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Ian & Raven raveian@wolston.com 541-971-0372


The Sheep Chef

by Ian Caldicott

    I have a new job: I have become a Sheep Chef. Every evening I stand in the kitchen and prepare the next day's breakfast for the sheep.  That probably needs some explanation, so let' start at the beginning.  We still do not have nearly enough fencing up to run this place efficiently.  Lack of time and lack of money to buy fencing materials are big factors, but all the other things there are to do when starting up a new farm also come into play.  The immediate consequence is that our grazing was not as efficient as it should have been, so we are running out of grass for the sheep a month or two earlier than we should.  With breeding season not too far away, it is necessary to divide the flock, further decreasing our ability to keep everyone fed.

    I have long been a believer in feeding sheep all sorts of scraps from the vegetable garden, both for the vitamins and minerals and to keep a diversity of bacteria in the rumen.  Previously this belief has manifested itself as tossing a few carrot tops, broccoli stems, etc .over the fence as crops are harvested and eaten, but not this year.  With a need for sheep feed and the usual excess of squashes of various sorts, feeding the sheep vegetable scraps has taken on a whole new life.

    Something many people may not know about sheep is that they develop  a taste for things much like we do.  The first time you give them zucchini they sniff at it with what appears to the casual observer to be a combination of confusion and disdain.  A few brave, or perhaps hungry, sheep will nibble on it a bit, most just walk away.  Over a few days ,however, things change, and before long they are all standing at the fence making enough noise to wake the dead and attacking the squash like it is manna from heaven.

    Each evening I make a trip to the garden to harvest a big bushel of whatever squashes are out there, pumpkins, zucchini, spaghetti squash, you name it.  Now most of these are not very easy for sheep to eat. Their mouths do not open very wide so it is hard for them to get their teeth in contact with the convex surface of the squash.  After the hard frosts come it is no problem, we just toss the squash up in the air over the fence and the frost-softened flesh  smashes and scatters around in nice little manageable pieces.  So here we are with lots of stuff we can feed the sheep, but in a form that they cannot use.  Enter the sheep chef.

    With a small mountain of vegetables in front of me and a five gallon bucket or two by my side I reach for the 10 inch knife.... then the whacking begins. Zucchini are sliced lengthwise then chopped into  two inch chunks, other squash are cleaved into quarters lengthwise and chopped into chunks.  About 30 minutes later the bucket is full of an assortment of vegetables chopped into irregular chunks, sheep breakfast for the following day.  Every day as I prepare this little feast I imagine what the old farmers around here would have to say about the Sheep Chef...  on second thought, I think perhaps it is better if they don't hear about it.