Sheep Tales

sheep tales

The past two weeks has been exciting. There is the usual sprinting start into spring as soon as the ground can be worked, but the sheep have added their own special brand of excitement. I am not a sheep farmer. Rather, I have six living orchard mowers, which have the side benefit of producing wool, excellent manure, and eventually, lambs for sale.

Two weeks ago we had a visit from the dancing sheep shearer. Born and raised on a sheep farm in Australia where he learned to shear, he came to Canada to study theatre arts and is a professional dancer … with some shearing on the side. How interesting is that?! It was a hot day, the sheep were extremely wooly and struggled a great deal when being shorn. I assured him no ewes had been bred. That is not planned until this fall. As he began to shear the belly of Doris, a full udder appeared as well as a significantly pregnant belly. I was less than thrilled. Clearly, Sidney had managed a manoeuvre through the fence, perhaps in December. Either that, or we were looking at an example of an immaculate conception. I have since stocked up on lambing supplies and have begun the wait for the first signs of impending lambing. I have re-read the notes from my sheep mentorship program, watched some videos and have Storey’s guide by my side at all times. The emergency lambing kit is ready by the door. Fingers crossed for an uneventful event.

I have skirted the fleece and bagged it in pillow cases. I got some advice from my spinning teacher at Knitter’s Frolic on how to wash and prep the fleece so I am excited about that. Unfortunately, Sidney did not have much wool as Tisza had removed significant parts of it a couple of days before the shearing. Sidney is partly to blame as he engages in dog-like play with her. I have to monitor them all the time. Obviously I slipped up there.

On Monday, the sheep had their first little taste of spring grass. I followed all the guidelines for bloat prevention and put them on a small piece of pasture with no legumes. When I brought them in for the evening I was struck by Sideny’s demeanour. He was stiff legged, had a huge belly and was clearly uncomfortable. There were ominous noises in his belly. A couple of the ewe lambs were swollen on the left side and also looking unwell. They had bloat. I mixed the solution of water, baking soda and cooking oil in a large jug and got a syringe. The task was then to attempt to get a cup of the solution down their throats. They do not like it. After getting as much as possible into each affected sheep, I put a stick into the mouth to make them chew and belch. The belches were dramatic and smelly. Sidney required several attempts to get a good dose in and in the process of attempting to open his mouth, I got my finger clamped between his incisors and the hard palate on the roof of his mouth. I think that qualifies as a sheep bite, although he did not actually bite me in the truest sense of the word! It bled and I washed it perfunctorily as I still had Doris to treat. I was worried about them all night and really relieved to see them all alive and well in the morning.

This morning I called Telehealth about my finger as it did not look very good. I was hoping for some solution like pouring Dettol over it, but was advised to go to emerg to get it checked. Another morning gone! It was quite amusing to go through triage complaining of a sheep bite. The doctor admitted it was a career first for him. It is infected. I had a current tetanus from a previous encounter with a very sharp knife and some Daikon radishes. I picked up the scrip for antibiotics. Lesson learned – take the time to clean wounds properly and dress them and keep them clean.

Never a dull moment.

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