May 11-13: Wild Weather Continues (Into the Basin Grazing Area)

It's as though winter has decided to make up in a week the lost time in March and April, when it was so warm and mild.  We had yet another ½ inch of rain overnight, following an inch on Monday night, both with blustery westerly gales.  Last night as I drove back from choir practice about 10:30, it was sleeting horizontally, and the temperature outside my kitchen window was hovering at freezing.  There's a sheep grazier's warning out, and the forecast is for more of the same into Friday.  As I snuggled under the covers this morning listening to the wind, and being glad I was cozy and warm, I debated a number of scenarios for shepherding, and finally came up with this one.  I'd like to give the sheep better shelter from the westerlies over the next few days, and some fresher forage than the eastern end of the White Gum Grazing Area, which has taken the brunt of grazing for the last 3 weeks.  So I'm going to put them into the Lucerne Reserve plus Old Cabin, and let them figure out where they really want to be from moment to moment over the next few days.  Hopefully, by Saturday, the weather will settle down and we can go back to our Highway Reserve plan. A couple of photos of Clara, who was my second bottle lamb of the season 2 ½ years ago.  I found her on the hill in Old Cabin, lying beside her mother who had died.  Clara was maybe a week old, and she took to the bottle, and me, without looking back.  I think because she had that first week with her own mother, she was pretty healthy.  She's the most loving and gentle animal.  She always manages to find some time to walk with me when we're on a shepherding circuit, just wanting spend a little time with mom.  And she's grown into the biggest ewe I've ever had.  She's nearly as big as Horatio, and he's huge.  At first I attributed her size to the special formula I fed all of my bottle lambs that year:  regular milk with egg and cream added.  But Vicki is nowhere near as big as Clara, and she had the same formula.  So I think genetics get the credit for Clara's size.  Clara's friends, like Vicki's, have come to accept me, too.  It's one of the real joys of shepherding, having sheep come up to talk to me, or just be near me, even when they aren't my "special" ones.

AFTER BREAKFAST NOTES:  Having decided to go move the sheep while I was still all rugged up for running the dogs, I didn't end up getting my breakfast until about 9:30.  Of course, the sheep were not where I expected to find them, but since I was in the buggy, that wasn't so much of an issue.  Last night's wild westerly gale must have drawn them to the SW corner of the White Gum Grazing Area, where I found them this morning.  Rather than battle with the wind at our tails all the way back to the Lucerne Reserve, I chose Plan B: moving the flock into the Basin Grazing Area a week early, via the nearest gate--about a 100m walk, with the sheep more than happy to follow me without any help from the dogs.  I'd been debating about shifting the flock into the Basin GA anyway, as we are getting some growth after 2+ inches of rain in the last 10 days.  The rule of thumb with rotational grazing is to speed up your rotation when there is active growth, the idea being that you maximise the growth rate by minimising the grazing impact.  The Basin GA was the next area to go to in the larger rotation sense.  Also, the Basin GA has much more shelter from westerly winds than the White Gum Grazing Area.  While there is little real "bush" on the property, the sheep use landforms to shelter from the wind.  They're quite good practical fluid dynamicists--they know experientially what it took me years to learn mathematically--you want to be in the flow "separation" zone on the lee side, and just below the brow of the hill, when the wind is howling.  It doesn't take much topography to create a surprisingly good niche out of the wind.   So now, although they won't probably get there any time soon, they have access to Old Cabin via the whole Basin GA, instead of the Lucerne Reserve.  It was amazingly cold out in the wind this morning--the coldest I've been since about last July, I think!  Of course, if I'd hiked up, I'd have been a lot warmer.

May 11-13, 2016
May 11-13, 2016
P1: Looking south across Lucerne Reserve into Old Cabin at 8:20. Wind is blowing about 50 kph. Temp is 2 C (34 F). Brrrr.  At least the sun is shining.

P1: Looking south across Lucerne Reserve into Old Cabin at 8:20. Wind is blowing about 50 kph. Temp is 2 C (34 F). Brrrr.  At least the sun is shining.

P2: Clara, looking wet, if not particularly cold.

P2: Clara, looking wet, if not particularly cold.

P3: Following me to the gate. Plan B. (My comment at the time: I'll explain later when my fingers aren't frozen). Having to take off my gloves and my polarising sunglasses whenever I'm taking an Instagram photo is a distinct disadvantage in this weather! I just want my old Nikon digital camera wired for the ether!!  BTW, the dogs are being VERY good and patient in the back of the Polaris.  In the end, I didn't need to put the dogs on the ground at all--the sheep were most cooperative, not to say enthusiastic, about following me around in the lovely fresh feed.

P3: Following me to the gate. Plan B. (My comment at the time: I'll explain later when my fingers aren't frozen). Having to take off my gloves and my polarising sunglasses whenever I'm taking an Instagram photo is a distinct disadvantage in this weather! I just want my old Nikon digital camera wired for the ether!!  BTW, the dogs are being VERY good and patient in the back of the Polaris.  In the end, I didn't need to put the dogs on the ground at all--the sheep were most cooperative, not to say enthusiastic, about following me around in the lovely fresh feed.

They were really enjoying this longer, fresh grass until I chivvied them on up toward the gate.

They were really enjoying this longer, fresh grass until I chivvied them on up toward the gate.

P4: Leo (looking over his right shoulder) eyeing the Polaris. He just LOVES the buggy.

P4: Leo (looking over his right shoulder) eyeing the Polaris. He just LOVES the buggy.

P5: A wedge-tailed eagle hanging out on a log near the gate to Old Cabin. I took a video of him in flight just a moment after this shot, but somehow sent the video into the invisible end of the ether spectrum. No idea.

P5: A wedge-tailed eagle hanging out on a log near the gate to Old Cabin. I took a video of him in flight just a moment after this shot, but somehow sent the video into the invisible end of the ether spectrum. No idea.

Clara (front) and Felix, coming to me for their bottles. Sabrina the ewe didn't have any milk, but she was the babysitter for the bottle lambs--teaching them how to be sheep, and how to forage.

Clara (front) and Felix, coming to me for their bottles. Sabrina the ewe didn't have any milk, but she was the babysitter for the bottle lambs--teaching them how to be sheep, and how to forage.

Clara (foreground) and Horatio just behind on her left. See what I mean about huge? This was taken a year ago.

Clara (foreground) and Horatio just behind on her left. See what I mean about huge? This was taken a year ago.