Thursday, June 28, 2007

The Sequel: Funny Farm Time

Did I mention setting the alarm for 5:00 a.m. before going to bed last night, in order to have the sheep to Meriden by 6:00?

I awoke about 6:20. God, using the electronic brain of my cell phone as a tool, decided that I a) needed more sleep (perfectly true, but NOT what I'd planned) and b) ought to do a few chores before going to Meriden (they could easily have waited). The locked-up face of the cell phone read something like 3:17 a.m.

Well, nothing to be done about that. Early arrival ensures that the sheep will be processed first instead of last (relative to the day's lot of hogs), and reduces my time spent waiting for hides to bring back to the farm. Since I missed being first, I'll have to be last--mid-morning at the earliest. I called the processing plant. Then I did normal morning stuff--breakfast and chores. Checked e-mail.

A friend had previously expressed an interest in purchasing one of these 4 ewes as breeding stock, but I hadn't heard anything by the time I loaded them. There in my morning e-mail was a confirmation of his intent to purchase Bridget. So there was plenty of time to re-sort sheep and re-load the trailer.

Fortuneately, when we wormed sheep a week ago, I was undecided which would be going to the processing plant, so I left several extra culls untreated. Ivomec Sheep Drench has an 11-day slaughter withdrawal period, and I usually double that to be on the safe side even though apparently ivermectin is used for parasites in humans.

So I back up the trailer to the chute again. Run the barn flock into one paddock, run the back flock up to the barn, grab the sopping wet (did I mention it rained just a little bit while I was sleeping?) Candy and throw her into the ramp holding pen. Candy hugs the fence by her flock. I run the back flock back to their pen. This leaves Candy alone in the holding pen. "Ack! I'm alone!" thinks Candy. The nearest sheep are the ones in the trailer, so suddenly she decides to charge up the ramp. I open the door and she enters the trailer--easiest I've ever gotten one up the ramp. Collar Bridget and push her out the trailer gate--she's baffled, but nothing the lush grass of the back yard won't cure.

Pull trailer into driveway. Double check all gate latches. The way yesterday went, I'm hypervigilant...Is there another shoe? Will it fall? Check hitch, check lights...good to go. I get down the street a block and stop on the level pavement to check that the tires look OK this morning (not wanting to remove all 6 valve stem caps AGAIN after last night). Everything looks great. Feels great. Sounds great. Off we go, a leisurely trip with no time pressure. Nice day, not raining but cloudy and cooler than yesterday.

Back the trailer up to the holding pen at the plant. Get out to open tailgate and check position.

Front driver tire is flat. FLAT. Not just low on air. As flat as the truck was dead yesterday.

Unload sheep--wet, confused, stubborn sheep. The humans prevail by being a bit less confused, and a bit more stubborn, than the sheep.The scripture about "as quietly as lambs being led to the slaughter" was written before hogs, rubber slaughterhouse aprons and concrete loading docks were invented. Well, maybe not before hogs were invented, but those biblical sheep lived in a relatively hog-free culture.

While I'm waiting for hides, I'll just pop out and change the flat tire, right? I have the heavy-duty jack, the tire iron, the spare...hm, did I air the spare last night? Noooooo.... OK, first step is break loose the lug nuts while the rim is sitting there on the ground. Next step is try a couple more lug nuts. OK, stand on lug wrench. Stand and JUMP on lug wrench? 130 lbs. wringing wet is not getting the job done

Service of processing plant staff is offered, "when they're at a stopping point." It could be a while, and the staff in question outweighs me mostly by gender and not by pounds. I opt to call in the pros.

Got phone number for local tire dealer. Oh, right--no cell phone reception here. Use plant phone to call dealer. No road service. Call another local automotive place; they'll be right out.

It's drizzling. I wait under the eaves of the building, feeling like I'm wearing a sign saying "Helpless woman." The drizzle stops when the mechanic arrives.

A picture of masculine efficiency, the mechanic pops a 1/2" drive air wrench socket on a good, long cheater bar, applies it to the lug nut, and muscles into it. The socket splits from one end to the other!

I secretly rejoice that God has reassured me that I am NOT a wimp after all. My failure to change the tire by myself was about previous torque being too great, not my inability to apply adequate torque...neither a shortcoming of size nor of gender.

Mechanic goes back to shop for another socket, gets things broken loose, airs up spare, puts it on, everything's good. He agrees that buying tires from a dealer where I live makes sense, in terms of future service if needed, so I'll drive home without a spare.

I'm even more hypervigilant, and stop for another tire check when the ride seems a bit rough.

I DO make it home without anything more happening! But...

The distressed cry of a young lamb comes from the fallow garden area where I'm flash grazing some of the sheep. They've grazed this area several times already this year, without incident, even though a stack of tomato cages is stored there.

But TODAY, there is a lamb in a cage. Not the lowest level, but the next level up, the bottom of the cage at belly level for the little beast, hooves barely touching the ground. To get in there--as far as it could go, head through the perimeter fence at the other end--it had to have lifted each leg painstakingly over each wire of the cage. This kid went to a lot of effort to get where it was....

The only solution I can see is restacking the cages until I can pick up the lamb's cage with the lamb in it. I was half right....

After untangling and restacking about 15 cages one at a time, the lamb decides it can do a U-turn inside the cage and walk out! I note the lamb's ear tag number to ensure that this gene pool dies out. Know why Border Collies are so eager to please? They are so smart we would want to murder them if they didn't care what we thought. Know why sheep are "so stupid"? Because we shepherds tend eat the troublemakers!

Next item of business is trimming and salting the sheep hides. That means dealing with the ones from the last slaughter date, awaiting a shipping box in the basement.

The salted underside of the "dried" hides has drawn enough moisture from the air that they are too wet to pack. I devise a hanging rack for them to finish drying--why didn't I think of this years ago? Finally the new ones are arrayed in salty splendor on the basement floor. Probably a good thing I don't have a housemate right now!

I get a last-minute appointment with the chiropractor to get my ribs put back in place after really torquing them in the attempt on the lug nuts.

The trusted proprietor of the feed store (where I stop for mineral on the way to the chiropractor) argues that sheep mineral and goat mineral are the same, when I can plainly read--even without my reading glasses!--that the goat mineral he's trying to sell me contains added copper, which is toxic to sheep.

I stop by a tire store. New "shoes" for my truck cost more than really good new shoes for me...in fact, a set would cost well more than what I paid for the truck.

After all this, I have an hour to rig an electric fence gate to put the back flock of sheep on fresh pasture, before going to a retirement party for a friend. Figured I'd have that job out of the way about 8 hours ago....

It starts pouring rain. I have set a record for working on electric fences in the pouring rain this year. At least there was no thunder and lightening today. I try always to wear rubber boots in times like this.

My Goretex jacket decides not to be waterproof any more.

Does this sound like a fun adventure to you? Then you might be crazy enough to enjoy being a shepherd. If you still think you want sheep, tell you what. Pay me a salary to keep them for you, you can visit them anytime, and you can keep your sanity. I've already lost mine...but at least I still have my serenity--another one of those small miracles.

By another small miracle, I've been laughing all day. (OK, headshaking does go along with the laughter.) On days like this, "funny farm" makes more sense than ever before.

This is what I get for stepping back and letting God manage the farm. In some ways, it works far better than I could ever do on my own (I really couldn't have come up with a better plan for getting my nephew's car from the mechanic's). But seeing God at work in flat tires and missed alarms is NOT for everyone.

1 comment:

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