We finally felt ready to take on our own flock of sheep. Three girls was the plan, but when our neighbours offered a Ram for sale we couldn’t say no. They were sending the rest of their young boys off to the butchers and there was a girl who would go too, and not wanting to have an even number of sheep, we purchased the girl. We went from 3 to 5 sheep within the first week. As the weeks went by we made some jokes about the girls being fat, there was of course an abundance of long green grass in our paddock, which had been unattended to for some months, but one Sunday whilst taking Lenny the ram some broccoli flowers, we heard a little ‘baaaa’ coming from the grass. Low and behold a cute little newly born black lamb was right in front of us, we could hardly believe our own eyes! We suspiciously eyed the other ‘fat’ girls and begun to research the ‘signs’ to look for. Within a day or so we were pretty convinced Lucy would soon give birth. Sure enough, the following Saturday she had the biggest baby lamb – poor girl! She’s always been smaller than the other sheep, being hand reared and not receiving her mother’s milk seem to have stunted her growth somewhat, but that didn’t stop her having the biggest baby boy – almost twice the size of the other little lamb born the previous week, to a mother much larger than Lucy.
So within a month or so of becoming sheep owners, we became sheep breeders, about a year before we had planned. We’ve been flat out getting a little fox proof enclosure ready so we can lock up the mums and bubs at night keeping them safe from harm. Easier said than done! Have you ever tried to get sheep to do what you want but they don’t? It’s not that easy – I have a new appreciation for sheep dogs! We are learning a lot about keeping sheep and recently had lessons from the vet on how to trim their hooves and give injections either into the muscle or just under the skin, along with a rather indignant lesson for Lenny on how to get a ram on his back. No easy feat for an estimated 80kg of sheep!
Now I know I’ve told you about Lucy before, who was already named, and we were thrilled to be able buy her as she’s such a friendly girl. We decided to name the other girls after songs too so we have Lola (the other new mum), Layla, and Luka, and the ram is Lenny. Now Lenny was named after a hidden track at the end of a Lemonheads cd, the track has never been released as a single nor is it a complete song, but the little snippet of a gem is a fave of ours and now immortalised in our ram. We are only going to name the sheep we are keeping, the ones that will end up in the freezer eventually will not be named so I don’t get too attached to them. And I’m not entirely sure that theory is going to work, we may very well end up with a paddock full of pet sheep! But our grand plan here is to raise our own meat and to ensure the animals live a beautiful natural stress free life where they are cared for in the best possible way and are never exposed to toxic fields full of sprays. So we are going to try with all our might to do this, it won’t be easy I know, there may tears I know, but we can try.
We already decided we didn’t want to take away Lucy’s first baby. Lucy has had a lot of human contact and she is proving to be a very caring attentive mother. As she lost her mother at birth we thought it would be kinder to allow her to keep her baby. Turns out she had a boy so we are keen to allow him to grow into his full ram potential and take over the reign from Lenny as we allow him to age, he’s no young buck. He’s obviously still going well, two new lambs and all, but his years of productivity are probably limited so we now have a succession plan. Lucy’s boy has strong genetics, he’s a huge baby, and will hopefully inherit Lucy’s gentle temperament along with an automatic trust of people as he watches his mum walk up to us for pats and treats – unlike the other sheep who all run a mile in the other direction, except for Lenny the ram who has turned out to be a smoochy gentle giant that likes chin scratches. Lola’s baby is a girl so we will keep her too and add her to the breeding stock. It’s early days and we’re still to learn how much feed our paddock will yield over the dry summer months, we do not wish to subsidise their food too much as we’d like them to eat from our biodynamic paddock rather than buy feed in, so the total number of sheep we keep has to be in balance with what we can provide naturally. I think we’re probably close to the limit now but I’m pretty happy we are keeping our first two additions to the flock.
So, for now we now have a flock of 7 Suffolk sheep and I have two new names to pick out! In case you haven’t realised I love naming things, including all our neighbours sheep! One of which I’m going to reuse as it’s one I love and this is important for a ram who will be with us for many years. Lucy’s baby is Ziggy. We’re sticking with the music theme obviously! Lola’s girl will be Eileen. And yes we may or may not sing their names.
Our lives have been totally taken over by sheep in the last month or so, learning about sheep, caring for sheep, watching the sheep and building a sheep shed but in other non sheepish news the farm is going well… the fruit trees are all starting to burst with blossom and leaves after their big winter sleep, there’s baby apricots and almonds developing already and we have our first few fingerlimes ripening up. The veggie garden is sprouting new life despite the fact I planted a heap of new seeds prior to a week of the most solid heavy rain dumping all winter! I was sure I’d lost them all but it appears there are a few survivors in the mix. We fell way behind in our plan to plant to heap of seeds late winter ready for a spring planting, life has a way of getting busy and August was nuts this year! Craft is slowly coming back into our lives in a daily manner as we try to do a little making each night. Charlie always seems to have an order on the go and I’ve just made a couple more scarves, I love having a cupboard of homemade goodies at the ready for presents and gifts.
Farm life sure is luscious this time of year in Gippsland, the hills are a deep rich green and the grass long. The cattle surrounding us are healthy and shiny and the vet commented on the excellent condition of our sheep. There’s plenty of food for them and I’m pretty sure you can see a little contented smile in their relaxed faces sometimes.
Wishing you contented smiles and relaxed days.