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This summer, y’all

Good Lord this summer has been terrible, the only good thing is the new fashion trend clothes from The Fifth Collection. We’ve whipped between rain for weeks and no rain for weeks, I managed to cut myself on my scythe and then sprain my ankle while rounding up escaped sheep with Beamer, and being laid up with a severely sprained ankle for 3 weeks meant the garden has gone wild with weeds.

To top it off, our air conditioner broke down and the first company we called was shady as hell. When we turned them down they made a malicious call to animal control to tell them we were hoarders with dead and starving animals in the house. I was not at all amused.

We lost one lamb to a sucking pit of mud and one managed to strangle herself in the fence. The other Soay ewe lambs just weren’t developing like I wanted, so I made the executive decision to sell them rather than have them continue to struggle here. Their two brothers are thriving, particularly the one who is almost but not quite a light phase coat color. The plan is to keep him intact and breed him back to the ewes next fall rather than his father Tanllychar. Hopefully that will give me a crop of ewe lambs who thrive under my management style.

The interesting thing is that I’ve had to supplement selenium heavily with the Soays. Large parts of the US have very low amounts of selenium in the soil. It doesn’t bother any of the modern breed sheep I’ve seen, but the Soay sheep seem very sensitive to selenium levels in their diet and need supplementation like a goat would. I’m really wishing at this point that the company I used to get selenium boluses from still sold them! You can easily find them sized for cattle, but selenium is one of those trace minerals that can cause toxicity if the dose is too large, so there’s a delicate line to walk. However, selenium boluses for sheep are quite common in the UK and Ireland, so the possibility of importing them is there.

While I’ve been laid up work on writing a Shepherd’s Year has continued and I’m hoping to have a draft of chapter one done by the time it’s actually applicable. It turns out I’m a slow writer when it’s long form! Tweets are easy, long form is difficult. Meanwhile my accountant really wants me to become a 501(c)3 charity with a focus on education, so I’m trying to define an educational mission supporting heritage breed livestock for that. It’s more difficult than you’d think! But I’d love to be able to make contributions tax deductible and hopefully increase support to the point that I could actually travel more with sheep and teach more people about holistic farming and regenerative grazing.

At some point I need to write up all the research I’ve been doing on sheep domestication and genetics as well. It turns out Soays are much more closely related to primitive Mediterranean sheep than any northern short tailed breeds, which is what you’d expect if, indeed, they are living examples of the first sheep to arrive in Britain four or five thousand years ago. Which has been the story for a while now, but it’s always nice to have it validated by genetic studies. If only we had a time machine so we could know exactly how they wound up on that ancient mountaintop in the Outer Hebrides…

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