Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Our first roundup

And oh wasn't Hubs piddled off with me after I had visited the Vets to ask for some worming medicine for our flock of sheep, only to have the vet sort of book himself in for a visit. 'Blood test' was mentioned, which equated to 'megga bucks to have to pay out' in the mind of Hubs. 

And then there was the minor difficulty of actually catching the sheep for the blood test, our sheep not being particularly willing to oblige in terms of capture at the moment, although are now generally calmer around us. 

Now I knew we would manage the flock. In my heart I knew. But Hubs was nervous. This was his first time of flock management, and it would be infront of the Vet of all people. 

Anyhow, it has been on his mind all weekend, and yesterday saw him hammering and banging about at the back of the Sheep House. Et voila: His first homemade gate, made entirely by himself. Plus boards on the fence to stop the sheep from hurting themselves on the wire. 

Nervously he reviewed the plan: to herd the sheep into the little run at the back of the Sheep House, then close the gates at each end of the run before they escaped back out into the Paddock. 

Now I am a 'watcher', and I had closely observed the sheep shearer man when he had herded the sheep. Stay calm, don't panic, be firm, move quick. Should be able to manage that. 
Hubs still worried though. Laden down with work from all directions, he is suffering from 'head tiredness'. To have the vet come first thing Monday morning virtually erased all possibility of him recuperating his energies over the weekend. 

5am: an early rise for me this morning. 8.30: Hubs up. Grumbly. Nervous about the imminent arrival of the Vet. Worried about how much it would cost. Worried about catching the sheep.
9.15: Vet arrived. Nice man. French and friendly. Grabbing my walking pole to act as the shepherd's crook which shearer man had, down to the end of the Paddock I went. Hubs stayed at the rear. Vet in the doorway of Sheep House. And in the manner of a true Shepherdess I strode over the grass, with my arms open wide and the walking pole acting like an extension to one of my arms. "Oopps. What's she up to" flickered across the faces of the sheep, who up to then had assumed that they would be crossed over the lane to go spend the day in Station Field as usual. 

Then en masse they charged leftwards. I responded with a quick lurch leftwards to counteract their move. They stopped. Turned. Dashed the other way. Then followed the fence line towards their house. I followed as fast as I could. They were, by now, at full gallop. 
Into the safety of their house they were heading. But no. Couldn't  get in because of the Vet. Had to carry on. Problem: Head Shepherd in the way. 'Oh gotta go round here' was the collective thought as they swung in an arc. Straight into the run at the back of the Sheep House. Easy! Hubs and Vet shut one gate, I was at the other, putting my weight against it to stop the flock from pushing it open. And bless those sheep, but they were all facing my way, and listened as I chatted away to them. Plus the front ones let me stroke their heads, even Mr Sheep who up to now has been untouchable. He could, if he had a mind to, have used his considerable weight to get past me. But he didn't. He stood and let me fondle his head. Bless. 

Hubs and the Vet worked from the rear of the flock, turning round the last one in the queue for the two jabs and blood test. Then through the gate and off out into the Paddock when that one was done. All was done with good humour. No bad temper from any of us, just a bit of a panic from the last ewe. No cussing, no shouting, no roughness. Just teamwork. It was a grand experience. 

And we are pregnant. Not me! One of our girls is. Thought she might be, but not sure. But she is. And here she is, the one right in front, and Mr Sheep is the one next but one beside her. Looking calm aren't they! And this is only ten minutes after their Vet experience.

Things I have learnt: That sheep who are frightened have white rings in their eyes. Thought that is how sheep's eyes normally look, our flock having those rings up until a while ago. But now they look at us with warm brown eyes. Even in the run at the back of the Sheep House their eyes were still brown. No white rings. And it came to Hubs and me that the sheep trust us and that there is a bond starting to come between us, which is priceless.
Hubs has learnt that he can make a gate, that he can confidently handle the sheep, that he can be a Shepherd. I knew he could be. And I have learnt that sheep will be calm if I am calm, that how they behave towards me reflects my attitude towards them. That animals respond to teamwork. 

And at after all that, they happily went back to queueing up at the gate to cross over into Station Field, only to be brought back over an hour or so later when the heavens opened up. 

