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.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Spin Cycle

(I started this post two Fridays ago.....)

Guess what? It's snowing! Yeah, pretty exciting. Not. Ever had one of those days it might have been better to just stay in bed? Then you end up just being thankful for what didn't happen?

It's been one of those days. All day long. It started when I got up and saw that it was raining...then by the time I did chores it had turned to a wet snow, coming down hard. Still, other than being just yucky out, the roads were okay and it was off to work. And the roads were fine for eleven miles then I entered some time warp, or alternate reality or, perhaps just a freak of nature. I've mentioned before that if I make the Bennett Spring hills I usually figure the rest of the way is a piece of cake. The 'hills' are long and twisty, with steep drop offs on one side and high banks on the other. Either way you go it's one up and one down.

Going down today was fine. The roads were a little slick, but nothing to worry about if you took it easy. Over the last several years MODot has kept the hills in great shape, as opposed to how they used to be. In times past cars would often stack up like cord wood on those hills.

Today there was apparently a ten minute window, where the roads were fine one moment, then slick the next, and the Highway trucks hadn't applied either chemical or gravel. I was 'lucky' enough to be going up the hill when that happened.

First the truck slipped a little, but no problem. Then it really spun out and went first one way then the other. Every time I could get it lined out it would over correct, lose traction and slide again. When I started heading for the drop off across the oncoming lane, it seemed like my worst fear had finally come true--plunging off into the steep, tree filled ravine. Three feet from the edge, the truck stopped spinning out of control that way, did a 360 degree spin out, now headed back the way I was coming from, and slid towards the ditch on the high bank side. My tires were literally two inches from hitting the ditch, which would have mashed the truck into the hillside, when the ride finally stopped. Whew. I was 'praying hard' the whole time.

Of course I had my camera....and by then I had calmed down considerably....

So there I was...spun out on the hillside, almost in the ditch and blocking one lane of traffic, on a slick hill. First I tried to back out, but there was just no traction at all and I was so close to the ditch that it kept trying to slide on in, so I quit, put my emergency brake and flashers on and took a deep breath. About then a vehicle came up the hill, and stopped. God bless good women everywhere! One of the nicest ladies took time and stopped on that dangerous hill to make sure I was okay. "Coincidentally" her husband worked for MODot so she told him 'the hills' were getting bad, while having me call *55 to get someone out to direct traffic and put out a flare. She was a tremendous help in assisting me as I wasn't thinking quite clearly with rattled nerves and all. She also recommended a towing service to call. Then she left after being assured I was fine.

Here is the hill where I spun out, only I was coming up instead of going down, and it happened just a little way down around the curve. You can see where the bank drops off. I had taken this picture some days before. Even though the roads look slick, they were actually heavily graveled in this picture.

About 15 minutes after sliding out of control the Highway truck came trundling up the hill spreading copious amounts of gravel and chemical, swerving around the obstacle of my truck, and the road almost immediately improved.

A short time later the Highway Patrol arrived and started directing traffic, then a first responder to add their flashing lights to the scene. In a little bit the tow truck driver arrived and the process began to extract me off the highway. Only at first it didn't go so great as when the tow truck driver started to crank on the chain attached to my truck, the truck gently slid off into the ditch. Since it was attached with the chain, it was all slow and controlled and no damage was done. Then with wheels chocked the truck was slowly pulled side wise up and out. From there it went smoothly. Come to find out I went to school with the tow truck driver. Small world! After I got unstuck, since I was headed in the direction of home, that is where I went. I had big qualms about getting up the other hill, but the addition of chemical and gravel made it fine.

It was mighty nice to pull my truck into the garage and get my feet on solid ground. The following Monday I ordered studded snow tires for the back. (Still waiting for those--they seem to be hard to come by)

I spent most of the day quietly, working in the house and some computer work.

Around chore time I went out to the garage to put some hay out for the Shetland boys. As I walked by the sheep paddock I looked up and saw Blue (the Merino ram) laying flat out at the big hay bale. He looked dead. Sheep laying flat out are never a good thing. I rushed up that way, filled with dread. Then I saw his head twitch. Oh wow...he was alive..but not moving.

When I got up there, I worked at getting him turned a little away from the bale of hay and out of the patch he was laying in. He is a big boy, but eventually I got him into position to get him up on his chest. He was pretty alert and asking for treats (I think--maybe he was just asking me what took me so long?). However even with me helping him, he couldn't get up.

Blue, always eager for the next special meal.

I told him I'd be right back and went and got meds and Nutri drench and some grain. When I got back outside he was still laying upright but hadn't gotten to his feet. Of course the girls heard me in the grain bin and started screaming, so when I got into their paddock I started calling Blue. After a few false starts he made it to his feet and came trotting down to his feed pan.

I was able to halter him and get him into their shelter, where I fed him some grain and special hay. I fixed a panel inside the hoop house so he has to stay up all night. He ate with a pretty good appetite, so I'm hopeful he was just 'cast'. Sheep (and cows as well) can get cast fairly easily although this is the first time it's happened here. What happens is they lay down with their backs slightly downhill, then they can't get up. If left long enough the gases in their stomach will build up, as they can't belch in that position, and will eventually kill them. Blue's was only slightly distended, and he immediately started belching when I got him up on his chest. I have no idea how long he lay there---although I'm pretty sure he wasn't there when I got home from the truck incident.

