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About a week ago, I made an executive decision: Come this next Sunday, I’m sending almost all of my sheep to the auction.
All that is, except:
- Dizzabel, the tiny lamb who entered my life last January when I discovered her, down the bottom of the field, in the snow, crying, at about 10PM when I did my “last check” on the flock. She couldn’t stand up for weeks, and she apparently had some sort of neurological, muscle control issue with her neck, head, and legs. Her mother had dumped her, recognizing–as sheep mothers’ do–that her baby was flawed and probably wouldn’t survive. Still not sure what was wrong with her, but the vet suggested vitamin B shots, so that–in addition to ‘physical therapy’ (don’t ask)–is what I did for several months. She’s still a bit wifty, and every once in a while she–for no reason at all that I can see–suddenly comes to attention and runs around like a lunatic who’s been stung by a flight of bees, but in most respects she’s bonded with my little flock of misfits and she’s fine.
- Notchou, the lamb who came into the house very early in the Spring of 2020, was raised inside, and became a favorite of Mr. She during his last days. In fact, one of his last real pleasures was when I’d open the door and let her into the house (where she still believes she actually belongs), so that she could race around in his bedroom and nuzzle him. Her name derives from the days when I’d call in Xena and Levi, and–just after they’d raced through the door–I’d thrust out an arm, say, “Notchou” and prevent her from coming inside too. Not sure I’m forgiven for that, even yet.
- Adventure–the oldest of my pet sheep. She had a horrific lambing experience last year (after several successful years of same). Something broke in her, and in me, at about 2 a.m., when it was nine degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Last year was just awful on the lambing front (I later discovered it wasn’t just me), and it took months until she could walk again (more veterinary attention, physical therapy, and fiddling around in the meanwhile.) I always go the extra mile with veterinary care and attention for a sheep who’s alert and interested enough to look like she wants to live; very often, at the first sign of debility, they roll over and insist (not too strong a word) on dying, no matter what strenuous efforts you make. My standard mantra is “I don’t give up till you give up. When you give up, I’m done.” (This may apply to people in my life too. ‘Nuff said.)
- Olly and Tilly, lambs from two years ago.
- Two ram lambs who’re being raised for meat, and whom I’ll give to a friend who’ll butcher them. I trust him to do so humanely and get it over with quickly. He’s offered to give me some of the proceeds. I don’t eat lamb anymore. If you’d dealt with some of the raw and unpleasant situations I have over the past four decades, you wouldn’t either.
- A ewe lamb who’s going to someone else who wants to breed her.
- Perhaps the mothers of the remaining three lambs above. I still see them bonded and wandering around together, and because I’m a soft touch, I might keep the moms.
But, much as I hate it, the rest must go.
My woods down the bottom of the field are filthy with coyotes. I lie in bed and listen to their howls of victory when they’ve scored a turkey or a deer. Or one of my lambs. I go out and press the button on the marine horn (which usually scares them off–too late) or perhaps I fire at them (with, occasionally, success, although again, too late). It brings back memories of lying in bed as a child in Northern Nigeria and the Cameroons and listening to the “laughing hyena” packs in the bush.
But this is worse.
And since I’m not inclined to spend the winter months in my declining years (I’ll be 68 on September 20) chasing my flock, looking for them all, bringing them in at night, locking them up, and worrying about them day after day, night after freezing night, while I lose them, one at a time to horrible, slow, agonizing death at the hands of the coyotes, I’ll get it over with in one fell swoop.
And then I’ll move on.
I have a plan. It starts with a couple of guardian donkeys. I haven’t had much truck with the equine family since that self-same Nigerian childhood, but I figure if I’m about to re-engage, it would be wise to do so when I have an excellent farm/large animal veterinarian (increasingly rara avis themselves) living only about a half-mile from me. So, come October, I expect my first (gelded male) donkey. And, perhaps around the same time, or a bit later, a Jenny to keep him company.
Then, early next Spring, when lambing time comes around, I’ll acquire a dozen or so hair sheep (Dorpers or Katahdin, most likely). Sheep that don’t need to be shorn–another weight off my mind–but which will do just as good a job chomping off the fields, and will look just as picturesque while doing it. All ewes and wethers. I’m done with the annual lambing for a while.
Alongside my own, I have a friend who’s decided to come down with a couple of his sons, put up in the woods and shoot some coyotes. In general, I have difficulty with such thoughts, killing living things being hard for me. But not in this case. Bring it on. And let me know where you’d like me to line up, because I’m not hopeless with a shotgun myself.
And another friend who’s offered to set me up with a couple of “beef” to be raised down here while I take care of them, and then he’ll remove them, do the nasty and package the result, and then provide me with a representative sampling of the product.
I’m totally up for that!
It looks like the farming algorithm at Chez She is about to enter a new dimension.
I’ll keep you posted.