It has been said that the greatest blessing you can receive is to be a blessing to others. I can personally attest to that being a fact. I saw this new intersection as I was hauling hay on Saturday. It seemed so perfect. There are many worthy organizations out there that could use your help, please help them when you can.
When we began, we set out four main focuses for our mission. The four classes of sheep we had a desire to help were:
- Abused / Neglected
We opened our doors by making it known we were a sanctuary for the abused and neglected. We additionally made it clear to authorities, that we could help with emergency feed, shearing, and physical help for good shepherds that were in dire straights and needed help. We have never been interested in being part of the legal process or of making determinations, we just want to be there for the sheep if a determination by proper authorities is made. However, there have not been any formal abuse or neglect cases in our immediate vicinity. We have seen a couple of suspected cases in our area, but the sheep were been spirited away before anybody could do, or prove anything.
The lost and the homeless we have seen, and have had opportunities to be part of the solution. This is how all the sheep in our care have come to us, either as unclaimed lost sheep, or pet sheep losing their homes. We want to continue to expand our service area, working with regional volunteers who can capture lost sheep, and arrange temporary housing and care while lost and homeless sheep are waiting for transport to our facilities; They can also be the contact for the good shepherds in their region that may need help. The story of Bo Peep is a good example of this. We are hoping in the coming years to keep expanding and serving more of the lost and the homeless.
The remaining and as yet unrealized goal is to help orphans. I know it is hard to believe, and painful to consider, but there are many orphaned lambs that are not cared for, and suffer for it. They fall into a limbo between uselessness, embarrassment, and inconvenience in the commercial setting. Saving them is the most difficult of the goals, because orphan lambs are both amazingly resilient, and very fragile. If you are like me and participate in online groups with people who are working to save orphan lambs, you may have noticed a fairly high mortality rate. The people trying to save these lambs are good souls trying their best, with the resources they have. The good news however is there are also shepherds in these groups who are successful year after year, and lamb after lamb in their care goes on to a long healthy life. What makes them so successful is a very well developed skill and knowledge set. Our plan is to bringing fosters of all skill levels together under our program. We see mentorship combined with access to physical resources as being the key to saving the greatest number of lambs. As a note, when I originally wrote this paragraph, we had never dealt with an orphaned lamb. About two weeks later, we had a two day old in our care.
The Caldwell pasture is an example of the stewardship we feel for the land and environment. It has been a real treat to see how an entire ecosystem can develop if given a little push. We have been surprised how many more plants, insects and animals have moved in on their own, and established a home. Another surprise has been the people who have come out to the pasture just to hang out and watch the sheep. There is something therapeutic about sheep being sheep. We are going to continue to demonstrate how sheep, a large variety of plants, and intelligent grazing can heal the land, and help to improve the world in which we live.
How do we grow? The scaling formula is pretty simple.
Volunteers + Land + Funding + Sheep = Growth
All four of the above conditions have to increase proportionately before we can expand our programs, or create new programs. A benefactor once looked at the 70 acres next to the Caldwell pasture and asked me “They lease that land, what if you had that area to work with?” I told them, “I could fill it with sheep in no time, a thousand sheep would be easy to come by.” That is true for most all sanctuaries. That is why if one looks around there are so many sanctuaries with more animals than the land can provide for, days away from insolvency, and/or staffed by owners/volunteers that are overworked and over stressed. We never want to be in that situation. Even if we took in just 10 more sheep we would need another shepherd for them. One of the great things about the scaling formula above is that those sheep would not even have to be in Idaho, or even in the United States. A shepherd who has access to some land to graze, a few sheep in need, and volunteers in the area to help when needed, can found a new RescEwe flock under our umbrella.
So, with the coming year being more uncertain than the last, how far will we go? Well, who would have dared to guess that in the COVID year we would have continued to grow. I guess the Lord only knows where we will be this time next year. But, we will be ready to take on anything that He brings to us.
