Irene has passed over. This morning is dark and dreary but the rain has stopped and the wind has died. All the main highways through the mountain notches and valleys were closed yesterday due to flooding. The power was out for several hours. By evening electricity had been restored but it may take a day or two for the rivers to retreat back to their banks.
At chores yesterday morning it was raining as I emptied the manure spreader, mucked stalls, and brought the animals in for breakfast. Though the temperature was in the 50s, Lucy’s horse Birch was shivering. He is an old man of 27 and delicate. All the cattle seemed happy to lie down and chew cud in dry stalls out of the weather.
My dear barn cat Freddie always accompanies me on the long walk out to the pig pen after milking. He walked out loyally yesterday as usual, despite the rain, meowing his complaints all the way. I adore Freddie.
“Can’t you dump that milk already?”
I carried him back to the barn under my damp coveralls. I could feel his purr rumbling against my ribs. What a very satisfactory cat.
His sister Flossie and the chickens all huddled in the barn. Only the geese were pleased. “Water everywhere!”
At Betty’s I tried to move the sheep down the slope into the emergency sheepfold I had built this spring. I knew with the high winds their shade shelters would become airborne and take out the electric fences.
Unfortunately after a summer of no grain, my lambs are not trained to follow a shaken can. Moreover the rain was now coming down so hard that the pellets in the can immediately turned to mush, no longer rattling enticingly. All the sheep raced down the hill after me but only seventeen ran into the sheep fold. That left six still milling around out of reach.
I don’t own foul weather gear (it’s on the list) so I was soaked, dripping and squelching in the high grass as I tried to lure those last six. Nothing worked. The wind was picking up and my sheep were loose in the field.
In the end I took one section of electric fence and made a ring around a spruce tree. The grass was low there, eaten off two weeks ago, so the fence would not be shorted. The spruce would give a tiny bit of shelter and a visual anchor for the anxious sheep. It was all I could think of.
Luckily it worked perfectly. I let the seventeen out of the sheep fold, the six lambs re-joined the flock, and we all swept back up the hill to the small new enclosure.
The sheep were not happy. The tree gave little shelter from the rain and the grass was short. However I had few options. I told myself they would not suffer from cold while wearing three-inch-thick wool coats. At least I knew they were safe. I will move them to fresh grass first thing today.
This experience has taught me that my sheep fold is a great idea that needs tweaking. In the next two weeks I will take the current one down and rebuild it at the bottom of the hill around a giant spruce with long, thick branches that sweep almost to the ground. Any weather bad enough to need the sheep moved out of their usual fencing is weather from which they will want protection.
It would be perfect if I could afford to build a run-in shed, but I can’t, and in the meantime a thick spruce will be better than nothing.