Sunday Homestead Update – on Monday

We have been busy around here.  Busy with outdoor farm things, and very little time for indoor computer things.

All is well.  The two hens are staying put on their eggs (only one week left until hatch!) and ALL the eggs we purchased are fertile (yippee!).  Daphne has fully recovered from her anaphylactic reaction.  The first half of the hay is all put away up in the lofts.  And the last of the garden has been planted (except for a few succession plantings of spinach and lettuce).  Some of the garden died from the hail, but most of it is doing it’s best to come back.

The big news this week is fencing.  Fencing, fencing, and more fencing.  We worked like crazy at fencing the last few days.  And let me tell you, fencing in the Rocky Mountains is a pain.  If you are doing anything that requires post holes you can just kiss your dream of a straight fence goodbye.  They aren’t called the Rockies for nothing.  But we did our best and only had a few spots where we were forced to go offline with the post due to hitting rock.

First, we fixed up some decorative fencing that is at the entrance to our property.  It is probably 20 years old and rotting and falling down all over the place.  It looked awful.  We took down about 150 feet of it that we considered “unnecessary” and used what little of that was still good to patch about 50 feet of the fence that we chose to keep.

After the decorative fencing we went to work on the barnyard.  When we first moved here the barnyard consisted of 12, 12-foot livestock panels with wire attached.  Last fall, we put in 60 feet of permanent fencing on the barnyard, with the rest still being panels.  The permanent fencing is a 5-foot high, two-rail wood fence with welded wire attached, and with chicken wire attached on the bottom two feet and buried out a foot from the fence line.  This is the best we can do to protect the livestock from predators.  The permanent fence definitely keeps coyotes and foxes out, since they are diggers not jumpers.

So this last few days we put up another 80 feet of the permanent fence.  This leaves only 6 panels on the one side of the barnyard.  The rest is permanent fencing!

Here are the before/after photos.  Sorry, they were clearly taken at different times of day, so the before is kind of hard to see, but the location they were taken from is almost exactly the same.

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The really cool thing is that this addition increased the barnyard size by about a third.  And in doing so, it put a bunch of grass inside of the barnyard.

Our sheep have never grazed before.  They have only been fed hay.  We enjoyed watching them try to figure out the whole grazing thing.  Daphne was definitely the most ambitious and adventurous about grazing.  As we worked we would make a loud noise or something and the other three would run away, but Daphne just kept working on the grass.  At first, they just mouthed it and couldn’t figure out how to get it to detach from the ground (the hay is loose and doesn’t “hold on” to the ground when they eat it).  They slowly got the hang of biting it off, or breaking it off so they could eat it.  The chickens were loving it too.  They were scratching and foraging like crazy – finding all sorts of bugs and eating greens too.  By this evening (Monday), after a few days of access, the sheep are really getting down to eating it successfully.  Soon it will be all back to just a dry lot, but for now they all have fun things to nibble on.

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We would like to be able to have the sheep forage on other parts of our property, to keep the foliage trimmed a bit and to decrease how much hay we have to feed them, even by just a little.  We are hopeful that this will help them understand foraging, so that when we take them on halters to other spots to graze for a little while they will get to it.  We have tried before but they were so not even looking at the grass as food that they just stood around wondering why we led them there.

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