Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Unexpected Adventure

On Sunday, my sister Lynn, Mom, Julia and I were playing cards in the living room in front of the fireplace - trying to keep warm and waiting for the roads to be cleared before they left for sister Laurie's house in eastern Massachusetts. My family isn't much of a game playing family. In fact we stink at it. We don't enjoy board games one bit. All those little pieces and complicated instructions. So what did we end up playing? Go Fish and Old Maid. I got up to make a pot of tea (thank goodness I have a gas stove), looked out at all the snow, and saw a line of sheep running down the road.

Then the phone rang. (Important to keep a corded land line here in the country when power is frequently out.) It was Jim P - one of our neighbors whose family usually helps us move our sheep the five miles down to their winter barns. He said he just saw the sheep and the donkey, running down the road without any human or dog with them. "Really? That's funny. Well, I have a bunch of sheep running by my house too."

I went back to the game, knowing that the phone would ring again, hoping it would be The Farmer saying all of this was well-planned. That wasn't the case. I got a harried phone call. "The sheep are out and they are all over the place. Can you come help?" A quick good-bye to the family, pushed them out the door to eastern Massachusetts and Julia and I hopped in my truck to see what we would find.

At our closest neighbor, I found 20 sheep. Up the road farther, 15 or so more. Two miles up the road, we found The Farmer with a little bunch of 5 lambs about 2 miles from our house. He thought there was a larger group ahead under the wise eye of Jeremy the guard llama. "But what about Eeyore and the others." He didn't know about Jim's phone call and that the large majority of the 300 breeding ewes and their lambs had already taken off with Eeyore. All he knew was that the electricity was gone, there was snow all over the fences, and the sheep had discovered they could escape. Bedlam.

The sheep have run these roads many times. Usually it is a semi-organized affair, complete with lead trucks, 4 wheelers, back up trucks and lots of little kids trailing along. (You can see other photos here and here.) All we could hope was that the sheep and Eeyore would remember where they were going. I have confidence in Eeyore. He might not always keep the coyotes away but he is smart and always looking out for his flock. And he is darn photogenic too.

To say that Sunday was unorganized and chaotic would be an understatement. Sheep were everywhere, no power was available for the fences, dark was coming, snow was deep (24 inches in spots), and I saw a coyote not far from the sheep. We had to move fast to try to get everyone contained somewhere safe before dark. It wasn't going to be easy or pretty. The power was not going to work but at least a fence might.

Julia and I drove ahead to look for Jeremy and his charges. (Boy, I wish she could drive already!) We found him. These photos are from our trip down the road, behind Jeremy and his sheep. As I drove my truck and chatted with Julia, I couldn't help but think about these odd circumstances. I realized I have learned to take things as they come, not worry about perfection whatsoever, and just try to do the best I can with the situation at hand. I think that is one thing farming teaches you. Dealing with animals is totally unpredictable. Multiply that by hundreds of animals and you can imagine the bedlam that can ensue. It's hard to explain to family and friends what we do here. I have given up because they just think we are nuts running after sheep, pricing frozen meat, selling at farmers markets, birthing lambs, buying guard puppies and herding dogs. It is what it is and it is our life. I go other places and I can't believe the quiet and relative peace of friends' lives. Where is the confusion? I know they all have their own little bits of drama - everyone does. It is just that our life is one that is different than the one I ever dreamed to be living when I was a little girl. Different but good. To be sharing it with Julia - with all the ups and downs it brings is really quite an amazing experience.

Back to the story at hand.... Julia and I drove down Eden Trail, hoping to find some sheep and a llama. There they were, traveling at a rather relaxed pace. Many of the sheep had late summer born lambs with them. We usually try to only move the grown ewes, not the lambs. But this wasn't a planned move. The sheep decided to do it themselves.

We met a neighbor and his truck with a plow on it who was coming home from a night of clearing October snow.

The sheep continued on down Eden Trail, slowly. I did a lot of "yah, yah, move on sheep" out the window of my truck. The smaller lambs lagged behind. This was a long walk for them.

