Yesterday I put the sheep in the barn paddock with the cattle — I have to start the big job of mucking out the deep bedding in the sheep stall. The sheep immediately went through the fence and got out.
Six of my current fourteen sheep are lambs. In a normal year they would have been sold or butchered. However the slaughterhouse (two hours away) will now only take five lambs at a time, and only in August. I took five but did not panic over the remaining seven because in recent years I’ve sold all my lambs as breeding stock. This year, however, I’ve sold only one. All of the rest of the dozen inquiries have been from tire-kickers wasting my time. One sent dozens of emails requiring answers and photos of the sheep, excitedly promised to buy — and then vanished. Two different buyers came to the farm and walked around with me for ninety minutes each, told me how beautiful my sheep were, and then decided, “Not this year.” Of course I do not want my lambs to go to anything but great homes. I never bother to answer the emails that ask, “Do sheep require fencing?” or “Do sheep need shelter in the winter?” However, the result is that I have fourteen sheep, which is six too many, among them two rams, which is two too many.
These lambs have never been in the barn paddock or around cattle so yesterday morning they were milling around, crying with anxiety. I knew the fence had a low charge due to snow and weeds, so I was not surprised ten minutes later when, led by the nervous lambs, the flock stampeded through it.
Similarly, after gathering the sheep back into the barn and tossing them some hay, I was not surprised to discover that all my snow-covered lawn mowers were frozen and dead. However when I went to jump-start them with the truck, I was taken aback to find the truck was dead. I jumped the truck with our car, and then began making the rounds through the snow to each of the mowers out in the fields. (Last month when I accidentally left the running lights on and the car was dead, Nick asked solicitously, “Do you need help to jump it?” I thanked him but explained that with the parlous state of the equipment on my farm, I use jumper cables dozens of times every year.)
Two of the four mowers wouldn’t start, even with jumping. Both had frozen chokes, and one — named by Kyle “the I-Haul” because it has no blade deck and is permanently attached to a cart — has a bad starter. Normally I can hit the starter with a rock (yes, I know, but this is the story of my farm) and it roars to life. Yesterday the I-Haul sat in sullen silence. I was tempted to write it off as scrap metal; it’s not worth putting a new starter in it. Still, it’s a handy thing to have and I will wait until Wednesday when the temperatures are due to go above freezing and try again.
Because Nick has filled the bunkhouse with building supplies, I have nowhere obvious to put my mowers for the winter. I have been trying to clean out the storage unit to make room. This storage unit is a sad tale for another day, but yesterday I was loading the truck to go to the dump.
Meanwhile I discovered that my big John Deere tractor has a flat tire and is sitting on its rim. The weather-checked rubber has rotted through. Though I have a spare, I don’t know how I can get it changed. Mike called: my horse trailer, which had a flat tire (which I discovered when I went to pick up apple trees three weeks ago), has been fixed and is itself waiting to be picked up, washed, and stored for winter. Then at 11 AM Rick the hay man showed up with an unexpected delivery. Though I was grateful, it meant stopping work to stack bales.
It’s hard not to check my watch compulsively throughout the day. I haven’t gathered all my temporary net fences from under the snow, or cut the tarps off my shelters, or even started the hard-wire paddock.
I know the answer is just to keep plugging away. The best way out is always through.
So today after barn chores I am going to weedwhack the weeds and then work on the fence so I can let the sheep out so I can start mucking the sheep stall. I will also move things from the garage … so I can move things from the storage unit … so I can put the mowers away… if I can start them.