Sunday, April 13, 2008

One of those days

I went to use a favorite garden tool, a forged "sharp-shooter" shovel, this morning. It was streaked with a thin layer of dried mud, clearly showing signs of a lick-and-a-promise wipe to comply with the "clean it before you put it away" rule, rather than a mindful cleaning to preserve the tool and present the next user with a pleasant experience.

I started to clean the tool, seething with resent and frustration, then decided to make lemonade out of this sour start to my day by taking photos for a blog entry on tool cleaning. That turned me around to a positive mindset, and the rest of the morning was pleasant and filled with unexpected blessings.

After using the clean sharpshooter to dig out a small tree stump at the edge of the garden, I carefully cleaned it again and hung it on its hook in the garden tool shed.

Later in the afternoon, I went to use the sharp shooter again (like I said, it's one of my favorite tools). IT WAS CAKED WITH DIRT AGAIN.


I was supposed to attend a meeting at 7. For a change, I allowed myself ample time to do chores and change clothes before driving across town to the meeting. But--what's this? #85, The pregnant Suffolk cross ewe with the very saggy udder was eating lying down. Something's wrong with this picture.

I went for the lead rope--I'd been wanting to get her up to the barn anyhow, and this looked like a good chance to catch her, as well as a good reason for moving her to closer supervision.

She was easy to put the lead rope on...not a good sign. It took her a minute to decide to stand up...I waited with the rope braced behind my back, in case she suddenly took off...which she did, in a lumbering sort of way. Despite the clumsiness of advanced pregnancy and huge, pendulous udder (now obviously edemic, the teats sunken in bloated tissue), she probably outweighs me by a good 50-75 lbs., so about all I can hope for is to slow her down and encourage her in the direction I want her to go.

When she pulled up short on the other side of the pen, I realized her udder was dripping blood from a huge gash on one side. Probably sliced it with a hoof when standing up. All in all, the picture with this ewe was adding up to more than I can handle on my own. Of course it's Sunday evening.

Call the vet's answering service. They say he'll call back; if I don't hear from him in 30 minutes, I should call again. He doesn't call. I call them. NOW they realize that he's in surgery for another emergency. Probably I should call a different vet.

Call the backup vet's answering service. They say he'll call back. He does, 15 minutes later. He is in surgery for another emergency and is snappy with me. Do I want a Sunday night farm call? That will be $300. Can I wait until morning? That will only be $150. Inject her antibiotics and banamine (aspirin-ish stuff for animals; by my understanding it requires a prescription, so how exactly would I have this on hand?), and call him in the morning.

Any questions about why lamb meat is so expensive? Wish I had $300 for every time I've spent an hour helping someone out on a Sunday.

While I'm getting sheep moved (I'll go into details on that later), the first vet calls back. He is friendly and takes the time to ask me questions and explain things. Why this is my primary vet. He recommends a larger dose of the antibiotic, banamine, and a special diuretic used for dairy cows with similar problems. (Right, I'll run down to the corner pharmacy).

He suggests taking her temperature...why is it I always forget that detail? Probably because I also always forget to turn off the digital thermometer, and the battery runs down. But I actually do have one that works...I got new batteries for several of them a couple months ago, after realizing that I had at least 5 non-working ones. When I took her temperature later, it was fine, 103.2 which is pretty much normal (103's the with people, there can be some variation. Mine is always about a degree lower than average.)

OK. Moving sheep.

Tied #85 up to a fence post.

With just me, there's no way I can drag her AND open and close the gate without the rest of the flock getting out, so I had to shut them out somewhere. Opened gates on the east lane and ran the rest of her flock out to some pasture. Closed that gate. They're jubilant to be out on the clover in the east side pen.

I need to get her clear down the west cross lane to the west side pen then up to the barn. But she's not going to want to go where she can't see other sheep. So I walk around to the barn, thinking I'll get the barn flock to come back to her and then herd ALL of them back to the barn. Nice try. They are happy in the west side pen. Nevertheless, I manage to drag/push her slowly to them. Then they decide to check out the pen she was in...and she wants to go back there with them.

Hmmmm (not really what I said).

Eventually I get her into the west side pen...go to shut the gate behind us...and the three yearling ewes come rocketing through and notice in less than the blink of an eye that the gate to the northwest side pen is slightly ajar during this moment of closing the interrelated gates. They go frolicking to the far corner, kicking up their heels, "sproinging," and butting each other.

OK, I've been wanting to separate them from the older ewes; I don't think they're bred and they don't need the extra nutrition the lactating ewes are getting right now. Shut them in that pen.

