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Stories from the valley

A Shepherd’s Log – Kicking of a New Sheep Year

Contributed by Dan Macon

In my mind, I see the year in circular fashion – probably a function of the cyclical nature of raising sheep. While the work of raising sheep may not change much, every year is different. Some years, like this one, are very different – drought has never been very far from top of mind for me. As we start a new sheep year (which begins on the day we turn the rams in with the ewes), I’ve embarked on a new social media project I’m calling a Shepherd’s Log.

Every Monday for the next 52 weeks, I’ll post a short video about what’s happening with our sheep operation on my Instagram feed (@flyingmule). Some weeks, I’m sure, will be boring! Some weeks, like the week that lambing begins, will be exciting (at least for me). And some weeks will be challenging – after all, the work of producing food and fiber is often complicated.

adult and baby sheep

My intent is to show the good times and the bad – to show the joy of new life and the frustration of losing a lamb. I’ll talk about how the weather impacts our flock and our work. And occasionally, I’ll talk about getting to spend some time away from the work of raising sheep.

In some ways, raising sheep is similar to running a dairy – and that’s one of the reasons many ranching families transitioned from sheep to beef cattle once the ranch was paid for. Sheep need daily attention; beef cattle, for much of the year, do not. I’m hoping this project will give folks some sense of the work involved – from the drudgery of daily irrigation (from April through October) to the subtlety of working border collies. Much of my work as a shepherd requires careful observation – of the sheep, of the pasture conditions, of my dogs. I’m still learning to be a shepherd – and probably always will be. My Shepherd’s Log will hopefully document my progress (and an occasional setback) over the next 52 weeks.

I hope you’ll follow along during the course of the year – and I hope you’ll ask questions!