“The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel.” Proverbs 12:10 (NIV)
When the COVID lockdowns were beginning, we were concerned that the effect of the lockdowns on volunteer participation was going to be devastating. We were looking at the up-coming shearing season, and fencing the new pasture had just begun. However, we have had more volunteers than ever this last year, and they have done a phenomenal amount of project work. The fencing of the new pasture is a great example; about a hundred ranch panels and two hundred t-posts were put in place. About a quarter of those t-posts were set two feet into rocky ground. All the while, the new pasture was being cleaned up and seeded, and the typical sheep management continued as well. The work done by the volunteers this last year can only be described as heroic.
A Couple Examples
In the fall of 2019. I listened to a podcast dealing with running a nonprofit. One of the statistics they had was that the health and longevity of a nonprofit was correlated to the percentage of volunteers who were female between the ages of 16 and 29. The more the better. At the time, the volunteers at RescEwe were averaging about 50 years of age, with some almost 80. I told that statistic to some of the board members, and they did a week of prayer asking for more young women to volunteer, and then they dropped it. We never discussed this outside the board. Then about three months later the improbable happened. A regular volunteer who never knew about the statistic or the prayers, was having lunch at a burger joint in Parma. She started talking to a young woman at the next table about RescEwe, and how we are always welcoming volunteers and teaching shepherding. The amazing young woman turned out to be an LDS missionary, and was always on the lookout for ways to serve the community. From that point on, she and or her fellow missionaries have participated in almost every work day at RescEwe. Most all were in the area for a few weeks, and then they were off to another post. Some were from cities, and others from farms or ranches. Very few had ever worked with sheep. It is gratifying that many of these volunteers have had a memorable experience with the sheep, and some now plan to have their own sheep in the future. As we look back at the participation of the LDS missionaries during the year, we have to say that they were a real Godsend.
What can I say about the people who volunteer for hard physical work like fence building, and hay stacking. They are their own breed apart. Although this is not part of the daily work we do, it is a very important part of our programs and projects. Without their help, the new pasture would not be usable, or even safe to graze sheep on. Bear in mind the adjacent road is a busy state highway, and we have spotted coyotes and dogs roaming the area. A good strong fence is a must for the Caldwell pasture. Hay moving and stacking is a necessary part of winter survival in Idaho. The volunteers who moved our hay got a workout, but many hands make light work, so I can not complain myself. There would be no winter feed put up without these volunteers.
Shearing days saw the greatest amount of participation this last year. Most all the volunteers received the opportunity to try their hands with manual blade shears, and the braver ones electric shears. Sheep need regular maintenance like shearing, and hoof trimming, so this has been a good opportunity every year to bring people together with sheep and make a fun day of it.
Volunteering has many rewards for us. There is the fellowship with others who love working with sheep, working with the sheep themselves, learning about pasture management, or the simple pride in making a real difference. All the volunteers have had their own reasons for volunteering. Regardless of their reasons, our volunteers have gone above and beyond this last year. We are very thankful that they have chosen to be a part of RescEwe’s mission. There would be no RescEwe without them.
This is the time of the year when we close our books on the fiscal year, and as such, we see the businesses and individuals who have donated to our projects, both in cash and supplies. We also look at the volunteers who have given their time and labor for nothing more than the enjoyment of working with sheep, doing good works, and the knowledge they acquire. Midway through the year the song Reason by Unspoken came to dominate my playlist. It is a really good song, but the first two lines did not match the year we were having:
This year’s felt like four seasons of winter
And you’d give anything to feel the sun
I realize in 2020 things have been all sideways, and not all has been well for many, but we have seen blessing after blessing in both volunteers and donations.
Once again Sage Woolens has been a major supporter of our programs, consistently helping to keep the sheep happy. Their donation to the fencing of the new pasture was phenomenal, and quite timely. We were three weeks out from starting the fencing project when they notified us that they were sending a sizable check. Our practice of not soliciting donations applies to our benefactors the same as any other individual. We don’t. So when they told us the check was on the way, it was both an unanticipated and wonderful blessing.
