My hands were covered in the clear slime of the deworming medicine and as Todd grabbed the yearling tight, I pressed the slippery syringe loaded with the juice into the side of her mouth. She immediately started to gulp and chew and all I could think is this damn syringe is going to go right down her throat.
There’s not much to do with sheep in the summer except make sure they have fresh grass to eat, their water is clean and the mineral salt shed is replenished, but there are the odd chores that come up. Today we tackled, to clarify Todd tackled – I played doctor – some of them. Our accidental lamb needed a CDT vaccine shot and his testicles needed to be tied off with a tight rubber band and two yearling ewes and seven ewe lambs needed to be dewormed in preparation for a sale coming up in a few weeks.
Our standard path up to the chute had been dismantled because we needed all the portable fencing we had to string up a paddock of fresh grass on the northeast side of the hill up close to the house. So, we tried closing off the three-sided run-in shed and the circle of wooden panels to see if we could get our hands on the sheep we needed to. And then the circus began. Todd stalked, ran, charged, and stumbled around as the flock of 43 all scrambled around, again and again, to avoid his grip. One lamb was just within reach when she pressed and squeezed herself right through the slits of a panel.
We dragged the panels into a tighter circle so there was less room for the flock to race around. Todd still had to do a lot of fast lunging, but more often than not, he grabbed the lamb on the first try. He’d call off the ear tag number, I’d mark it down, unscrew the lid of a jelly jar filled with deworming medicine and load the syringe with 6 mls of medicine, screw the top back on, join Todd and the lamb and administer the dosage by using the plastic tip of the syringe to pry open the lips at the side of the mouth and then shove it down and on to the back of their tongue, slowing pressing down on the dispenser. It was hot, the sweat was running down Todd’s face and the syringe was getting more and more sticky/slippery.
“I think that’s number 12,” I said. “Peg, just tell me the number we need, not what you think we need.” Each animal has a small tag with a number facing outward – that was one year’s lesson. This year’s lesson? Black ink is tough to read on a dark red ear tag. Last year’s color was lime green, perfect.
In any case, slowly we got all the ewe lambs dewormed, including the escapee. We finished up with the two yearlings, reset the panels, cleaned out their water trough and headed back up to the house. I was smeared with sheep shit, sticky medicine and sweat. There’s a national magazine interested in telling our story for folks considering reinventing their lives. I think the reporter needs a front row seat to mornings like this just to be sure the dirt, shit and gooey side of this life isn’t overlooked.