Thursday 24 July 2014


In the forty years since I began farm work at the age of thirteen there has been very little change in haying.  I prefer the old fashioned small bales as I do not need equipment to handle them as you do with the round bales or large square bales.  So, small bales of hay still weigh about forty-five pounds.  The strings still cut your hands, and you callous up even with gloves.  And the next day you are reminded of the muscles you used for that workout.

What has changed is my ability.  I am in the midst of physiotherapy for tennis elbow and the Physiotherapist said that haying was probably the worst thing I could do.  But with haying, you do it when it's ready and it's usually very weather dependent.  I have to pace myself and be sure to use correct posture for all aspects of the drill.  And I tried to reduce the strain on the sore arm.

The dairy farmer from whom I purchase hay sent me an email the day he cut the hay.  We were very fortunate that there was no rain and it dried and was baled on day three.  After putting 6 wagon loads into his own barn, he came here at about 5:30 p.m. with 3 wagon loads for us.  Hubby was on hand and I had elicited the help of the neighbour's fifteen year old granddaughter. We were just over an hour. 

I had cleared out the overhang at the north side of the barn, removing the cut wood and stacking it beside the house for winter.  And the junk got moved, including various rolls of fencing, a table saw that probably doesn't work, etc.  We stacked the hay to the ceiling, removing the light bulbs when we got that high.  Many thanks to the dairy farmer for stacking it up so high and sharing his skills with us.  He had a brew on the back stoop before heading home just after seven.  He said his young kids were waiting for his arrival to hose him down at the back door.  It had been a hot day.

The next day I hung tarps along the opening and tucked them in behind a length of snow fence I had secured along the opening.  No nibbling allowed, the llamas being the worst culprits thus far.  The hay should remain dry with only a minor amount of loss due to weather.  I don't expect the tarps to last more than a season.   This location receives the brunt of the weather.

The sheep seem to have developed a photosensitivity or sun-scald.  Not all of them, mind you, just a few.  I think there are two whose nose is crusty and the skin is peeling off.  Several have runny eyes, some of it crusty.  It is the fair or white sheep, not the dark skinned sheep that are affected.  My research indicates it's likely from eating weeds, poisonous ones at that, so much of what is in the Middle Field out back.  I stopped taking them out there and put them in the Front Field again.  I supervise them very closely.  The level of toxic weeds is very low here.  They are healing as are my Wild Parsnip burns.

We have arranged for someone to come and cut the Middle Field.  Forty years ago we referred to it as mowing, but the equipment is apparently called a bush hog, which I had never heard of.  At any rate, the fellow came right away to assess the job and said he could come the next day.  He has to get his fellow protective coveralls due to the toxic Wild Parsnip.  My research indicates this is the worst time to cut Wild Parsnip, when it is in full flower, but it must be done.  We need to see the animals - both ours and their predators.

I'm not getting much knitting done out on pasture.  I can't knit and carry a rifle at the same time.  However hubby has ordered me a holster.  Even though the sheep are closer to the house in the Front Field again, I go out with them for most of the first hour in the morning.  The next hour I spend working around the barn, constantly checking the sheep, with my rifle in an accessible location.

We are looking forward to a slew of visitors this weekend.  Some are staying overnight while others are coming for a shorter visit.  The weather is lovely, the heat wave has broken and the air fresh.  The sun is shining with a few wisps of white fluff up there. It promises to be very nice indeed.

Monday 21 July 2014

Fresh Garden Veg

Shortly after writing the draft of the last post, hubby looked out the dining room window at about 10:30 a.m. and saw a coyote chasing the sheep!!  This is a distance of perhaps thirty paces from the back of the house.  Hubby went for the rifle and out the one back door, while I headed out the other back door toward the intruder.  "Hey!  Hey!  Hey!"  I yelled.  He was heading to the trees looking over his shoulder at me.  He moved faster.

