Sunday, March 18, 2007

Setting the record straight.

Dear Sheep,

Most of you have been with me for a while now, and we still don't have what I'd call a good working relationship. I'd like to take this opportunity to explain my expectations for you. Perhaps after this, we'll both enjoy our jobs a bit more here on the ol' homestead.

1. I expect you to (and this is critical) NOT drop dead.

This is a biggy girls. It is distressing to see you acting completely healthy and fine, only to find you on death's door 12 hours later. It is even more upsetting to spend the next several hours making you as comfortable as possible inside the barn, feeding you by hand, providing delicacies like honey-laden yogurt and important meds to sustain you, only to find you dead in the middle of the night when I come out to check on you. Please have the decency to make up your mind much earlier: Either simply drop dead, or buck up & stay healthy enough to not come into the hospital barn. And FYI: it would be ever so handy if you do decide you can't possibly go on, if you would drop near a gate or something, so we're not hiking to the back of the back 40 to fetch you.

2. Getting to know us.

Now, some of you have been with us for several years, and all of you have experienced the 'routine' of the seasons and what goes with them at least once in your lifetime. We are the shepherds, you are the sheep. We feed you EVERYDAY without fail. Same ol' us. We wear the same jackets & winter hats & boots, say the same thing to you, move you in & out the same pastures and gate systems every single bloody day. Please stop acting as if you have no idea who we are, or what we're doing. If you see the chute system in place, cast your mind back a measly 2 weeks to the last time you saw it. Do you remember that NOTHING bit you in the arse, poked you in the neck, chopped off any vital bits, or permantly distanced you from your flock mates??? Well for cripes sake, it's the same thing over and over and for the millionth time, over again. Now please put your self in line and get your pampered little fluffy butt through the chute.

3. Chute System Ettiquite.

Speaking of the chute system, if you do happen to feel a small sting through the 15 inches of wool on your bum, that would be the ever-so-gentle electric cow prod. Now, keep in mind that IF you are feeling this, than (pay attention please)
You. Are. Doing. It. Wrong.
I cannot stress this enough. Please stop backing up, turning around, or trying desperately to LEAP up and out of the chute system. It is not built to kill you, ya ninny. If you happen to be first in line, consider that good as you'll be first out and stop trying to defy the laws of physics by putting you and the 6 sheep behind you, into the exact same spot. You cannot now and never will be able to occupy the same spot. Stop. Trying.
Not sure what to do in the chute? Watch ewe number 876 for example. She walks in at a brisk pace, all the way to the end or at least to the sheep in front of her, has even been known to push the ewe in front to help squeeze in a few more behind her (not sure how she knows to do this, but we love her for it). She stands calmly, and best of all, does not COMPLETELY freak out when we reach over the side and touch her in some manner to administer whatever we're there for this time. I mean for heaven's sake! I'm standing right there next to you every time you go through the chute, and you looked right at me when I leaned over to do whatever it is. This is NOT a signal to try to LEAP out of the chute, it is the signal to perhaps brace yourself and hold still.
One more thing. If you happen to notice short blue containers referred to as 'foot baths', please try not to leap over 9-12 feet of water/med-filled baths. You severly over-estimate your leaping skills. You will not make it, and you will likely fall and bathe in the 2nd or 3rd container. This is stupid distressing and costly in time and meds. Simply walk through and stand until released. No sheep has ever died walking through a foot bath, but there have been threats to those who do not, so heed the warning girls. We eat you for dinner. Literally.

