Shortly after we added the Romeldale/CVM breed to our flock, we knew we would need more grazing. Up to this point, we had been using temporary electric fencing to allow our sheep to graze beyond our two pastures, but this fencing would occasionally kill one of our lambs. I wanted something better, so we decided to fence in the Rock Pasture (5 on the map from Wednesday’s blog) to the west of the West Pasture (2), the Fire Circle Pasture (6) to the south of the Rock Pasture, and the Timber Pasture (7) across the entire west end of our acreage.
The Rock Pasture (5) ended up with its name because it contains a pile of big boulders near its west end, put there by our contractor during construction of the house. The pile is a favorite spot for lambs as they play on the rocks and in the crevices and push each other off the top of the pile. This pasture has a lovely old oak tree on the boundary with our neighbor to the north, and in addition to its shade, the lambs and some adults use it as a natural dewormer in the fall. (The acorns, although considered toxic to sheep, are high in tannins that can help kill internal parasites. Our lambs often eat them in late summer and fall, and I can only assume that they are doing so for the purpose of eliminating parasites. We have never had toxicity problems from acorns here.) There are many trees just to the west, so this pasture has plenty of welcome shade during hot summer days.
The Fire Circle Pasture (6) is so named because before we fenced it in, we had a fire circle out near some of the trees. When our children were young, we would often build a fire and roast hot dogs and marshmallows as we watched the sun set, caught and released fireflies, and slowly noticed the nocturnal creatures coming out to play. Although we seldom use it recreationally anymore, we sometimes still put it to use. The sheep love the fire pit because of the stones surrounding it; and the straight drop on the downhill side is perfect for lambs to jump off, showing off their bravery and skill to their flockmates. This pasture also has a number of mature trees and plenty of wildflowers in the spring, so it is well-liked by our sheep almost any time of year. This pasture has the second road access to our acreage, with a gate on its south side giving us access to Martin Creek Road.
When we fenced in the Timber (7), most of the area was totally overgrown to the point that we could not walk through. Our goal was to put the sheep into this field and allow them to clear the land by letting them eat whatever they would. We would then clear the fallen trees, etc. It took quite some time for the sheep to kill off all of the poison ivy, wild raspberries, multiflora rose, greenbriar vines, and sumac, but they attacked from all sides; within a few years, we could walk on various paths and see what was within the thickest areas. As of this year, the sheep have taken out all but the biggest trees and have only a single row of sumac remaining along the westernmost fence. This spring they stripped off most of the bark, so I suspect the sumac will be dead and gone by fall.
Even more interesting than all of the brush-clearing that the sheep have done for us in the Timber is the fact that although we never seeded any of this area, grass has filled in even the areas that had the thickest timber growth. The entire hillside is park-like now, with mature trees and grass across most of the area. There are still a few sections that are covered primarily with weeds, but I know from experience that they, too, will be gone and filled in with good grazing in the next few years. The sheep have done a wonderful job clearing the Timber and making it a perfect grazing spot for hot summer days. With its north-facing hillside, heavy tree cover, and thick grass, the flock is always eager when they see me opening the gate to give them access to the Timber Pasture.
I should mention that we have one more section of fencing in our future plans: to cut the Timber in half from east to west. We’ve begun digging holes and putting in posts, but it is an ongoing project that never seems to move to the top of the to-do list. I’m hoping we will eventually have a Timber North and a Timber South — and that will be the end of our fencing projects… finally!