I called for Millie and she came around the house.  Beau was at my heels and began to bark.  The remainder of the flock of sheep ran past me toward the barn.  Hubby was heading to the woods.  Millie stopped, felt the excitement, sniffed the air, hesitated, then turned around and returned to her spot under the veranda.  I almost cried.

I put Beau in the house.  I removed my grass covered house shoes and put on my barn boots.  At the gate the sheep came directly to me.  I closely inspected them.  Some were shaken more than others.  Some began to chew their cud, a sign that they were not stressed.  All thirty were there.  No one was injured.

Since then we have all been skittish.  The sheep are easily startled.  The humans are quick to grab the gun.  The House Pasture was supposed to be the safe spot.  Now it seems that only the barn is safe but the eating there is limited.

I continue to take the sheep out to the Middle Field behind the house.  This is becoming difficult as the sheep split up and quickly become hidden in the tall grass.  Other areas have been trampled and eaten down making observation easier.  After two weeks of doing this I came up in burn like welts on my hands.  My hands are one of the few parts of me exposed due to the sun and mostly the bugs.  The field is covered in poisonous Wild Parsnip and it often towers above me.  When I researched this on line our area came up as an example of a location riddled with it.  The juice from the Wild Parsnip is activated by the sun, causing the skin to blister.  Wild Parsnip has been known to cause temporary blindness.  I make sure I wear my sunglasses all the time.

Sheep in Middle Field.  The yellow plant is Wild Parsnip.  Note how the sheep have stripped the leaves from these plants.

Interestingly the sheep eat the leaves of the Wild Parsnip.  I have seen them eat the flowers too but usually they cannot reach the flowers.  The sheep also seem to love Milk Weed, stripping the leaves off the stalk.  This plant came up as poisonous to sheep.  In addition, a primary plant in the field is Spotted Knapweed.  This invasive plant is responsible for billions of dollars lost in the beef industry in the mid-west US.  The best thing to do for Knapweed is pasture sheep on it!  In addition to the nutritious Knapweed there can also be found clover, treefoil and timothy.  There is a lot of eating for sheep out there!

Spotted Knapweed is very nutritious for sheep yet known to ruin cow pasture

We have decided we need to cut this field to ensure the safety of the sheep.  In addition this is where we plan to hunt coyotes and cutting the field will allow the hunters to see the varmint.

I have now completed the required gun course and am becoming familiar with my own rifle recently purchased for me by hubby.  My sister said I am to become a cowboy - a childhood dream come true!  In addition she envisions us sitting on the veranda with our rifles, overseeing the grazing sheep.  She's not too far wrong actually.

Other things happen around here too!

The vegetable garden is producing.  There have been many weeds and I am finally getting ahead of them.  The straw mulch resulted in oat grass coming up and the sheep enjoy this as I pull it up and toss it over the fence to them.  We have enjoyed lots of salad greens, the red leaves left untouched by the bugs moreso than the green arugula and other greens.  The tomatoes are doing well.  There are tons of potatoes.  The beets and carrots are coming as are the beans, purple and green.  And onions too.  We will eat zucchini this week.

I placed a planter box of geraniums and petunias at the end of the driveway but these were well pruned, likely by deer.  The planter is recovering on the veranda.  Other than that I planted a few pots of petunias.  The nicest are the balcony box I have hung on the barn door.

Petunias on the Small Barn door

Millie is eating pretty regularly now although not much for such a large dog.  Under the veranda has been claimed as her domain and she does not allow Beau under there.  We have made a lot of progress in getting her to not chase cars as they pass by.  This was fine when she was in the fenced paddock but is not fine when she gets on the road in front of the house.  Cars honk, people yell - not a good impression to make on the neighbours.

We feed Millie in the Small Barn.  She is still quite hesitant to come inside the barn but she is getting more comfortable.  Some days she will come into the field near the barn, but most days she will not.  We think that she and the llamas have a huge conflict and the llamas have pushed her out.  Getting zapped by the electric fence did not help.  We are going to try removing the llamas from the flock and see if we can get Millie back with the sheep.