And the Vet didn't charge much.


Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Well done, sounds like a good day's work to me.

DUTA said...

Lovely post! It could make a good scene in a movie ; the sheep, the team work of you, vet& husband, the blood test. Like in a war, there's strategy, tactics, logistics, two sides: the sheep, and the three humans. Beautiful!

Vera said...

Hello Diane.....it was indeed a 'good day's work', and took us one more step towards being confident smallholders.

Guta, thankyou for your kind words. As ever, you are able to write the most appropriate and inspirational comments, and I thankyou for doing that.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

Hi Vera, re your query, I don't know how my pictures come out the way they do. I am not a photographer and I don't understand speed and apertures etc. As I have said before I have a cheap samsung digital L201 which was so cheap that my husband and I bought one each. I mostly use it on auto simply because I don't know what I am doing!!! Diane

Vera said...

Diane, I also have a Samsung and use it also on Auto, but I still don't get those gorgeous close-ups. As I said, I think I will go back to the instructions!

Ken Devine said...

You were brilliant Vera! Such a good experience. You sound like veterans now. Very entertaining post.

Anonymous said...

Hello Vera,
You seem to work so hard each day! I'm no shepherdess mind, but why can't you just leave the sheep in the far field all the time? Why do you need to bring them into shelter each night? Maybe there are predators in your area?
You are doing sterling work. All best wishes.

Vera said...

Ken:) Glad you enjoyed the post, and hope you are managing to stay patient with your learning of French.

Ondine:) Hi. Nice to have you visit with me. Why bring the sheep in at night? Because we have had the flock for only a few weeks, and they need to get to know us so that when we need to shear them, or give them wormers, etc., they won't be so worried by the experience. By establishing a routine, they and us will be more confident with each other. It also makes life more interesting for them. And us. Makes them feel like family. Leaving them out in the field would make them feel detached from us, and smallholding is about being a family with your animals, and not detached as in running a farm with hundreds of animals. Smallholding is about being 'hands on' with the lifestock, giving them a good life, because the reason for them being with you is that they are part of the food chain of the family. Good question, Ondine, and actually gave me food for thought!

French Fancy said...

Oh I am so proud of you - I hope hubs was suitably impressed with your calmness and presence of mind. Men do worry, don't they.

I think your sheep know that they are well off and loved far more than the local farmers love their flocks.

Hope you do get time for you though - silly 'me' time


Anonymous said...

Hello Vera, Thank you for that interesting and comprehensive reply. I ask because I worked in Wales for many years,and there the sheep are left out on the hillsides for months on end. I can see now why your small holding way is different.
I like your idea of wild flowers all around your land,(and your photos of them are lovely) is that difficult to achieve? ~ the flowers, not the photos!!
All the best,

Land of shimp said...

Oh my goodness, fun with woolly things! Your post put me in mind of the James Herriot books I read, and all of his wonderful stories about sheep, and lambing.

I like reading your stories, Vera. I get to travel across time and space with you. First to France and your place, then back through time to the days of James Herriot's memoirs.

What a nice trip for the morning, and thank you for it. You did so very well both with the sheep and telling the story!

Vera said...

Julie:) Thanks for the reminder to have more 'me' time. I did spend half an hour sorting out my feet last night, so methinks that counts towards some personal pampering. Otherwise, am looking forward to having a shower, - eventually. When the bathroom is built, and the plumbing put in, and the electrics connected...and so on and so on! Might be a while, so doing my feet every so often will have to suffice! But I do walk the dogs each day for at least half an hour, and that does give me head-space.

Ondine:) Hi again. We want to encourage as many flowers as we can to keep our bees (when we get them) here and not foraging onto farmland which might be sprayed by chemicals. For our animals, we must bond with them because ultimately we will be terminating their lives as in the manner of smallholders, and one of the best gifts we can give them prior to that, is a good life, a peaceful life, a calm life, and a loved life. As for the flowers: now the farmer who was renting our fields does so no longer, wild flowers are growing in profusion everywhere. Bless you for taking the time to visit with me again.

LofS:) Thankyou so much for your encouragement! And we remind you of James Heriot - Wow! Glad I took you out of yourself, and hope your day went well thereafter.