Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Sheep Thoughts

Thats really interesting

 I drove down the Waiau Valley recently and noticed the good numbers of sheep of all hues and breeds, except maybe merinos, despite an obvious move towards dairying.  It’s not good merino country but they may have done well when the high tops were grazed.  There used to be sheep up Mt Cleughearn and Mt Luxmore above the treeline, on top of the Longwoods and well up the Takitimus.  I understand chamois are moving into some of those areas now.

Perusing Google Streetview recently I found a sheep with its face blurred.  I would have thought that wasn’t necessary but maybe sheep are more sensitive than we suppose.  They always strike me as being unsettled.  Cows amble along and take life much as it comes but sheep are always looking for leadership which is why they look confused most of the time.  In nature they are very much a herd animal with a hierarchy, but any leadership qualities were bred out of them hundreds of years ago. You don’t want a troublemaker.  Mothers pass on a story to their lambs that one day a great sheep will come out of the east to lead the flock to a place where the clover is sweet and the grass is long and there are no dogs and no men, and the name of that sheep is Baaarry.  Sheep are always calling out for him in times of stress but he never comes.  

I’ve usually had two sheep, the carrying capacity of about a third of an acre which is reasonably fertile.  They’ve been old ewes who have passed through the various rankings – lamb, hogget, mutton and dog-tucker – to something a lion can blunt his fangs on.  At this stage it’s like eating mutton-flavoured string and until someone invents a way of cooking them other than fifteen minutes in the microwave, only the finest quality jaws prevail.  At least the meat is free.  One of them produced a lamb much to everyone’s surprise, but we would have been more surprised had she produced anything other than a lamb.  The latest pair are young wethers.  I’ve never met more feisty sheep.  I’m used to tipping over old ewes who seem to go into a trance as you trim the hooves, crutch them or scissor off the fleece but the new boys will have none of that.  They can clear the fence into the vegetable garden with a foot to spare but at least they don’t bite.  

It takes me 45 minutes to shear a sheep which is not a record but it means an hour and half for the entire flock, which probably is.  I’ve always called the ewes Florence except for a recent one called Stinker.  You could smell her coming.  Weeding the potatoes you become aware of the pong and glance around.  There she is, head through the fence staring at me and wondering if I am Baaarry. The new ones are called Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  If it hadn’t been for a ram there would have been no Jacob at all and only a short existence for Isaac.  Ok, there’s only two of them but it’s not illegal to give them three names and it goes a small way to compensate for the lack of names generally.   Only .005% of sheepdom has a name at all.

I investigated a disturbance in the paddock one evening and found two drunk people who had befriended the Florences.  They were feeding them sheepnuts and beer.  Apparently they did that quite often.  I guess they believed the philosophy that there are no strange sheep, just friends you haven’t met yet.