Rain soaked ground = fence down = movin’ on to greener pastures!
Posts Tagged ‘sheep’
You could say the delicious symphony of a complex wine and flavorful lamb starts here. By “here,” we mean in the vineyard at Heart Arrow Ranch. This past Friday, we continued through the sheep cycle at our farm and herded the flock into the vineyard, starting at the far end in the cabernet sauvignon. Until then, they had been spending the relatively dry winter in the rangeland. In between the rangeland and vineyard, we had them in the corral for a couple days where we could check on new lambs, like this spunky guy:
He was one of the quicker ones. A couple lambs were not agile or big enough to keep up with the herd when we moved them, but luckily, they did not have to go very far, and Adam was kind enough to give a couple a lift on his ATV.
Needless to say, it took a bit of encouragement to get the flock all the way to where we wanted them at the far end of the vineyard. There was so much to taste along the way.
It is relatively simple to keep the sheep in where they are right now. Since the vineyard is fenced on 3 sides by deer fence, we just needed to put up electric netting on the 4th side. Four of the guardian dogs are with them.
The vineyard crew already pruned the canes in this section. While they went ahead and mowed the canes on the ground, they only mowed alternate rows that were not cover cropped. Some of the food value of the vineyard, particularly the sub clover, was lost because of that, but there is still plenty for the ovines to enjoy. We expect them to stay in this section for about a week before we need to move them to where there’s more food – the adjacent section of the vineyard.
Just today, when we went to check on everyone and feed the guardian dogs, we spotted the flock doing what they do best – eating, ruminating, and being generally peaceful in the shade and amongst the vines. Once again, for about a month and a half (until bud break), we get to experience the interconnected relationship of our sheep and the Goldens’ wine grapes. At dinner with good wine and good lamb, wouldn’t you want a gastronomic experience just as complementary?
Farm Fact of the Week
A couple years ago, we participated in a UC Davis research project to try to teach sheep to not eat the grapevines after bud break. This “aversion training” did not work for our sheep and our farm system; management-wise it was not practical. We found that even though the sheep may have “learned” that eating the vines was a negative experience, if there was not enough lush feed for them on the ground, they would want to eat the grapevines. Raising sheep requires some level of management, and when there isn’t enough fresh food in an area for the flock, they will try to look for more. So, it’s always better to have enough fresh pasture available. That’s also why we lease irrigated pasture for them during the dry months.
Farming is like dancing – there are slow dances and fast jigs and every pace in between. We’re at another hurried hustle this time of year. Summer crops like tomatoes, eggplant, and cucumbers are giving bloated harvests that call for routine attention.
Yet under the guise of bounty, nature is slowly inching toward the quieter time of the year – fall and eventually winter – when crops slow down and the land lays still. So we are simultaneously prepping the ground and planting cool weather crops (those biennials like broccoli, lettuce and carrots) and preserving summer’s warm wealth in curing, pickling, making sauce and making sauerkraut.
With the higher food output this year, we’re also striving to consistently provide for markets we haven’t worked with regularly in the past, like Ukiah Natural Foods Co-op and Ukiah Brewing Company and Restaurant. We’re also finding that the markets and nearby restaurants can’t absorb all that we are producing, and CSAs are not in high demand here, so much of our food is shipping to the Bay Area. Hopefully, we are serving our community not just with our food but by bringing outside revenue in during these challenging economic times.
As busy as we have been expanding farm production this year, we haven’t had much time to write about the process here. But, we’ve been striving to document with photos the daily work we do to grow as much nutritious, flavorful food as possible. Part of the process has been spending money. As they say, you have to spend money to make money. This season alone, we’ve acquired many tools to help us grow more food so it’s more affordable to buy and so that we don’t strain our bodies:
- three-bottom plow
- flail mower
- Farmall 100 cultivating tractor
- toolbar & flex planters
- 5.5 HP water pump
- hog panels
- poultry netting
- 30′ x 70′ high tunnel
- sunblocker shade structure
The shopping list goes on, and that’s only major capital investments. Fortunately, we don’t always have to buy things outright. Other farmers are lending us equipment or letting us make payments. A community of growers is so essential particularly when when you start out with nothing.
