Good Wool Hunting: raising a sheep in the middle of Reno

My daughter, Emma, and her sheep, Socks, wait in line at the Reno Livestock Events Center for a weigh-in on February 27, 2011. Photo by Ryan Jerz.

This is the first part in what will be a brief, but ongoing series of posts about living in a city and raising livestock.

Parents are faced with a lot of challenges. Most of them involve decisions that will seemingly affect a kid’s life forever at the expense of something in the short term. Many seem like a big deal and probably don’t ultimately mean a whole lot, but some probably mean a great deal. Such is the case with my daughter, Emma, right now.

I have no idea how she came to be this kid who belongs in a rural setting. But she kind of does belong there, it seems. As many, many children are apt to do, she took an interest in animals at a pretty early age. There were pictures of horses in her room, book about this animal or that, and all the usual stuff. What I guess was different is that we live in a place that offers quite a bit of opportunity for a kid like her.

At a birthday party (I’m thinking seven years old) we acted upon that love of animals for the first real time. We have this friend who has a few horses and had recently gotten into showing mini horses. Mini horses are just like regular horses but small. They’re only up to 36 inches tall and you compete with them by riding in a cart that they pull.

This friend’s daughter had begun to learn how to train them after growing up with regular horses her whole life. She was about 13 at the time and offered to bring a mini horse to the birthday party to give kids rides down our alley. They showed up in a double cab pickup truck with the cart in the bed of the truck and the horse staining in the back seat. It was quite a sight! The horse puled kids along and everyone had a grand time. Emma was hooked on the mini horses.

Socks the sheep. Photo by Ryan Jerz.

After a few years, she started to go to this same young lady to learn how to drive the horse carts. She competed shortly after that and has been continuing her training since then. Recently, talk began about raising an animal of her own. How do you even do that? We had no idea. My wife, Christy, being who she is started looking into it and came across 4-H. Of course. I had heard of 4-H but never really knew what they were about. As it turns out, around here they’re very much about raising animals on your own. Sheep, pigs, steers, rabbits, and several other possibilities are out there.

Emma deliberated for a bit and decided she really wanted to raise a sheep. We thought the idea was pretty much insane. I mean, it is right? Luckily, we had some resources. We started asking around about places the sheep could stay for the few months we’d have it and have to take care of it before it was sold. The perfect fit would be the place where she does the horse training. We’re already there several days each week and there is room. However, the lady who owns the place is against her animals being sent to slaughter, so she pretty much wouldn’t have it. As the parent, I somewhat welcomed this response. First, it’s her place and this is a real thing. Second, I was kind of against this whole idea and looking for an easy out. Please let this be that out.

My daughter, Emma, and her sheep, Socks, wait in line at the Reno Livestock Events Center for a weigh-in on February 27, 2011. Photo by Ryan Jerz.

It wasn’t that out. “We could keep it at our house.” Those seven words made me laugh out loud. There was no way it would be staying at our house. We chose to live in town because we aren’t the type of people who keep animals at our house. Those are the decisions you make! Our neighbors would never agree to this! We’d be the weirdos with a freaking SHEEP in our yard!

The ball was rolling, though, and I wasn’t going to stop it. This was one of those decisions that you make for your kids that affects their lives forever, I suppose. Christy was telling me that this was a really interesting opportunity for Emma and something that could have a profound effect on her future. She, like many kids, has talked of being a vet or living on a ranch or whatever. All things that we tell our kids they can definitely do if they want to. But many kids with those interests don’t get the opportunity to see what that side of life is really like. So I sort of halfway agreed that we might be able to maybe pull this off, but I still maintained it was pretty weird. I mean, it is right?

Also, is it legal? After searching online we found this information (Reno Municipal code):

I’m, of course, not a lawyer, but it appears that those links tell me that a sheep is no different from a dog in Reno. It must not be a nuisance, it must be restrained when in public, and it is, indeed, a domestic animal. Another strike against my wanting this not to happen.

