Monday, January 30, 2012

Sheep Camp by Baxter Black

Baxter Black is a Cowboy, a poet, a comedian and one clever dude.

No, I don't know him personally, but I love everything he has to say!

For those of you to whom the word "sheep camp" conjures up a pastoral, nostalgic, even romantic vision of shepherds watching over their flocks by night, I suspect you've never spent a night in one!

Sheep camp, in the real world of shepherding, is the wagon where you sleep, live and eat. It looks like a small covered wagon, a round top on a box. There is a built-in-bed with storage underneath. There is a small stove-heater propane unit and a drop-down kitchen cabinet behind. A lantern provides light. The roof could be canvas or sometimes fitted tin. The wagon has four tires and a tongue and is usually hauled or pulled to the grazing area.

In its heyday, the mid-1900s, sheep camps were as common and handy as Airstream motor homes. It was the best years for the sheep business.

I worked in the ION country (southern Idaho, western Oregon, northern Nevada) in the '70s near the end of good times for sheep business. I worked for an outfit that ran 20,000 sheep on the high desert sagebrush. In the summer, the herd would be divided into bands of 2,000-3,000.
One man with his sheep camp, dogs and a saddle mule or horse would watch over his band. He would keep moving them to good forage and try to protect them from predators. When it was needed, he would hook up his horse and drag his camp to a new location.

The boss would drive with the supplies, including water, at least once a week, maybe more. These were self-sufficient, hard-working immigrants, often Basques from Spain. Over the years I watched the Basque improve their lot and be replaced by South Americans. In Wyoming, I have known of white American sheepherders, but that was uncommon. Suffice it to say the kind of person who is fit to that life and can do it well, has to be a no-frills kind of person.

Fast-forward to the sheep business in the United States today. We import our lamb from Australia, we no longer subsidize the eco-friendly natural resource wool, and we have posted a mountain of regulations protecting predators, wildlife, grazing land and the New Zealand sheepherders.

Now this year the Department of Labor has taken it upon itself to write an official sheepherder job description and other requirements, with the object of restricting the hiring of "foreign shepherds." These regulations assure that hiring foreign workers won't deprive any of the 14 million unemployed able-bodied Americans, of a job.

My question is, what able-bodied, evicted, food-stamped, credit-revoked, receiving-government-checks American standing in the unemployment line today, is going to apply for an outdoor job on Blizzard Mountain, Idaho, where you are on call 24 hours a day, knows how to bed down 1,800 sheep, can identify Halogeton, and castrate lambs with his (or her) teeth?

Maybe before we pile any more regulations on the overburdened handful of sheepmen left, the Secretary of Labor should spend a night on Blizzard Mountain in a sheep camp with a box of matches, a roll of Downy and a shaker of louse powder. I think she would be assured there is no real danger of foreign workers depriving our "nanny state" privileged citizens of proper employment.

Besides any Americans that would make good sheepherders are already at work on the Great Northern Gas Fields, Iraqi pipelines and Afghanistan security patrols. Like I said, it takes a no-frills kind of person.  - Baxter Black

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mutton Mondays - Self-Medicating Sheep!

Juan Villalba is working on changing how sheep and sheep ranchers deal with sickness on their ranches in a very interesting way.

Drug- resistant parasites are a growing concern for the livestock industry. You can only imagine the detriment an untreatable illness can do to a flock.

Studies have shown that there are a number of livestock parasites that are becoming resistant to medication. These parasites are responsible for ailing and killing animals including sheep and goats. It doesn't take a genius to know that this can have a huge effect on our food supply, let alone many ranchers' livelivhoods. 

Villalba is experimenting with using pastures as a natural pharmacy. Yes, ou heard correctly! Farm animals will treat themselves by eating certain plants that contain medicinal compounds such as tannins, saponins and other natural compounds that can kill internal parasites. Crazy, right?

Villalba has sheep penned in a covered area that he calls "the cafeteria" and is teaching these sheep to associate eating these bitter tasting medicinal plants with feeling better. When the animals are placed in a pasture that contains medicinal plants, the sheep have been observed seeking out those plants when they don't feel well.

"By offering animals choices, we allow them to build their diet as a function of their own needs," he said. As the animals recover, they stop eating the medicinal plants.

Researchers see this as providing livestock with their own personal medicine cabinet. Villalba has about nine acres of test pasture where he grows a mix of medicinal plants and alfalfa. He is currently researching what combination of plants is best for sheep.

Shared from Sheep Industry News

Friday, January 20, 2012

A tipping tractor.

We woke up to snow last Sunday - it was a wonderful sight and very welcomed. We need the moisture. We need it bad. I prayed it would snow all day so I had an excuse to stay in my pj's, but as the wonderful state of Colorado would have it - the sun came out.

If you stay inside on days like this...SHAME.ON.YOU.
It was a very relaxing morning, but let me tell you how that changed in the blink of an eye.

J was out blading our roads and I heard a door slam - I assumed he was all done with the chores for the day. I got my Bogs and jacket on and went to meet him outside so we could go for a walk, like we had planned. As I head outside I see J stomping up to the door. Something was wrong. So wrong.

"Everything okay there, Cowboy?"

"The tractor is going to tip over."

Um, what?!
The $40,000 tractor?
The tractor that is your dad's?!
The tractor we could never afford to replace?

Needless to say, my very relaxing snow day turned into what was almost a heart attack at 28 years old.

I must say while the picture doesn't do it justice you would have almost died too if you saw this:
I am so glad my father-in-law doesn't read my blog.

A huge Thank You to our awesome neighbor who came over with his tractor to help out! Unfortunately, I didn't get pictures of him pulling the tractor out because I couldn't bring myself to watch.

I can be such a wuss sometimes, but I deal with these types of situations best when my eyes are closed.

When I did open my eyes I was happy to see this: 
I'll be baking brownies for said neighbor this weekend.

Happy Friday, ya'll!

*also, a very good friend and fellow blogger will get a free portrait from her photographer if she gets 50 comments on this blog post. Would you take a minute to do that? I know she would be forever appreciative! Besides, who doesn't want an excuse to stare at a two gorgeous little girls for a few minutes?

Monday, January 9, 2012

Mutton Mondays - Being green by grazing.

image from Thinkstock
A small school district in Pennsylvania, lost $2 million in state support in 2011 after the state legislature made some of the largest education cuts in decades. One school within this district has taken it upon themselves to save money and has come up with a very unique way to cut their expenditures.

From a Yahoo article posted in August 2011 Carlisle's Wilson Middle School assistant principal has loaned seven of his sheep to help with the landscaping at his school. His sheep grazing the school's lawns will save approximately $15,000 on yearly mowing costs.

"There were some people who called the principals, they thought that someone was playing a prank," says the district's superintendent, John Friend.

The school district furthered their saving efforts by installing solar panels on the six-acre plot where the sheep graze.

Full article can be read here.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

a little Thursday entertainment.


I haven't posted in so long.  All I have is a blank screen and a flashing cursor staring back at me so I'll start off with something simple....a video of Jigs! A video of Jigs NOT working, no less! 

She may not want to learn to herd sheep, but my girl sure is ready for the circus! Now, if only she can get the juggling thing down.