Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Matter of Perspective: Sheep vs. Farmer

Red, the ram, got "out" yesterday, although from his point of view he was finally "in". I had just let the girls onto the hay field as a gesture of good will - also, because all the yummy grass was down to the nubs in the barn field.

The hay field runs alongside Red's ten month, off-season quarters. Before I left for town, I noticed Red and Piglet, his son and BFF in exile, leaning on the fence and making rude gestures to attract the girls. Thinking back, it was only a matter of time. If you weigh over 200 pounds and lean long enough on the only gate separating you from your harem, the baling twine used to secure it for the last few years will eventually give way.

This must be why I found the gate wide open last night and a huddle of sheep at the far corner of the field with Red standing sentinel, even after I rang my Pavlovian dinner bell again and again and again. Ultimately, I had to walk out to the pasture in the dark with a flash light (the recent time change has messed with my feeding schedule) to shoo the renegade group to the barn for the night. Red did not win any kind thoughts from me on the hike back.

The following morning, after his surely ribald night, I debated trying to cut Red out of the group. The hassle of chasing him down and separating him seemed more than it was worth. Who wants to stand between a horny ram and hornier ewes and tell them they need to wait a little longer? Besides, Piglet was also free and having the time of his life surrounded once again by his sisters, his mother, all those aunts, and lots of ewe lambs! I had never checked my castration job with him when he was smaller and now I was having my doubts. Balls or not, Piglet seemed ready for anything.

Red's introduction into the flock two weeks early means we should start to have lambs in March. I guess this is okay except that March is a nasty month for rain and damp cold. It is also a nasty month for slipping and sliding through knee-deep mud to scoop up newborns and bring them back to the warmth of the barn. How nice if the mothers actually birthed their babies under the loafing shed on the side of the barn, but then, that would be too easy for the farmer. Once again, it is a matter of perspective. Are you the sheep looking for a safe, quiet place at the edge of the field or are you the farmer who has built a barn for just this purpose?

Red is the king of the mountain for six more weeks. This should give us time to solve the gate issue with something better than baling twine. I am thinking a gate that opens and closes on demand could be highly useful at that point in the fence, since I have tried several times to unsuccessfully squeeze between the panels and climbing over is precarious at best.

Too bad our U-Latch gate latch is not designed for this type of panel gate or it would be easy to secure. I suppose we could always buy a new gate, but from a farmer perspective this seems like a waste of money when the gate works as a fence most of the time. Here, the sheep perspective would likely concur. "Save your money. Use baling twine. After all, the gate works as a fence...most of the time (translated: just give us a fighting chance!)"

Top: Red, with a full neck ruff like a lion, a golden red color to his hair in summer (hence his name), a full chest and long legs. Bottom: Thinking about "it".

Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones. All Rights Reserved.

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