Tuesday, August 9, 2011

5:45 AM

I only counted twelve. I stood there, sometime around 5:45AM on the wooly side of the fence, counting over and over. Ten sheep were scattered around me, eating their morning hay. Sal and Atlas were up in the small pen, eating theirs. One animal was missing. and it had to be a lamb since the five original Black Faces were all around me and so were Maude and Joseph. That left one of the new guys. I listened, and then called, and got no response. A sheep was either hurt, dead, or ignoring me.

Little Pidge was at my feet, with her dirty rear end dry, but right near my knee. Knox was close, by his mother and eating more than his share. Atlas was in the Pen. That left Ashe, and the new girl I picked up this weekend. I noticed Ashe moments later, by Knox, like always. When I see those two side by side, I can't help but feel a swell of pride. The first two lambs ever to hit Cold Antler Farm soil and they are healthy as a team of oxen. All seven of my lambs are still alive and well, actually. Three remain here (Knox, Ashe, and little dirty-bum Pidge) and three are at Common Sense Farm. The last one is up at Brett's place near Saranac, and like the lambs at Common Sense, is destined for the freezer. I am proud to feet them all. Between the commune and Brett, over 60 people will take a bite of Cold Antler Farm lamb this year.

I still had to find the new girl. I hopped the gate and grabbed the crook by the front door. It is weather worn and gray now, but it is the same crook that hung on the cabin wall in Vermont. I take it for a lot of reasons, but mostly comfort. I might need to beat back brush, or snag a lamb, or help me hike up and over the hill to the far pasture 2 and a half acres away (about a half-mile hike from the house) but mostly, I enjoy it like good company. A crook is something solid that announces exactly what I am about to do, which is shepherd (the verb), as a Shepherd (the noun). I head over the hill at sunrise, calling for the missing lamb.

Calling, means Baaing. I literally make sheep noises. The current residents all know this means grain or hay, and even at 2AM I can stand in the light of the lamp post, cup my hands over my mouth and BAAAAAHHHHHAaaHHHAAAhhhh into the dark and I will get a stream of replies and soon all the animals I care for will be at my feet. But this new kid, she doesn't know this. Barb has good dogs and dignity, she doesn't need to bribe and yodel. But I try. And soon I am as far into the property as the fence allows and there is no sign of this new ewe lamb. Feeling scared, and concerned, I start walking back. Maybe I miscounted? Maybe she was behind one of the sheds? And as I walk back to the familiar places I hear a low bleat and a rustle of leaves and it is the dark-faced new girl. She must had made camp here in the outpost. Still too new to feel at home curled up between boney Lisette, Flamboyant Joseph, and angry ol' cuss Maude. I call to her, in low sounds and chortles, like a mother ewe and she emerges from the brush like the White Stag. I watch her walk. She isn't limping, or panting, or stressed. I walk away and let her back to her business. She will figure out her people in her own time.

I head back to the farmhouse to shower. My day starts shortly. I have to be at a desk in Vermont by 8 AM. At least when I sit down to it I will know the world I am responsible for is at peace. No one has been eaten, or hurt, or is missing in action. Everyone has food, water, and shelter. I'll go to the office and do the work I am asked, and hope when I return near dusk the place still has a strong heartbeat. But this place does makes it hard to take spreadsheet and coupons too seriously. No one is ripped apart by coyotes if I mess up at the office. At least not yet.


Blogger Debi said...

I'm glad the little girl is safe and sound.

Having a farm seems to be a lot like having kids. You never know what's going to happen, but as long as those that depend on you are safe,fed,and happy, pretty much everything else is just minor details.

August 9, 2011 at 11:22 PM  
Blogger Paula said...

Ah - perspective.

You have that.

August 10, 2011 at 12:53 AM  
Blogger goatldi said...

Nothing worse than one MIA. Even just the prospect of it quickens the heart and brings worry.

August 10, 2011 at 1:40 AM  
Blogger daisy g said...

So glad all is well...

August 10, 2011 at 5:44 AM  
Blogger Dancing shepherdess said...

She may be terrified of Jasper- wasn't that her in the video getting chased?

August 10, 2011 at 8:41 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Jasper trotted and walked around them, not ran them down. What you saw in that video only happens around feeding times when he wants them away from his grain/hay and comes to me. Trust me, the sheep have done FAR worse to each other than Jasper ever dreamed of.

August 10, 2011 at 8:43 AM  
Blogger Dancing shepherdess said...


August 10, 2011 at 8:58 AM  
Blogger PurrfectPetSitting said...

I'm so glad she's ok. I used to live on a sheep farm and I will never forget the morning I woke up and looked out the window to see carnage....literally bodies strewn about the paddock.....lambs standing by their mother's dead body bleating trying to wake her up. The coyotes had come in the middle of the night and killed several sheep and lambs. It was heartbreaking. I had to call my landlord (the sheep's owners) and tell them to come quick. The worst part was knowing it happened right outside our bedroom window, which was open all night and we hadn't heard a thing.

August 10, 2011 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger greendria said...

I occasionally have to remind my 8-year-old not to say "whatever" to someone, not anyone. It is disrespectful. She's EIGHT years old, and she understands what I mean.

August 10, 2011 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

You leave your sheep out at night? Wow. Your neck of the woods must be a lot safer than mine. My flock is locked inside with a dog at night. We have bear, coyotes, and mountain lions around here. Neighbor lost half his goat herd last year to a mountain lion.

August 10, 2011 at 11:24 AM  
Blogger Carol said...

Greendria, agreed!

August 10, 2011 at 7:31 PM  
Blogger goatldi said...

Letting the line on manners go by the way side Kelpie may have something. I always tell folks who buy my stock that they need to think of the adjustment period like summer camp.

I will rarely sell a single goat. If I do it is because the buyers are bullet proof (in my opinion) and have a herd already. But they still need to know that there will be an "summer camp" time frame. Remember going away to camp all by yourself? Scary , for most of us, you bet.

Then toss into the mix a species that you may have never seen before and the fear grows. I remember a county fair where my bestfriend, and seller to me of my first goat, had her girls penned by an alley way that the dairy cattle had to walk through when they unloaded.

This was a mature, seasoned show doe. But when those Holsteins began unloading so did she, right over the pen fence. She had never seen a bovine in her life.

My does on the other hand were used to it as we raised drop calves to drink up extra milk. They never batted an eyelash.

Remember we are dealing with "herd" /"flock" animals and life can get pretty scary, despite our perspective, when you are at camp, by yourself for the first time in your life.

August 10, 2011 at 9:27 PM  

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