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Stories from the valley

52 Weeks of Sheep

Contributed by Dan Macon

As a kid (and, I’ll admit, as an adult), my favorite season of the Christian liturgical year was (is) the season of Advent. The anticipation and rituals made the arrival of Christmas all the more exciting. In our sheep year, we’ve just entered our season of advent – that 4-week stretch (called “flushing”) when we’re preparing our ewes for breeding by increasing their nutritional intake.

If flushing is Advent, lambing is Easter – new life that is the culmination of our toil over the preceding months. Perhaps like no other vocation, farming and ranching are tied to the seasons. My farming friends plant in the spring, irrigate through the summer, and harvest in the fall (most of them, anyway – it depends on the crop). Our sheep operation is similarly seasonal: we lamb in the spring, irrigate pasture all summer, and turn the rams in with the ewes in the fall. While much of the work remains the same from one day to the next, our focus gradually changes from week-by-week.

In part because of this annual cycle, I’ve decided to begin a new video blog (or “vlog”) project to document and share our work during the course of the year. I’m calling this project “52 Weeks of Sheep.” Beginning with my first post this week, I’ll upload a short video clip to my YouTube channel (look for the flyingmulefarm channel) every week for a year. I’m motivated, in part, by a desire to educate our suburban and urban neighbors about the joys and (equally important) challenges of raising sheep in the Sierra foothills. I’m also motivated by a desire to learn the technology – video clips can be an important tool in my day job as a UC Cooperative Extension advisor, and this project gives me a chance to learn how to use them.

Over the course of the next 51 weeks, I know I’ll share vlog posts about lambing, shearing, protecting our sheep from predators, and other standard sheepherding topics. I also know there’ll be unexpected topics – the unexpected is normal when your business is dependent on weather, animal behavior, and the vagaries of the lamb market. I hope that viewers will provide feedback – and I especially hope that viewers will inspire posts with their questions about raising sheep. Contact me at flyingmulefarm@gmail.com to ask questions or suggest ideas!