Chronicles of a Dirt Farmer: The Sheep are Baaaack!!


Though we remain in yet another drought year, it has more or less rained when it was supposed to. The grass has grown, and the sheep are once again dotting the green hills of the RSV vineyards after a two year absence.

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This year, the sheep have gone by the end of the first week of March. All this sunshine is speeding up the wakening vines exponentially. We need to get the sheep out by bud swell in order to avoid damage. Each bud holds the promise of the year’s crop, our livelihood, and each scrape of a curious lamb’s teeth costs us. Towards the end of the season, my shepherd and I spend even more time on the phone and in person discussing the when and where of moving the sheep out – can they go back into that block one more time? This year, the answer was usually no. I’d walk it, see too much burgeoning bud life, and shake my head. It’s for this reason we save non-vineyard areas so we have a place to move the sheep to at a moment’s notice. Buds grow fast, especially in this unseasonable heat.
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Having the sheep back is such a good thing – the vineyard floors are close-clipped, park-like, and I won’t be scrambling to get the weeds under control like last year. The sheep have digested the cover crop and spread their manure around – giving the soil a shot of much needed, plant friendly nutrition. Even the neighbors are happy to see them again.

All is well with the world – at least for this year. All I can do is cross my fingers for next.