We had visitors over the weekend and a lovely time was had by all.  Two couples joined us for a Christmas in July dinner out.  On Sunday morning we whipped up a mess of bacon, eggs, mushrooms, tomatoes, scones, etc.  It was yummy.  Good food.  Good company.  And I got out of my barn clothes, put on some fancy clothes and talked a lot with humans...!

Sunday 13 July 2014

The Knitting Shepherdess

I truly am THE Livestock Guardian.  As described so nicely by Cousin, this is part and parcel of my responsibility.  Yet, I am frustrated with the animals obtained to take on the role of Livestock Guardian.  I am trying to be positive, reminding myself to be patient and allow time for some things to develop in these roles.  In the meantime I am knitting more than usual.

Recall from my last post that in response to the Canada Day visit by Wiley Coyote I fenced the sheep out of the Front Field.  I had planned to this anyway to allow the field to rest.  The sheep do not really like this new fence as they are now forced to eat around the house.  There is good grass to eat there, better types of grass, but it is longer and they prefer the short short grass in the Front Field.  Which is why that field needs a rest; they are overgrazing it by nibbling always at the shortest bits.  In addition to discouraging coyote access, and allowing the grass to grow, a rest of the field is part of managing internal parasites in livestock.

I used the electric sheep netting to set up this barricade.  It worked - as Millie discovered, getting zapped on the nose late one afternoon.  She went into hiding, again.  She stopped eating, again.  I saw her across the road in the neighbour's hay field, a large flash of white, the fluffy tail waving at me.  I drove around and ended up at the farm, finding no one home.  So, I went down the lane and found my big white fluffy dog.  Sheepishly, she was happy to see me.  I wondered how to get her home and in the end she agreed to follow my car home.  "Home" I said.  And I think she got it.  She galloped down the driveway after my car as I hollered out the window how good she was and how we were going home.  When I turned onto the road she ran in the field alongside the road.  She had to traverse a ditch and came up covered in black boggy muck. She kept coming.

Around the bend I could see her coming along on the road.  I scooted up the driveway and then ran back to the road.  Beau dog was with me now.  I couldn't see her.  She seemed to be gone again.  I called and called.  There was quite a wind.  Finally I turned back toward our driveway and there she was crossing the road to the entrance way to home.  She was home.

Millie, looking really lovely!

Now she refuses to go in the yard near the sheep.  Yet, she continues to slip under the electric fence to drink water at the barn.  And we hear her out in the Front Field at night.  It's been about a week now and she is finally eating again, twice daily, almost the amount desired.  She lives under the front veranda, snarling at Beau should he advance on that space she has designated as hers.  She works all night, woofing at anything intrusive in the area - the multitude of wandering coyotes.  She sleeps all day, coming out to greet household traffic only as needed. 

Millie and Beau get along extremely well.  They usually play together for a short time each morning and night.  Otherwise they do their own thing and don't pester each other.

So, I have been shepherding the sheep out to graze behind the barn, up to four times per day.  We have tons of pasture that needs eating.  Safety however is the issue and I do not want to lost anymore lambs.  Four are gone and Lucky continues well in his recovery.  Lucky is a delight to see in the field after our chapter of adventure together.  His mother Dot has become very friendly as has his sister Lucy. 

The sheep don't really last much more than an hour out in the field.  If it's hot there is no point taking them out as they are not very interested in eating.  A few days into this project we were down by the cabin.  It's not that exciting for a human, this watching sheep eat grass.  I usually have knitting in a pocket or wear a gardening apron in which to stuff the knit project, some gloves, my glasses, etc.  I hum and sing sometimes, and just as I finished signing a nursery rhyme, I saw it scooting up the path we had just come down.  It was the back of its head, just the ears and a bit of its head.  A softly furred reddish brown coyote head.  I hollered, "Hey!  Hey!  Hey! Hey!" and it ran faster and the sheep all huddled together.  And the sheep carefully and quickly headed up that same path and to the barn.

