Full day, back to the Lucerne Reserve

It continues terribly dry, though a bit of rain is forecast for Thursday, so I decided to do my full-day shepherd a day early and keep Thursday for a (hopefully!) rainy day of finishing my quarterly taxes.  The bugs are gaining on the sheep in the lucerne (for those who missed earlier posts on this, I have aphids/mites turning my beautiful stand of lush green lucerne (alfalfa) into yellow standing hay).  So I'm bringing the sheep back in to try to graze as much more of it as I can get them to eat.  After yesterday's high precision shepherding, my plan for the lucerne is laissez-faire--except for a couple of bare stretches in the lucerne, I plan to let them graze at will--hence the several arrows on the map.  It will be a very warm, breezy day, and I expect I'll be champing at the bit for them to get going after mid-day rest.  I'm trying to keep in mind the words of Australian cartoonist Leunig, between Vasco Pyjama and guru Mr Curly.  Vasco asks Mr Curly, "What is worth doing and what is worth having?", and the guru responds:  "It is worth doing nothing and having a rest."  He goes on to talk at length about the evil effects of prolonged fatigue on the whole world, and finishes with, "So I gently urge you, Vasco, do as we do in Curly Flat--learn to curl up and rest--feel your noble tiredness--learn about it and make a generous place for it in your life and enjoyment will surely follow."  Sheep are superb at doing this in the middle of the day.  I have lots to learn from them.  Follow whitegumwool on Instagram for real time photos.  No photos during nap-time, so you can get some rest, too.

END OF DAY NOTES:  All in all, a good day.  When it gets warm early and stays warm it makes the sheep reluctant to move, so I was pleasantly surprised at how well they grazed both before and after mid-day rest.  Because we didn't have the usual sojourn in the native pasture before MDR, I think they got tired of the lucerne more quickly, and were very ready to settle down and graze the nice grass in Curly Sedge Creek at the end of the circuit.  Just shows you how diversity needs to be woven into each day's diet.  Personally, a really good day.  I had a great nap, even took my socks off--a rare event shepherding in Tas, believe me!  I woke to the sound of many twittering birds, including, as it turns out, several flame robins along with the fairy wrens, silvereyes, skylarks and something I've yet to identify.  Oh, and I had the most spectacular eagle fly-over--3, one at a time, right over the she-oak and not more than 20 feet up.  Instead of reaching for my camera, I simply gaped.   It's always a good spot to hear birds, but today was special.  These are the things I set against the ongoing dryness and feeling sad about the state of the landscape.

April 20, 2016
April 20, 2016
P1:  Into the lucerne. You can sort of see the yellow areas where the aphids are winning the grazing race. I'm pleased to see the sheep head down and grazing at this end first.

P1:  Into the lucerne. You can sort of see the yellow areas where the aphids are winning the grazing race. I'm pleased to see the sheep head down and grazing at this end first.

P2:  Hehe. This looks like the sheep read the post and memorised the map--executing the eastern dashed arrow perfectly!

P2:  Hehe. This looks like the sheep read the post and memorised the map--executing the eastern dashed arrow perfectly!

P3: ...but what really happened was a dash to first one, then the other, water trough. It is already quite warm and I expect they'll settle to ruminate and rest before long. Wind, by the way, is SE, not the forecast NW.

P3: ...but what really happened was a dash to first one, then the other, water trough. It is already quite warm and I expect they'll settle to ruminate and rest before long. Wind, by the way, is SE, not the forecast NW.

P4: I try not to hurry the stragglers at a trough, unless there is good reason. For a sheep to drink its fill might take 1-2 minutes. To get all 500 watered, with no more than 10 fitting comfortably around a trough, would take close to 2 hours. Instead, what seems to happen is a sort of leap-frogging, where the thirstiest make it first to the trough, then the slower or shyer thisties hang back and drink while the flock moves on.

P4: I try not to hurry the stragglers at a trough, unless there is good reason. For a sheep to drink its fill might take 1-2 minutes. To get all 500 watered, with no more than 10 fitting comfortably around a trough, would take close to 2 hours. Instead, what seems to happen is a sort of leap-frogging, where the thirstiest make it first to the trough, then the slower or shyer thisties hang back and drink while the flock moves on.

P5: And here is the process in action. Sorry about the distance--I need a telephoto attachment for my iPad!

P5: And here is the process in action. Sorry about the distance--I need a telephoto attachment for my iPad!

P6:  Settling, but not yet "coiled"--mobbed up in small groups to rest. The dogs and I headed up the hill at this point to our favourite she-oak for a shady, breeze-wafted nap.

P6:  Settling, but not yet "coiled"--mobbed up in small groups to rest. The dogs and I headed up the hill at this point to our favourite she-oak for a shady, breeze-wafted nap.

P7: Tree violet (aptly named in this instance!) is a beautiful, spiny native shrub often mistaken for gorse. I think gorse has displaced it in many farming ecosystems. Sheep love tree violet and you usually see it pruned quite drastically, as here. Left ungrazed it grows quite tall, in lovely sculptured shapes. (Waiting for sheep that were not ready to move when I stopped to take this shot ;-)

P7: Tree violet (aptly named in this instance!) is a beautiful, spiny native shrub often mistaken for gorse. I think gorse has displaced it in many farming ecosystems. Sheep love tree violet and you usually see it pruned quite drastically, as here. Left ungrazed it grows quite tall, in lovely sculptured shapes. (Waiting for sheep that were not ready to move when I stopped to take this shot ;-)

P8: Ok, the "crocodiles" are starting to move. The dogs (Janie and Chance) and I are headed down to turn the flock back north. Happily, the wind is shifting northerly, so that should help the run home.

P8: Ok, the "crocodiles" are starting to move. The dogs (Janie and Chance) and I are headed down to turn the flock back north. Happily, the wind is shifting northerly, so that should help the run home.

P9: They are well and truly over lucerne for the day and this is the only stretch of grass plus weeds on the way back, so I'm letting them enjoy it.

P9: They are well and truly over lucerne for the day and this is the only stretch of grass plus weeds on the way back, so I'm letting them enjoy it.

P10: Last gate, heading down into Curly Sedge Creek (named after the grass, not Mr Curly, but appropriate anyway!) There's no running water in the creek at the moment, of course, but it's still green, and they really settled down to it! Ta-da! back to the Racecourse Grazing Area, about 3:30

P10: Last gate, heading down into Curly Sedge Creek (named after the grass, not Mr Curly, but appropriate anyway!) There's no running water in the creek at the moment, of course, but it's still green, and they really settled down to it! Ta-da! back to the Racecourse Grazing Area, about 3:30

P11: A highlight of the day--a male Flame Robin showing his stuff!

P11: A highlight of the day--a male Flame Robin showing his stuff!