Sunday, 2 May 2010

Trainee Shepherding

Water was trickling down my arm. "Come on, hold it up higher" Hubs yelled. 
"Oh stuff-it" I thought, "this is just too much effort for a Saturday morning." 

A sneeze woke up in me, and took hold. It was a big sneeze. A sneeze which needed both hands to stifle the volume of spray which always seems to accompany a Vera-type sneeze. Hubs says that its like having a shower, having often been caught in the outflow several times. This time, however, I was the one who became soaked, not by reversed sneeze-spray, but by a torrent of water of water pouring down beside me. 
"I said you should have held on tighter" was all Hubs volunteered by way of sympathy, just as a small head appeared, curious to know what all the fuss was about. 

Well, 'what all the fuss was about' was trying to make the Sheep House watertight for our flock of girls, boy and  little ones, the roof not being completed because we are waiting for Mr T to collect some wood from the local woodmill. So tarps are being used over one section of the Sheep House to give the flock some dry space during this wet spell. 

Only the tarps have been recycled from the house, and are now well past their best. In other words, they are useless and act like water reservoirs, one of which had just emptied itself down my back.

So it came into our minds to get another tarp from out of the pile of tarps waiting to be bonfired, and put that over the other part of the Sheep House, to give them increased space. 

We opened the temporary gate to get the tarp in. Intent on our project, our focus was getting the tarp up onto the roof beams of the Sheep House. The flock watched with interest. Particularly one of the flock members whose role seems to be in charge of the nursery. She is the most curious of sheep, and I think, could be the herd leader in terms of boldness. 

Because boldly she espied an opportunity to fill her tum with some lusher grass, the best of the Paddock grass now having been eaten all up. Boldly did she step towards the half open temporary gate. Boldly did she ignore my yells of warning to Hubs. Boldly did she step through that gate, into the land of Gus and Bools who are not allowed in the sheep-land of the paddock. But now the escapee was in their territory. Wow! You could see the delight on Gus's face, while Bools looked on with his customary aloofness. 

With speed did the Coe members in the Paddock leap for the half open gate to stop the rest of the flock from following. Managed to do so by a squeak of a whisker. Escapee was now trotting off with Gus bouncing around her. 

Hubs squeezed through the gate, "Keep the rest of them back" he yelled, which I was doing anyway, but it helped for him to have a yell because it was all rather tense. 

I squeezed out behind him. "Stay there" Hubs yelled, as he took a long arc round the escapee to head her back towards the gate. Gus was still bouncing at her heels. Bools was in the middle. 

Hubs yelled hard-voiced at Gus to get him away. It worked. For a moment. The escapee stopped. Turned. Headed back. Gate half opened. Her babies trotting along beside her the other side of the fence. The rest of the flock still looking quite keen to come out rather than stay inside the Paddock. So couldn't open the Paddock gate any further. 

Escapee stopped. "Aha, this grass looks good" was painted over her face. Down went her head. Gus launched himself at her. Not aggressively, but just to see if something would happen. It did. Up came her head, and she came towards me. Then changed her mind, turned, and with a goodly gallop headed out onto the lane. 

Down the lane she trotted. Hubs frantically behind her, trying to catch up. Yelling at Gus meanwhile. Who was also trotting along with Hubs and the escapee, thinking it was all great fun. Bools, meanwhile, stayed with me. 

"Get the rope and some gloves" Hubs yelled at me, as she turned down the side of the Paddock and wriggled herself into the hedge of brambles, shrubs and trees. Closing the gate, I did as was commanded. 

Back I raced, to find Hubs hauling the struggling escapee along the lane. I put the rope round her neck. Boy oh boy but she was strong. 

And we hauled, and dragged that escapee back to the Paddock somehow. Gus and Bools getting in the way, but finally abandoning the 'let's play with the sheep' game as they realised by our tone of voices that we were getting cross with them. So Gus went and sat under the car which is his favourite cave for when things aren't going to well for him, and Bools slunk off but not very far. 

To the gate we managed to get. Half opened the gate with one hand. Unroped her. Pushed her rump through, and the escapee became no longer an escapee. 

Crikey, but that was a worrisome experience. First of all, we have realised that these sheep are not used to being handled. Secondly, that if they are going to make a bid for freedom then it is jolly difficult to get them back again. Thirdly, we have to get all fifteen of them across the lane today or tomorrow, so they can eat the grass in the side field, (Station Field). 

Which is why I woke up in the middle of the night with butterflies of tension in my stomach, which spread all over me for the rest of the night. Crikey, being trainee shepherds is a huge learning curve. 

And so, I have decided that I need to make friends with the flock members, so managed to get one of them to eat out of my hand this morning. Actually it was the escapee from yesterday. Pandy, from Pandora, is now her name. I think the only way to manage a flock is for them to see us as their mum and dad so they can keep with us with things are looking dire. Like when they find themselves out of the Paddock. Or heading down the lane. My theory is that they will come to us, like Bools and Gus do. 

