Today was my last day at Bonnieview. That means no more yurt, no more putting up fence, no more wrestling sheep, no more swaggering around in Carharrts and Sorrels. It’s bittersweet. I can always visit though and wrestle all the sheep I want in my free time.
What exactly did I do on my last day? I helped round up the rams and brought them down to do their yearly business with the lady sheep. BUT. It wasn’t a smooth process. To tell you the story and do it justice I need to start at the beginning, aka: yesterday morning. I woke up and tromped down a frost field to the farmhouse. I fed the lambs, chickens and pigs and then went inside to feed myself and I was on baby watch until after lunch. Lunch seems so long ago… At the end of lunch I headed outside to help Neil move the milkers from their field (which is the same field the yurt is perching at the top of) into the barn. He had already taken a bucket of grain out and was letting them out of the fence by the time I got my shoes on. I walked to the end of the driveway and watched him run in front of more than 170 large, bellowing, crazed dairy sheep.
Pause for a second. Whenever I go into the lamb barn, or out into the fields with the sheep and they think I might have grain on my body somewhere they get up and run towards me “BAAAaaaaAAAAAhhhhhhing” at me which sounds an awful lot like “BWWAAAIIIINNNSSSSSS!” with the same amount of enthusiasm as zombies searching for their little treats.
So Neil is rather capably jogging in front of this mindless horde and they rumble past me like a woolie train, around the corner and right into the barn. As I watch the last rump disappear around the corner I realize that there’s no one there to close the gate and Neil is probably pinned in the far side of the barn by hot, furry bodies trying to eat that grain. I dropped my mittens and hat when I start sprinting for the barn but it was too late. Just as that last rump disappeared a saw the front of the surge come back around the corner. They ran straight towards me and, at the last second, neatly parted around me like a tide, leaving me with an even layer of sheep poops on the dirt road. They’re constantly dribbling out little sheep pellets. I was already screaming and running after them when Neil came around the corner.
To cut a long and repetitive story short, it took four adults an hour of running, screaming and flailing jackets around to herd them back into the barn. Unfortunately, when the sheep were in the middle of their rampage they went right by the lamb pen and all of the lambs jumped over the fence and got mixed in with the adult ewes. Disaster. Then the llamas from the two groups started to fight and get in the way. Overall it was a sweaty, frustrating hour. It was a really tight fit in the barn because it wasn’t meant to hold all the ewes AND the lambs but it was the only way we could corral them all in one place so we could sort them. Neil waded into the sea of sheep and started tossing the smaller lambs into a pen we made out of field fence. Then we ran the rest of the ewes through the milking parlor. While they had their heads in the stanchions, like they would if we were going to milk them, Neil systematically pulled them off of the platform and into a pen in the middle of the parlor. This made three groups: the ewes that didn’t get pulled of the platform, the ewes that did and then the lambs that were at breeding weight. We had pulled all of the fencing out of the field around the yurt earlier that day (about 30 sections of fencing) and had set them up in three different fields about 1/4 mile apart from each other.
At this point it was dusk (4:30). Neil decided to lead the first group of sheep out to their pen for the night. He grabbed a bucket of grain and started jogging while I let them out. I followed behind them in the jeep so that I could catch stragglers, watch for cars behind us and so that we wouldn’t have to walk the 1/2 mile back to the farm. There were a couple of hectic moments when the entire herd of sheep decided to veer off the road into an empty pasture half way there and I had to leap out of the jeep and run screaming after them at full speed. I managed to circle in front of them and I ripped off my flannel shirt and started whipping around my head while I yelled “EEEEAaaa! SHEEPSHEEP SHEEEEeeeEEEP!” as I careened off a hillside into the middle of the group. The ewes took off for the road and made it all the way out to their pasture.
Neil rode back with me and we got ready to run the next group out to their field. It’s dark at this point but there’s something magical about thudding down the road in hiking boots and turning your head to see a herd of ewes clipping along behind you, tails up with the headlights of a car shining around the edges of their fleece. And then one of them trips you and tries to steal the bucket of grain you’re trying desperately to keep above your head because “The minute one of them gets their head in that bucket, you’re done for.” Too true. We got them and the third group out into their respective pastures safely, just in time to head inside for dinner.
Back to today. Neil and I went up the road to round up “The Boys”. The Boys are four rams: three that have good meat babies and one that has good milk producing babies. That tunis, the brown headed ram is my favorite. His name is… Tuna (good guess… I knew you’d be able to guess that one) and during most of the year his face is nice and smooth like his ram buddies, but during breeding season it slowly scrunches up into all of those wrinkles and then by spring it’s back to how it was before he even thought of lady sheep.
Tuna… you are a cute devil. Crackers is peering out from behind him.
We took the brown sheep (who was named McCain but then his buddy, Obama died and now the name doesn’t seme appropriate any more so I renamed him Fabio today) down first and put him with his lucky ladies. His the good milking genes in the herd right now.
This is Roo. When we took Fabio, formerly known as McCain down he perched on top of the fence and waited, peering around the edge of the barn until we got back with the empty truck. He knows what’s up…
This is the big group of ewes that Neil ran down the road the night before. They were clear across the pasture but when they saw the fellas we had in the truck all of them came racing up. It’s like The Boys are rockstars, the way those ewes were trying to get up into the bed of the truck. We put all three rams in with this group and there’s two more rams coming to take care of the lambs in the other field later.
After all the ramness was taken care of I ran Odin down the road to the group of sheep who got the black ram. He’d escaped last night in all of the chaos and got covered in burs and other wonderfully terrible plant stuff. That was my last job of the day. Fini. Now I had to say good bye to:
Island, the gimpy farm dog who chases anything with a motor and gets a crazed glint in her eye while she does it,
to the farm kittens…
and to Maeda (who are all much bigger than they were last time),and to Tressa, with her Spectoculars she made out of toilet paper rolls. Oh man, it’s been a good month!