I'm only speculating this was what happened. There may be more going on than that, as he is pretty old. Only time will tell. I was just so thankful he got to his feet on his own and was able to make it to the barn. The old turkey. (Update as of this Saturday-- Blue hasn't been down like that again, but Friday when I fed him and his wethered son, Lanny, they were pushing and shoving around like sheep at the feeders do, and he was knocked off his feet. He lay down and ate his grain, and was able to get back up after that. Later that night he stumbled to his knees coming down a steep section of the pathway, but was able to get up. He has a great appetite for grain, so I've upped the amount I give him, and divided it up so I feed him twice a day. Also gave him a vitamin b shot, and doses of nutridrench. He has also been wormed. He is nine this year, and it's been a struggle trying to put any weight on him. We will see how it goes. If he goes down completely I'll have to have him euthanized. Tomorrow I'm going to move Lanny (the wether) in with the ewes and have Blue in by himself. He won't mind as the other sheep will be near most of the time. This way I can take better care of him and will be sure he gets all the extras. I'm also going to get some alfalfa pellets Monday and see if that helps. Any ideas on how to get weight on an old sheep? The weather has been constantly cold and very damp, with very, very little sun. He has no reserves so I know that ever bite he eats goes into the extra energy required to survive this weather. It's been a novelty to walk around with Blue in the pasture. He has never been a nice guy, and I've always worked around being out in the pasture with him. He has mellowed quite a bit in the last two years!)

Chaco and Trinity
The best place to be on a cold, snowy day!


Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

I guess you 'bout kissed the ground when you got home. I hate that helpless feeling. Glad that gal helped you.

I don't know anything about old sheep unfortunately, hope Blue is OK.

Pat in east TN said...

I tell you Tammy, my heart was in my throat reading about all your adventures! Hope Blue is doing ok.

Angie said...


You know that I used to live out near that blasted hill you are talking about for way to many years! I prayed all the way up it and all the way back down it coming back home. No railing or anything to stop a person from going over in that deep's a miracle and definitely God was watching over you when you slid! I'm glad you are alright, and made it safe home.
Hope also your sheep is doing better, and not having any more problems.


thecrazysheeplady said...

An old sheep man told me you could fatten sheep with bread. They got it from the day old bakery. I have not had to try it yet, but have filed it away for Crazy Esther with no front teeth. I do know that GL stole some left over biscuits from the chickens the other day, so I guess they like it. Good luck!

Journaling Woman said...

I wish you would never use the spin cycle again. I don't think you did the hill description (that you could have spun into) justice. It is so deep probably a quarter of a mile deep (am I exaggerating?) and tree lined and did I say deep deep deep that it would have been days before we found you. Do not use the spin cycle again, please.

The bread suggestion sounds really good for Blue. It works for me.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh, Tammy, I know that helpless feeling on slick roads with steep dropoff. So glad it turned out okay and that an angel appeared to help you.

Re Blue -- this weather is hard on all the critters and the old ones especially. The down side of keeping animal is, as an old farmer once told us, 'Them as has, can lose.' But I hope Blue will hang in there.

Michelle said...

If you discover a trick to adding weight to a thin sheep, let me know. Inky is a hard keeper; I give her twice daily grain and a month or so ago started adding extruded soybean for the extra fat and calories, but have noticed no difference....

kristi said...

Well, I am glad to hear you got out of that spin cycle all in one piece! The weather this winter has definitely taken its toll on the animals. I had the same problem with the wether I just lost; I could not get the weight on him, regardless of what I did. I wish you luck with him. It is so frustrating when you try your best:)

Kathy said...

Clearly, angels have their hands surrounding you, Tammy. That kind of day makes you stop and think...or hit the bourbon. :)

I do hope Blue is ok. It could be many things: the hard weather, being stupid or unlucky, or age catching up with him. In that kind of weather, all animals under stress should have more eats - hay is great for generation of heat but when they are his age you have to get whatever you can in him. If he's inside and can't stay upright, you may want to assess him for CNS impairment or something like a stroke.
Keeping you in my thoughts...

AJ-OAKS said...

Wow, what a ride!!! Heck, I was holding my breath as I was reading. Glad you are okay. Whew! Hope Blue starts to feel better. Sorry, don't know a thing about sheep. How about alfalfa? Or a senior grain? I take it nine is old for a sheep? We have an ancient Fainting Goat buck who is for sure 12 years old, maybe older.

Kim said...

Glad you're okay. Funny how little snow it takes to do that in the right circumstances!

I need orange said...

What a scary day. !!!

So glad all turned out well!

L'Hélène said...

Wow, what a scare, I'm glad you're okay!

Tammy said...

I hadn't done any spinning like that in decades--the only other time I did that was on snow on a gravel road with four slick tires! Thanks for the tip about the bread, Sara. I'll try that too. The sheep love bread anyway...And as my sis said--it works well for me too;-) Vicki--I tell myself something similar to that when 'things' start falling apart all at once (like vehicles, appliances etc etc.)--if I didn't have to fix them, I wouldn't have them....Michelle--have you tried alfalfa pellets or cubes on Inky? Just wondering what others experiences have been. Have started Blue on Alfalfa cubes but I have to crush them up....I know that all this rich feed is probably going to cause problems later...but right now there may not be a later for him, so I have to try. Kathy--Blue is up and going, just periodically seems to fall and can't get up (haven't seen this this week though). He seems alert and no motor functions seem impaired. AJ--some sheep live up to 14 or 15, but I think that 9 is probably pretty old for a Merino ram. He had a hard start in life as well, so that may be catching up to him. Hi Kim, thanks for stopping by and commenting! Love the picture of the horse there.