Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My Favorite Things

So if you are thinking to yourself how you would really like to get about 60 dairy sheep, a couple of big guardian dogs and live on a farm these are the items that I recommend you purchase:

Premier fencing--the electronet for sheep is extremely useful, makes a good dog pen, too.

Ben Davis coveralls--the blue mechanic type that you can buy at the hardware store. Perfect for milking and chores, I get tired of changing my clothes multiple times a day and finding hay in all of my pockets. With a bandana covering my hair like a babushka and these babies I look HOT, too! :P

Tritronics G3 Sport Basic shock collars
--always thought that they seemed kind of cruel, but for working dogs on a farm with lots of temptations like chickens and holes in the fence they are a great training tool. It only takes a couple of shocks for them to learn a lesson for good and I've been able to give them a ton more freedom. It's probably saved them from having to be sent away as they had been implicated in a couple of chicken disappearances.

Colroy shepherd's crook, also from Premier--I figured I had to get one because what is a shepherd without a crook, but now that i have it I understand why it is a necessary component of the shephardess artillery. It is really hard to catch sheep that don't want to be caught (pretty much all of them), especially shorn sheep that don't have any wool to grab hold of. The crook gives you a bit longer arms, a way to actually grab hold of the animal, and (once they are used to it) you can lead them with it. If you hold it out to your side it also makes you seem bigger when you are trying to herd an uncooperative flock of sheep in a direction they don't want to go (pretty much wherever YOU want them to go).

Sydell portable panels--these babies have come in handy in numerous ways. A great way to make a temporary pen when I need to catch the sheep or keep them contained while adjusting their fencing. Also handy for blocking off attractive escape routes when attempting to herd them.

SID Sheep Production Handbook, also available from Premier--THE textbook on sheep. Even has a whole chapter dedicated to dairy sheep. The health chapter has some gruesome pictures but has definitelty proved useful. Has a comprehensive collection of all the random bits of data university researchers and extension agents have spent their careers collecting over the past fifty years or so, such as charts and tables for calculating rations and the feed value of beet pulp and shit like that. I keep it on my breakfast table.

The Cheesemaker's Manual by Margaret Morris--great resource for hobby cheesemakers as well as small-scale dairy farms. Recipes for dozens of the most common cheeses and good general information on the cheesemaking process, ingredients and equipment involved.

Caprine milking stanchion--Don't order the headpiece for sheep--it is only good for grooming and such because the ewes can't move their head and eat any grain or feed (and they don't like that)! I got the goat headpiece after I discovered this and have been much happier with the result. I put spent brewer's grain in the bucket holder and the ewes eagerly jump up onto the stand to be milked (although they usually need to be coerced into the milking stall).

Think Organic. Drink Organic. (Pee in the Bathroom.)

I think I mentioned before my delight at sourcing a local, FREE, organic source of grain for my sheep at Santa Cruz Mountain Brewery. Not only are they a lovely group of folks, their new tap room has become the hotspot for the crunchy, hipster, organic beer-drinking crowd for Friday night happy hours. This is a welcome develop for me because it means that when I make my trip to pick up fresh grain for the weekend I can also feel like I have a social life and still get home in time to milk. (Although there have been a few late night milkings after happy hours, I am ashamed to admit. Sorry Girls!) It also gives me an opportunity to meet cute men as I usually need to ask for help loading the barrels of wet grain into the back of my truck! Unfortunately, the brewery has become a victim of its own success, and its "earthy" clientele who like to releive themselves in the great outdoors (namely next to the railroad tracks.) They've had to hire a bouncer to make sure everyone stays out of the parking lot and relieves themselves in the proper facilities! Anyway, I would like to encourage anyone in the area to come by and check out your local microbrewery or order their beers at your favorite local eatery. My favorite is the brown ale but the sheep prefer the lighter brews like the pale. The more beer you drink the more grain for my sheep--I really think it has added a nice earthy nuttiness to the milk!

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