Oh, if only Millie would accompany me out with the sheep on our grazing expeditions!  I could knit more!  Instead I suppose I should continue signing while shepherding.  I am aware that making my presence known is very important to deterring the coyotes from getting close.  The grass is so very long that a coyote could attack easily.  However, the lambs are now of a size that they cannot be readily carried off.  The wise coyote then will hesitate knowing I am there.  They'd hesitate a lot more if Millie were with me.

Last night the sheep would not go into the barn.  The lambs were having a ball!  Like a school of fish they scooted around the barn, jumping this way and that, swishing here and there.  They were panting like dogs.  And not going into the open door.  All of their mothers were in there.  I sent some mothers out but they seemed to enjoy the fun too much.  Then I sent out more mothers and then I got nowhere.

I went back to the house.  I had a tall glass of water.  I poured a glass of wine.  I watched from the window.  It was amazing.  Henrietta seemed to join in the play.  She was prancing along with the lambs, swinging her head down and side to side.  Then there seemed to be fewer lambs.  A ewe had laid down under the overhang and Henrietta pranced over and got her up and herded her toward the barn door.  Henrietta was gathering up the sheep and getting them into the barn!

I quickly went out and closed the door behind them, thanking Henrietta.  Rounding up the sheep is something Livestock Guardian llamas have been known to do.  So, maybe Henrietta is coming into her own on this, beginning to apply some new skills she didn't know she had.

I stuff a small knitting project into the leg pocket of my daughter's old cadet combat pants.  These are perfect barn pants, especially in summer.  And off I go.  On the first outing in the morning Henrietta will lead the way out into the middle of the field.  Sheba will monitor the rear end of the flock.  I hover.  They move a lot on the first outing so not as much knitting gets done.  The sheep are staying with the llamas better than they were.  As the grass gets eaten down we can see each other better.  Some stalks are taller than my five and a half feet so there is LOTS to eat.  It needs to be cut if only to keep us all safe from the coyotes and I'm working on that.

I have a lawn chair too.  It moves with me.  Or I just stand.  You can knit while sitting or standing, even walking.  Lion Brand yarns is flaunting the fellow who recently set a record for the longest scarf made while running a marathon.  This inspires me neither to run a marathon, a half marathon, or to knit while running.  I wonder however if there is a record holding category for knitting while herding sheep.

I count sheep a lot.  Here I am counting sheep at their bedtime.  Currently we are at thirty.  And when I'm not counting sheep I could be counting knits and purls...

Tuesday 8 July 2014

Hyper Vigilance

I was once cautioned by a doctor to be aware of my personal traits of obsessionality.  I decided at that time that these personal features were good things and for the most part that has been true.  However there have been times when obsessional tendencies have been detrimental to my own well being.  At this place in my life I do feel that I have a good balance. As of late however I have had to wonder....

We had a lovely time in Europe.  First we were in Belgium and enjoyed Brussels and Ypres.  Then we spent a day travelling by train to Bedburg Hau in Germany.  There we enjoyed celebrating daughter's marriage to her German sweetheart.  This was the German party, following the Canadian wedding of last fall.

  The happy couple were treated to a lovely carriage ride to the reception site. 

  What a happy couple!  What a lovely team of horses!  The very light drizzle stopped.

Our trip was filled with interesting touring; lots of great food, beer and wine; celebration with family; and enjoying some good time together as a couple.  None of this would have been possible without Cousin's stay at the farm.  We are enormously grateful to her.  The daily email updates were most welcome, especially considering the situation when we left.