We’re also raising another round of pigs that will be ready in time for the holidays. Not only is pork really tasty, but our pigs will happily eat vegetable culls or whatever does not sell at the farmers market. Heritage Berkshire pork is delicious, so we’re definitely raising those pigs again!
We also bought a few more ewes and lambs to increase our sheep flock. Hopefully by the end of this season, we’ll have about 100 ewes. Our new Shropshire ram, Macho, should be getting familiar with the ladies now…
So, we continue to refine our farming system – doing trials of different crops to see what we can grow well, trying new feed rations and growing better hay and pasture for cost-effective yet delicious meat, fine-tuning all the mechanical processes, and improving relationships with all our customers. We’re very excited to be growing a lot more food this year. It’s a challenge, but the hard work is rewarding when we are able to partner with nature and people to nourish ourselves and our community.
Try this for about 5 minutes.
We have not posted news in a while, but it is no wonder – we are so very busy! And this week is no exception. As all the vineyards in Mendo are bustling with harvest, we have been assisting with the grape harvest at Golden Vineyards. It’s always exciting to collaborate with the Goldens, and although we’re doing a lot, we enjoy taking part in the grape harvest madness that has taken over the region. In some ways, the success of our farm depends on the success of the agriculture around us.
In terms of our own harvest, we have been doing a lot of it. Since September, we have been supplying the five NCO Head Start centers in Ukiah with weekly CSA produce shares. Some of the summer’s bounty have been melons, sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash, sweet peppers, chard, and more. Periodically, we have supplemented the Live Power CSA produce shares with our vegetables as well.
Since mid-August, we have been supplying produce to the bar and restaurant, Bar Agricole. This week, we are sending some lamb their way. It required us driving down to Occidental and back on a Sunday night to drop off the lamb for processing, but that is what we have to do as there is no place for us to do that in Mendo…
Speaking of lamb, our sheep still reside at 3WG in Potter Valley. They have been very happy there thus far, and we’re still putting in time and labor to rehabilitate a couple of the fields there. Growing hay and pasture is still somewhat new for us, so we are going to try growing a specific mix in one field and see how it compares with the other fields. There is still some tractor work to be done so that the irrigation water flows across the fields correctly. Many of the ewes are bagging up (their udders are becoming full of milk) meaning we will have more lambs soon. If you are interested in buying our lamb for your freezer, let us know. We may have some available right now.
Also, we are in the home stretch of the meat chicken CSA. This Saturday, October 23, we will have the 5th batch of chicken shares available for pick-up at the Ukiah Farmers Market. We also plan to have extras for market sale as well.
Earlier this week, we also got together with Doug from the Mendocino Grain Project to get some of our grain cleaned. Some grain we will be reseeding and some wheat will go toward the grain CSA.
This week, we have also been harvesting and curing the winter squash for the Winter CSA. So far, we’ve harvested a couple varieties of acorn, lots of spaghetti, and delicata. The butternut, kabocha, and other plantings are still maturing.
You may not have heard, but we finally got a 4-wheel tractor in August. Fall planting has been happening much faster with the large disk and shovels for bed-shaping!
With it being autumn now, we are following the weather forecast closely; we must plan for the first substantial rain. While we are doing all this harvesting, fall is when we plant our hay/pasture and grain. This year, we will be growing barley at the south Ukiah property.
Perhaps when the days are super short and we’re inside more, we will have more blog posts for you
Let us first say that we are happy to be farming irrigated pasture in Potter Valley.
The sheep seem very content as well.
Today was the third time we have moved the sheep around at 3WG Ranch. There are basically three fields we are leasing for pasture, one of which is divided into two areas. Today, we moved the sheep into the largest area which never got cut for hay this spring. We will soon actually separate the lambs that we want to gain more weight and put them into a different field which we mowed and irrigated earlier in August.
This is all known as ‘rotational grazing’!
Then there is another field which we hope to use in the future, but we are having to rehabilitate it to a good pasture. Right now, we are discing it so we can seed it.
For now, the sheep are all happy together.
Today at the Ovine Beauty Salon, Matt and Mike were our stylists.
What do you think of their new ‘dos?