He hath set me in a place of pasture…

IMG_3414Today we christened a new pasture at Morning Star Meadows Farm, reclaiming old pasture land from days gone by…

Slowly we have been clearing and restoring pastures from at least the early 1900’s.  We’ve harvested some trees for lumber, opening up the canopy to allow sunlight to reach the pasture grasses and strengthen the trees we’ve allowed to remain that will provide ample shade on the dog days of summer.  We removed toxic chokecherry trees and scoured the area for any other toxic plants or other hazards to sheep, leaving them plenty of browse to munch on.

IMG_3417They really didn’t know where to begin when they got out there!  Firstly, the only other time they had been down here was for brief periods with portable electric fencing which constrained them to a much smaller area.  So they immediately headed to unexplored areas, looking for new delicacies.

Roy has been working hard with the boys beating back the multiflora rose and briar bushes, trying to plant orchard grass, which has flourished in this rich soil.

But where do the ewes find their first sweet snack?

photo 2Amongst the lower branches of a maple tree!

photo 1

Roxanne says, “What are you looking at?  Haven’t you ever seen sheep browse like goats?”

Most shepherds would say no to this, but this is one of the things we love most about Icelandics!  They will often choose browsing on broadleaf plants, shrubs and trees over eating grass, much like goats.  That is why we had to be so fastidious about leaving anything toxic for them in this tamed forest.

photo 4You can even see Shirley above here on the right reaching for another low branch!

IMG_3425But sheep being sheep, it didn’t take long for one of them to move on – and the rest, follow.  Maybe Matilda knows that there’s something even BETTER than tender young maple leaves somewhere, after all!

So they started making the rounds.  You can see Roy and the boys above, admiring the pay off to all of the work they’ve done to make this wooded pasture a reality.  There is nothing quite so satisfying as seeing sheep on new pasture, especially a lovely shaded area that will provide much needed respite from the late summer heat in a month or so.

The above picture also shows you the location of this pasture in relationship to the house.  You can see the second story of our home at the top of the picture, and it really gives you the impression that it’s not that far from the house, but because the house sits on a hill far above this area, the actual walk down from the house to this gate shown is a good150 yards.   It’s just foreshortened by the elevation rise.

IMG_3427And as the sheep walk a bit to the right of the gate, you begin to see in the background the barn on the other side of our property.  Again, about 150 yards from this area.

We’re not 100% finished with the project.  In the next couple of weeks we will put the protective electrified high tensile wire, 2 strands, over the top of the woven wire fence to deter predators.  And because not far from here there was a bear sighting, we are unlikely to leave any of our animals in this pasture unattended overnight.

As it is, I know I will worry about them and be walking down frequently to check on them when they are here in this wooded pasture.  It’s one of the 2 pastures on the farm that aren’t readily visible from the house.  Yep, I’m a helicopter mom when it comes to our flock, and I like to keep my eye on them– but that’s what being a dutiful shepherdess is all about!  It’s why all of the biblical references to shepherding mean so very much more to me now as a shepherdess “leading the ewes with care.”

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