Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

In Dire Straits

Ponds are drying up

We are in drought, like much of the Midwest. It's hard to put into words how hard it is to see this.  Pictures can tell you better than I can.  We've been 'in drought' since April, although our last good rain was June 14.  Most counties in the state of Missouri have been declared drought stricken and/or disaster areas.  Farmers are suffering.  This little farmer is suffering.

Rouen my old girl eating some leaves off some limbs I cut for them with the big white sheep in the background doing the same

Young Fritzi, Tabitha and Old Callum enjoying something green to eat

Ranger and Fritzi share a branch.  You can see they aren't starving yet.  :-)
Hay is at a premium if you can get it.  I have some 'lined up' but my hay guy is vague on how many.   It's last years hay or two year old hay, but if I can get it, I'll be thrilled.  He makes good hay and keeps it in the barn.  I'm needing at least 200 squares to get me through.  That would be stretching it.  More like 250 would be good.  I have 24 squares in  my barn from last year.  I have a nasty round bale from last year.  The sheep are picking on it now.  There is some sorta decent stuff in the middle.  It's giving them roughage to fill in the holes I guess. (Edited to add that I did get some hay but far far short of what I need.  I now have 144 bales in my barn, but this will see us through only a few months.  It was killing my hay guy to even sell me that 120 bales--he told me he wished he hadn't had promised them to me, but at least he was very very fair on the price.  He also gave me this years cutting of mixed grass/orchard grass.   I'm still hunting for big rounds or small squares.)  I spend allot of time 'cold-calling' people about hay.  I get a name and number and I call and sometimes I get another name or another lead... 

Bags of leaves to be stored in the barn.  Desperate times call for desperate measures!
Mostly right now the sheep are eating leaves.  Lots and lots of leaves.  The trees are shedding them at an alarming rate.  I'm bagging up what falls in my yard (all 'safe' tree varieties) for future food stuffs for the sheep.  I've also upped the grain intake and feed some day old bread at night.    I'm very scared and nervous about the future for my little flock.  If I can get the hay in my barn I will be one happy person.  Of course then I will worry even more about fire.

Feeding the sheep sorta consumes my thoughts right now.  I've been chainsawing down some trees for them to eat (they needed to be removed anyway) and clipping limbs.  I rotate them around on the 'barrens' ---used to be pasture--so they can vacuum leaves each night.  I've fed day old bread, any kind of scrap bread products for a treat at night.  Animal crackers are there too, but of course this isn't much nutrition, just a nod to the mutual misery.  

The big picture is that the 'real' farmers are in distress as well.  Hay is already being fed.  Herds are being culled heavily, with some selling out all.  Weaners are going to sale early.  There is little to no pasture left.  Several farmers can't even cut their last hay fields because it got dry so quick and the danger of fires being sparked by the equipment.  Now the fields are dry and not much use in the way of hay, or they are full of Johnson Grass, that scary stuff that can be good hay in normal times, but in drought turns lethal.   It's a mess.  Hay is being trucked in from other states, but you pay through the nose and sometimes it's not even edible stuff depending on how honest the dealer is. 

Trees are dying.  Some are going dormant, but many will be damaged or die.  Grass is crunchy and dead.  Not sure how much of that will recover, even if we get rains.  I can't even hardly keep my hardy four o'clocks alive with watering them everyday.

My small garden is hanging in there.   The tomatoes are producing a little bit, but most of the fruit is very small.  My peppers got ate to ground by beetles but are trying to grow again.  The green beans never produced, but the vines act as a little shade on catio.    Most of the flowers I planted this year didn't make it.

The dust is terrible and people drive like maniacs, so that it billows out behind them, leaving dust clouds to drift over the fields and houses.  The thoughtlessness of people continues to amaze me.  The sheepies aren't much better--they tend to want to run everywhere (in hopes of being the first to find that stray leaf no doubt) so I'm often left in a dust storm.  The dogs are filthy, the sheep are filthy, I'm filthy anytime I come back inside from chores.

