Saturday, August 22, 2009

Fortunes and Ruin...

...not of the financial kind; although I suppose there are financial consequences...
We've been blessed with just the right amount of rain this summer to keep the grass growing and growing. Last August I had to feed out hay for a couple weeks. This year there is more than plenty lush clover to keep the flock going.
Yesterday I was also fortunate to place three of my beloved sheep in good homes. Windswept Unicorn went to be flock sire down in Harris, MN. He will have many lovely moorit ewes to woo this fall. We will miss him here, but his leaving opens the way for a new boy to contribute to my polled breeding plan.
Sheltering Pines Dolce and Boston Lake Delyth also met their new owner, a lovely lady that lives south of the Cities. I know they will be happy and treasured. And that is what I wanted most for them.
And now for the ruin. Don't worry, it isn't life threatening. And no sheep were harmed (at least not too badly) during the making of this story:
I intended to wean the ram lambs the day after Unicorn left: today. They would go in the large paddock with the other three mature rams and the extra-long grass. I figured 3 big rams wouldn't be able to distress 5 ramlings too much since the numbers favored the little guys.
Clancy was going to help me catch, carry, and release early in the morning. But time got away from us and he had to do errands in town. Undaunted, I saw no reason whatsoever why I couldn't mug the ramlings myself and simply walk them down the lane, one at a time, to the big boy pasture. I'd just lift the electro-net up a bit and stuff the little buggers under. (This has worked in the past.)
For one brief moment I considered going all the way back to the house to enlist the help of my three sons. They could lift the fence or something. But no...I could handle it. I really did have all the confidence in the world.
And things went well. I unplugged the girls' fence and quickly moved a bit of it to fresh grass so the flock would be distracted. Then I just waded in among the friendly ewes and grabbed a ramling when he was behind his dam. This worked like a charm, and no one even missed the boy I was hauling off across the field. Stuff him under the fence and go back for another...
Half-way to the rams' pen with my fourth captive, I stopped in the shade to catch my breath. (This actually was fairly strenuous labor. And even being so short, I still had to stoop over the whole way to hold the lamb.) Looking up I caught sight of all three adult rams and two of the babies thundering toward me in a full-on run to the ewe's pen. One ramling was left behind, horribly tangled in the (yes, temporarily uncharged!) electronet. So I had a ram to rescue, a ram to hold on to, and 5 rams on the loose with nothing but (YES, temporarily uncharged) electronet between them and my ewe flock.
Of course, adrenaline must have kicked in, because there is no other way to explain how my exhausted little self managed the rest. Me and Mr. This-ain't-fair-lady! continued onward toward the tangled ramling. Somehow, while using my thighs and butt to sort-of restrain the ram in transit, I had one free hand and an elbow with which to untangle Mr. Mommy-or-bust!
Poor tangled boy was soon freed from his wire-ry prison. That left me with two ram lambs, one in each hand, and a mutilated, unraveled mess of electro-net in front of me. I hoisted the lambs over to the inside of the fencing, not letting go until I had used my foot to sort of prop up the mess of fencing so they would hopefully not escape the moment I released them. They did not. And after a few frantic minutes of fence repair I left them to go turn on the charger. It read that there was a short in the line. But I was past caring about the trivial: I still had 5 loose rams circling the girls' pen.
I figured the loose ram lambs would do no more harm to the ewes then they were capable of doing this morning. So I focused my attention on capturing the big boys before they attempted any acts of lust. Visions of January lambs were already sending shivers down my spine.
I went for the grain. Since grain is something I rarely use in the summer, the plastic garbage can I store it in by the barn had been overgrown with grass and weeds. (The lawn had been mowed but edge trimming had never been performed in this particular spot.) Overcome with horrendous fear of seeing things I didn't want to see (think long and crawly ones-who-can't-be-named) I bravely sprinted for the grain bin with my eyes closed while singing at the top of my lungs (to avoid hearing the slithering.) I want points for this! Grabbing the whole bin, I ran with it back to the safety of the wide open gravel driveway. There I armed myself with a small bucket of grain. On the way past the ram fencer, I flipped the switch off in light of my future scheme.
As hoped, the adult rams were easily enticed by the idea of grain. I shook the bucket for them halfway out into the pasture and they came on a dead run. I decided to capitalize on the zeal and began running back to their pen. They followed me and I lifted up the fence while throwing the grain bucket over. All three big guys plunged under the fence for the spilled grain, their ferocity effectively keeping the two little contained boys far enough away from the fence as to not escape a second time. Turn on the fencer! Good. Two ramlings in, 3 big guys in, 2 ramlings out, and 1 with his momma.
At this point I ran to the house and yelled for the boys to help me. They responded quickly and I immediately set them to various posts.
First I re-caught the two lambs in the ram pen. This was difficult as they were mighty wary. However, they were more afraid of the big rams than me, so I used this to my advantage. Leif ran the charger, Isaac ran the fence gate, and Asa ran the barn door.
Then I went after the loose lambs. I caught one and Asa and Isaac delivered it to the barn for me. Leif ran barn door duty. The other loose lamb, Dan, was almost snagged but not securely enough to get a good hold of. He ran off, double spooked, bleating for his momma. So I sidled and cajoled myself along inside the ewe pen and finally caught the ram lamb there. Asa and Isaac walked that one back to the barn. I love how my ram lambs don't come up for petting...but I really need to get them grain trained!
Finally, I stalked the last lamb. He was clever, but I was experienced. Even though he was determined not to get within five feet of me, I managed to manipulate him into an area that had barriers on 2 1/2 sides. There I lunged.
Every good sheep book will tell you never to grab a sheep by it's wool. It's not proper handling, and it probably hurts the sheep. Knowing this full well, I flung my whole body at Dan and grabbed at whatever I could. Success! Yes, he drug me a little. But I had him in the end. And he could have been eaten by a coyote had I not tackled him. It really was the lesser of two evils. To make it up to him, I brought him to the grain pan and let him have his first nibbles. He liked it; and so we lingered there in peace. Yes, I had my hand on his horn, but he was eating grain and enjoying himself. Soon after, Asa and Isaac escorted this last lamb to the barn.
With good hay and water, and no chance of escape, the little boys are learning to live without their dams. The ewes have not even called to them. When the bleating of little boy voices dies down, I will attempt to introduce them, once again, to the ram pasture. The charger will be turned ON between lamb deliveries.
The ruin? That would be the electro-net. It's fixable, and I wanted an excuse to buy another roll of it anyway. Besides, I would rather pay for a fence repair than August hay.


Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

For those readers who may now have a poor impression of electro-net:

let me say that I swear by the stuff. Today I did everything the retailer Premier 1 Supply says NOT to do in it's very informative instructions:

Don't ever let sheep be around un-energized electro-net, and don't use it to wean lambs.

I knew better. And yet I still insisted on learning the hard way! :)

Becky Utecht said...

I'm glad that no one was hurt in all that chaos. Uncharged electronet is a very dangerous thing.
Congratulations on finding a good home for Unicorn! Jill will give him a very good home. :-)

Michelle said...

I got an email from Premier saying their electronet is on sale, and I was tempted. But right now there is nothing edible to fence, so I'm trying to decide if I would indeed use it next spring and if it's worth the investment....

Congrats on the sales! I would love to find a good home for just one ewe....

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Thanks for the tip on the electronet, Michelle. I will look into that. And yes, I do feel very blessed to have found good homes for those three. This week I will take 2-3 more to the processor, and then my numbers will once again be where I need them.

Becky, I hope you do not mind that I recommended you to Jill since you are so close to her. She said she didn't know any Shetland people. She and Stan were very nice and had a nice farm. Lots of pretty poultry! They asked about tanning hides and I told them the basics and about sending them out to Bucks in Penn? hope that's right. But I also said they might ask you about particulars since you've done that before.

I really wanted to stop and visit with you that day. But in the end, I hadn't let you know I was coming and my schedule didn't allow it anyway. Would have loved to see you and your flock again if it had worked out.

Take care!

Becky Utecht said...

I'm so glad you did mention me Sabrina. Jill and I were co-enablers in our waterfowl addiction many years ago. I didn't realize that she had gotten into Shetlands too until she called me the other night. Woo-hoo, another Minnesota Shetland breeder!

Gail V said...

Ah, I removed my first comment for grammar, and I see how that appears.
I meant to say, "Great tale, Sabrina. These incidents give us great stories to tell in years to come!"

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Hi Gail,

I removed the "author removed" comment for you. And yes, it is fun to have a tale to tell. Just not so fun while it's unfolding. :)

Thanks for the comments folks!

Sabrina Wille Erickson said...

Jenifer selling security systems...if you are a real person, do not post your advertising here again.