We got our hay delivered today, and the sheep are very happy about this!
The pasture grass has been getting awfully sparse and brown, given that fall is well underway. Some friends from 4-H grow hay and straw (and deliver it!) so we bought a load from them which should hopefully last us most of the winter. The bales came on a big flat bed truck that lifts up, sliding the round bales out in a neat row. The bales had to be dropped off in the road, as the truck couldn't get up into the area where we plan to store the bales. This wasn't a problem, as The Reluctant Farmer used the bobcat with it's fork attachments to move the bales to their proper storage place, right near the fence line feeder. He's had lots of practice with the bobcat lately, and is getting quite proficient. He spent much of today moving a pile of dirt left over from the excavation of the basement and getting everything levelled out by the house. It looks great, and it's nice to have something approximating a yard at long last.
The sheep were thrilled to have hay to eat: the new ones recognized the sight of round bales and were right up by the feeder, waiting to be fed! As The Reluctant Farmer hauled bales from the road to the storage location, I took the strings off one of the bales and filled up the fence line feeder (you have no idea how relieved I was to see that my friends use baling twine rather than that horrible netting ... twine can be cut and pulled off much more easily than the netting, which gets embedded in the outer layer of hay and freezes in place come winter, when round bales are challenging enough to deal with on their own).
The fence line feeder was one of the summer's big jobs, and I'm very glad that we took the time to make it and to plan for more convenient hay storage. A little bit of planning can eliminate a lot of work: last year, we had round bales stored some distance from where the sheep were fed, and we had only a small makeshift feeder to put hay in. This meant a lot of extra work, unloading hay from the bales onto a tarp, pulling it to where the sheep were fed, and filling the little feeder twice a day (more often when it was really cold). The fenceline feeder allows all fifteen sheep easy access to the hay, and holds enough to last for at least a couple of days even in the coldest weather. The feeder is about three feet high and two feet deep along a full 32' run of fence. It takes a little while to get it filled up, but once it's full, it should last awhile. In addition, the hay is stored just a few feet away, making it easy to unwrap a bale and fork hay directly from the bale into the feeder. At minus twenty, even a few steps can seem like a long way!
Our load today included three bales of straw. The sheep snack on straw, but it's primary use is as wonderfully warm bedding that also helps keep fleeces in good condition. The Reluctant Farmer drove the bobcat into the pasture with one full bale on the forks and dropped it off by the sheep shelter. I filled the shelter with nice fresh straw, and spread the rest of the bale out wherever the ground has the potential to become a muddy mess. A layer of straw goes a long way to preventing the mud from becoming unmanageable - after all, bricks are made from straw and mud!
The chicken coop got a bit of a renovation today as well, with new perches and a nice deep layer of straw on the floor. As the weather cools down, the chickens will spend more time indoors and the straw will help keep them toasty warm, as well as providing a clean base for the inevitable messiness of a coop. Lately they've been laying eggs anywhere but in the coop, so I'm hoping the addition of a nice fresh layer of straw in the nesting boxes will entice them into cooperation. I only have six eggs in the fridge, this is almost cause for alarm. :)