|Shadow, photo taken this summer|
Halfway through my morning chores, I noticed small tracks in the snow that were the same size as, but definitely not belonging to, the cat. They trailed along the fence, past the cows' paddock, past the chicken coop and in several circles near a round bale that sits just outside the rams' shed. Bosley seemed very interested in them which was my other clue that they were unusual. As soon as it registered that they were sheep tracks, I looked up to see Shadow standing just outside his pasture.
The first thought that runs through your head is, "Is he the only one?" Because of course you immediately assume that there is a gaping hole, the size of a tractor, somewhere in the fence. With woven wire split and bent in every direction, all the sheep are simply streaming out into the great wide open, headed in every direction, making any possible round-up attempt a living nightmare.
The second thought is, "Animals can smell fear." No sudden movements. No loud noises. I set down the bucket of water I had been holding and promptly locked Bosley in the chicken coop because it was closer than his kennel. To be clear he was not in with the chickens, but rather in the storage side of the coop, presumably enjoying his time eating feathers and sawdust because that's what dogs like to nibble on when they don't have access to manure.
Back to Shadow...he was alert but calm. I followed suit. I walked slowly towards him, talking sweetly, clicking my tongue like I do when I hand out treats. Luckily the barn cat, Smokey, was headed my way, oblivious of the situation and meowing loudly for her morning rub down. Now the only thing that sheep like better than treats are cats. Cows like cats, too, come to think of it, but I'll tell that story another day. So Shadow started to follow Smokey. Perfect. Cat bait. I squatted down to look less menacing, clicked my tongue and cooed sweetly, "Come on little Shadow...what are you doing out here?"
Shadow trotted right up to me, following Smokey. I casually grabbed one of his horns, still using my Mr. Rogers voice, and
|Shadow's twin brother|
Upon arriving just inside the barn, I look over to see Shadow's twin brother wandering out from behind the tractor. My God! The gaping hole theory was right! I immediately relaxed my grip on Shadow so he'd stop bucking sideways and pretended that we were just having a little winter stroll through the snow. Cuz, you know, we do that a lot. I didn't want his fear to spook his brother. But luckily both boys are young and trusting. Brother (who we haven't named yet because his fate is undecided) also walked over to me without too much problem. Great. Now I had one ram in each hand (this is so much easier when they have handles), and I backed my way into the barn, dragging both towards the indoor pen.
I straddled Shadow with my legs (who had commenced bucking) to free up my hand so I could open the gate latch. The other rams all clustered inside the pen to see what the commotion was about. But finally both twins were back in captivity. I shooed everyone outside and immediately saw a board in the fence that had come loose, allowing a large enough hole for the little guys to climb through, but thank Heavens not the adults. A temporary fix with twine, a Farmer's duct tape, seemed to do the trick, and I went back to finish my chores.
|Abner, Brother, Shadow and Dexter (L to R)|
Assessing the tracks in the snow, I don't think they had been out for very long, and they didn't venture too far from their pasture. Typically animals don't break out in an effort to flee the country. They simply find a hole that wasn't there the day before and curiosity leads them through it. In most cases, the animal will pace the fence line on the outside, wondering how to get back in with their buddies. Even animals appreciate the status quo.
So after chores I returned to the scene of the crime, equipped with a handful of 3" screws, power drill, extension cord and a BFH (big f*ing hammer), to see about repairs. I replaired one board that had come loose and found a second one that could have also served as an escape route. Both are now secured. Just to be sure I walked the pasture, looking for tracks, to see if there were any other weak spots. Low fences sagged by heavy snow are common temptations for sheep, but everything seemed in order.
So after shoveling snow, hauling hay, wrestling rams, pounding nails and running the power drill, I can tell you that my biceps and forearms feel akin to mashed potatoes. Please don't ask me to lift anything above my head. But on a good note, I only have one minor scrape across my knuckles from when Shadow rammed his head (when my hand was still attached to it) into the wooden gate. So the rest of the day will be spent scrubbing the bathroom and washing bed sheets (my arms hurt just thinking about it). But afterall, when you're a Hausfrau, you have to be ready to handle whatever comes your way. And I think I may go back out to count heads in the pasture...