Yesterday I took a day to myself and just had fun. What a difference that can make in one’s attitude towards life! I feel much more relaxed today. My new plan is to take one day off a week for pure fun and relaxation, at least for the summer. If I take two days off from work, one to do chores, and one to relax, then I think I will be more effective on work days. Right now I am trying to do too many things at once, and as a result I feel like I am running constantly on a treadmill. Or a giant hamster wheel. Always running, never getting anywhere.
I started the day yesterday with sheep shearing. I had stopped by a neighbouring farm (the one I buy my lamb from) a few days ago and they mentioned that they were shearing their sheep this weekend. I asked if I could help, but they said they had plenty of hands thank you. I insisted that I would love to help, and they said I was welcome to come if I wanted to. So of course I did.
I arrived around 8:30, but the shearer had gone to another farm first that just had a handful of sheep. He arrived around 10:30. An older man, big and burly, he got right to work. The sheep had been put in the barn the night before to ensure that they would be dry, and as such were ready to go as soon as he arrived.
When I have helped shear sheep at the farm where I used to train (a couple of years ago), they had a shoot system that fed the sheep out, one at a time, in a single file. This made getting the sheep to the shearer quite easy. At this farm they have no such set-up. Their flock is small (about 30) and I expect buying all that equipment is not economically worth it. Instead, we caught each ewe, one at a time, and brought her out. I got to be one of the sheep catchers.
Oh, how I enjoyed catching those sheep! I practiced very carefully moving up on them – as if I was shedding – moving in ever so slowly, then suddenly lunging and catching a horn. From there you had to hold on tight and get them under control. My back is making it clear today that I was not as effective as I had hoped in using the right muscles for this. Not surprising considering it’s not something I’ve done before. My whole body hurts today, but other than the ache in my lower back, it’s a good hurt. A muscles well used hurt.
As the hours wore on, the sheep catching became more difficult. The ones that were easy to catch were, of course, the ones that were first to be caught. The wilder ones were left to later, when of course were were all tired. The last couple were really difficult, but that’s where a crook came in handy. Oh my goodness, now I get the use of a crook! How silly of me not to have thought of that before. There’s a reason shepherds carry crooks – they are handy devices with which to catch sheep! This is particularly true of sheep with no horns. I knew this in abstraction, but not in a practical sense. Now I sure do! Most of the ones I caught yesterday had horns – which make excellent handles – but they had a few without. And a few that you simply couldn’t get close enough to to grab. This is where the crook worked like a charm. A quick scoop and hook, and you have yourself a sheep.
Once the ewe was caught, we had to pull her out of the pen and out to the shearer. He taught me how to hold them by the nose and gently twist them down to the ground, then roll them onto their bums. Once in a sitting position, they turn into big lumps of lard. They literally become completely passive. Amazing. And very handy when you’re dealing with a 200+lb ram (I left catching those to the men).
After each ewe was shorn, she was wormed and then put back into the pen with the other ewes and lambs. It was explained to me that in the past they would separate them all out, but that caused a lot of stress to all involved. Keeping the flock together – specifically the ewes with their lambs – made the entire process much less stressful. It was interesting to see the sheep sniff each newly shorn flock-mate as she returned. It was as if they didn’t recognize her and could be sure of who she was only by smell. The lambs seem to have trouble recognizing their own mothers until they got a good sniff of her udder. But I suppose that’s not too unexpected. They do look dramatically different – and much smaller – after being shorn.
Once the flock was done, the hosting family put on a bar-b-q, complete with mutton sausages, watermelon and chocolate zucchini cake. I was very hungry, and everything was delicious.
After eating, I headed home to let the dogs out, shower and change. Then I hopped back into my car and drove to the farm where I train to watch the tail end of a stock-dog trial they are hosting. Unfortunately I arrived as the last run was finishing so I didn’t get to see much. But I did get a chance to socialize with a few people I know, and also to chat with the owners about when I can start training again: Monday evening. Yippee!
As yesterday was my fun day, today will be dedicated to chores. I’m not even going to go to the conservation area. I am going to cook, do laundry, clean and finish unpacking and setting up my stuff. Later I’ll do some agility training with the dogs in the yard. As it’s overcast and rainy, I may even take them to the beach which will likely be fairly abandoned. The water is cold but it’s not too bad. I took Kess with me to the trial yesterday for socialization, then stopped at the beach on the way home for her to have a swim. I waded in as well and it was not too bad. We’ve had an usually hot spring and the water is much warmer than it usually is this time of year. I am definitely not complaining! Well, time to get down to work. Now…where to start?