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Tag Archives: Joel

January on the Red Desert

ewes at Chain Lakes

The past two winters have been hard winters by anyone’s standards. Conditions were especially harsh on the Red Desert north of Wamsutter, where we winter our sheep. In 2018-2019, the ewes and bucks were snowed in on the Cyclone Rim allotment for weeks, and we couldn’t even get to the Chain Lakes allotment. In 2019-2020, the winter started early, so we found frozen sugar beets in the northern part of Wyoming and trucked the sheep to farms.

Now we are in drought. We have received around 65 percent of normal moisture so far this winter. An easy winter is easier on both livestock and herders, and on us as we drive back and forth to the sheep camps. The sheep depend upon snow for water for most of the winter. We’ve had several days of wind and thaw, which takes the snow and leaves bare sage and steppe. We now wait for a good winter storm, which we hope will bring much-needed moisture. Winter snow brings us spring grass.

Enough snow. Not too much. Not too little.

Joel with guard dog puppy.

Sentinel ewes

Pat and Pepe at Cyclone Rim base camp

 
 

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Homeward Bound in the Time of Coronavirus

lining up for the trucks

As our blog watchers know, we have had a horrific winter which made it hard to keep our livestock well cared for. This is the origin of the phrase “animal husbandry.” After a long and trying series of  experiences, mostly weather related, we moved both the sheep and the cows to warmer climes. They are now coming home. We are in the season Still Winter/Almost Spring. The Coronavirus outbreak has affected our day-to-day lives less than many, but our big picture economic lives more than many. Still, we live in the day-to-day. We had sent most of our sheep, ewes and rams, to the Bighorn Basin for the winter. The early cold froze the sugar beets grown there, which meant that the beets couldn’t be harvested, but were frozen in the ground. As it happens, sheep can “graze” on sugar beets in the ground, and other crop aftermath. Spring is sort of coming and the deep snow is finally sort of melting. The farmers in the Bighorn Basin, where it is almost 3,000 feet lower in altitude, need to have their fields cleared of sheep so they can be ready to plant the 2020 crops. We began to be worried that the side-effects from Coronavirus would make it hard to bring the ewes several hundred miles south, and home. The truckers are busy hauling essential supplies, and sheep trailers especially are in short supply. What would happen if our sheep, men and dogs were stranded? We have some great trucker friends and were able to organize 17 trucks (same trucks, more than one trip). We had already brought some home earlier, but we had not figured on the unprecedented challenges of a Black Swan event.

ewes and rams

getting the truck ready

eager to go home

brand inspector on the job

Joel and Pepe

Tiarnan supervising (home school)

Pepe and our “landlord” Pasquel

Maeve serving her brownies (Grandma Laura’s recipe) after the last sheep is loaded–more home school

Seamus and Pat with the trucks

Pasquel, Pepe, Joel and Meghan

multiple unloading

Home at last!!!

 

 

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