My biggest fear in beginning this was the obvious: the sheep would be a nuisance. I barely slept the first night because I was very worried about the possible noise. We heard it would be a few days before the sheep would adjust and until then it would probably be a little bit rough. We had asked the neighbors if they would object to us doing this and they told us it shouldn’t be an issue—nobody really even opens their windows until May or so anyway. We listened and heard the sheep periodically throughout that first night and it wasn’t super loud. Nevertheless, we sent Emma over to explain that it would be just a few days before the sheep quieted down. The neighbors told her they hadn’t even noticed, and all the nerves were calmed at our house.

The way the 4-H program works (and I am not an expert, just a really, really new parent to this ordeal) is that it’s there to teach kids the business of raising animals. The animals cost money to purchase. They cost money to feed and care for. Then they sell for money and get slaughtered for their meat. It’s American ranching on a micro scale. It’s where our food comes from, and the more I’ve learned about it, the more impressed I’ve become.

The sheep has been given the name Socks, and we’ve had him at our house for just over two weeks now. Each morning, Emma wakes up at 6:00 to go feed him and make sure he has unfrozen water to drink. Each afternoon, she exercises him in the yard for about 30-45 minutes. Each evening, she feeds him again, checks his water, then a few hours later (when it’s her bed time) she puts him back into his shelter and latches the door. We added a door to the shelter when the cold really got extreme over the last week. This cycle will continue until the local livestock sale in early May. We’ll have had the sheep a grand total of 71 days, I believe, which is pretty short considering.

The pen and shelter that were built in our back yard. Photo by Ryan Jerz.

All of the supplies have been paid for by Emma’s savings. She’ll likely lose a little bit of money this year because she’s had to pay for one-time expenses like the pen being built in the yard along with the shelter, the feed bucket, water dish, etc. But all of that stays with us and if she decides to do this again it will be less costly and a potentially bigger money-maker for her.

We’ve heard stories of people our age who say 4-H paid for the college education. We harbor no delusions that this will do that for Emma, but we see it as something that will give her invaluable experience in a field that she seems to be intent on pursuing in her life. I see nothing wrong with that, even if we are the weirdos who have a sheep in their yard a few months each year.

Ryan Jerz is one of the founders of This Is Reno. He normally isn’t an animal-raising type, but he also feels like someone needs to show that Brooklyn isn’t the only place where interesting things can happen. Socks the sheep is for sale. Inquire within.

Art at The Hub

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Reno Photo of the Week – November 1-7, 2010

downtown reno

This photo, entitled “downtown reno” in manybits‘s Flickr stream, caught my eye for a few reasons. First, the recent trend of everything old is new again resonates with me. I have a lot of fun with some of the applications on my phone–taking pictures and tweaking them to make them look aged. Second, I like, for whatever reason, shots looking up at stark architecture. Maybe that’s because we only have they typical view from that angle. Whatever it is, I like it.

Reno Photo of the Week – October 17-23

Reno, NV

Entitled “Reno, NV,” this photo from Gérald Verdon Photo on Flickr (view more of his photos on ambilux.com)caught my attention for a couple of reasons. First, I love the composition. Second, it’s the King’s Inn. The King’s Inn represents an awful lot about Reno right now, from the inability of the city’s government to completely revitalize the downtown area (an effort I believe has been an amazing boon for the area) to a look back at what Reno is known for, to a look at what societal problems exist in a place like Reno (how many of us have wondered what goes on inside that building?). The foreground motel shows a dichotomy to those living in Reno, as well. An active motel made almost to look like it is the King’s Inn? Well done. I have no idea if the photographer understood anything about the shot as a local would when it was taken, but it has opened up a lot of thought for me.

Simply put, I love this photo.

Reno Photo of the Week – September 19-26

I am a sucker for the Canon EF-S 10-22mm lens. I have one myself and think it’s capable of some outstanding effects. It also handles color saturation in different light real well. This shot is such a cool example of that.