My housemate calls me on the cell phone to let me know she is cooking pancakes for dinner.

Finally get #85 to the barn, into the pen where I've been giving the older & skinnier ewes extra feed each day. Not sure what new routine I'll figure out for them, but their pen is a good holding pen for keeping #85 easily visible, dry, and clean. Her udder isn't bleeding now, but it's still dripping clear liquid. I happen to have one bag of wood shaving bedding, so I spread that in the manury pen to keep her wound clean(er).

Then back to finish rearranging sheep. I don't want to leave them on the lush, rich clover and grass very long at first, and I want to get this done while it's still daylight. The trick is that the ewe lambs have to be on the OTHER side of the pen where the ewe flock will be. So I round up the ewe flock, move them to the northwest paddock, move the ewe lambs through the ewes' pen to the east side pen, move the ewes back to their pen. Every time I move the ewes I have to pick up and carry the two little black ewe lambs that were born this morning. Toss tries to help but she's terrified of that mama ewe--with good reason; the ewe keeps trying to kill Toss to "protect" her lambs.

Once the ewes are settled back in their pen, I turn my attention to the ewe lambs in the east side pen. I want to move them to the back yard pen, where there is a big round bale of brome and a shed. All I have to do is get them through the gate.

All I have to do is get them through the gate.

They are in a pen about 250' long and 50' wide, and they are having the time of their lives. They don't threaten the dog, they just laugh and go skipping and frolicing to another corner.

Eventually I get them through the gate. I check all the gates. The thought of the pancakes is very appealing. I'm almost there....

Up to the house for the antibiotic. Regular vet said 8cc; backup vet said 4cc. I trust the regular one more, but the only syringes I seem to have are 6 cc so I split the difference. I hate giving injections but remember how much the farm call would have cost...?

No banamine, no diuretic. I'll run up to the next town to get them in the morning (gas $$$$$ and time I don't have), but for now I'd like to do something to help her. Once upon a time a couple dozen moves ago, I had several good books on herbal medicine; now I have none. But I seem to recall dandelions are diuretic. I've got some in the future potato patch that could be dug, and they're a natural sheep treat anyhow, so I went and got her some. And I could cut her some willow branches; that's what folks used before aspirin.

Getting the willow is a nice excuse for a twilight walk in the pasture. But--what's this? The green sheep shed out there is lying on its roof! (These are pretty subtantial sheds...old calf sheds 16' long and 6' deep, about 6' tall in the front, all framed in 2 x 4s covered with 1x board siding, and conventional composite shingled roof.) It seems to have rotted off its bottom sill boards and the pipe skids that supported it, and apparently we had some tricky gusts of wind with the storm the other day. In addition to the shed being blown over, another willow tree is down, this time just the top snapped out about 15 feet up and laid over to the north, NOT on the fence this time. A blessing...that the fence was unharmed, and that I had such an easy source of leafy willow twigs for #85.

She wolfs down the dandelions; I give her a few willow twigs and stand the rest in water for another time (or maybe they'll sprout roots?). She nibbles at the willow twigs and leaves a lot of it. Don't know if it will help; it can't hurt, she's not feeling so bad that she can't enjoy the special treats. The placebo effect is worth something...even if just tempting her to eat so she doesn't develop some digestive upset on top of the udder problem, and helping me feel like I've done everything I reasonably could.

I am feeling smug, satisfied with a good day's work. I am about to go eat pancakes for dinner.

There are three ewe lambs in the backyard, pleased as punch that they have escaped.

What the &^%#%(*&(($&^$#%#^.....


DO NOT CUT LARGE HOLES IN PERMANENT FENCES SO THAT CHICKENS CAN REACH THE WATERER. THEY HAVE SKINNY HEADS AND CAN REACH THROUGH JUST FINE. (The @#$ tenants did that while they were renting the place a few years ago. An important point to remember is that NO arrangement of livestock is permanent; you WILL use that fence for a variety of species; you WILL decide to move the water tank.)


Better yet, just quit while you're ahead. If you don't have sheep, just send me $300 (after all, I'm working on Sunday, and I've spent a small fortune doing years of study to develop this wisdom) as a small token of your appreciation for my convincing you to remain sheepless. And you can come visit the bloody things any time you like.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How can you care for what you didn’t have to try for? The setting sun blacked out by the willow tree Where it weeps like a shadow that is now surrounding me So i give up on language, but if you ask me chemistry, I could organize some mixtures to make the world lovely at willow tree