Saturday, June 26, 2010

Speed Worming

If you have two neighbors, a daughter, and a visiting couple, how long does it take to worm, trim hooves, and give shots to 64 sheep? Sounds like a light bulb joke, but it isn't. The good news is, not that long once the system is established and the sheep get with the plan.

With a pre-vet in the family and a keen focus on reducing worm-load for health and weight gain this year, we have set ourselves a rigorous schedule of worming both ewes and their babies. Catching up 64 ewes and lambs is the easy part. Catching the individuals is harder. But we have a program that is beginning to work like a well-oiled machine.

Karen was a quick study for trimming hooves and she and I take opposite ends of a ewe for the best results. Allen took a little longer to learn how to flip a sheep on its back because, like most guys, he tried the muscle route first. Sheep don't fall for that and with 4 legs can hold on pretty dear to an upright position. It's a balance thing that you need to do. Pull the head back and press down on the flank and plop! The ewe is on her back in no time.

Our friends from Tennessee were given the jobs of filling the syringes with vaccine and wormer and keeping track of the sheep and lamb ear tags. They also had the job of opening the gate for escaping victims. Annie gave the shots. I administered the worming drench by mouth. Greg caught and dropped the ewes for a tag team of large sheep.

The barn was dark and cool for our session, but we soon worked up a sweat that also reeked of sheep pee mixed with lanolin and mud. I think it's the measure of true kinship when your neighbors, and old friends from another life, will stand along side you for a worming and hoof trimming session. Get's you all excited to come and help doesn't it?!

If only it were this quick and easy to get into vet school!

Photo: top, wormer and shots all at the same time; bottom, sheep worming x 2 (except the legs shooting straight up in the air make them look dead!)

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 Scottie Jones

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Monday, June 21, 2010

The Farmer and the Scarecrow

Farmer Jones has an alter-ego that never stoops while it works in the garden. A leg will flap in the breeze and his hat blows off from time to time, but the flesh tones of the face and the bright red lips can make a person stop and stare for a moment just to make sure the figure in the garden really isn't the Farmer himself. The crows, unfortunately, are not fooled and the corn has had to be replanted for the third time this year. I have to wonder if it is possible to harvest corn in November?

We have never had to plant the corn this many times before. Is it the late spring or have the crows determined, if we don't do well with turkeys, how is our husbandry of the corn? I think the scarecrow idea arose from a convergence. I happened to see part of the Wizard of Oz on TV in a story about the munchkins, and I also noticed a scarecrow in my neighbor's garden. Now, why hadn't we thought of that?!

Most farms settle for scarecrows made of old clothes and maybe some straw. Annie took the opportunity to celebrate Father's Day with a gift to Farmer dad. How about a face for the scarecrow? With no balloons around, but a creative mind, she stuffed plastic bags inside each other until she had something resembling a rounded head. Layers of torn newspaper were bound with a flour paste for the head, the lips and the eyes. After a round with the hair dryer, the head was painted. The resulting mask had an uncanny humanness to it, set off by bright pink lips and blue eyes.

As Farmer Greg often works in the garden in summer, it looks as if he has a companion to keep him company. The arms might move in gesture with the wind. The face smiles over the pitifully picked over rows of corn that are weedy and only about 4 inches high. It's a good thing we have left over corn in the freezer from last year, but I will sorely miss the taste of fresh young corn right out of the garden. Our 10 rows are down to 3 and I can't quite tell yet if we are growing feed corn or that for human consumption. Hard to think we had so much corn last year we actually sold it to the co-op!

I sometimes wonder if the joke is on us. A scarecrow seemed like a good idea at the time. Maybe farmers really only use them as garden art and nobody clued us in. Maybe the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz was really just Dorothy's neighbor down the road. The way I see it, Farmer Greg can always say he is working in the garden and no one could contradict him from afar. Is it a man or is it a scarecrow? Only the wind and the birds know.

Photos: top, The Alter-ego Scarecrow; bottom, the Farmer and the Scarecrow trompe l'oeil

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 Scottie Jones

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