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Pasture!

06/09/11

Permalink 10:41:55 pm, by Karen Email , 551 words   English (US)
Categories: Journal

Pasture!

We have finally finished our fencing project and have pasture for our sheep!

We have had pasture-envy for these past nearly 4 years, since we moved from NY to NH. Every time we pass an open and unused green field we try not to drool, and we wonder why no one is using it for anything (like sheep!). When we came here, we knew it was going to be work. There were no properties in this area that were of suitable size and ready for grazing animals. All properties of 10 acres or more (our minimum requirement) were wooded, OR were so far out of our price range as to be ridiculous. Yes, if we'd won the lottery we could have purchased a turn-key situation with barn and outbuildings and pastures and a nice house, but that will run you half a million around here, at least. So, we settled on a property of just under 12 acres, mostly wooded, with a house that needed lots of work, and no barn. That was in late 2007, with our final move in the spring of 2008. There was enough open room to put in a large paddock and have a little grazing area for occasional "salad bar" grazing, but hay has been the staple, and we use hoophouses for shelter - no barn available. We were blessed to have someone who let us borrow their pasture for the summers, and we did use that when we could, gratefully.

We finally got it logged in 2009, which cleared out the big timber, but left a huge mess. We were starting to clean it up in spring of 2010 when Ken threw out his back and that effectively stalled the project for several months. Eventually he recovered and by fall we started clearing fenceline and putting in posts, until the ground froze.

A long cold spring delayed the snow melt and the ground thaw, but finally we got back to work on it this spring, and yesterday we opened the paddock where it joined the new runway/alleyway/"on-ramp" to the pasture, and led the sheep through. I think we had about 8 bales of hay left, so it was just in time. A lot of native grasses and forbs have come up without any help from us, now that the sun can get through to the ground, and there is also ton of browse for them. We did seed some as well, but will need to do more liming and seeding in the future.

It's maybe about 4 acres - hard to estimate given the irregular shape. I know that would seem really small to some people. Many folks have single pastures that are bigger than our entire property, but it's a really big deal for us, and it's plenty big enough for the number of sheep we have or will ever have. It still needs a LOT of work. The sheep will help with some of that - keeping the shrubby bits and tree sprouts under control - but there's still a lot of slash to pick up and tops of trees left behind that need to be cut up for firewood. But this whole place is a continuous project/work-in-progress. Maybe by the time we get too old to deal with it anymore it will be one of those places worth half a million. One can hope. ;-)

Sharing ideas from our small farm in NH, where we raise Icelandic sheep and assorted poultry. We are members of ISBONA (Icelandic Sheep Breeders of North America) and the CLRC (Canadian Livestock Records Corporation). We also participate in the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program (NH54). Contact us at karen [at] birchtreefarm [dot] com. Please also visit the farm website at Birchtree Farm.
Farm Bill
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