First up, we have a confession to make: we’re not really disliking this enforced isolation.
In having stated that, we in no way judge those that are struggling at the moment. Isolation takes many different forms and we are lucky enough to be a family (who are really missing their sixth member, Princess Nikita, holed up in the Kingdom of Melton (West) with the royal family – love to you all) who like hanging out together, have an abode large enough to allow you to retire to fume/sob/plot when the need arises, already have a daily schedule in place built around Farm Girl’s home schooling, and be situated on a piece of land that always has something needing attention.
This week it was the sheep’s turn in the spotlight. Shearing is an essential service (animal welfare) making our booking for crutching and foot trimming set up before everything shut down still “good to go” and thus attendance at the night before planning meeting compulsory; Autumnal Sheep Make-Over is a multi-layered mission.
Firstly, Neville the ram and this year’s lambs need to be swapped over, Nev heading off to woo the ewes while Qyneesha, Tina, and the freezer boy become guests of the goats. Last year, this part was a piece of cake, mainly because we didn’t have Nev who is simply a social butterfly. While he ticked off step one by shooting out the gate to the ladies like a man on a mission, when we headed onto step two, getting the lambs through the gate to the paddock from whence he’d come, he decided he really should bid the goats a more soulful goodbye and shot back through the middle of our let-just-keep-everything-calm-as-we-inch-them-forwards corralled lambkins like Timon and Pumba bowling for buzzards. Bedlam ensued. Lambs shot a good half a metre into the air as a group, then did the whole fake to the left, fake to the right, run down the middle thing straight at their mums who, decided this shenanigans was not worth the piffling amount of sheep nuts rattling around in the bucket, hightailed it back to their paddock, babies at their heels, hotly pursued by Nev, Marilyn, Leia, and the goat kids while we humans were left, arms still outstretched, blinking at each other. Seriously, it was a moment worthy a Sir Quentin Blake illustration.
Time for a rethink.
The goats met us as we entered the sheep paddock and very politely did as we bid, returning to their paddock without a backwards glance. Farm Girl, who has the youngest legs, was charged with following them to secure their gate; as sheep musterers they have a long way to go. The rest of us quickly discovered that step three was going to be very easy as our entire flock, including Nev, was now cowering in the sheep pen. Secure the ewes and Nev in the sheep pen awaiting the shearers arrival: tick.
Separating off the lambs just took a little well-timed gate operating by Farm Girl and a bit of sheep redirection by the rest of us. The lambs, now meek as, well – lambs, followed the rattling bucket of sheep nuts down to the back paddock and, while they were not technically in with the goats they weren’t in the sheep paddock, and so we allowed ourselves to tick off step two.
Smiling at a job well done, we headed in different directions: The Goat Herd back to her office in the living room only slightly annoyed that it had taken her entire lunch-hour, Farm Girl to her science text book, and The Farmer and Milk Maid off to Darfield to pick up the pre-ordered animal feed in their allotted ten minute collection window. On our return we happily noted Shaun the Shearer had arrived…but things didn’t look quite right…
Why was Shaun driving his ute around the sheep paddock…and why was the pen open…and why…?
“The sheep escaped,” The Goat Herd shouted from her office window.
There’s something decidedly awkward in chasing errant livestock with someone you don’t know particularly well. Add to that the whole social distancing pandemic thing and it steps into the realm of surreal; like some oddly choreographed dance scene where one dancer has half the stage to themselves. While the majority of the flock happily followed another handful of sheep nuts in the rattly bucket back into the pen, Ivy and Froda were having none of it. Shaun and his ute finally cornered the latter in the barn, but not before Froda had dragged him several metres along the ground on his stomach. The Farmer then managed to guide/drag Ivy from her hiding place behind the chicken coop. Hearty waves from a distance and ten minutes later Shaun’s ute exited the Homestead.
All that remained was to get the lambs in with the goats. We waited until The Goat Herd had finished work for the day before venturing down to the back paddock, our biggest, to properly tick off step two.
We did a lot of running. Those three lambs are wily customers and they particularly enjoyed luring us into a false sense of achievement, one of us triumphantly creeping forward to open the gate, before they peeled off and doubled back, kicking their heels up as they did so. We were still out there when The Bean Counter arrived home from his essential work in the city. Long story short, the lambs finally ran out of steam and The Farmer, not willing to risk the whole gate opening manoeuvre again, boosted them over the fence and into the paddock where they are quickly being made aware of Marilyn’s house rules.
Our walk back to the house should have been undertaken to the strains of “When Johnny Comes Marching Home”.
So, time is not really hanging heavy on our hands here on The Homestead. We’re getting plenty of exercise, too. We hope you’re all healthy, happy, not too stir-crazy, and that our sheep misadventure has given you something to smile about.
Keep well, friends.