Sunday, July 27, 2008

We Bought the Farm!

Back again from a long blogging hiatus. It seems like when there is the most interesting stuff going on that I want to share about is also when I lack the time and energy to actually write anything.

The big news: We bought a 40 acre ranch in Royal Oaks, CA (Northern Monterey county, about 15 minutes from Deep Roots Ranch where I've been farming.) Well, I should rephrase that--my parents bought a farm, that I will be leasing until the point in the future when i am able to buy it from them. The property is on a southern-facing slope in a narrow canyon. There is a 5-bedroom main house, a 2-bedroom rental house, and a barn that will be pretty straightforward to convert into a milking parlor and dairy. There is a large irrigated field of about 17 acres that was formerly used to raise strawberries and about 10 more acres in various smaller fields and paddocks. There is a lot of work to be done before everything will be functional: a new well, new buried irrigation line, new plumbing and electrical on the house, and many dumpster-loads of clean-up!

We took possession of the property at the first of the month and have been making pretty steady progress on the clean-up. The first week my family and I filled a 42 cubic yard dumpster with old stinky carpets, stained mattresses, and the various detritus left in the house by the former (now deceased) residents of 40 years.

I've had a corral/holding pen constructed and the large field completely fenced by a local fence contractor so far, and he is going to keep working until there is a dog/lamb/coyote-proof fence around the entire perimeter of the property. San Miguel Canyon Rd., the road we are on, is a very heavily used county by-way and we are on a rather blind bend, so keeping the animals away from the road is going to be of major importance.

Last weekend we hosted Farm-a-palooza 2008 at the ranch and dozens of my friends and family came out to help tear down old corral fence, clean out the barn and workshop, and construct a large shade house/shelter for the sheep. We also ate plenty of BBQ lamb, built a tree swing, held chariot races with random wheeled items, camped out on the hilltop, held a Ouiji board seance, and listened to some awesome fiddle and bluegrass guitar playing. It was also a good opportunity to get rid of some of the Goodwill-bound junk left over from the house as a number of my friends found treasures to take home.

This past week I borrowed a livestock trailer from my friend Jim of TLC Ranch and spent two days hauling all of my sheep (about 140 at this point) over to the new property. Although I knew I would probably regret it, I did it all by myself as all of my part-time helpers were unavailable. Sedona the border collie was a big help, though, as she was able to load the sheep into the trailer nice and tight. However, she was also a big hindrance as she would continue to chase sheep to the trailer even after it was full and they would escape around the side of the trailer. (She has proven her value as a herd dog many times over the past few months, but we definitely need some more training as she is hard to call off once she gets going!)

There were a number of difficulties in the transportation process but by the sixth trip I had it pretty well worked out. The day after the sheep were all settled I moved my Airstream trailer over, which I will be living in for the next couple of months until the house is fixed up and ready to move in to.

So, at this point the main components of my operation (the animals and me!) are getting settled in and I am going to be moving the rest of my equipment and junk over from the other farm in the next few weeks. I still need to build a duck pen and move over my ducks--I am down to two drakes and one duck, but after a couple of failed attempts, she finally hatched 5 ducklings last week. There was also a surprise ram lamb born on Thursday. Marigold was marked in May and I thought she was due this fall, but evidently Kinky the ram paid her a secret visit some time last February!

Oh yeah, I almost forget to mention that i had an intern/helper living with me and helping with the sheep and milking for the months of May and June. I'll write another post about Anna soon!

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