C-17 Globemaster III (front)

Taken by BeckImpressions on Flickr during the National Championship Air Races last week, it has a smooth warmth countered by the awesome blue sky. It’s a contrast I really like capturing with that lens.

Reno Photo of the (sort of) Week – September 6

702-324-1315

I love this. It’s called “702-324-1315″ and it’s by Troy Holden on Flickr. The older limo set in front of a motel with brightly colored doors and trim is about as Downtown Reno as it gets. Perfectly captured and the little turning of the limo’s wheels inward is a nice touch.

Reno Photo of the Week – August 23, 2010

Hot August Nights

This Photo, entitled “Hot August Nights” was taken by ericmay.

Reno Photo of the Week – August 15, 2010

This is a new feature I wanted to start, as I regularly peruse the Flickr feed of everything tagged “Reno.” Each week, I plan on selecting a photo from Flickr, tagged “Reno” and featuring it here. I always welcome selections, of course. Hope you enjoy it.

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From Flickr user generallyfriendly. This photo was taken last year, but posted just last week.

This Is Reno to present at the 2010 Nevada Interactive Media Summit

We do our best to make people understand what this site is about. We want to be very open about why we started it, how we run it, and how you can be a part of it. In case you’re still unclear about any of it, though, we’ve got another opportunity to present our case to anyone who would like to hear it.

The people behind This Is Reno have been selected to hold a panel discussion on what the purpose of the site is at the 2010 Nevada Interactive Media Summit. The summit is in its second year and is happening at the Joe Crowley Student Union on the campus of the University of Nevada on March 6. Festivities begin at 9:00 am and continue until 5:00 pm. Specific presentation times are not yet set, but the program is incredibly diverse and covers an awful lot of interesting topics. The fact that it’s focused on Nevada is a plus, as well.

Our plan is to have as many of the staff members from This Is Reno (all volunteer) on hand to answer why we’re a part of it. Everyone’s reason is different, and we all have good reasons for getting involved with this. So if you’re interested in hearing us explain everything behind This Is Reno, grab up a spot for the summit, and take in a few of the other speakers while you’re there. The summit sold out last year, so you may want to act quickly.

“Big Bang Theory” star speaks at college theater festival

SUBMITTED NEWS RELEASE

Hosted by the University of Nevada, Reno, the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival drew nearly 1,200 theatre students, faculty and guests from across the western United States to participate in the regional conference this week. Festival highlights have included theatre workshops; student competitions for scholarships and grants in such disciplines as playwriting, set design and acting; and an opportunity for one Western university to be selected to mount its production at the Kennedy Center’s national festival in April.

Kunal Nayyar, better known as Rajesh from CBS’s sitcom “The Big Bang Theory,” will deliver the keynote address at the festival’s banquet 1:30 to 2:50 p.m., Friday, Feb. 19, in the Mandalay Ballroom B at Circus Circus. Before the address, Nayyar will meet with media for a short press conference. The festival concludes Friday night with individual student performances for the Irene Ryan scholarship finals competition at Nightingale Hall on the University campus.

What: Press conference withKunal Nayyar, a.k.a. Rajesh on the CBS sitcom “The Big Bang Theory.” University of Nevada, Reno faculty and students in competition available after Nayyar’s press conference for interviews and photo opportunities.

When: 12:30 p.m., Friday, Feb. 19

Who: Kunal Nayyar from the “The Big Bang Theory”; student performers, faculty and attendees of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival Regional Conference

Where: The Steak House at Circus Circus, located on the mezzanine level at Circus Circus Hotel and Casino, 500 N. Sierra St., Reno

Free parking for media is available at Circus Circus.

For more information on the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival or the press conference, contact Kathie Taylor, University Media Relations, 775-291-4434 or ktaylor@unr.edu.