Tuesday, November 25, 2008

sheep feet, bees, bunnies and borders

Right now the farm is a sorry, soggy sight. While some parts of New England are getting hit with storybook snow for their holidays - we're getting rain. A lot of rain. Which makes for slightly different chores around here. Did you know sheep hate wet feet? Well they do, and to preserve their hooves from disease and rot, I line their pen with fresh straw to keep them above the mud. Which takes some finese. I've learned when to time this, and how to get the most out of a bale of straw. Not exactly riveting news, but news just the same, and a lesson in shepherding I can only learn from experience. Not that strawfeet is something larger flockmasters do, they just let the sheep find their own high ground. But space is limited here. So we do what we can with what we have.

Besides the sheep's pedicure procedures, other parts of the farm are adapting to the changing weather. The bees are still active, but only when the world hits 45 degrees or higher. Given that window they come out of the hive for water and pathetic foraging. Honestly, I'm just happy to see they have survived a week of temps in the teens and lower, and I'm debating wrapping the hive in insulation. Something a lot of beekeepers do here but was never done in Idaho. I doubt it's necessity to keeping bees as much as it's necessity for the peace of mind it gives the beekeeper.

I have two nine-week-old Angora bunnies left that really need to go to new homes. So far no one is buying, even at lower prices. I'm hoping they sell as Christmas gifts for spinners because I don't want to invest in two new hutches to get them through winter. Soon they will be too large to share the cage with their mom. If anyone out there wants a great deal on a fiber animal, I'm your girl.

And of course, there is Sarah. Unlike Jazz and Annie, Sarah is a handful. A young pup with a lot of energy and sheep she can't work. Which leaves us poultry to herd instead, which is working out fine. Sort of.

This weekend while wrangling geese, Saro (the female in my pair of Tolouses) took off flying away to safety, and Sarah tore after it away from the farm. She ran well over a 100 yards away from me, below the flying bird. If I wasn't so goddamnc scared of losing her I would've appreciated how beautiful the site was, her loping like a gazelle below outstretched gray feathers, convinced she would herd the airborn charge. Chills ran through me, panic lurched in my throat. She ran away before and it was a disaster. But when I yelled her name she ran back to me, and that is proof positive this relationship is working uphill - no matter how slowly.

I refuse to give up on this little dog. Bad sheep, bruises, and carpet accidents be damned. Our obedience training is paying off. Sarah now can sit, stay, shake, come when called, and lie down. We work on her herding commands when she's out with the birds. And of course, we'll get back into lessons soon. But with the holidays and other things slowing me down we haven't been back to our instuctor's since that first lesson, but we will. We certainly will. Afterall, Sarah's my insurance policy in this farm-dream. If I can come out of this Vermont rental with a working sheepdog and some knowhow about my own sheep I'll be one step closer to my goal. And when you've got so many steps ahead of you, you treat that far walk with the same conviction as anything else around Cold Antler:

You do what you can with what you have.

3 Comments:

Blogger Thistledog said...

A long time ago, a mentor of mine passed that same nugget of wisdom on to me: you do what you can with what you have.

It takes a lot to understand the depth of that statement, in the midst of travail. I'm just now getting it. You, old woman in young woman's head, are so far ahead of where I was, that long ago.

I so enjoy your perspective and your passion, Jenna. Thank you for sharing.

November 27, 2008 at 11:13 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

aw Jenna - I can't see how to comment on your most recent post ...

I'm sad for Sarah and I'm sad for you ... but you did what was right for her and you right now ..and no matter how much we want to live in other times sometimes we have to live in the now.

A month of living with a border collie without a job is a tough month for sure- no wonder you are feeling raw.

You wrote of this being "your fault". Please don't think of it that way - it is what it is, no more, no less - an impossible situation for you both.

Herding people is one thing - running in the house to nail your dad is NOT normal behaviour - nor predicatable (if it was predictable then she certainly has to find a more working home). A single bite is one thing - multiple bites on different people in what sound like different situations is something completely different.

She'll be happier with more work and you'll find life more peaceful ..you both learned a lot - the key will be figuring out what you were supposed to learn from the experience and using it wisely.

hang in there

November 30, 2008 at 10:01 AM  
Blogger Mama Pea said...

Dear Jenna - I know you must have been crying when you made your most recent post. I cried when I read it. I can't say anything more than Andrea did. She said it so eloquently. I hope you can feel healing thoughts and wishes being sent your way.

November 30, 2008 at 11:02 AM  

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