Bad enough that we had to set the clocks back so that we can grope around in the dark at 4:30 pm, but the complete lack of blue sky in well over a month is killing me. Mornings are socked in with fog, midday is pea soup mixed with drizzle, and the forecast for this afternoon? Wicked winds and a major downpour. Tomorrow? Repeat. All this rain has thrown us a barn yard curve ball we’ve not seen before. The ground is so wet, so swollen, so soggy, that my boots sink into chocolate Oobleck and the tractor wheels turn up their own graves. In short: we are knee deep in wet shit with nowhere to turn. My major concern is that if we can’t figure out what to do with the peaks, valleys, gutters and holes created by the tractor before it all freezes, I don’t see how we can let the sheep in the barn yard when a twisted ankle could kill. I’ve a call into our neighborhood mentor, Marty, but I fear his Vermont advice will not help. “Yup. It happens,” is ringing in my ear. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, I’m driving around in a truck whose entire right side is smashed in (Todd did it, not me). I don’t consider myself vain, but I hate the thought that passersby’s would think I couldn’t park this ridiculously long white truck. And by long I mean an eight foot bed followed by a rear cab seating area, followed by the main cab. To be clear, I can’t park the truck. When I come out of a store my truck is easy to spot with its rear tires well into the adjacent parking space. I can’t believe no one has left me a note saying, “If you can’t park it, don’t own it.” Or worse. But here’s the thing. I know I can’t park it so I go out of my way to find multiple parking spaces so that I have plenty of room to pull in, back out, adjust, pull in again and either continue the truck dance or, if it’s a fast trip, leave it akimbo. Last week I asked Todd to take the truck so that I could have transportation that didn’t require a step stool for my mom to climb in. And it was during an attempt to park in a garage in Hanover when the damage was done. The repair work is scheduled for over a month from now. I should get a fat Sharpie and write across the giant dent, “No. I did not do it. He did.”
Despite crossing off verbs on the fall to do list, it continues to grow. I’ve just patched up the torn jackets that we took off the sheep in March. Several have patches on patches, but between the glue backed nylon strips and the zig zag stitch of the sewing machine, I’m hoping we can get a year or two more out of them. One jacket has patches of three different colors marking three years of repairs. It’s not a glamorous look, but if the sheep don’t care, neither do I. As Todd often says, we try to minimize our losses on the sheep and buying new jackets is an expense to be avoided. Heated water buckets are in place for both the ladies and guys but for some reason we think there’s a low electric current in the water coming from the electric fencing that’s bothering the sheep. A new to-do item to resolve. I’ve salted down pelts to dry them out before shipping to the tannery, done a second trip to the feed store for more grain for the girls because I wasn’t paying attention to how much they’ll consume in the seventeen days leading up to breeding. Todd has pulled all the panels out of the field and stacked them in the barn yard, and together we pulled up a mile’s worth of temporary fencing, rolled and tied each section so that, come spring, we’re not dealing with a twisted knotted chore. The real work is coming this weekend. It will be time consuming, frustrating, and given the continued promise of crap weather, bone chilling. We need to trim the hooves of 30 animals, put jackets on 30 animals, check the worm load of 30 animals, and finally, physically divide the flock into three groups: Nash and his harem, Hanson and his harem, and the peanut gallery made up of this year’s ewe lambs and some older gals we don’t want to breed again. Given that sheep are crazy skittish, don’t come when you call, and could care less about their candy called grain when they are nervous, sorting and moving all these animals will be a test of patience for both shepherds. The only good spot is that we pretty much know what we’re in for.
This will be our seventh breeding season. That visit to the San Juan Islands that put us on this journey now seems long ago, but the chores, the setting, the sheep, even the weather, continue to make me happy. Most of the time. Cue the rain.