It's the end of July, and I'm spending a bunch of time this week buying, schlepping, and storing many, many tons of hay. I've been doing a better than ever job of managing pasture this year, seeding in spring, rotating my grazing, and so on. Nonetheless, from now until next year, our animals will be getting most of their calories from hay. We have more animals than ever--to be honest, we're at least 25% overcapacity on sheep--and our fields are still terribly underdeveloped, but the real culprit is weather.
Like most of the left cost, we're in a drought. We've also had many weeks of record high temperatures. So, the calendar has been bumped forward by about six weeks. Fields, normally green, were crispy yellow by June. I made blackberry jam last week, five weeks earlier than last year. Cornflower is blooming, two months early. Oak Creek is nearly dry--again, two months ahead of schedule. And, a month early, I'm buying hay, $275 a ton for some very nice second cut orchard grass. The goats may get another few weeks of pasture, as will the yearling sheep, but it's pretty much hay from here 'til February.
|Two tons of hay. Lifting 100-lb bales up that high is a good workout; it's good that it's two short tons, otherwise I'd have had to lift them higher.|
It takes time to rehab a farm, and our long term goals include rainwater harvesting, fertilizing, seeding, and developing fallow land (i.e., a couple acres of blackberries, teasels, and hawthorn) for hay. The goal is to make it so that our animals are supported by our patch of earth. I know that hitting this goal is going to take most of a decade, but it still causes me some angst that the sheep and goats are walking around on our property but grazing on irrigated fields twenty or a hundred miles away.
Usually, it's not until October that the local vegetation grows so sparse and lousy that the deer lose their fear and start grazing on our yard. It's the young ones who lead the way. This morning it was a yearling buck, one that had been partially dismasted in combat, so it had only a single horn, with a single point. Both Sophie and Eleanor saw the animal and barked lustily while giving chase, driving the unicorn from our garden and back into the dense thickets along the creek.