And the Wages of Snow Is…



Click it if you want a little wider view.

There is nothing pretty about it in this condition: ankle-deep and sucking you right out of your boots if you stay too long:


By the time I had leaned over and pointed the camera at my feet, I was doomed. Sorry for not stopping to make a photo of the stocking foot that landed outside the boot.

As long as we are on the subject of the unattractive side of country life, let me share one of the inevitable tasks that come to those who keep animals. I think it was about this time last year that I did not make this post, thinking my readers’ senses of delicacy might be offended, and that it might put them off the idea of what fun this small farm life is. In the meantime I have decided in favor of real life. If you are toying with the idea of taking up small-scale farming (or any scale animal farming), you need to know this. If you are only a romantic soul along for the entertainment, well, you are as likely to be entertained by this as by any of it. So here you are:

When you have

A sheep



and feed, you get



And the inconvenient truth about animals is, they are not too particular about where they leave their byproducts. If they spend their nights in a shed, they will mess it up, and over time, the mess will need removing. It would be nice to have something that worked like a dump-truck: just tip the whole building up and empty it out. But I haven’t seen an animal barn made that way. The only true answer on our place involves a fork and all the muscles in legs, back and shoulders. Yesterday was forking day in the sheep shed. We will have lambs coming soon, and the shed needs to be clean for their arrival. It really needs to be clean all the time, for their wholesome living, but some tasks do get put off until they just need to be done. The shed gets forked out a few times a year, once in the cold season and more in the sweaty one. In the winter, the accumulated hay and manure warms the shed — the making of compost generates heat. In the height of summer, the shed lets you know when it wants cleaning.

Aside from the unspeakable pleasure of hot water falling on tired muscles the evening after forking out, we have this other boon of the event:

Sheep shed compost

It might not look like much, this pile of worn-out old hay. But by next year, this will be the best, blackest compost you can imagine. Poop and old grass make a pretty good combination of ingredients. The compost-maker’s recipe calls for “brown” stuff and “green” stuff together. In this case, the hay is the brown and the poop is the green, and it will all go to work in the vegetable garden and turn into carrots and lettuce and summer squashes. Not just now, but later. That’s the up-side of dealing with what comes out of animals. In a way, you get to eat them twice.

Published in: Uncategorized on February 3, 2008 at 3:30 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Ah, yes, black gold…it makes our gardens wonderfully productive…

    Luckily for us, we live in Vermont, where the sheep are in winter quarters from Nov. 1 through May 1, most of which is in under freezing temps. The shed gets cleaned out once a year when they leave, at John’s convenience, since all summer they are out on pasture and nowhere near the shed and winter quarters. They do not go in the leftmost bay all winter, and it is used for hay storage, emptying out just in time for lambing, and hence, clean. A good system, if you live in a place like this…

    Very little in the way of mud here, though temps have been warmer than normal: it’s been above freezing all day. But nights are still down in the teens, so the ground doesn’t much thaw. Nevertheless, the little thawing that takes place does occasionally yield some mold spores, which I manage to turn into wheezing at times. Not fun, but easily controlled with two whiffs of the albuterol when the coughing starts in the a.m.

    I finished the sweater I was working on; it is blocked and drying now. In the a.m. I’ll take a photo and post it. I like it. Started another one this a.m. with some malabrigo yarn I got LAST year for my birthday which is in March! finally getting around to using it.

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