The generosity of Idaho Farm Animal Sanctuary (IFAS) was amazing. In October, completely on their own, they used their platform and network to do a fundraiser benefiting us. What nobody but our board knew, was that in June we needed a little more cash to finish our new pasture. One of our donors who supplies matching funds contacted us, and offered to advance us matching funds if we needed it to finish the project. We took the advance knowing that by the end of the year we had to have additional donations to warrant the matching funds. After a week of prayer, we let it go and forgot about it. In November when we received the check from IFAS, it not only covered the advance of matching funds, but qualified us for additional matching funds which went to our winter hay.
Golden Valley Vinegar Once again the folks over at Golden valley Vinegar supplied us with apple cider vinegar for the sheep. Most people do not know this, but where humans prefer sweet, sheep prefer sour. Apple cider vinegar is both a treat to them, and a tonic for the rumen. We are happy that they have
We would like to tell you all about the anonymous matching funds, but they are anonymous. They covered a large part of our costs this year, and we already have a commitment to as much next year as well.
We are very thankful for the many volunteers who have been helping out this year, we have hit an all time high in the sheer number of volunteers, which was surprising considering this has been a year of covid and gathering restrictions. Some of the volunteers were only in the area temporarily. We cherish their contributions and are attempting to keep in touch with them. Thanks to the internet, Germany or Georgia is as close as the keyboard or phone. We continue to pray that they are both bold and effective in their labors. We will dive deeper on the volunteers in another post.
In review the year seems to have gone more like the Anthony Brown & group therAPy song B.O.B Bounce.
You wanna see a blessing just look at me
Don’t hate, take it up with God, He did it.
The next RescEwe board meeting has been set for 10:00 am Saturday December 26th at Jolts and Juice Coffee in Caldwell. This is an open board meeting, and the public is always welcome to attend. We welcome your input. Even if you have no input, just come on out, and enjoy some coffee with us.
If you feel you want to up your involvement with RescEwe, and perform a valuable service at the same time, you can volunteer for the Advisory Board. This meeting is your best opportunity to set things in motion. An important point we need to make, is that our board members do not have to be located in the Treasure Valley area. Our board members have, and still live in different states, not just Idaho. We understood from the beginning that a diverse knowledge and skill set will make our boards more effective. As such, most all board work happens online with no need for face time for those outside the area. This also means that the board members can fulfill their duties pretty much on their own schedule. It just requires a commitment to participate.
We will still be using Discord to connect to our remote attendees. If you do not already have access to the Discord server, contact us to let us know and we will set you up with access . Due to the Covid, we may have to have a totally online meeting this year, but it is looking unlikely at this time. We have an alternate location under consideration in Homedale if Canyon County tightens their restrictions.
We look forward to hearing from, or seeing you there.
Since our inception, we have had four classes of sheep we have wanted to give assistance and sanctuary to. Bo Peep fully fit the bill of a lost sheep. Every year in our region, range sheep migrate to their summer grazing grounds in the Spring, and back to their winter lambing grounds in the Fall. From the time they set out, to the time they return, they are walking, walking, and walking. Early on, we defined our radius of influence for different classes of sheep in need, and have been aware of the plight of the range sheep that fall behind and are separated from their flocks. We have been wanting to help these sheep, but because of the distance from our home base, and the need for local volunteers, there has not been a real opportunity for us to help…
On October 25th after being offline for about 36 hours, I logged on to my computer. The first message I opened was from Angie at Idaho Farm Animal Sanctuary. I had met Angie a few years back, at a series of workshops she put together for people wanting to start their own animal sanctuaries. I knew it must be something important, and it was. She informed me that there was a sheep in dire need in the Ketchum area. It had been on the highway, apparently injured, and some concerned people were trying to help it to safety. They ultimately were able to trap it in the lobby of a business building. However, in the morning it had been released, and was on the loose again, lost and very confused. She also said that the kind couple who found and trapped the sheep were from out of town and had to leave for California. Angie had contacted the Ketchum sheriff, but they had no way to help the situation, and Angie was herself heading out of town as well.
