. First and foremost they are here to perform fire mitigation by keeping the grasses under control.  The West is known for its cycles of drought, fire and flood and we are definitely moving into another drought cycle. In the 23+ years we have lived in this high elevation valley the mountain range that defines the valley’s western border has had four forest fires. Three of those fires, in 1993, 2011 and 2016, have come knocking on our door. 

Forest fires are a part of the ecology of western forests but their nature is changing due in part to the changing climate and to past fire suppression which completely altered the dynamics of the forest. In the past the fires would rarely burn more than 500 acres; this summer’s fire consumed nearly 18,000 acres in the blink of an eye.

For now our sheep will be grazing in the areas where we don’t want cattle – around the house, in close up pasture areas, along roadways, and in riparian zones. By rotating through these areas their impacts are limited to light grazing, minimal soil disturbance, and natural fertilizing.

Hilda, I see you!
Our sheepie’s second job goes hand in hand with their grazing – helping us build healthy soils. Grazing, light soil disturbance and manure pellets are the keys to recycling nutrients back into the soil to feed the microorganisms that nourish the soil and feed the plants. While some people consider purchased hay as an expensive input, we see it as additional nutrients that are recycled through the sheep and spread on the pastures.

Etta's 2016 fleece
And their third job – well that’s the beautiful wool they produce which when spun into yarn will feed my desire to be creative. For years I’ve wanted to learn to weave. Now I have the wool makers.

Beautiful Shetland yarn from OK Acres, WI

7 comments:

  1. Pari, this is a wonderful blog. Thanks for sharing your sheep story! Chip, Dale, and Thor are our 3 goats and they have been doing a great job of keeping vegetation under control on just our 3.5 acres. They are such fun companions on the property, but we don't get that lovely wool!

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    1. Hi Robin, For some reason I never get notifications of Comments to the blog. So I'm just seeing this. You'll have to add a couple of sheep to your herd. They are such fun!

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  2. I love your blog and follow it. I had talked to your husband about sheep last year, and am so happy that you found what you were looking for. You have posted a picture of OK Acres yarn produced from her shetlands. Very nice yarn. I know Kelly, and she produces lovely shetlands, of which I have been fortunate enough to add some of hers to my herd. Thank you for your blog. There are those of us out here, who really appreciate your writing about your lifestyle in the mountains of Colorado.

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    1. Hi Debbie! Sorry I missed your comment until now. I purchased the yarn from Kelly and it is beautiful. Don and I keep an eye on your beautiful sheep and hope one day to have a Shet-Tu addition to our flock.

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  3. Pari, What you have written is most educational. I have never appreciated the role that your sheep play in your environment. I hope they will afford you some safety from future fires. Not to get political but I worry about our country's environmental future for the next four years. I think we will all be on our own. Merry Christmas!

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    1. Hi Lynn! I guess I need to check on the Comments more often :) We are definitely in for environmentally challenging times. Sad....

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  4. I just found your blog and I am so excited to see a new one. We are an old retired couple who is preparing to mini homestead in Beulah Colorado. I find everything you write fascinating

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