Or maybe they won't. Got to close now, as Hubs /Head Trainee Shepherder, is out in Station Field putting out the electric fencing which we know is not going to work, but at least we will try to contain them in a smaller section of what is a huge field. 

Signing off, from Under Trainee Shepherdess: au revoir pour ce momente.

9pm. The evening: We did it! Hubs did a big surge and erected two temporary fences to be  placed across the lane from Paddock gate to Station Field gate. They comprise waist height wire, with several wooden batons attached along the lengths to stop the wire from buckling over when it is stretched from gate to gate. 

Did a temporary stretch across. Seemed to work. Looked like rain, so moi said to Hubs that perhaps it would be a good idea to leave the sheep in the Sheep House and Paddock, but Hubs was on a roller, and once he is going he is going to keep going. 
"No", he said, "We can't keep putting it off. Let's get them across". 
Since I am an underling, I was not able to voice my opinion. But hooray! Just as we were unrolling the wire fences up drove a car and it was Cherry, our friend. Just in time to be our Under Under Trainee Shepherdess. 

Anyway, she grabbed one end of the road fence, I grabbed the other, into the Paddock went Head Trainee Shepherd Hubs rattling a saucepan full of maize which captured the attention en masse of the flock. Up to the lane gate Hubs strode, followed by his flock. Aw! 

And across the lane they all went in a squelch of welly boots and thundering feet. Into the Station Field all went. Car heard in the distance. Moi and Cherry quickly rolled up the lane fencing. Hubs quickly shut the Station Field gate. We all looked at the sheep who had disappeared into the grass, it having rained of late so the grass is higher than the sheep. 

And they darted here and there, obviously delighted with the new grazing. 

And they didn't do unto the death the electric fence, and none of the sheep was done unto death by the fence. 

So we had lunch. Off for a nap. Was woken by thunderous rain on the caravan roof.
"Put your wet gear on" said Hubs, "We've got to get the sheep back into their house."

Crikey! What a palaver. They had only been in the field for a couple of hours. Aw! They were all piled up by the gate waiting to go home. Bless. 

So the road fences were unrolled, and the sheep were trundled back across the lane. That's twice today we have managed the trip. Phew! And they all went into their house, to get out of the rain, while we continued to get soaked rolling the fences back up and doing sundry other tasks to do with shepherding and smallholding. 


Roz said...

That did make me laugh - would you like to borrow Tess (not that she would be much good but a border collie might make you look like professionals!!) Get them used to a few nuts, and then those nuts rattling in a bucket - makes most animals do what you want! bon chance!!xx

Vera said...

Am doing the bucket thing with maize. Seems to work a treat! Thanks for the offer of Tess, but I think that Bools and Gus would regard her as a treat for themselves and chase her off over the fields to have fun time! Glad you enjoyed the post.

Ken Devine said...

Hi Vera
Learning new skills, having fun and creating fond memories I see. Life seems to be hard at times but happy. It's nice to see the progress and realisation of a dream.

French Fancy said...

Oh I could picture this all so clearly from this riotous post. You poor thing, soaked, sleepless, nervy, training very hard for sheeping - and loo, you did it. You should be very proud of yourselves and of Bools as well for staying by your side. Good timing for Cherry too.

I do admire you and know that a few months down the line you will look back at all this and reminisce and laugh.

Vera said...

Ken:) It is indeed nice to look back and see how far we have come in the two years we have been here, as I am sure you do when you look at your blog on how you found your house is France.

FF:) I think to survive in life one has to have the ability to look back and laugh at the ups and downs that one goes through in this journey called life, and sharing these times with fellow bloggers is an added bonus. And reading about their own 'ups and downs' is a further added bonus.
Cherry was an absolute blessing turning up when she did, and indeed God bless Bools for sticking by me to see if I needed help!

Land of shimp said...

Oh my! I don't think I realized the shepherding was quite such a harrowing business. I thought it was a lot of "Baa baa" here and "follow along like sheep" there.

In a complete aside, and not to make myself look a complete moron (although this will), I've only just now realized that "Hubs" is short for husband, and not your husband's actual name, or nickname.

I feel certain the average sheep could outwit me on most days of the week.

DUTA said...

Your husband is wearing a lot of hats: Head Gardener, Head Beekeeper, Head Trainee Shepherd, Family Protector, Protector of the Coe's Household annoyance., etc..

I like that, and one thing is for sure - you love and admire your hubby. Without mutual love and respect for one another you couldn't have started this whole project.

Vera said...

You are right, Duta, I have much respect and admiration for the way in which Lester is blossoming here. It is a wonderful thing when one's partner continues to surprise one, especially after ten years of marriage. But then, I suspect I continue to surprise him as well. He is indeed wearing a 'lot of hats' and I am trotting along at his side sharing them!

Vera said...

Hi L of S:) Shepherding is not too difficult, it is just that it is new to us, and as with all things new it is a steep learning curve. But I don't find it harrowing. Just testing! And on occasions, worrying! And then there are those moments when it feels an absolutely pleasurable experience, which makes it all worth the effort.

And average sheep could also outwit me as well!