I myself then contacted the sheriff, and they could give me no other information other than that the sheep was last reported to be walking north on highway 75, and that the owners were not going to come back for a single lost sheep. It was fast approaching the time for me to head into town to feed the sheep, so I decided to head into town and ruminate on what we could do.
When I logged back on late in the evening, noticed I had e-mails and messages that looked like they were concerning the lost sheep. Now identified as a ram. One email was from Laura, who with her boyfriend Clint were the ones who managed to trap the ram in the business lobby. The other emails and messages were from Aimée Christensen founder of the Sun Valley Institute for Resilience and CEO of Christensen Global Strategies. Aimée had been contacted by a close relative who knew Clint. This is where all the necessary and amazing people, and the networking that made this possible comes into play. Aimée contacted Sara Berman at Squash Blossom Farm . Sara could not take the sheep, but put Aimée in touch with Cindy Hamlin. Cindy had already adopted a lost ewe weeks earlier, and was at capacity. However, Cindy agreed to give the ram a place to stay until he could be rehomed to a sanctuary. Cindy only has ewes, and no desire for lambs. With this being the time of year when love is in the air for most sheep, that was a very brave offer. Aimée then contacted Brian Bean of Lava Lake Lamb, who supplied the hands to round up, and a trailer to transport the ram. When the ram was rounded up by Brian and the knowledgeable hands, they correctly identified him as a her. This undoubtedly was a great relief to Cindy.
Cindy described the ewe as “skinny, shivering and cold” when she arrived. Aimée volunteered to get her a coat to help her withstand the 11°F (-12°C) temperatures that the Wood River Valley was experiencing. Cindy had her vet come out and give Bo Peep a once over. She was found to have a little lung congestion, was treated for it, and was dewormed as well. With the shelter and good feed Cindy was providing, Bo Peep was doing much better, and starting to fill out.
It would be a week before we could make the trip to pick up Bo Peep, but she was safe and in the hands of a good shepherd. During the week , and as late as the night before we left to pick Bo Peep up, we continued to cast about the idea, that if Cindy had changed her mind, and wanted to keep Bo Peep, all was good as far as we were concerned. Part of our philosophy at RescEwe is that if a sheep in need can go direct to a good home without ever stepping inside our gates, it is as much a win as having them join the RescEwe flock. We just want all sheep to have good caring shepherds, however that happens. Even though Cindy enjoyed having her there, she could not keep her.
When Bo Peep arrived at the Caldwell pasture, we immediately put her in quarantine. We selected Betsy as her quarantine buddy. As part of her admission health evaluation, we found her to have some problems with her back left leg, and two older symmetrical wounds on upper part of her back legs that were about half healed. The one on the left is the worst of the two, and may be part of her issue with that leg. We have no proof as to what caused the wounds, but we have an unproven theory we are looking into.
The forage in the Caldwell Pasture is different than the forage Bo Peep was used to in the mountains. It took about a week before Bo Peep was acclimated to the pasture grass available in the Caldwell pasture. For good rumen health, feed changes should be made very slowly, and carefully. We kept her diet fairly simple and bland; green grass and second cut grass hay for about a week. After that we started giving her access to the sunflowers and diakon radish that is growing in the rest of the pasture as well. Neither girl is into the radishes themselves, but they do like the radish tops.
There was a little friction between Bo Peep and Betsy at first. The typical hierarchy establishment between adult ewes, but Bo Peep is very humble, and they settled in fairly quickly with very little conflict. The main group of sheep, and the quarantine group are moving closer daily. Soon they will be sharing a fence. A couple days of that, and they will be ready to mix.
Yesterday marks three weeks since Bo Peep was found walking the highway. With three weeks of good care by caring shepherds she has improved significantly. Our vet was out for Bo Peep’s blood test this week, and commented that she is looking pretty good. She is still a bit skinny, but not abnormal for a ewe that has recently weaned off a couple lambs. I suspect that she will be at a weight we typically want our ewes to be at within a month.
Your days of roaming the mountains as one of a thousand are over Bo Peep. Welcome home.
“Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’” Luke 15:3-6 NIV
We have been referred to as a Petting Zoo by some, and it would not be too far an assumption based on the types of services we see offered by many other farm animal sanctuaries and rescues. However, that is not what we are. We do not go to birthday parties (we have been asked). We do not do goat yoga classes (no goats). We definitely do not offer sheep cuddling sessions, although some of the shepherds have to spend a lot of time giving out scratches to some very demanding sheep.
Our sheep are sheep, and we do everything we can to give them full and rewarding lives as sheep. Part of that life is to bond to a couple of shepherds that they know well, and learn to trust. This is a natural and healthy relationship for sheep. Occasionally, some visitors want to feed the sheep treats. We allow that, but all interactions are based on the comfort level of the sheep. Honestly, there are a few that will come forward to a stranger with treats, if their shepherd is there, but many will hang back unsure of a stranger. Sheep instinctively understand that their relationship with humans in general is… well… Complicated.
We have had day outings, where a couple select sheep are able to meet the public in public parks, or at informational events like the Boise Pet Extravaganza. The sheep are selected for their comfort around strangers, and the ability to handle new and strange places. We work them into these things slowly. New places, sounds, and people can be stressful for sheep, and natural confidence has to be a deciding factor in who can participate in these type of events. There are other considerations that have to be met as well. How many shepherds are there going to be? We have found 3 is the minimum for events. How about the dogs on and off leash in the area. It has taken a bit of trial and error, but we have developed a good idea of what goes into a successful low stress outing.
So how much does it cost to come out to watch, learn about or work with the sheep? The answer is simple… Nothing. We are a public charity, and a major part of our mission is education. The public has paid for this by giving us, and our donors a tax break. Our benefactors have been generous to us as well, sharing their blessings with us. Combined with this, our volunteers receive no pay for their work. They do it for the joy of being a part of our mission, the love of sheep, and the experience they receive. Put all this together, and we do not have to charge for serving the public.
Some people have noticed that we do not actively solicit donations, to the point it may seem we don’t even want them. It has confused quite a few people. Believe me, for almost a year the board has been considering whether or not we should add a “Donate” button to our website and Facebook pages. We are very thankful for the donations we receive, but the truth is, we only want donations that are given freely, and bring joy to the donor. If it has been put into your heart to give, or to volunteer, please do so. Otherwise don’t worry about it. Come out and enjoy the sheep, learn to shepherd, or build holistic pastures with us. We will continue to be here, having faith that our needs will be met. They always have been.
“Let every man give according to the purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver.” – 2 Corinthians 9:7
For the last couple of weeks the sheep have had a new scratching post(?). It is a test of concept, and we are looking at a couple of designs that should fix the shortcomings of this prototype.
At this time, all of the sheep have been observed using the new scratcher. sometimes two at once. The current design uses gravity for pressure. The two pvc pipes are slid over t-posts to allow them to slide up and down to fit both short and tall sheep. The sheep have recommended a second design that they would like; it is closer to the ground so they can scratch their bellies as well (we have found the bar pushed down close to the ground on more than one occasion.) We think the belly scratcher will have to be attached with bungee cords to give upward pressure.
The sheep recommended the original design by making our life hard while we were trying to move their shade cover. When we move their shade cover, we remove the ball bungees that hold the frame to the t-posts, and it will slide to the ground. We then remove the t-posts and move the cover. If the cover hung up at all before it hit the ground, the sheep would run over, and get underneath the frame and scratch away. It made it hard to move the shade, because as soon as one or two were chased out, others would come in behind you and get under the frame. This has not been as much of a problem the last couple of moves.
I think they are pretty happy with the new scratcher.
At RescEwe we believe that healthy and diverse pasture makes for healthy and happier sheep An important part of what we have done, has been serving as a demonstration of how sheep can be an important partner in building a complete pasture. A complete pasture becomes its own ecosystem full of a diverse sampling of living things, and will sustain itself, evolving with changing situations.
