Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Training a Sheep

At Fuji Eco Park there are about 40 chooks, 2 ducks, also 2 wild ones that fly in each day and swim in the ponds, a dog, a couple thousand compost and earth worms and one sheep.

Before I arrived, 3 wwoofers spent about an hour cutting grass and weeds for the sheep.This didn't make sense to me as am a logical and creative being. It took these peoples energy to walk to the other side of the farm with a wheel barrow and then the time to cut the grass and talk about whatever crisis the world is in and then walk to the pen where the sheep is housed as part of a crop rotation.

I saw an opportunity to reduce the time to get the grass cut and use the extra energy saved buy the wwoofers to do other more constructive tasks.I figured that the area the grass was being cut could also do with being fertilized and as it is on a ridge,if it were fertilized and it rained the nutrient would wash down the slope into the soil and enrich a lot more area and we would save even alot more energy.Letting a natural energy cycle do the work for us is what we are trying to replicate using Permaculture."Relative Location".

This is where the sheep come into play as an element having many functions.

I also figured that if I trained the sheep to be caught and walked to the grass cutting location it would save time, energy, get the field fertilized, get the grass cut, bring people closer to the animal and teach the sheep something new also.So we tried it out.

At first the sheep was shit scared of people.She didn't mind the wwoof girls because they brought the food to her daily.But when anybogy else got in the pen it was on for young and old.It took 5 of us at first to corner the sheep and get a rope around her neck and then quickly get a chain around her neck.When the walking started she wanted to run straight off,then get stubborn and not want to move at all.She learnt quickly that if she pulled on the chain it would be a little unpleasant.

We have several electric golf buggies here as Masa has a business maintaining them for golf courses about the place and we get the 'hand me downs'.They are great as we charge them from the solar powered house and the batteries last ages.Great for carrying things quickly around the farm.Anyway,we use one of these as the anchoring point for the 10 meter long chain as it is very easy to relocate and to also carry the water bucket each day and the sheep can't tow it away.Perfect.

So each day it became easier and the sheep seems to like going for the walk.She seems to know that the good grass is at the end of the trip.Now it takes one person to move the sheep in the morning and return at night.I love working with animals and take her most days and she comes now when I call her.She just needs a big scratch behind the ears and to be talked to calmly and she walks without getting skittish.

A wwoofer 'Ayako' was putting her away recently and she got away on her.When we cornered the sheep Ayako dived on the chain in the dirt to catch her again.She had just arrived on the farm and I don't think she wanted the sheep getting the best of her.What a gem of a lady.

This system will only be used short term until we rotate the sheep to another pen with more food for all those wondering about sheep's rights.It is a solution to the problem until we can get the system right.With all the time saved we been able to do so much more constructive jobs and the wwoofers get to do less mundane tasks.

And no, I'm not a Kiwi.

1 comment:

Susan B. said...

Hey! Susan here from Canada. Great seep story. The are teach-able and smart.
Taking it to the pasture is good for it, and you are so right about the better use of time.
Our planting time seems to be a week or 2 behind yours, so I will be seeing what else besides the potatoes you will be planting.
I look forward to watching your season grow.