This blog is not about our trip but about our farm, Kinnaird Farm.  We named the farm after my late father-in-law whose second name was Kinnaird.  Scottish, it means high end; head;  headland.  It is 'From the name of a place in Scotland. The area concerned is high and occupies a vantage point and may have been named in Gaelic as Ceann Ard, literally meaning "high end or head"'.  As you approach our farm it is the primary feature along this part of the road.  In addition there are several outcroppings of rock, chunks of the Canadian Shield that emerge as part of the unique landscape of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere.  These geographical features may be viewed as fulfilling the description 'kinnaird'.  Consider for example, Table Rock, in a previous blog post.

We arrived home on Monday, June 30th in good time to do evening chores with Sister who had relieved Cousin the day before.  We were certainly well greeted by canines, black and white - the black Beau-dog having adorned himself in something extra vile smelling and wanting hugs anyway!  The animals looked very well indeed.  Sister had laid in provisions for which we were thankful as Tuesday, July 1st was a holiday.  Not only had she ensured this cookie monster was supplied, that hubby had beer but also she prepared all that was necessary for a Canada Day dinner celebration, including Mom's potato salad!

On Canada Day we each puttered at a variety of tasks.  Hubby and I were taking it fairly easy as our bodies adjusted to the home timezone.  Having departed under such stressful circumstances and now with the timezone adjustment to deal with - plus the obsessional personality - I found myself hyper vigilante about the sheep.  I was extremely attentive to their behaviours, watching for any sign of disturbance in the flock.

I was not unjustified in this hyper vigilance.  People have told me that for predator control all one needed to do was lock up the sheep at night.  I have been told I would never see a coyote, that they are much too sly to be seen.  I have also been informed that a coyote would never attack during the day.  My sheep and chickens are in the barn every night, usually by dusk.  All of our attacks have been daytime and I have viewed the culprit too many times now.

So, at four in the afternoon the flock herded together, was frightfully silent and collectively looked out over the field.  I ran.  I ran up behind the barn and over to the edge of the hill.  And there he was, Wiley coyote, looking through the two llamas toward the flock of sheep.  The llamas were just raising their heads to look at him.  I say he; it must be a strong alpha male with a real cocky attitude to be so brazen.  If I'd had a shotgun, even with my lack of experience I could have hit him from this short distance.  He was close!

He saw me and turned around.  He started to trot off and then turned and looked at me.  "Go" I shouted.  "Get out of here!" I added, louder.  I turned toward the house where sister was weeding a garden bed and I let her know hubby and his gun were needed.  When I looked back Wiley was leaping the fence effortlessly.

Of course he was gone, quickly scurrying into the long grass and underbrush at the north side of the property.  Sister counted the sheep now in the barn and all were present.  I walked through and all seemed fine, physically.

Hyper vigilant?  Yes!  I believe this is required at this time.  I realise that I have become THE Livestock Guardian.  Before the disappearance of Tiny while we were away, hubby helped me to see that the coyote has actually not been that successful.  The first score was the disappearance of two lambs at the same time.  Next, was Lucky, a breakfast I interrupted.  And on the third visit, once again, I foiled the coyote's meal plans.  So, really, success from the coyote perspective was not that good.  At the two more recent encounters, Tiny's disappearance and the Canada Day visit, the coyote is still not making a lot of headway.  Since the Canada Day visit the Big Barn blares toward the field an all talk radio station during the day.  Yesterday I fenced the sheep out of the Front Field, forcing them to eat only around the house, each of its thirty-one windows watching for coyote presence.

Hubby too has been extra attentive.  Each morning this week, before getting ready for work, he has walked the Front Field with his rifle.  This week he picked up the second new rifle purchase.  At the store he was informed he was the third person that day making such a purchase for predator control purposes.

And then I realised that I am the only one who has ever seen the coyote!  Cousin suggested the cheeky guy waited for my return to actually put in an appearance on Canada Day.  I do not feel honoured by Wiley in this regard.  I trust that others believe me when I say I saw this tall, lanky, four legged Eastern coyote with Lucky hanging from his mouth....