A Brief History of the Caldwell Pasture
The Caldwell pasture area was first offered to our angel the Fantasy Farm. Rescewe had no sheep yet because we had no land to put them on yet. This looked like a great way to get things going. The land was originally part of the Boise River riparian zone, which is a very rich and diverse natural community. We found that there is water available fairly close to the surface. However at that time, it had mostly shallow rooted, and short lived pioneer plants like cheat grass and foxtail barley that did not take advantage of the ground water, with a few invasive/noxious perennials thrown into the mix.
So, the fantasy farm submitted a proposal to the owners of the property which was accepted. They moved sheep onto the land, and started the seeding and irrigating. The sheep are the pivot of the whole development. The sheep are the reason for the pasture, and an important part of the transformation. Broadcast seeds are worked into the soil by the grazing sheep and the sheep knock down competing weeds and fertilize the soil. Every year the pasture becomes richer, and the soil richer as well.
We have seeded eight different types of grasses, five legumes, and twelve different herbs and forbs Using Fukuoka’s principle that plants will grow where the are best suited, we just broadcast all of it everywhere. Somethings never came up, or did not thrive, but the ones that did, did very well. It is interesting that some grasses did well in one spot, and 20ft. away others did better. There are a few places where there are stands of one type of grass, and almost none of the others.
The second year, we got some sheep. However, that was the first year of the water drama , and there was not a lot of forward progress. We did however learn that the choice of deep rooting grasses and forbs was a really good decision. They survived without irrigation.
Skip forward another two years, and we now have full irrigation, and things are advancing at a good pace. These pictures were taken over five weeks ago, after 1 grazing cycle, and 2 rounds of water. This week, things look completely different. Because we seed with most rounds of grazing, the last two rounds of seeding have produced lots of new plants coming up in the areas covered in cheat grass and foxtail barley. There should be a lot less of those pioneer grasses next year.
As the pasture has developed, many animals have moved in adding to the few that were making a home there before we started. The vole and mouse populations have seen an increase, as have the number and diversity of pollinating insects. Toads moved in to feast on the insects. last year a feral cat raised a litter of kittens, well fed on the mice and voles. She and her kittens left before winter set in. This spring one of her kittens came back and raised a litter of her own in the pasture.
We also saw the first snakes last year. Three in total; a Terrestrial Garter, a Common Garter, and a North American Racer. This year we have not seen a single snake yet. We are hopeful however. The Red-tail Hawks in the elm tree have once again fledged some chicks. The Male was working the pasture as part of their territory. We are pulling together the parts for a raptor perch. It should make his life a little easier next year, and give him a good spot to watch the pastures.
It is exciting to walk the pastures, and see the changes every week. The flowers, the forage, and even the weeds come and go in cycles. We invite anybody to come on out, and take a look at what we are doing. We can not always explain why things are happening, but we can explain what we are doing that brings about the changes. If you have any recommendations we are open to that as well. This is a learning process for all of us involved.
The weather was the greatest worry for the day. Unseasonably hot and high winds were in the forecast. It was hot, but the wind held off for the two hours we set aside for lunch. It was a great time to share blessings, with those who have been a blessing to us.
It was great that one of the major donors to the fencing project, Jeanna of Sage Woolens, was able to come out for lunch. I knew it had been a long time since she was last out, but I failed to realize that Del was just a lamb the last time. Like so many of us she has a very full life. Too many people see the sheep and their progress as they speed past on highway 19. It was nice to catch up, introduce her to some of the volunteers, watch the sheep, and let her know how her support helps us continue our mission.
It was nice to just hang out with some of the donors, and volunteers. We typically sit down for lunch together, or meet for dinner after project days. It is a great social time for fellowship, and getting to know one another. Due to the recent restrictions, we have not been able to have this kind of interaction, or even work together as a large group. It has all been a little here, and a little there. This has felt a bit odd. Last year we were trying to define ourselves as a group by the statement, “This is what we do, because this is who we are,” and of course the inverse, “We do not do that, because that is not who we are.” From the very beginning, sitting down to break bread, has been an important part of who we are. Thankfully, we will be able to go back to this practice again.
The next major work project… Shearing. Hopefully in two weeks.