Monday, March 1, 2010

Sheep shots and a dog and pony

Busy weekend, with two talks to give, one on community-owned wind power, another on household energy efficiency, then a big stack of grading, and all the bills to pay. There hasn't been time to post on the farm blog.

But we did do some farm work.

This was our last possible weekend to give the sheep their tetanus booster shots before they give birth. The pregnant ewes need this in case of infection during or after birth, but the other sheep need it too. We also trimmed hooves.

The procedure for doing any sheep handling around here is to lure the animals into the wide part of the barn with a bowl of feed, then shut them in. You can then catch them one by one and do whatever you have to do. Our sheep, once they figure out what is going on, bunch up by the gate to their nice safe pen that they can't get in to any more, looking worried. You then have to tackle each one by catching their heads and moving them out into the light. This particular injection is subcutaneous. It's easy to do in one of the sheep's four "armpits," where there's no fleece.

Then, in this case, each sheep got a good trimming and was let go. The hoof trimming was easier than usual because the warm wet weather we've been having has made their hooves softer.

Nellie, our most tame sheep, was very curious and came over to see what was going on each time. Nellie has only ever known us for owners, was born and raised here and is quite happy to be petted and scratched while the others are less interested in us humans except when there's food. Her older aunts and great aunts were far less sanguine about today's operation, and Tootsie in particular fought me, trying to get me with her hooves.

Tootsie always fights. She's the toughest old sheep, a real hard case.

Then there was a silly chicken who kept trying to fly over the half door to the barn to see what was going on and had to be pushed off each time. This, and Nellie's antics, became rather comedic, and Aimee was much amused.

Me, I was trying too hard to get them all done before my back gave out to laugh very much.

This rugby-like activity was a good warm-up for watching the England and the Wales Six Nations games, although both my teams lost. And there was the small matter of a third of a cord of salvaged firewood on Saturday that I brought in. More exercise. Which was all good because the two dog-and-pony shows and all the grading meant I lost out on my usual long walks. But I feel pleasantly exercised this morning, my muscles slightly aching.

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