Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sheep Talk: Composting

It seems that Mother Nature has flipped her calendar, realized it's now October, and said, "Time to drop the temps by fifteen degrees!"  The days are notably cooler here in Wisconsin, and the nights are down-right nippy.  The Little Rancher is bundling up in her winter jacket for morning chores.  I prefer to wait until the sunshine has taken the chill off a bit before heading out for my chores.  The chickens will have to do with brunch these days instead of breakfast.

bucket of treats
As with every year, it's also time to start cleaning out the garden.   Time to round up the last tomatoes, find the giant cukes that got away from you, and keep a close eye on the growing squash.  While many of these vegetable plants can now be weeded out of your garden, take a few minutes to think about which of your barnyard animals can benefit.  Everyone immediately thinks of feeding their old veggies to the pigs.  Pigs have a fabulous composting reputation that's been in place for centuries and, quite frankly, is one of their biggest selling points.  That and bacon.  However, chickens follow a close second for composting.  They love tomatoes and zucchini, peppers and overripe watermelon.  If you toss them anything red or seeded, they'll love you forever.  I suppose goats do pretty well in this department, too, but I've not had any personal experience with them.  To be quite honest, I'm a total snob and have no intention of ever raising goats, feeling that sheep are far superior.  Besides, don't goats just butt things and eat tin cans?

What some homesteaders may not realize is that sheep can be quite helpful in the composting side of harvest season.  Here are a few simple hints that can not only clean out the garden of dead and dying foliage, but also makes for happy, healthy sheep.

1.  Sheep love apples.  Rough chop all the windfalls, throw in the scraps from canning sauce, and toss the whole bucketful on the ground.  A perfect sweet treat!

2.  Sheep love beans.  Toss in the whole plant.  They will eat all the beans first and then nibble the leaves off the vines.

3.  Sheep love pumpkins.  Smash them into large chunks so they can eat out the guts.  Do the same with any old squash you may have left over.  As an added bonus, the seeds are a natural dewormer.

I've found that sheep also enjoy whole peanuts in the shell and tortilla chips, but since they didn't grow so well in my garden this year, I don't have any to dispose of.  And on a slightly related topic, sheep will not eat asparagus.  Nor will chickens.  Or horses.  Or beef cows, for that matter.  Makes me wonder why we're eating it?

Mammy cautiously taking an apple slice.

In any case, this is the last chance to feed off something fresh before the long, cold season of Nothing-But-Hay is upon us.  So when you're doing your harvesting, don't forget your barnyard animals! 


  1. Such great info. We sent our pigs off earlier than planned....before the apple harvest and I was sad to just dump the apple scraps. Wish i had thought to try them out on the sheep. Ah well, next year.

  2. very sustainable!!!
    and such cute sheep pics!!!!! i will forward that post to a lokal friend who has sheep.
    around here the temps dropped very fast too. sadly at the moment i can nothing do in the garden - i smashed the little finger of the right hand between two big sandstones..... but thankfully the bones are not broken.
    take care! xxxxxx


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