I knew early in the summer this winter was going to hit hard. I knew it, could “feel” it, talked with other farmers how it was going to be ugly.
Yet I wasn’t prepared. My alfalfa hay molded and I never was able to source good grass hay for the sheep. The “winter pasture” never got time to rest and grow back. Infact, i was never successful at getting a good cover crop over the ground the pigs tilled up. I was hoping for turnips, then as the year grew later barley. The barley I got was rancid and never took. I finally tried rye and as it started to grow we got a hard frost. For myself I failed to get a decent amount of dry wood. I had several offers of ” lots of free wood from our place!” but lots of wood to people who don’t burn for heat is actually very little if you do burn as your main source of heat. Then some of the wood got rained on. Like, soaked through and through.
So I haven’t entered into this winter with the best planning or supplies. Our well house *is* finally pretty much finished. Last year my ex just wrapped up the well-head and tank in insulation, straw and plastic wrap….last winter was mild so it worked. Wouldn’t have this year.
Around the country there has been record breaking cold weather. Oregon is no different. Our cold started creeping in last week as I desparatly tried to find good grass hay for my sheep. They were loosing condition, staying hungry and nibbling their pasture down to nubs. Everyone I talked to was out. Finally I called the guy I bought the moldy stuff from and to my surprise he offered to buy it back. Not only that, but deliver! Honest and standing behind his product….whaaaa?! He arrived before I had to leave for work and helped me stack up all my hay. My hero! Really, I can’t get over it. (Okayokay…maybe its because hes cute too…..)but its also he saved me and my animals because 3 days later we got hit with snow. Not only snow but the temperatures dropped down into the 10s. The girls are all pregnant: they need all the energy they can get. So the snow posed a bit of a problem for my pastuued sheep.
I’ve been leaving the barn open for them so they can sleep where ever; they’ve been opting for the barn. (random insert: munching on kettle chips and my cat is attempting to steal them from me. Ha!) half my sheep have never seen snow before so when they woke up to find it white outside they hovered by the barn door for a while. I found only 3 pairs of tracks: two turned around quickly, a third walked almost to the gate before heading back to the barn. This white stuff was odd and suspicious.
Luckily I had my hay and was able to feed them up. Blaze was mad that I switched to grass hay instead of alfalfa (which I’ll get in another delivery when my barn is ready for more and closer to lambing) so she chased me around for a few days screaming at me. Still, the grass hay didn’t seem like enough so I upped them to some grain. I started with my home grown corn:
Painted mountain corn is a great homestead corn that is open pollentated and and survive and produce food in poor soils and under harsh conditions (see: my garden) 12% protein (compared to corns usual 7%) and lots of trace minerals. I’d like eventually like to switch to using it as my main grain. But right now I’ve got a limited quantity and it runs $20 a lb, so I give only a little out at a time. I cracked the corn mainly for the chickens figuring they could use a little boost, but shared some with the sheep. I noticed Ash is a bit gaunt so I’m going to start graining them a little, too. I hate to use grain as its like crack for sheep, but if ya gotta ya gotta.
As I said before I’m not prepared for winter. Today threw me a whole lotta troubles, i suppose though this post is long enough. We’ll talk about pigs and snow tommorrow. And frozen pipes. and my crawlspace full of spider webs. and hauling water twice a day. and why you should thank a farmer. but tommorrow, for I am tired.