Thursday, March 18, 2010

movin' on up

There are days when it is a pleasure to work outside, that no matter how tiresome or dirty the chore, the sheer loveliness of the sun shining on you and the fresh air going into your lungs makes every task a joy.

Today was one of those days. Note: I am not saying that every day out doing farm chores is like this. As a matter of fact, the vast majority are not. But this happened to be one, and I was even more pleased that I happened to recognize and enjoy it.

As soon as my littlest assistant got off the bus from kindergarten, we changed into chore clothes and headed out. We scrubbed and filled stock tanks, we emptied and restuffed hay racks, we trapped a cat (Operation Spay-a-Cat: Part Two is in full swing), we moved sheep up to where they needed to be, we took pictures of ourselves doing these mundane, but for today enjoyable, chores.

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Once we successfully got the sheep into the small paddock by the barn, I paused to admire the sight of sheep peacefully grazing... and even took a picture...


... then realized, as I watched them grab greedily at the green grass, that we had a problem. As sparse as the grass was, it was still richer than the pasture they came from. Sheep, like cows and goats, are ruminants, which means among other things (1) they have four stomachs and (2) that digestive combination is wonderfully efficient in wringing every last bit of nutrition from a herbivoreous menu. As awesome as that system is, however, it does not cope well with sudden changes in diet, especially from dry dry hay to rich juicy grass. The bacterium in the gut can get a little overwrought and off-kilter as a result, and thus kill their host in a most short-sighted way. I had to move those sheep off that grass asap, and to a place where their only choice was to fill their bellies with hay so the grass could be introduced more gradually.


With the help of Dusty and my trusty small assistant, we finally managed to pen them into the paddock shed. The sheep were most resistant to this plan, and I couldn't blame them given how beautiful the weather was, but it sure beat the alternative.

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