Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Presidents Day Adventures -- Better late than never

So there I was minding my own business, just cleaning out the Goat/Llama barn (man they put down a lot of doody over the winter), and who should I see? A fellow Large Black Hog enthusiast who goes by the name of Craig. I helped him get a pair of LBHs last fall and have been in touch since then. His wife is an ex-Walla Walla local (my mother-in-law taught her when she was in the 2ND grade) and so it was not a surprise to see them in town for the long weekend. Ahhh...but they were up to more than just visiting.

They were up to sheep. Navajo sheep to be exact. You see they had been looking to acquire some Navajo's (a rare breed like the LBH) and apparently the first arrangement fell through. They found another source in MT and had used the long weekend to pick some up. They were on their way back home to the West side of Washington and wanted to park the sheep on our farm while they rested, visited and then took off Monday (the holiday). I said "sure" when Craig asked about leaving the trailer. The Mrs. commented how nice it was that they (Craig and Co.) were comfortable dropping by. Having neighbors and friends drop by at random is (believe it or not) a really nice side effect of living on the farm. Way more folks just "drop by" now then did when we lived in town. Can't explain it, just happens and we like it. For the record, Craig called ahead...I just never checked my voicemail.

The entire Dalan mob got to see these rare sheep. Several Rams, Ewes and three Lambs. Quite a pile of sheep actually. Apparently the folks in MT who previously owned them spent lots of time getting their herd going, but had (because of ailments) become unable to care for them. Sad happening, but the sheep are on to greener pastures, as it were.

But this is not a tale of the joys of country living...

So we all chatted, kids played, and hog growth was discussed. Craig dropped his trailer and headed back to his in-laws home in town. We went back to the house. Poop scooping would have to wait for another day, it was getting dark and cold. But I figured I should get some pictures of these sheep before dark. After all, they are a critically endangered breed. This is when it all went to...

As I walked down to the trailer with my trusty camera I notice there is a LOT of noise. Baby animals braying. But different than our goats. As I round the corner to the trailer I catch, out of the corner of my eye, two grey/brown lambs running circles around Craig's trailer and crying loudly, their mother crying in return. The door to the trailer was not secured and the little troublemakers must have stumbled out. Of course the door closed most of the way, after the great escape, and (since they're lacking thumbs) the lambs could not reenter. Not great pictures...but not exactly the shots I was planning to take originally :)

So I called the Mrs for a little help. We tried propping the door open and building a ramp into the trailer. When we did that Mom (the Ewe) tried escaping to get to her babies. Can't blame her. So Heather climbed in the trailer to restrain the Ewe. Well those lambs weren't coming anywhere near that trailer with us in it. We needed a new plan. Then I remembered...for small, uncooperative animals I have just the solution. An old nylon Salmon net. If you grew up on the Pacific coast or in Puget Sound, you've seen them. Big, green meshed net with an extendable handle. Worked last year on some less than cooperative pigs. It would work now. I hoped.

So I fetched the net and in relatively short time managed to net one of the lambs. Back to the trailer with that one. That's when the real trouble started. Apparently I did not know two very important things about sheep. #1: They have lousy night vision (I suspect lousy vision in general) and #2 Lambs are alone (can't hear other sheep) they run. A lot. In random directions.

After another hour of chasing a completely directionless lamb, we got the bright idea of hauling the Ewe and the other lamb out so that our remaining escape artist would hear them and return. Well it's a longer story than even this post, but Heather and my eldest daughter managed to drag/carry the uncooperative Ewe out into the field and even though the last lamb and I were some 200 yards away, a crying momma did the trick. Once the lamb found it mom, netting it was no big chore. Back into the trailer with all of them. VICTORY! Check out the tools of the trade and my red superman outfit.
And that's why I don't own sheep. You know what I do when my pigs and goats get out? I pickup a blue feed bucket and lead them back home. I'm really spoiled :)

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