With further thought I realised too that the attacks may not necessarily have diminished with the arrival of Millie.  I think that Millie's effectiveness can be improved with the addition of a helper for her.  My research indicates this is the next step; that is, the addition of another Livestock Guardian Dog.  However we have decided that Millie needs some more adjustment time, as we too adjust to the home timezone.

Friday 4 July 2014

Cousin's Post

I’m the Cousin mentioned in a couple of Kelly’s blogs.  When Kelly asked me to take care of Kinnaird Farm for nine days, I was excited to think I would be a shepherd for a week.  That excitement turned to nervous tension after my two-day training stint.  All I could think was, “This is a lot of responsibility!”

Truer words were never spoken when I learned that two lambs had been attacked and killed, and another one attacked but saved by Kelly’s quick actions. Plus, there was a new dog being added to the mix, a beautiful white Maremma named Millie, who was still adjusting to her new home and work duties.

So I came on Friday afternoon, a day before I was to go solo, and thought, “I can do this...I think.”  Well, the next day was the reckoning.

Kelly’s already described Saturday morning in lots of great detail but I just want to add a few of my own impressions.   OK, it started with Henrietta spitting at me. And what Kelly didn’t tell you was that she laughed really hard when this happened.  I just wanted to get the junk out of my hair and wash my face as fast as possible.  She continued to laugh.

Shortly after, the laugh turned stone cold sober when she found Maybell’s lamb torn and suffering. I couldn’t believe it.  They were supposed to be leaving in a few hours and leaving me here ALONE.  Get a grip, I thought.  So I realized that I could either flinch and not face reality, or I could rise to the occasion.

When Kelly’s hubby came to put the lamb out of its misery, I wouldn’t turn away. A farm is a place of life and death, and having worked in a profession in which I often sat beside dying humans, I felt I owed it to the lamb to be a witness at its death.  When the first shot didn’t work, it was disappointing both for the shooter and the witness. A second shot was fired and the lamb died quickly. Thank God.

Then we had to deal with the carcass. I’ve never helped with disposing an animal of that size. Both Kelly and I had blood on our hands after we put it in a wheel barrow to take to the small barn. And then we handled the body again as we put it into feed bags. After a neighbour from down the road came to take it away, I thought, “Well, at least my week was “pre-disastered.” Surely, nothing else would happen. Little did I know.

In the midst of all this, Millie the guard dog had been spooked and ran away.  After Kelly and hubby left for the airport, it was a waiting game to see when she would return.  She did, and thus began three solid days of trying to get her to trust me.

She would come close and then take off. She didn’t want to eat her food.  She sat at the end of the driveway chasing cars and bicyclists. She darted in front of a motorcycle. The motorcyclist was not happy.  She darted in front of a car. The driver yelled, “Tie up your damn dog!” I suddenly had visions of an angry guy driving up the laneway.  I felt relief when it didn’t happen.

On Monday evening Millie was on the other side of the road and saw something she didn’t like. She leapt about four feet off the ground into the long grass and was hell bent for murder.  I had to accept I couldn’t control her but all of a sudden Beau dog took off to follow her.   That scared me.  Next I was running into the long grass watching as Millie bounded around and around wildly.  I was yelling for Beau to come back, and he was ignoring me – very unusual for such an obedient dog.  He’d been caught up in the frenzy.  I got him to come back within about six feet of me and then he decided he needed to follow Millie again.  Yes, he followed her right into the muddy stream.  When he finally heeded my call he came back caked in a couple inches of mud.  Beau had to be wiped off and then hosed off.

Slowly, Millie accepted me and was really starved for affection. One afternoon, I sat with all three dogs on the front lawn.  My dog, Raffi, was right at my back.  Beau sat to my left and Millie to my right.  I was in dog heaven.

