It always feels like we dive down the rabbit hole on about April 15th, and don’t come out until after the Fourth of July. By mid-April, we were well into calving, and getting set to trail the ewes south from their Red Desert wintering grounds. Since they start lambing around May 8th, it is important for them to be sheared before then. We also need to fit in several brandings for the calves.
This year has been especially challenging because we are very short-handed. For an unknown and possibly unsolvable reason, the American Embassy in Lima, Peru, turned down two of the herders we were counting on for lambing, including our longest term employee, Oscar Payano.
We were a little late getting on the trail with the sheep because two major storms “blew out” the sheep, meaning that the wind blew so hard that the sheep just walked before the storm and scattered over many miles. Twice they mixed with a neighboring band of sheep. This all had to be sorted out before we could start the 90-mile trail to the lambing grounds. It did give us snow to trail on, since most of the reservoirs were dry. (Sheep can survive by eating snow in lieu of fresh water.)
We also had the adventure of working with a new sheep shearer. Our old shearing contractor, Rod, sold his business and retired to New Zealand with his wife, three-year-old daughter and newborn twin sons. The new shearer proved to be less than ideal during the 2012 shearing (conscientious, but slow). For this season, Meghan engaged a reputable shearer, but that crew also ran late due to the April storms.
In the meantime, we shanghaied our in-laws and recruited our friends and neighbors so that we could raise branding crews.
The excellent news is that we have been gifted with timely spring rains–not too cold, not too stormy. The grass is growing and life is good (except for the absence of Oscar).
We have been praying for moisture, after yet another dry winter (this on the heels of two hard winters). We are getting intermittent rainy and snowy days, which usually we are grateful for. Last week, we got a snow storm which came with high winds which made it unfit for man and beast.
At Powder Wash, we lost several calves, lambs and ewes, in spite of sheds and shelter. On the Red Desert, the ewes “blew out”, which means that in sheep just walked in front of the howling winds. In these conditions, we tell the sheepherders just to stay in their camps. Since there are few fences, the sheep are usually miles away from where they started, but they are OK, and we have to find them and put the herd back together.
Still, the moisture brings promise of green grass.