Notes from Windward: #69

Fencing Leg 5

doubling the size of the Summer Pen


     In addition to our various on-going research projects, we also invest time and resources into infra-structure such as creating more fenced areas or various water management projects. That sort of work may not be as sexy as solar driven steam-generated electricity, but it's work that builds Windward's sustainability by making our systems work more effectively with less input.

     Systems which require on-going inputs of energy and effort aren't as sustainable as passive systems which work with the natural flow of the seasons. Fencing the sheep's Summer Pen is an example of work that enables one of our key sustainability systems to operate with less stress on the land, on the sheep and on the Stewards.

the Summer Pen makes for easy feeding

     The sheep overwinter in the main garden which is located on the other side of the lane from the hay barn. That way the sheep's manure and urine, along with the hay they waste, is worked into the ground by the sheep's hooves enriching the soil.

     As soon as the ewes give birth, they're moved back across the lane to the Summer Pen where the new mothers free-feed on all the alfalfa they want. Sheep are pragmatic, and if they don't feel that they're getting enough feed to support two lambs, they'll pick one and abandon the other.

     Over feeding them prior to lambing can lead to birthing problems, but once the lambs hit the ground, it's time for the ewes to chow down so that they can produce the milk needed to enable two lambs to grow to their full potential. For example, the two lambs that Dolly's raised are easily twice as large as the two lambs that were bottle fed. Eventually, the bottle lambs will catch up in size, but they'll never be as vigorous as Dolly's lambs.

     The garden doesn't have much shade, which is fine during the winter when there's a premium on sunshine, but come the heat of summer, our wooly sheep need lots of shade. The upper half of the Summer Pen consists of shoulder-to-shoulder oak trees that provide lots of shade for the sheep to enjoy during hot summer afternoons. In the fall the oaks produce lots of tasty acorns for the sheep to fatten up on. That burst of nutrition in the fall also encourages the ewes to ovulate more eggs, thereby delivering more twins come lambing.

     The first three legs of the fencing that delineates the Summer Pen were completed two years ago, and the sheep have been enjoying their summer shade immensely. This spring Andrew, with the able assistance of Jon, Patrick and others, finished Leg 4 of the Summer Pen, work that Evan has been building on as he sets the posts that will form the fifth and final leg of the Summer Pen's perimeter.

the start of the 5th Leg

     This has been an especially demanding leg in that in places the soil is quite shallow. To stabilize the fence posts along this leg, we've set most of them in concrete. In the especially shallow spots, Evan had to bring in a generator and the electric jack-hammer to break up the solid rock. It was slow work, but fun in its own way as one learns to figure out where the fault lines are in the virgin basalt.

      Rather than just trying to hammer a hole in the rock, the trick is to work with those fault lines to pop out fragments of rock. And if there aren't any fault lines to exploit, a few strokes of an eight pound sledge hammer will create some. It can take an hour's hammering to increase the hole's depth by six inches, but eventually the basalt yields and the hole deepens.

Evan puts the jack hammer to good use

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 69