Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Countdown






Have I mentioned that shearing is scheduled for Saturday? Have I mentioned that shearing is not my most favorite part of the Sheep world? The logistics are just very difficult---and I tend to like to have everything pre-planned 'just so'. Well, when you pre-plan with sheep involved, you may as well as just sit down and cry now and get it over with. Sheep live to circumvent plans. I don't know about your sheep, but some of mine are just a little too crafty, a little too smart, and a little too suspicious to make my life easy.

The problem is, I have several smaller sheds and one medium shed--which I call 'the main barn'. So even getting them under shelter for the night is a challenge. Shearing is done outside--with many prayers for fair weather said. The 'game plan' is to get the balance of the Shetland, Dorset, and Merino girls into the 'main barn'--with many wires and latches in place to keep them captive. Inside this barn, there will be separate pens that will house mothers and lambs. Within the flock (the Shetlands) there is an ongoing feud between certain family lines, so I have to make sure that those particular beasts aren't penned together. The Shetland barn--which is actually a long skinny 3-sided shed that has three stalls, will have Rain and her babies and any one else that lambs this week. Blue, the Merino ram and his buddy wether, Lanny have a 'hoop house' that I will attempt to lock them in. For those that wonder, a 'hoop house' is made from a sixteen foot cattle panel that is bent into an arc, attached to a square wooden frame on the ground and covered with a tarp. It has worked wonderfully for these two. I will have to put a divider in there as Blue likes to beat Lanny up, if they are confined. The two Shetland rams and the wether will have to be lured into their tiny three sided shed and barricaded in--and I'll worry all night that they will kill each other. A big barn would be lovely, but won't soon be in the picture, so making do until then! ;-)

Anyway, I'd love to have this done and over with, but the weather isn't shaping up well, with rain predicted every day. Its just hard to say at this point. The sheepies will have to be dry to be sheared, which makes it tricky.

So, I continue my last minute scramble to get every one's feet trimmed, wormed and vaccinated. Six sheep checked off in the last two nights! And I lived to tell about it. Gracie, who is one of my first sheep and is a very mild mannered dog-like Dorset who follows everyone around and generally loves people. That is until it comes to getting her down to toe trim. Then she becomes this wild stallion who bucks and rears and thrashes and kicks. I have come to dread Gracie's turn. One year I even made her wait to have her pedicure on the shearing table. (which I want to point out, she acted like a perfect saint for the shearer!) So this year, I decided to halter her. Once I had her on the ground, I gave her a chance to be good. She thrashed her hind legs, she tried to roll on her back. I tied her up. First one leg, then two and before we were done all four. Worked like a charm. She lay there quietly in humiliation, but it was the easiest I've ever trimmed her hooves! Of course the minute we were done and I let her up and loose, she came running back over for cookies. Next was Rocky, the crippled wether. Rocky is quite handicapped but sometime over the last year, I think he has been working out. His neck muscles were incredibly strong so that I really struggled getting his head turned (crucial to getting them off their feet). In the melee of struggle, I got off balance so that when Rocky went down, so did I, with my leg trapped under him. Well, we were laying on soft hay piles, and I wasn't hurting, so after we calmed down a bit, I managed to work my leg out from under him. Once down he was a champ, except he had half of the lead rope on the halter eaten and down his throat before I realized what he was doing. (Why? I have no idea!) Then it was June, the big Dorset girl. She was really the easiest of all--her size works against her and she went down fairly easily. She's a very tame and reasonable girl.

Last night, it was three more--this time Shetlands. I decided to do the two mothers and any other victim that came close enough. Rain protested some, but really she was very good--considering her past record. Her babies were a bit alarmed about it. After I got Rain done, I fed her and got her in her stall for the night---at that point her babies went nutso and wouldn't come in. I easily caught the ram lamb, but the ewe lamb went thru the panel fence and was running amuck with the other sheep. It took awhile, but she finally went into the main barn where I nabbed her. Rain pretended at the last minute that she was all concerned about her (this coincided with Rain finishing her grain!). Next was Blackberry. I got her in her big roomy stall with her baby. All was going well. Then when I went to sit Blackberry on her butt, it went downhill. Those short Shetlands are very difficult to topple without just physically lifting them off the ground--and they may be small but they are still heavy! Finally after a short rodeo she was sitting against my legs--both of us gasping for breath. Her baby was very concerned about it all and was bleating and running around. However, once I tucked Blackberry's head over to the side, the little thing just went ballistic--screaming and dashing herself against the wire, finally busting thru the gate that I hadn't latched and running to the other sheep. I'm sure what she thought she saw was her mother being attacked, killed and then be-headed. She ran and attached herself to first her Auntie then her Grandma. She was not going back to the bloody scene of the crime. Poor baby. I finally got her in the barn and reunited with her perfectly fine and still alive mom. Her little heart was beating like crazy and she will probably hate me forever!

Lastly I passed out cookies and got sweet little Selena to fall for some cookies and chest scratches. She had her eyes closed and tail wagging when I reeled her in! She did very well and it was all over in a couple of minutes. Whew. I felt like I'd run a marathon!

Soon, they will all be done and I can heave a huge and happy sigh of relief!

1 comment:

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I think you should produce a workout video called "Sweating with the Sheep" -- hee hee! Convince those buyers that by following along they can "firm that fluff," er, flab.