It looks and feels like fall even though the temperatures continue to stay in the triple digits.  It's hot. The dead grass and changing trees though fool one into thinking we are in late September or early October--especially when driving down the highway with the a/c cranked.

Because of the excessive heat I have an ewe I haven't sheared and ram lamb that  hasn't been wethered.  Actually neither one seem to mind!  Rouen the old ewe is 12 and she seems to be just fine in her long fleece, while some of the younger shorn sheep stand around looking miserable.  Fritzi the ram lamb hasn't a clue what is in store for him when the weather stabilizes. 

The fate of the wild creatures weighs heavy on my mind too.  I know at the moment I haven't even the hay to feed my own stock, but to know what is ahead for the wild animals if we do not get rain is sobering.  Already they are having to scavenge around.  Deer and rabbits are browsing through the day, and there is a young armadillo brazenly rooting through the yards during the day.  'Coons ransack my breezeway almost every night looking for a morsel to eat.   If the wild animals are eating everything to the nub now, what will they do in the winter?  

Birds gather at the feeder.  A bird bath nearby is also much used.
And the birds.   The anguished sound of the birds is like nothing I've heard.  I finally got my feeder out and filled it with sunflowers and placed it near the birdbath.  Both the feeder and the bath are used constantly and I'm seeing many more varieties of birds than ever before.  I've always just fed birds in the winter because summertime there was such an abundance, but everything is different this year.  I've stocked up on birdseed.  I have one trumpet vine that is still producing flowers and I water it everyday when I water the garden in hopes to keep it going for the hummingbirds. 

There aren't very many insects and that is hurting the birds and other small animals that feed on them.  

Fire danger is very high.  Burn bans are in place but there are still idiots that must burn their trash or throw out their cigarettes.  Or the innocents who while moving out hay or trying to mow fields or any number of normally harmless tasks, create a spark from their equipment and set the countryside on fire.
Here's my pasture!

The combination of high temperatures, no rain and hot dry winds have effectively baked everything.  At times the wind has been so hot it would be nice to be able to bottle it up for winter.   I've not seen anything like it.  I vaguely remember there being a serious drought in the '70s and recall my Uncle chainsawing down trees to feed his dairy cows.   The older folks talk about the drought of  the'50s when people would have to drive their livestock for miles to the river just so they could drink.  The comparison had been made that this drought was as bad as the '50s, but now 'they' are saying it could be as bad as the '30s (think dust bowl and depression).  Now that is frightening.  

Lots of leaves for the sheep to eat or to be put up for later
We get rain clouds.  Impressive ones.  Then we get a sprinkle.  This happens sometimes every day.  It's heartbreaking.  Ponds are drying up and I'm praying the well doesn't go dry.   Re-learning how to be frugal with water, and use 'grey water' to give to the trees.  It's a new reality.  If I could just find some hay to get the sheep through the winter, surely I could at least use my energy in more productive ways than worrying.

The barn before the hay arrived.  It looks much better now half full of hay!
I started this post over a week ago.  It's hard to even write about.  My words just don't encompass what is going on.   I know it is cyclic.   Many think it's global warming and perhaps it is, I won't argu it either way.  However the 30s and 50s and 70s and every other little drought in between gives evidence of that there are times of famine.  Texas suffered badly over the last year.   It can become desperate times very quickly.   I continue to learn this lesson even though I attempt to 'be prepared'.  The Ice Storm of 2007 that left us without power for 13 days left a very strong paranoia impression on me.  I expect this will too.   Even if you aren't directly affected now this will affect many in the way of higher prices for foodstuffs and fuel down the road.  So many states are afflicted and many farmers are being forced out of business.   It is a disaster.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly things can 'go bad' even for those who think they are prepared.   Minutes, a few days, a week and suddenly the world you lived in has changed.  Just as quickly, I pray, it can change back.  Re-learning to be frugal with water and feedstuffs is not a bad lesson, but seeing innocents (whether animals or people) suffer is a very difficult and  different matter.  

