Spring has brought some inspiration, and the busy time of year is starting.
At the end of Feb. it looked as if we would have a drought year, this would mean no irrigation water for our area. A drought would be devastating to this area and we badly need rain and snow pack. March was a savior. As of today the snow pack is 100% of normal and it looks as if we will have irrigation water for most, if not all of the season. Happy dance!
|Upper Klamath lake that holds much of the irrigation water|
|Feeding in March|
The weather has not warmed up much and as of a day ago snow was still falling in our area. It was only a few inches and it went away by noon, but grass is very slow to come on.
|Green but slow coming|
Last week we vaccinated the ewes with a 8 way to help protect them and the lambs they will start having in a month. We also had the fields fertilized with urea. Now for some warm weather and the fields should come on strong for lambing.
|Ewes loaded for shots|
|That's my baby two fisting shots|
95% of our flock are fine wool, but we still have a handful or North Country and Border Cheviot ewes left. I thought the contrast of this Targhee ewe and the Cheviot was funny.
|who you calling short!|
My kids love these big spray boom trucks. Note the snow in the hills.
|Fertilizer going on|
This week we sheared the ewes.
Shearing is always a watch the weather then run like hell affair. We get our shearing crew from the valley and they are busy shearing the many thousands of sheep in the Willamette valley. We live at 4,200 feet so snow and cold this time of year is common. The sheep have to be dry to be sheared and you would like for it to be dry for many days after you shear, especially with the cold weather we are having. We will feed up for at least a week to give the ewes the extra energy they will need to stay warm.
|Snow squalls all around the ranch|
Shearing was set for Friday, and Thursday am as we set up the barn for shearing, we watched the snow squalls roll all around us. Thankfully the snow missed us and we sheared on Friday.
It was 25 deg that am when we started and you could see the steam roll off the boys as they worked. Each year i marvel at the toughness of the folks who shear sheep. What a back breaking, and dirty tough job it is.
|Kenny an Dusty a long, long day|
Our regular crew could not come but they recommended Dusty and Kenny and they were fabulous. Great natured young guys, who were skilled at their work. It was a pleasure to have them for a few nights. The other great thing about this crew is the brought their own wool press! That meant not having to stomp wool. A thankless job we all hate and have hired out to a neighbor kid for the last few years.
The wool press makes square bale that weighs about 450lbs. Most wool buyers prefer the wool to be packaged this way, thou our buyer does not dock us for bagged wool.
It was a long day, we started at 7 am and we were bagging wool by a full moon at 830pm. The kids came and helped when they got home from school. James helped his dad keep the system loaded with sheep, and Katy grabbed the belly wool and put it in a separate pile. Katy also kept the shearing board clean by sweeping it. The shearers had music up loud and the press was loud too, both kids wore ear protection most of the time. I was very proud of the kids who worked 5 hours and were a big help.
James is a like my dog Mint. Hard work yes! More work yes! All day work yes! He loves ranch work and his ability to work for long hours is amazing for an 8 year old.
|James keeping the chute full|
Katy usually wont work as long as her brother will, but she worked until after dark just like James did. Katy is my inquisitive one, always wanting to know how things work and why. The shearers took the gate off of the holding crate( it has a gate at the back end) and put a wool sack over the opening. This made it easier for them to get the sheep out without opening the gate. Katy knew exactly why they did this "mommy is that sack there so the sheep think it is gate and wont come out until the guys are ready?" Smart kid.
|Kepping the floor clean|
It is a great feeling to have shearing done. An even better feeling when i drive the wool to Portland to be sold to http://www.pendleton-usa.com/ They use our wool to make dress shirts. Our wool is considered med fine at 22.5 mic with a staple length of 2-4 inches. Wool prices cont to be at record highs.
Dusty said shearing the fine wool is much different than shearing the coarse wool sheep they are used to in the valley. They have to bend the sheep differently and it more difficult. The cold weather also makes the wool tougher to get off. A good tip was sure in line for these guys :)
|a look at the staple|
We still have some over seeding to do this week, and some fence work to get done before lambing. Life gets very busy this time of year.
|fruits of our labor|
|Sheared sheep at the end of the day|