Photo:  Millie under the Snowball Bush

Photo - left:  Beau dog, the ball guy

Photo - below:  Raffi, enjoying his farm vacation

Tuesday dawned overcast and the forecast said to expect rain that day.  Rain threatened but held off.  After supper, my husband and I had to drive into Brockville to get some medicine for him.  As we returned on the 401 the floodgates opened and I could hardly see to drive.   The straw and hay of the barn had not been kind to my husband’s respiratory system and so when we finally returned, I said I would round up the sheep on my own.  Since it was raining, getting the sheep, llamas, and hens inside the barn was easy.  Then the hard part began.

I started counting sheep.  26, 27, 28, 25, 27, 27, 27...but there’s supposed to be 28. Again, I counted – 27. Again, 27. I couldn’t believe my eyes.  This can’t be happening to me. I went out to see if I could find the missing lamb. At that moment, the heavens opened and the wind blew and I felt like I was in a scene from Wuthering Heights.  My heart pounded. I ran around the barn wildly, and then into the pasture. My waterproof coat proved to be no match for the driving rain.  I was soaked.

I realized I needed to get into the house to get the official list, the one that has all the ewes and lambs listed by name and number.  When I got there, I was so soaked I could only yell for my husband to come and help me.  “I only counted 27,” I cried.  I grabbed the sheet of paper tucking it inside my shirt so it wouldn’t get wet. My husband followed. Then we spent the next half hour, counting, counting again, and checking numbers. Damn those sheep, just when you thought you had the number, they moved. Finally, with my husband’s help, we narrowed it down.  Number 117, Tiny was missing.  Chloe’s lamb. Tiny had her name because she was literally the smallest lamb born this spring.

Once we’d figured it out, my husband headed out in the pouring rain to scour the fence lines and check the bush. I finished the chores and sadly walked to the house.  I dreaded writing Kelly the news.  I knew she wouldn’t be upset with me, just those damn coyotes that seem to think they had a meal ticket on Kinnaird Farm.

 Photo:  Farmer James

The next morning we were extra vigilant. My husband walked the fence line again.  But, even with all our care, we realized there was only so much we could do.  It seemed to me the llamas, Henrietta and Sheba, were on strike, blithely eating all the grass they wanted and totally ignoring the sheep.  Also, Millie spent most of her time out of the pasture, sitting either at the end of the laneway, or resting beneath the snowball bush.  Come on creatures, you need to get back to work protecting those sheep!!

The next day, my husband had to return to our home to take care of things.  On my own, I spent hours carding a wool fleece Kelly had given me at shearing time.  It was also time to reflect.  Being a shepherd really demands the ability to be on high alert, and counting sheep became a way of life. When I was out in the rain looking for the lost lamb, I thought of the stories in the Bible about shepherds looking for their lost sheep, seeking the one while the 99 were safe. Yes, you did forget about the others and were only focused on the one.  I had been right about one thing right from the beginning.  Being a shepherd is a lot of responsibility!

It was surprising to me how emotionally attached I’d become to all the farm creatures, even the chickens.  Beau dog had become my “beau.” Millie had become my friend, even to the point of letting me brush her fur.  She sought me out looking for lots of affection – hugs and petting.  Henrietta had gotten over her pique after spitting at me, and started to give me lots of kisses.  Sheba would come to me (looking for treats). The chickens would follow me around the pasture.  I even learned how to grab them so I could get them in the barn. Dot the ewe and her lambs, Lucky and Lucy, had to be in a pen in the barn so that Lucky could recover from his coyote attack.  Lucky let me wipe his nose and Dot knew I was the source of all things food and water related.  I felt pretty popular!

At the risk of sounding maudlin, I realized that all creatures need love and security.  When the security part fails, it’s hard to take. When the love happens, there’s no place you’d rather be.

On Sunday, Kelly’s sister came to relieve me.  I gave Beau a big hug.  As I drove out of the laneway, Millie saw my truck and started chasing it. She started whimpering.  Then, she chased the truck down the road.  I had a big lump in my throat.