Saturday, May 21, 2011

Rescue revival

I'm on a mountain rescue course, a three-day high-angle top-up training, so I won't be posting much on the farm this weekend.

Aimee is looking after the home place.

And she's not at all happy about it.

The sheep are at that difficult point in the year, before they're shorn, but after the green grass is growing. This means they aren't afraid of the electrical fence, and they're very motivated not to stick to the limited rotational paddocks we confine them to to better manage the grass.

Which means they need to be shepherded a lot.

Apparently the sheep got out NINE times yesterday afternoon.

I'm using capitals because that's how Aimee said it: "They got out NINE times." And then she said it again: "NINE times." And again.

So I drove back from my rescue course way across the other side of the state late on the first day. I passed up the chance for free housing and a beer with "the guys" because, well, I like my sheep AND my wife and I don't want to lose either.

I noticed the symptoms immediately:

1) Sheep at the fence line of the Back Forty bellowing "We haven't had enough grass."

(Sheep protest movement: "What do we want?" "GRASS!" BAAAAA "When do we want it?" "NOW." BAAAAA)

2) Strange ad-hoc arrangement of benches on the lawn propping up the Premier electro-net fencing. That gets tangled very easily in use. That Aimee hates, because she has no patience for fence tangles. So rather than fix it, she'd rather prop it up.

3) Filthy white socks in the laundry basket, probably ruined, from likely very angry wifey running out to stop escaping sheep from eating tulips, or from taking off for points west.


This doesn't look good.

So, after taking note of the fact that Aimee would almost certainly quite furious, and resolving therefore to tread very carefully, I put the sheep out on the Island Paddock, taking care to properly and fully electrify the fence.

That stopped the bellowing.

Then I toured the other animals, looking for additional difficulties. All seemed fine.

Small mercies.

Then I took my shower.

Then and only then did I tiptoe upstairs to the bedroom, where my emotionally exhausted wifey was napping away.

But my rummaging for clean socks woke her up:

"Those sheep got out NINE times!"

"NINE times!"

And so the sheep didn't get enough to eat because they kept getting out and had to be locked back up in the main paddock where the grass is thin.

The moral of this story is not that I am the very soul of husbandly patience with wife and sheep. I'm not. I've run out in my socks too, to save the tulips. And when I do, I turn the air blue with language I shouldn't use.

(I'm a former British serviceman, so therefore expert in bad language.)

The moral is, bad timing for rescue course. After the sheep are sheared, the electric fence will work just fine. But the shearing was postponed because of the terrible weather.

Can't shear wet sheep.

Actually, you can, but moldy fleece doesn't sell well.

So I arranged my approach to the rescue course so I could come home to the farm every night, because the sheep don't understand why they haven't had enough grass.

With only a mild sense that I was missing out on some fun.

I realized long ago that, although mountaineering was part of the pathway I took to farm life, it isn't "real" in the sense that farming is.

I think that's why I'm no longer much of a recreational mountaineer. Long ago, it stopped seeming as real as farming or building or even fixing a car. Or teaching, for that matter, which if done well is inherently real. So I spend my time teaching, farming, building or fixing cars. I still enjoy mountain scenery, and I still love to hike mountains, or even just to hike. Scrambling on rock is still fun for me. I truly enjoy my work teaching map reading to the new intake of future game wardens and park rangers we get every fall at Unity College. But I'm not in a big hurry to go to the alps or Norway or even Katahdin the way I used to be.

I'd rather stay home and look after the farm.

I think I still do search and rescue because that seems real to me.

I've been enough of a part of enough searches and rescues now to realize that when someone is lost or hurt in the woods or hills, it's very good that there are trained personnel to go find them and recover them and take them to hospital.

But I'm much more of a sheep farmer and husband than I am a mountaineer.

I'd rather hang out with the sheep and the wife than "the guys."

Although it would be nice if they would get along in my absence.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
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