It's been a couple weeks of "lambing time" for us and all went well. The lambs are out to pasture for the first time today. You can see, Angel, the guardian donkey keeping watch over them in the photo above and the scrub oak thickets behind. Angel truly believes those lambs are hers and she loves to hustle them here and there. She'll protect them from coyotes, dogs, and mountain lions. No sheep are lost when Angel is with them. It's the time of year when everything looks like it will never green up again - but, the scrub oaks have little tips on their branches just waiting for Spring. Later, when the oaks bloom and before the grass is really green we have to keep the sheep in their pen more to keep them from stripping the oak branches. They can get sick from the tannin in the leaves.
We keep just a small herd of ewes - no more than eight usually - because our 35 acres of dry land pasture really won't support more than that. We purchase alfafa hay and feed them morning and evening to prevent overgrazing. There's a great well on our place - deep with sweet water - but no irrigation, hence the term "dry land pasture". We pray for moisture always. There were nine lambs this year out of four ewes. Seven of those are ram lambs which are already spoken for by folks who buy from us every year. The two ewe lambs will be kept back to build up the herd and for replacements of the older ewes. Rams are only kept for a year or two to keep new blood in the herd.
This is a good time of year. So much promise for the greening and growth that will come later! I had been waiting for my seed catalogue to come from "Seeds of Change" and it hasn't yet. Yesterday I bought some seeds from the natural grocers because next weekend I want to start my tomato seeds in the house. These are heirloom varieties -Italian Roma, Black Krim, and good ole Beefsteak - from which to grow out and do some seed saving for the Seed to Seed Challenge. I encourage you to check out the Challenge and sign up - there's help and information available even if you've never grown a thing in your life! Gardening is a fantastic skill and one that we cannot let pass us by and be totally overtaken by huge agribusinesses.
I've been doing some winter research on growing tomatoes on the Front Range of the Rockies - all agree it's tricky and fickle because of the altitude and daily temperature fluctuations - but I'm determined. Even after twenty quirky years of Rocky Mountain tomato growing, I am resolute. Because tomatoes are my everything. I've looked into fashioning row covers for the tomatoes this year to see if that will help keep the tomatoes cool in the searing daytime temps and warmer at night when it dips below 50 degrees here in Wetmore.
Our children visited us over the weekend so I cannot resist posting this Evan and the sheep picture.