Sheep Love Broccoli

We’ve known it for a while: with all the rain and cloudy skies, the solar-charged battery that runs our electric fencing was not getting enough sun to stay fully charged.  It hasn’t been much of an issue, though, as we move our sheep every day to new pasture, and the broilers, hens and pigs also get moved frequently to new grass.  But sometime last night, our battery flat out died and we woke this morning to the sound of a lamb bleating close by.  At 5:50 am, Edge spotted the flock in the driveway, just above our garden and below the neighbor’s yard.  For Edge, who always does morning chores alone (being pregnant I get to sleep in a bit), it was a late start to the day…for me it was pretty early.  As Edge filled up a bowl of alfalfa, I headed toward the pasture to set up a new fence where the sheep should have been.  I could see where they had pushed one side down a bit and jumped over, and to be fair, they did jump into the space where we wanted them to be, but then they kept moving and walked all about the farm.  By the time the new paddock was ready, Edge and the flock were on the North-Eastern edge of the field, near our friend Karen’s yurt.  Luckily she heard the commotion and helped us shepherd them back down the field–she and I pushing the sheep and Edge luring them with the alfalfa.

Upon first inspection, we only saw the broccoli damage…the flock had returned to the first spring broccoli that they had chomped on during a previous escape.  It’s safe to say we won’t get any heads from those poor plants.  But as we walked up and down the edges of the garden, we found half our newly transplanted cabbage munched down to the stem, plus two more successions of broccoli chewed on here and there.  With all the grass in this pasture, why do these sheep insist upon the broccoli?  We don’t barge into their paddocks and eat all the clover!  Needless to say, we bought a new battery today and are charging the old one so we have back-up as these gray skies persist.

Luckily, we have enough starts to replace the cabbage we lost, and enough successions of broccoli that we will still have a harvest, though the first one will be a bit smaller.  So far, it has only rained twice today, and both showers were short.  Still, we need more sun to dry up the garden enough for us to feel okay about getting back into it.  Each time we walk in when it is so wet, we compress and smear the pathways, make more mud and increase the chances of pooling water.  One of our share members told us the Farmer’s Almanac predicted a wet June and a dry July this year.  It’s July 2nd, and the weekend looks promising.  I’m hoping the prediction is right…as long as “dry” doesn’t mean drought–though after this June, I think it’s safe to say the water table is high enough to bring us through the rest of the summer.

For now, I am thankful that the pigs respect the fence so much, and thankful that we just moved them into a large section of lush new pasture two days ago.  They still have lots of work and fresh ground to keep them busy there.  And tonight we will rest easier knowing that a new, fully charged battery is pumping electricity through all the fences, keeping predators out and livestock in.


4 thoughts on “Sheep Love Broccoli

  1. life of the hand - life of the mind says:

    Sheep in a garden is the purest form of a nightmare. Put broccoli in the garden and all double your nightmare. I have seen sheep clear cutting a section of broccoli. They go insane. They go racing down the rows crazed with a need to clear cut them. Which they do. Transplant after transplant pulled up and one bite missing from each. It!s epic . It’s like loosing all your friends. It’s like seeing your kids pulled through the window in the middle of the night. It’s like being microwaved .

    • kspring says:

      Wow! Well, at least we can commiserate together…I had no idea broccoli specifically was such a drug for sheep! It sounds like you’ve had some nightmares with the two of your own…I hope you were able to recover! I think in the long run we are just going to need a fence around the garden–or at least around the broccoli

  2. Meg says:

    Katie, last year I lost ALL my broccoli to sheep! I swore I was going to get rid of them all!! I actually whacked one of them with the closest thing I could find ( a 5-gallon bucket). Unfortunately for me, their heads are REALLY hard and the bucket bounced off and smashed me in the nose. Wow. Anger management 101. My 400lb sow took a walk today, too. Just lucky I saw here before she took to the road! Thanks for sharing the realities of raising animals alongside a garden!!!

    • kspring says:

      Meg~I’m glad you found your sow before she found the road, too! I always get mad at the sheep for escaping before getting mad at myself for not moving them soon enough or checking the power. But, once everyone is back where they should be and the adrenaline has subsided, I’m usually able to not be mad anyone…it’s all such a practice of being prepared and aware and calm!

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