Living in Alaska teaches optimism, flexibility and versatility. On the first of April our low temperature was about 17* and on the first of May the high was 72*. Thirty days makes a big difference. The ice is melted the mud is dried up (here at least) and the sheep are battling the heat.
The leaves on the trees are just starting to sprout, the naked branches offering no real shade for our sheep to beat the heat. Lucky for them, the same wool that keeps them warm in the sub-zero winters helps keep them cool on these long sunny days. Even so, no one can say no to a little extra shade.
The prevailing winds in the Butte are from the east, the afternoon sun, the hottest part of the day, comes from the west. Because the winds around here exceed 80 mph fairly regularly the sheep shed’s open side is facing west. Great shelter from the howling winds, not so great shelter from the blistering sun. The solution? An inexpensive tarp wrapping the west fence, pulled taught across the top to two strategically placed fence posts. The L-shaped “structure” is noticeably cooler for humans and sheep alike.
Alaska is famous for being big, big mountains, big fish, and big bugs. REALLY big bugs. Mosquitoes around here are so big they need to file flight plans. Ok, maybe that is an exaggeration but in terms of sheer numbers, the blood bank probably wishes it could receive a comparable volume of “donations” per week.
The sheep were truly stressed by the number of mosquitoes harassing them. The babies were covered with the little buggers and I was beginning to worry they were going to get carried away. My friend suggested a magic lamp, a bug light that has mosquito attractant in it so, although not attracted to ultra violet light, they were motivated to fly in and get zapped. In less than a week we can notice a change in the population and the sheep are happier.
The light is situated so the bug carcasses fall into the chicken run and more than once I’ve seen birds just sitting under it, waiting for the next body to hit the floor.
Cocoa and Nellie had their lambs earlier in the year and when it was time to wean they were transported here, without kids in tow. They girls are very vocal about their separation, and even more vocal about the lack of graze in their pen. For two girls who swear they are starving to death (the restricted diet helps their milk supply to dry up) they seem to have plenty of strength to tell me all about it. I’m truly impressed with the length of notes those girls can hold. But sometimes they sound more like cows than sheep to me.