All along the way, Jeremy was watching out for everyone. I feel so lucky to have been included in this bit of animal magic. Who was to know he was so paternal.

They couldn't resist a bit of diversion and green grass hiding under the snow.

I waited patiently, knowing that if one left, the others would follow. They did.

We traveled on down Eden Trail. 

Kind of a strange look - golden leaves with snow on the ground.

Down past Mrs. Dyer's house - with Jeremy still watching about. Almost there.

I drove ahead and opened the farm lane gate. The sheep knew exactly where they were going. They turned into the farm road. Eeyore was waiting.

Along with the 200 sheep he had taken on his very own adventure. They were all happily munching on the snow-covered hay they are going to be eating this winter. 

Who says sheep are dumb? I don't. They remember way more than anyone gives them credit for.

Life is returning to semi-normal although many of our neighbors still don't have power. School is still canceled. The snow seems to be melting - thank goodness. I just discovered there is a new edition of Michael Pollan's Food Rules illustrated by Maira Kalman. Must check it out.


mary kate said...

Your adventure made me smile on this fall morning....what a rich and wonderful life you have with Julia and the Farmer! What amazing memories she will always have to share with her own family some day.
mary kate

meppybn said...

That's life on the farm, that's for sure!! JUst keep calm and carry on :)

Gretel said...

Isn't Jeremy marvellous? What great photos, and what an adventure! But. I am not envying your weather one little bit.

Whosyergurl said...

Love that some animals help heard the other animals. Yes, an adventure...but seems kind of fun...but I know this was kind of crazy for you. xo, Cheryl

Marcy said...

It sounds fun and adventurous, but I know you and your family work SO HARD! I admire you all. Hope all the little lambies made it home safe and sound. Thanks for sharing these experiences and wonderful pictures with us.

Erin said...

Wow! What an adventure! Loved the photos! My parents are in Plainville, MA, and were without power for 3 days. Not fun.

atexasgirl said...

Fun story, Kristin! And well-told. I felt the tension all the way to the end.

gale (she shoots sheep shots) said...

wow. What a day. I love that you documented the whole thing, inc the noble Eeyore and Jeremy. Whever I think things are just a little too crazy here I'll try to channel the scene of 200 sheep running around in the snow.

Chantelle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chantelle said...

They aren't dumb are they. I had a wether that would walk out of the barn, unhook the latch that kept the door open, and close the door leaving all the ewes inside. My husband figures he just wanted some "alone, guy time".

lapdogknits said...

That's the sweetest story...
so sweet..

glad I bounced over today to read your blog - enjoy your day!

Reneelynn said...

What a great story. Animals-you never know what they're thinking :)
Thanks so much for sharing the adventure with us.

SheepyHollow said...

Love it! Hurray! Home sweet home!

Barbara Dykes said...

Thanks for sharing your adventure - beautiful photos.

Elaine said...

Nothing is ever cut & dried when you live on a farm!! Why did they leave? Were they trying to get back home from the pastures? Thank goodness it was daylight and you could see them. Bless Eeyore and Jeremy for bringing the girls home and bless you and your family for having such compassion and even tempers!!

Dianne@sheepdreams said...

One thing we sheep farmers can say is that life is never dull! Every day brings a new adventure (sometimes good, sometimes not). Glad this story had a happy ending. Where were the boys while this was going on?

Great pictures!

MicheleinMaine said...

You are so matter of fact about the array of sheep and their escapades - amazing! Good for you and Julia and the Farmer. Teaching problem-solving skills is always a good thing.

Norma from Misty Haven Alpacas said...

Great story (I know, we get to enjoy it but you had to live through the stress of it!). Llamas are amazing, aren't they?
Glad it ended well.

Yola's Lamb and Zucchini Koftas (Meatballs) with Za'atar Yogurt Sauce

It's been a while since I've shared any new lamb recipes. A couple of weeks ago, our friends Yola and George visited and she shared ...