The chickens are hungrier now too and demand extra scraps to supplement their grain.  They are used to a multitude of bugs to eat as well as seeds and green grass
This week has been extra hard.  I lost one of my sweet Shetland ewes to a combination of  events and feedstuff choice I made.  Someday I'll be able to talk about it a bit more.  It has not been a pleasant year on the farm.  On the up side we got 1 inch of rain last night.  One whole inch!  On the grand scale it isn't going to be that much help.  (When you are this dry it will wet the surface and that is about all--the grass will not likely 'green up').  However hearing it hit the roof, smelling the thirsty earth soaking it in and washing the layers of dust off everything brings hope.  
The strange and bizarre armadillo--they've only moved into the area over the last few years.

I still search for hay.  It's my mission these days.  I got 15 more bales Friday and have now started feeding hay.  Trying to keep them from wasting the precious stuff is a struggle.  They do not understand that it's limited.  And so it goes....

Carly--dirty (and wet) dog!  She has been cooling off in her pool.  The other two use it as a big water bowl but would die before they got their footsies wet.

And on a final...lighter note..I saw this ad on the local craigslist not long ago and it made me smile.  Someone still has their sense of humor!

Wanted rain ... and lots of it - $9999999 (all of missouri)

Date: 2012-07-21, 5:25PM CDT
Reply to: [Errors when replying to ads?]

lets not ever complain about rain again
  • Location: all of missouri
  • it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
PostingID: 3154606836


Michelle said...

I just finished a post of my own where I struggled not to be too negative, and then read this. Come on over, sister, and sing along!

Our weather is not as severe as yours, but we have to buy a LOT more hay and while available, it is not cheap. Fortunately I have a horse in training that is actually PAYING for its keep. Medical bills for Brian's appendectomy hit us harder than expected AND insurance is going up $300/mo., and Rick's business is almost non-existent right now. It certainly exercises one's faith!

Sharrie said...

I want to leave a comment, but I really don't know what to say. Your description of the weather conditions in Missouri are more than bleak. We are dry and experiencing some of the same things but not to the extent that you describe. It is a sad time to be a farmer/shepherd.

Christine said...

I could have written this post myself but I can't even begin to bring myself to talk about it. I managed to get 100 bales of last years hay. It rained last night. I can only pray it will continue and the grass will come back.

phylliso said...

I wish I could send you some of our rain.It heats up & rains here every day it seems,it is like living in a rain forest.I had to buy boots to wear to work outside.It has not been a nice summer for us either,but your pictures hurt my heart at what you & others there are going through,praying for relief....phyllis

thecrazysheeplady said...


phylliso said...

I remendered that I forgot to tell you how sorry I am for the loss of your sheep.On top of everything else,to lose one of your own is unbearable to think about,phyllis

Kathy said...

I so know what you're going through, Tammy. Your descriptions sound like a normal summer for us - until much needed monsoons start. We've had a couple of rains, but need more. Clouds roll over and thunder/lightening, but no rains.
I have a hay delivery today = poor quality timothy. I am cutting back the sheep as in summer they don't need as much and I can't see them waste any.
If you try pellets again, you have to be careful of the size of the pellet - too big, they can't eat;too small and they tend to wolf them down. I spread they throughout hay to cause them to hunt-and-peck until they are used to them.
I'm looking at alternative feeds as well...but at least I can still get hay.
You and your flock are in my prayers and thoughts.
You are not alone.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, Tammy. this is so terrible. I hope with all my heart that the drought breaks soon.

Karen Anne said...

Every model of global warming says this is just the start.

There is something that can be done. The idiot government has to land on polluters like a ton of bricks, and we all have to reduce anything we can ourselves that causes fossil fuel emissions.

July was the hottest, worst drought month since this has been recorded.

Kathy said...

How ya doin', Kiddo? Just checkin' in with you again to see how you are.

Many, many hugs...from a bit SW