Over the past week, an unfortunate pattern has developed. Scout, the Great Pyrenees LGD who watched over the goats and chickens learned about freedom. The first time it happened was over Memorial weekend when I was away visiting my parents overnight. Somehow, he (and possibly the goats) got the gate open and escaped. Our next door neighbor found 5 goats, a dog and a donkey walking down the road. Thank goodness for good neighbors. He managed to get them all back up the hill and into the fence. I owe him for that one.
The gate was triple latched with a metal clasp, a hook, and a wire at the bottom. The next day, he was out again. This time the goats and donkey stayed inside. We wired up the gate even tighter, thinking that would do the trick. The next day, I was there working in the yard when my other neighbor drove into the driveway. She said a big white dog she had never seen before was in her yard and it might be mine. I went to see, and sure enough, it was Scout. This time I had to load him up in the gator to get him home. This gentle giant of a 120+ pound boy will not lead on a leash, so I lifted him up one end at a time onto the gator seat, and held his head while I drove. I decided to try putting him in the fenced area with the Ram and the other dog, Bailey. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
By that evening, he was out again. He managed to break the wire ties that were holding the top of the gate closed and squeezed. The bottom of the gate was held by a metal clasp, so he had to squeeze through the small gap. He was went back with the goats for the night.
The next morning, he came running down the drive to greet me. The gate was closed tight, but there was evidence of white fur on the top of the fence where he climbed over.
I found a small piece of fencing and tied it tot he corner where he got out, thinking that would do the trick.
Today, he was out again. This time he climbed over the fence in a different spot. I took him back up the hill and put him in with the sheep.
This was a much larger area, and he seemed quite content at first. I thought maybe he was getting out because he was bored and didn't have enough room to roam in the small goat yard. The sheep area is much larger with a lot of room to explore, and with 23 sheep to watch over, I thought this should keep him busy. This fence is partially enclosed with goat panel, and has added sections of grassy areas with electrified temporary fencing called polywire.
This evening, while cooking out over a the fire, a big white ghostly figure appeared looking for a handout. I don't know how he did it yet, but he was out again. It seems that no matter what we do, he finds a new way to escape.
Tonight he is back in with the ram and the other dog. Their fence is completely enclosed with goat panel, and there are no obvious areas where he could climb over it. The gate was secured tightly with metal clips from top to bottom. We'll see what happens tomorrow. At this point, I'm getting desperate. Besides building an 8 foot fence, I don't know what else to do to keep him in. If anyone has ideas, I'd love to hear them.
Finally, the house is started. After two years of planning, fretting, changing, and worrying...now there's no turning back. Soon, there will be a home on Tangle Ridge Farm.
Tangle Ridge Farm is a beautiful place, but it has its challenges. The greatest challenge is the lack of infrastructure, such as permanent fencing, barns and water supply on top of the hill. The land itself is a challenge. Aside from the acre or two of front land, which the lowest is flood plane, most of the farm is 0.3 miles up a gravel road to the top of the hill. Once there, you will find about 30 acres of rolling hills and ridges of usable but not 'flat' land. It is perfect for small ruminants such as sheep or goats, having plenty of browse and several acres of grass. Again, there are no permanent fences around the land.
We are nearly out of hay, and the sheep want grass. We have grass that is green and growing, but no fences. Our only option on the short term is to use temporary fencing - polywire and posts - to get them in the grass. The risks are, sheep getting out and predators getting in. As long as they have grass, the sheep are happy being inside the fence. It may be time for the Great Pyrenees to prove themselves.
The lack of fencing is coupled with a lack of time - building a house, family, children, 2 jobs... the list goes on.
This has been one of those times that most people experience from time to time, to re-evaluate our farming goals and think, "why are we doing this? Should we continue or should we throw in the towel? Maybe we need to re-visit the business plan?
So, I re-read the mission and the goals. "The mission of Tangle Ridge Farm and Discovery Center is to cultivate and grow a culture of sustainability... many young people grow up without the experience and appreciation of living on or near a family farm. We recognize the importance of embracing and educating ourselves and others in the art of self sustainment, including conservation and preservation of the land and living things for current and future generations...
And ask myself again, 'Why raise sheep?"
1) Tax write off for farming expenses
2) Possible supplement to income
3) Clean up the land - due to their small size, sheep don't tear up the land like some larger animals. They like to eat briars and invasive vegetation and clean up the land from weeds and bramble. Tangle Ridge farm has plenty of these.
Quality of life
4) One of my goals was to get back to and give my children the experience of an agricultural lifestyle. Whether they dabble in it or visit occasionally, or jump in with both feet is up to them. And, maybe some day I will be the cool grandma with the goats and sheep and fresh eggs and blueberries.
5) The satisfaction of growing my own food, and sharing it with others
6) Now that I have a herding dog (Jako) he will need something to do.
7) The love of animals - I didn't know when I started that I would actually learn to love sheep. They are gentle animals, and small enough for me to handle. I am not saying they are easy, because they are not. Every day and every season we learn something new, and as soon as we think we know what we are doing, the sheep teach us something new. They are also demanding - staying ahead of parasites has been our greatest challenge. And then there is hoof trimming, vaccinations, and pasture rotation - which requires fencing.
And so for now, we will keep the sheep knowing that if we ever want to have livestock of any kind, we need a fence. I still don't know how or when, but we will keep working on it.
A lot has been going on outside of Tangle Ridge farm activities. Sorry for my absence, but I'm sure you understand. Meanwhile, we'll try to start catching up.
Alita and the boys are doing fine. They were disbudded at 12 days old by an experienced goat lady, (thank you again!). Now that I've witnessed it up close, maybe next year I can do it myself if needed, after purchase of the proper equipment. They are now 4 weeks old. Alita and I have practiced milking a few times and that has gone reasonably well. We aren't on a regular schedule, however, because the kids are still on her. The plan is to start once a day this weekend... And, the kids are for sale. I'll post them on the 'For Sale' page soon.
Now I know what Yeller eats when he is hanging out with the gang at the goat barn (besides moles, mice and chipmunks). These two are good buddies. Scout doesn't share so readily with the goats :)
My name is Christy Franklin.