The scurs had the Weather Eye dialed in to perfection last week. Will that accuracy continue into mid-month? Starting Wednesday, cloudy with highs in the mid-20’s and lows just below 0. Cold sunshine for Thursday with highs near 10 and lows again around 5. Friday, partly sunny and warmer. Highs in the low 20’s with lows around 0. Partly sunny and much colder for Saturday. Highs in the mid-single digits above 0 with lows around 5 below. Sunday, mostly cloudy with temperatures rebounding and a slight chance of snow. Highs in the low 20’s and lows in the mid-teens. Cloudy and warmer on Monday with a modest chance of snow. Highs in the upper 20’s and lows in the upper teens. Partly sunny on Tuesday and cooler. Highs in the mid-teens with lows around 5. The normal high for Valentine’s Day is 27 and the normal low is 9. We’ll see over 10 hours and 30 minutes of daylight for the first time since October 25th on February 16th. The scurs can’t wait for their Valentine’s candy to show up after rationing the last of their fruitcake. They’ll have to find something else to chock the wheels on the ‘74 Gremlin now.
Last week brought about more of the roller coaster ride for temperatures. It’s tough to complain very loudly however as this winter has been a breeze compared to last year’s model. Tales of frozen pipes and hauling water buckets through deep snow much of last winter proved that enough was too much. This winter we’ve seen frost depth at the SROC at only 18” as measured most recently on February 9th. On the 5th we also experienced one of the coldest overnight lows of the season at -5 in Waseca and about -14 at the ranch. Only November 28th and January 6th were colder. Still, despite the temperature roller coaster ride, the cold snaps haven’t been prolonged and many days the temps have been well above normal. The snow as a result continues to do its disappearing act. It’s doubtful if anyone will gripe if it decides to leave entirely and take the ice in the dooryards away while it’s at it.
Lambing season officially started off on Thursday of last week at the ranch after a cold overnight. All the ewes came out to eat in the morning, but by afternoon when Mrs. Cheviot arrived home, the black yearling ewe we’d been suspecting would go first had lambed. She had the lamb by herself and in spite of the fact she wasn’t shorn, she lambed inside. More than once we’ve had lambs born outside given that scenario. Frequently that means lambs with tails and ears frozen off. With those erect Cheviot ears though, apparently the windy conditions that day persuaded the ewe to seek shelter. The lamb was smart and had nursed by the time Mrs. Cheviot put them in a pen and checked the ewe for milk. On Sunday already we moved ewe and lamb to the main barn to a large pen. Of course Fudgie and Ruby were at the ready, keeping the ewe on track. The little lamb bounced around in celebration of her new found spacious accommodations.
We’ve fed some “odd” things to the sheep over the years including pumpkins, bread, cereal, carrots and squash. With a relative lack of acreage to grow much grain, we’ve focused on trying to improve the pasture and grow some hay where we can. However, it’s simply not a good idea to try to get by on forages alone especially with gestating ewes. We’ve typically fed corn screenings although this year has found us feeding some hard red spring wheat, harvested where it was underseeded with some hay. How has feeding wheat worked out? Actually quite well so far. Compared to corn, both the dry matter and TDN are very similar. While it is lower in fat, wheat is higher in protein, calcium, phosphorus and almost all the essential amino acids. Best of all, it doesn’t need to be ground or processed when fed to adult sheep. They tend to do their own processing by chewing the grain more completely than cattle do.
Bird watching continues to occupy much of the time we’re around the ranch after work and chores during the limited daylight hours. Upon taking some vegetable peelings out to toss over the fence to the sheep, 8 – 10 hen pheasants erupted from the garden area in the windbreak. The sweet corn leftovers seem to meet with their approval. Earlier in the day, a couple roosters were spotted on the way to Owatonna. It was good to see all of them especially the hens. The open winter has been a plus for pheasants. If we can get through the next six weeks or so without an ice storm, it looks optimistic for the pheasant population locally.
Last Saturday was absolutely gorgeous. It meant it was time to shovel off the patio and fire up the Weber again. Checking the grill out beforehand, it appeared the last time it had been used was at Christmas. The drip pan was still in the middle of the grill. After nearly giving up Auntie Mar Mar for dead, she and Unky Gregory made the pilgrimage to the ranch for an evening of fine dining. Lamb chops were grilled and Mrs. Cheviot had everything else covered including homegrown carrots and a delectable cherry pie for dessert. Mar Mar brought healthful cookies and fresh-baked homemade bread so there was no excuse for anyone to go hungry. Wine flowed, laughter ensued and a good time was had by all. Ruby regaled the guests with her disdain for the TV remote and astonished them with a sampling of her wide vocabulary. Next time they come up, we’ll showcase her talents at playing organized games. Only if we can get Ruby to stop messing around with her ball or on the computer long enough of course. Short attention span, that dog.
See you next week…real good then.