4. Be friendly with the ram, and raise your lambs.

So, you have (basically) 1 job here on the ol' homestead. Have TWINS and raise 'em up good. This begins in the winter months when we introduce you to your new boyfriend. He has one purpose in life sweetie, and your it. Be nice to him, cozy up to him when the mood strikes you, and ya know, let nature take it's course. In a few months, your going to have lambs (note again, the plural reference. one lamb gets you into trouble.) and I'd appreciate it greatly if you'd follow this short list of guidelines:
I understand urges, but please avoid any that include dropping lambs in puddles, manure, or smack up against the fence line (especially the one that bites you on the nose when you try to get to the grass on the other side - it's electric and bad for lambing). Aim for somewhere dry, out of the wind, and hopefully not in the middle of the flock. Get some privacy if you can. I mean, it's a 40 acre pasture, I'm sure you can find a spot by yourself.
And just a note here for those that haven't lambed yet but notice another ewe in labor. Leave her and her new lambs alone! They are not your lambs, nor will you want to keep them when your own pop out. Save us all the trouble, and wait for your own.
Now, once you've had your lambs, please for the sake of the species and your mortal life, clean the buggers off and help them nurse. Don't run from them, this happens to you every year, same schedule. You should all be over the new mom 'what-the-heck-came-out-of-my-butt' syndrome so get a grip.
Lastly, lLet them nurse WHENEVER they want, not just when your bulging udder demands it. Here's a clue: If they don't look good, than YOU don't get to stay alive long look good.

5: Shearing.

Besides lambs, most of you have the ABILITY to produce a decent fleece. Now, we do our part by providing quality feed for you all year long. Please for the love of your life fleece, hold still on the shearing board. We do this every year, you don't shed so stop trying. The guy with the clippers is GOING to remove your fleece. He WILL NOT hurt you if you STAY STILL. Think of this as the dayspa: new hairdo, get a pedicure, no shots. Just relax, and find your freakin' happy place, will ya? It only takes about 4 minutes.

A note to the rams on the farm:

Rams, the only thing I'd add for you would be to behave yourself. Your job is to be a lover, not a fighter. I know you have short attention spans, but listen carefully:
If you put your head down and aim for any part of any human body with any HINT of aggression, You. Are. Stew. I don't care how pretty you are, how great your fleece is or how good looking your lambs are because here's the reality:
Your beautiful, wonderful spinning fleece you think is securing you a 'life' here also doubles as one INCREDIBLE pelt. And, your good looking lambs can easily be repeated next year by using one of your offspring for next year's ram. Now go graze quietly until I need you again next winter.

Ladies, I've enjoyed our little chat. Now, please review this at your leisure and chat amongst yourselves about everything we've discussed. I hope this clears up any misunderstandings we've had in the past, and clears the way for many years of calm and enjoyable flock & pasture management.

All our love,

the shepherds.


Colleen said...

Oh, my, goodness! That is FUNNY! As earthy as it gets, and hilarious...the other people at O'Naturals probably think I'm nuts, sitting here giggling at my laptop!!!!!!

Thanks for perking up a stressful day!!

Anonymous said...

Aye, aye, Captain, Madam,Sir!
The sheep at attention.

Astrid Bear said...

Words to live by! Can I tell my Dear Children "You. Are. Stew!"?

Anonymous said...

Have the sheep formed a committee yet to reply to your letter?

I'm sure we'd all be very interested to know their thoughts on this advice, as well as any advice they might have for you.

They do not have the power to stew you, of course, but you have just given them a very long list of ways to punish you for misbehavior!

Lysa with a Y said...

That. Is. Too. Funny.

Sherry W said...

Nothing about dropping lambs in the middle of winter?

ladymona said...

That's my girl, you tell those sheep. Now if you think they got it...go to it with Nora. I know you can do it.
love, mom

Colleen said...

On the way to the orthodontist I had my DD read this aloud, to amuse herself and her brother. I said to read it an giggle...she asked if the giggling was required. I told her it was inevidable...and we had to have her repeat parts, as she was laughing too hard to understand her!!!!

The Vet and the Shepherd said...

Actually, we prefer the threat of sausage rather than stew over here at Ovinshire. But they rarely listen, knowing it's an empty threat. Much like small children do.
I did notice you did not post in capital letters to pay attention to the weather when lambing or even to pay attention to requested lambing dates...recent issues close to both of our hearts...

knitphomaniac said...

I love your sheep :) you write with a wonderful sense of humor :)

Saida said...

I can't wait to show this to my grandpa-in-law who used to keep sheep. You are just as fun on your blog as in person. I'm the Heather you met on the subway in NYC. Looking forward to ordering my sock pal yarn from you...

Oogie McGuire said...

I love it!

I do farm tours at our place here and ocasionally get questions about how well behaved our huge ram bunch is. We generally have between 20-25 adult rams at any given time and all of our boys have huge horns. My stock answer is that "We eat the bad tempered ones."

Just remember a bad sheep is a freezer sheep.