How it goes when it goes well - Tactical Ninja
Nov. 11th, 2013
09:58 am - How it goes when it goes well
This Saturday, in a continuation of the week's pattern, dawned wet and drizzly with fog. So after getting up at 6am and caffeinating, I got the call at 6:30 saying "Wet sheep" and flagging the whole affair for Sunday. This meant I got a day to work on Cullen, help pombagira shift a load into her new house (yay new house for pombagira!), and mow lawns/weed gardens etc. However, it also meant that I had to do the 6am thing again on Sunday, because the weather came out nice and dried the sheep.
When we last left our intrepid sheep shearer, she'd just had an awful day shearing stroppy sheep in gale force winds and was wondering why the hell she does it. In complete contrast, yesterday could not have gone better.
It was roughly the same number of sheep. It wasn't supposed to be, but everyone decided to shear their lambs along with the rest so it added about 10 to the tally. And yet, I was finished 2 hours earlier than with the same number the previous week.
Why? Partly because they were in better condition and therefore easier shearing. It seems the west side of the range has had it easier than the east this year. Also, partly because it wasn't windy. Wind makes the sheep nervous and they kick more. Yesterday there was no real wind and it wasn't hot or cold - perfect shearing weather. And it made a huge difference.
Anyway, place number 1 was my favourite flock of the lot. These are an Arapawa derivative. They're too easy a shearing and grow too much wool to be purebreds, but they have all the right traits otherwise:
Clean points, small, muscular and with that distinctive antelope colouring on the face. If you look closely at that pic you can see one in the middle that has a short face and looks kind of like he's wearing a toupee. That's the ram and he's a Gotland.
See? Totally wearing a toupee. He's new, and part of an experiment to improve wool production. Here are his first offspring:
They look mostly like their Mum but have that Gotland hairiness and also the naturally half-length tails. With any luck, the owner should be able to stop docking now, which is a practice that's been made necessary by selective breeding, and IMO can be made unnecessary in the same way. However, I carry an elastrator and rubber rings with me because most people's sheep still need it and that's especially true for my next client.
Her sheep are very friendly:
They are also mostly blokes. If you look at this picture you can see a lamb over the back, which implies there are ewes in the flock, but you can't see the ewes. All those in the front have that broad face and nose-wrinkle that denotes males in Romneys.
The ewes are behind these guys, and they are tiny by comparison. In this flock there are 14 adult sheep. Four of them are ewes, three are rams, three are wethers, and four are cryptorchids. They are all remarkably placid for such a testosteroney group (oddly, male sheep running together often are), but it's not good for the ewes because they get harrassed a lot. Thus, they don't grow to their full potential. They also got in lamb on their first cycle, and gave birth as hoggets. For some reason this year she also got 75% ram lambs, so there was some castration in my day too. O.o
There's debate about lambing hoggets, but many people do it successfully, and in this case it seems to have worked out ok. However, the ewes really are stunted. Here's one:
You can see how tiny she is compared with the blokes, and also the less-than-stylish shearing job is a direct result of the toughness in her wool from the stress of lambing. Their owner is looking to fix this situation this year by selling off the rams (they are excellent lifestyle sheep and being placid really helps), and butchering the wethers and cryptorchids, and replacing them with more ewes. I think this is a good plan, not least because those boys are getting big now..
Finally, I went to the place where I patched up a bearing back in August. The bearing ewe had managed to lamb and retain her bearing, but it has since popped out again. Now she's not in lamb any more her life is no longer in danger from it and while uncomfortable it's not affecting her unduly, so we decided to leave it, let her rear her lamb, then cull her. She's actually in remarkably good condition and bright eyed, although unimpressed with this whole shearing lark:
Behind her you can see her lamb, who is also unimpressed with the rubber ring I just put on her tail. They sit down and get up a lot until they lose feeling in it (about half an hour), then it doesn't bother them any more. In about four to six weeks it'll drop off.
But the biggest casualty of the day was my shearing pants. I've been wearing these for shearing for 8 years, and they are the only pair of Mum Jeans that I actually own. They've done really well, but they've finally crapped out in the knees, so they are now in the bag to go to the dump. I didn't even wash them before putting them in, because if I did I'd be tempted to keep them, and I don't want to start down the road of patches on patches.
So now I have the task of finding a new pair of pants by Saturday when my next job's booked. Those ones up there were Body Glove easyfit ones from the Warehouse. I thorougly recommend them as work pants. Especially since actual shearing pants for women are almost impossible to find. *ahem*
And when I got home, I discovered that the neighbourhood cats have finally found our catnip:
Flippin druggies the lot of them. And while I've nothing against recreational substance use by cats (I'm totally a dealer), I would like our plant to survive and continue providing them enjoyment. So I made it a protective cage:
The legs that are holding that in the ground go in about a foot. It'd take a bigger cat than the average moggie to get in there, so hopefully this will give our wee plant a fighting chance. Anything that pokes outside the cage is fair game, but this should leave enough to keep the poor thing alive. Also, pundigrion! Check out mah comfrey!
And here is the rest of our herb garden. It's starting to fill in the gaps now, which is nice. The chives are dying so I'm going to replace them with something that isn't going to die - maybe spring onion? And even the bay tree has a couple of new leaves.
I also have a number of new open wounds. Trimming sheep's feet makes them sharp, and then if they manage to contact you when kicking, they break the skin quite easily. And for some reason yesterday's sheep, even though their attempts were half-hearted, had a really good aim. Thus, I've lots of angry little sores on my fingers and arms.
I guess I won't put myself forward as a hand model any time soon, huh?