It occurred to me this afternoon, standing near a moderately
sized pile of hardwood logs that represent next winter’s firewood,
having just culled the third coyote of the year for showing an inordinate
amount of interest in our livestock, and surrounded by five wonderful
dogs, that life is pretty good. This despite the fact that my truck
was full of scrap wood of little value salvaged by my bride for some
yet undefined construction project. This despite the fact that the lawn
is covered with fallen leaves all brown and curled so it is nearly impossible
to distinguish them from the landmines left by the dogs. This despite
the fact that our most recent crop of broiler chickens needs to be butchered
soon an it will most likely happen on an evening after a horribly busy
day at work since the birds will not be considerate enough to run out
of food on the weekend…and we’re too darned cheap to buy
another bag of feed. This despite the fact that four of our dogs were
rolling in tidy piles of sheep shit and the fifth was cheerfully eating
Life is good.
Finnigan, the best man at our wedding, and his steady throb JoAnn (the
woman formerly known as The Delicate One) showed up this year just in
time for what they thought was foliage season. And while the foliage
did in fact peak during their visit, they actually arrived just in time
to help with the pre-winter chores. I was reminded of stories about
dude ranches where folks pay big bucks to do somebody else’s chores,
and enjoy it! I tried to talk them into staying longer, there were still
lines on the To Do List, but they mumbled something about their regular
jobs and left after less than a week. Bummer!
Finnigan, being somewhat younger than us, does not yet require reading
glasses. So while directions come into focus at three feet for me, the
fine print is a bit difficult to read at that distance. So when it came
time to assemble our latest portable garage, we gave him the instructions.
He glanced at them, grunted, and proceeded to direct the assembly of
About fifteen minutes later, when it was obvious parts were going together
in a way that didn’t remotely resemble the picture on the carton,
JoAnn took the directions away from him. JoAnn is a research librarian.
Like others of her kind, she Believes that if something was important
enough to put in writing, it is important enough to read. So she read
the directions with her keen eye, noting that the parts in the instructions
had letters that corresponded to letters on the actual parts. Very cool!
JoAnn is no longer as delicate as she once was. After years of being
dragged around on primitive vacations (think Gunga Din) during which
she sometimes remained damp so long she began molding, she appears to
have toughened up. That, and her willingness to read instructions, have
given Tamara and me reason to believe that labor costs for future projects
might not be as hefty as once thought. Perhaps for their next visit
we should plan a barn raising!
We sold one of the ’57 Dodge trucks this summer after realizing
we had differing views of the old truck hobby thing. When my bride first
made the comment, “Oh, this is something we could do together!”
I mistakenly envisioned us restoring the old beast together. Hard, greasy
work is almost enjoyable if you do it with someone you love! But Tamara’s
idea of this new hobby of ours consisted of me spending all my non-existent
time in the garage covered with rust and grease…with her driving
around town looking cool when the work was all done. So the rusty red
truck is gone, and the rusty green truck is still in the garage getting
tinkered on as time allows. Last weekend my friend, Bill, and I combined
two Stromberg carburetors into one working version, so we now have a
choke that does not involve popping the hood and leaning over the engine.
Oh, and we also have an accelerator pump, so something actually happens
when you step on the gas! Very exciting!
Since getting that truck a year ago I’ve been regularly checking
the garage floor for leaks. There were none. Absolutely none! I was
ecstatic! But after getting it running there was a pretty good sized
oil spot on the concrete. It seems the lack of leakage was related to
the fact the beast hadn’t been started for months. I wonder if
JoAnn could read the shop manual for us next year when she and Finnigan
come up again? Those little hands of hers could reach into tight spots.
She’s not so delicate anymore, you know.
other great season occasion had to do with the livestock. Being essentially
lazy and averse to chores in the middle of blizzards or minus thirty
conditions, and not quite sure what to do if a newborn lamb hits the
icy ground and freezes to it, we had separated our rams and ewes a couple
months back before the ewes went into season. One fenced in enclosure
with primitive accommodations for the ram lambs. And the sheep version
of the Holiday Inn for the ewe lambs. The idea was to prevent barnyard
sex long enough so the end of the gestation period would fall in t-shirt
weather, say thirty degrees or so.
It worked well. Even when the girls (Guinness, Fudge Baa, Bunny, Marmalade,
Espresso and Hettle) were in the shameless hussy phase of their season,
the boys (Weasley, Hamish McBean, and Kiva Han) could do little but
gaze longingly from their side of the fence. But all that changed this
The ewes, were they all to be impregnated this day, would not give birth
till early to mid March – just past the brutal cold of our winters.
So using the various compartments inside the ewes Holiday Inn, we managed
to shuffle sheep around till smaller groups of ewes were confined with
the appropriate ram. Expert breeders say the sheep should be confined
in very small spaces for three weeks, but it’s so dark and cramped
back there we decided to confine only the smallest of the lot, letting
the larger sheep outside in two segregated groups. Weasley, the biggest
ram with a most impressive rack of curved horns, is in with Bunny and
Guinness. Bunny because we think her genetics and his will result in
a very nice lamb. Guinness because she’s such an absolute bitch
Weasley is the only ram she can’t beat up! Hamish McBean, the
middle ram with okay horns and a wonderful personality, went in with
sweet little Marmalade and big old Fudge Baa. And little bitty Kiva
Han, remained indoors with the micro-ewes Hettle and Espresso.
We have been told that ewes in season are easy. Ours are obviously somewhere
in the middle of their seventeen day cycle, and not at all appreciative
of the rams’ interest in them. Or maybe it’s got something
to do with the sheep version of foreplay. Weasley chases his girls all
over the place with his tongue stuck out; if he gets close enough to
them he kicks out with a front leg. Guinness and Bunny do not find any
charm in that approach. Hamish McBean, who previously had been the most
mild-mannered ramlet in the world, ran right up to Marmalade and stuck
his protruding tongue in her nether regions. He then backed up, peeled
his lips back and scrunched up his face like Groucho Marx! He has not
stopped chasing Fudge Baa and Marmalade since, though as the days wear
on the pursuit has slowed down significantly. It began as a frenetic
run-over-any-chicken-in-the-way-of-satisfaction sort of thing. It progressed
to the steady pace of a marathoner. This morning it looks more like
a dying man dragging himself through the desert in pursuit of the mirage
of a refreshing well. But he’s still trying!
Kiva Han is having a rough time of it. Part of the problem is he is
so small he needs to be uphill of the ewes in order to have any chance
of success. Part of the problem is the three of them are so small we
did not shear them this year in the hope that the extra insulation would
help them through the cold of winter…and all that wool sort of
conceals the target. Poor Kiva Han senses all those pheromones, but
all he can see are two fluffy brown balls with a nose on one end. He
has taken to backing up and hurling himself onto one or the other of
those fluffy brown balls in the hope of finding joy, but so far has
succeeded only in exhausting himself.
We’re not sure how to help. Perhaps a how-to video for sheep?