Sunday, August 29, 2010

Thoroughly wet with the rain

"As soon as I was thoroughly wet through on the way home,
I became one with the weather and would not have changed the day.
It is only when one is dry that one is out of sympathy with the rain.
When one is wet through, one minds it no more than the trees do,
Having become a part of the day itself."
Sir Edward Grey

Some times we can put off working in the rain and sometimes, we can’t. Last Sunday, lamb buyers arrived with the rain clouds.

We have eleven fenced pastures. We rotate the animals through the pastures, hoping they eat the grasses down in each pasture in about a week. We return the animals to the same pasture about six weeks after they leave, giving the pasture grasses time to re-grow.

A six week rotation is our goal, but right now we have three groups of sheep rotating – fifty ewes, thirty-five lambs, and four rams. Obviously, four rams eat a lot less than fifty ewes or thirty-five lambs. So the rams usually rotate back and forth between our smallest pasture (the ram pasture) and the woods pasture that has so many trees that not much grass grows there.

The lambs go into each pasture first, to eat all the young, tasty blades of grass. After a week, we move the lambs to a new pasture and let the ewes into the pasture the lambs have just vacated to eat up the cheese plant and amaranth – species that the lambs won’t touch. Usually our rotation scheme works quite well. However, right now, the ewes are in the barn yard, the rams are in the next pasture and the lambs are in the third pasture out.

To sell a lamb, we have to put the lambs into the barn so the buyer can make a selection. First we have to move the ewes into a side pasture, move the rams into a different side pasture, and finally herd the lambs into the barnyard.

The ewes move easily, always hoping to move onto young, tasty grass. At this time of the year, just before breeding, the rams want to move anywhere that puts them closer to the ewes. They pace the fence line, anxious for the day we open the gate and allow them to mingle. The lambs, on the other hand, have not yet learned to herd on their own. They followed their mothers with no problem, but no single lamb has stepped forward as a leader. Last year, we kept Kali, the alpaca, with the lambs. But she didn’t like it when we sold a lamb and carried it off to be butchered. Unhappy alpacas can be quite vicious. Other years, Cedar the goat led the lambs (bringing to life the phrase ‘Judas goat’). But Cedar is old and struggles to keep up with the flock. We couldn’t ask him to lead the lambs to the barnyard on a daily basis. So this year, Dave and I move them without the help of a leader. On a hot day, it can be exhausting, on a cool, rainy morning, it is good exercise

Last Sunday, as we ran back and forth, circling the flock, herding the lambs closer and closer to the gate into the barnyard, it began to rain. The droplets cooled my face, saturated my windbreaker until the nylon fabric clung to my arms, and finally drenched my hair. I tasted salt and mosquito spray when I licked my lips. And yet, I didn’t feel uncomfortable. I was a wet Joanie, instead of a dry Joanie. I didn’t try to stay dry. I didn’t rush from one dry place to another dry place, hoping to avoid damp clothing, shoes, or hair. I had become a part of the rain itself, just as the sheep were..

1 comment:

  1. The only good part about rainy day customers is wet lambs weigh at least 5 lbs. more than dry ones.