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.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

When Will I Ever Learn?

The other night, as I was on the phone, and getting settled in for the night. (i.e. stretching out on the bed to rest), when I heard the sheep baaing. I listened a few minutes and the baaing intensified. Sometimes, an ewe and lamb will play the mommy-come-here, no baby-you-come-here game, where they will call back and forth, back and forth, until you want to go out and smack duct tape on both of their mouths. However this was different--this was multiple adult sheep yelling. Usually this means that some of the flock managed to get into the chicken pen and the rest of the flock are squealing on them.

Now, my chicken pen used to be really nice. Six foot chicken wire attached to seven foot posts. Over time though the chicken wire has become rotten and very fragile. The sheep pretty much demolished what time hadn't. Being the hillbilly I am, I've 'jerry-rigged' it over the years, replacing broken pieces with welded wire or field fencing. This had worked well.

Until the other night. I have a couple of big white sheep, namely Hope, who like to push their heads through, or stand on the fence to reach high branches. These girls aren't light weights. I hadn't been paying attention, but evidently this combination had squished the field fencing nearly to the ground. When it was low enough, the sheep pushed through the rotten chicken wire like it didn't exist and invaded the chicken pen.

But that wasn't good enough for them. No, they had to push through the other side of the pen as well, into a pasture I was saving for Blue and Lanny. About twenty two sheep made it into the 'new' pasture and were having a great old time. The left behinders were the ones doing the squealing.
Tomato Plants in Buckets and Squash Plants (behind) in Wire Baskets

So, did I grab a bucket of grain and calmly go up and call the escapees in? No, of course not. I ran out there, moved some panels around, plugged the escape hole, shut the gate to the Shetland pen, then opened the gate on the other end (which opens into the pasture the sheep escaped in). Did I then go and grab a bucket of grain and calmly call the sheep in? No, of course not, instead I proceeded to dash out there, and 'round up the sheep'. Bear in mind it was dark, the sheep were nervous, and the gate opening wasn't that large. Me, though in all my wisdom (and okay maybe some aggravation) was going to drive them rotten sheepies into the Shetland pen. Oh yeah.

Thankfully I had enough sense after about three tries of sheep running everywhere but the gate opening, to stop and go and get a bucket of grain. Of course they came right in. I shut the gate, shut the panels to the Shetland pen and had them corralled. What would have been a 10 minute job turned into more like a thirty minute ordeal, because of my idiocy.

Once I got them penned up, I rushed around and started putting cattle panels up over the flattened fence. The minute I turned the escapees out of the Shetland pen, they ran back around there to find the 'hole' to get back to the pasture. (Yes, I see the irony---they couldn't go through an open gate, in a fairly easy location, but they remembered where the tiny hole was to get back out. Selective remembering?)

So hot and sweaty and mumbling about 'if there was truck leaving tonight, you'd be on it', I got the job done. The sheep were very disappointed, but some of them were very smug and deliciously full of that green grass. Lanny and Blue will have to wait a little longer now, for the pasture to recover before they enjoy any green grass. Greedy girls.
The weather has been wonderful the last several days--in the 60s at night and 80s during the day. Humidity has been lower as well. I've really enjoyed the break. It looks like it's over though, with hot temperatures moving in the rest of the week.
The gardens are going great--my little seedling tomato plants are starting to really put some growth on, and even a few blossoms. I have some small green tomatoes on the 'store bought' tomato plants I bought. Still pretty small but getting there. Squash and pumpkin plants are growing and blooming like crazy, but haven't seen any set fruit yet.
I'm trying to get all the push mowing done before the weather gets so hot again. Only a little more tonite and it'll be done for another week or so. I've also been working fleeces--only six more to go, I think! Woot! I'll be so glad to get this task done. I'm working through both 2008 and 2009 fleeces, taking photos, and writing down stats as I go. Then I immediately upload whatever I've completed on my website (before I forget whose fleece is whose on the camera!). Once I get this done, I'll be caught up on the fleece front. There will still need to be some decision making for the fleeces I'm holding back to have processed, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.
My Heirloom Tomato Plants Raised From Seed
Only ten chickens left on the farmstead. One of the hens died yesterday. She had been in decline for a few weeks, and I had her separated out to give her special care. She was the hen that had the 'bumblefoot' so bad that she couldn't walk. I gave her intensive care, working the things out of her feet and treating her with special ointments and rubs, and foods. Something had happened though that caused her not to be able to walk at all. She did show some brief improvement and was hopping around, but it didn't last long. I'm guessing that perhaps something more systematic was going on. The other hen that I treated at the same time (and who had even bigger bumbles in her feet) with basically the same treatment, has since recovered and I don't really even see much of a limp, if any. Since her recovery was so quick, I had hopes the other hen would make it too, but it wasn't to be. However all these girls are old so I'm thankful they have had such long productive lives as it is.
So summer goes on, soon it'll be time to order hay (holding out for second cuttings this year, if possible). The garage still needs to be cleaned out before then though. The sheepie girls are mowing the front area of the place in the evenings for me. There is quite a bit of good grazing out there, so it helps stretch the pasture. I've even been taking a few minutes to sit out in my new chair, read a little and write letters, while keeping an eye on those sheep. The breeze at night has been so nice.
Have a great week.


Heidi said...

It is kind of a relief to know that I am not the only one with sheep who don't respect fences!

Vicki Lane said...

Been there;done that -- but in our case it's cows that will avoid the wide open gate and go for the tiny hole in the fence.

The weather is almost magical, isn't it?