Just What I Needed

Sometimes the farm totally mucks up my day. Sometimes the farm gives me just what I need.

I’ve just finished ten intense days of writing from 5 am until 8 pm, trying to finish a draft of my next nonfiction book. (Writing a book is messy and terrifying because you don’t know what to include, what to leave out, what’s boring, what’s not, what’s confusing, what’s not.) By the end of Day Five, my brain was totally fried and I had to stop. There wasn’t time in my schedule to stop…I had to get back to work, but I just couldn’t.

Instead, I looked out the dining room window and noticed something looked odd in the pasture. The sheep were closer than they should be, and there was LOTS of baa-ing going on. Melissa was asleep, trying to shake a headache, so I slipped on my purple Birkenstock barn boots and tramped out to investigate.

What a mess. Half the flock was where they should be, with water but nothing left to eat. The other half had broken through a fence into the next run up, where they had food but no water. Mamas and babies were separated by an electric fence, and crying for each other. On top of that, two ewes had managed to find their way into a third paddock altogether.

I mentally rubbed my hands together in anticipation. Moving sheep is challenging and fun and if you’re lucky and smart about it, sometimes it goes well. (Sometimes it goes poorly, no matter how lucky and smart you are.)

I found where they’d broken through the fence, so I disconnected the electricity and began trying to get the two main groups together. I managed to get both groups walking alongside each other, separated by a three-wire fence, until we reached an opening at the end of the fence where the two groups could merge. Mamas and babies ran for each other. I locked everyone into the new paddock and brought them a water trough, which they swarmed.

Then I worked on the two ewes—back and forth, back and forth, until I was hot and sweaty and the ewes were unhappy, but I finally got them into the right place. Moving an entire flock is easier than moving one or two sheep.

As I was walking back to the house, Melissa showed up on her 4-wheeler. I was proud to explain everyone was once again in the right place. Melissa was surprised I hadn’t waited for her. I was surprised too.

But then it hit me. Chasing sheep, even though it was 90 degrees out, was exactly what I needed. The activity used different muscles, both body and brain, and gave me instant feedback and satisfaction.

I climbed back up to the house, changed out of my sweaty clothes, ate two banana popsicles, then started writing again.

7 thoughts on “

  1. I am currently in charge of the garden while everyone is away. At first, I did not relish this assignment but am now enjoying it. What is the new book about? And when?

  2. Thanks, Jenna! Glad you enjoyed it. It was hell to write, but the hard work paid off.

    Laura, the new book is called The Compassionate Carnivore, with some clever but as yet undecided subtitle. It’s coming out May, 2008, and is sort of a self-help book for carnivores, from a farmer’s perspective.

    It’s for people who’ve begun to pay more attention to how meat animals are raised in this country, but who aren’t interested in becoming vegetarians. (That would be ME!)

    I haven’t finished it yet—weirdly enough, you sometimes don’t know what a book’s about until you finish it…

    Thanks for asking!

  3. I was expecting to read that Melissa came up and asked why you had put them all back together since she had separated them out for some reason. Glad that didn’t happen!

  4. Is a banana popsicle like, a frozen banana, or an actual popsicle that is flavored like a banana? The latter sounds revolting. Come to think of it, there is a new kind of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup that has banana cream along with the usual chocolate and peanut butter goodness. To top it off, there is a picture of Elvis on the package.
    Laura W. in Zta.

  5. Annie,

    I have, over the years, now and then undone something Melissa had done. We continue to work on our communication skills!


    You haven’t lived until you’ve had a banana popsicle, (not a real banana—just a popsicle). (The Hub doesn’t carry them anymore, so you gotta find them in the assorted boxes.)

    Elvis loved banana and peanut butter sandwiches (yuck) and since today (August 16) is the 30th anniversary of his death, I suppose the candy bar is part of that anniversary.

    So, play your favorite Elvis song and take a minute to remember the King.

  6. Catherine, every time I read of you moving sheep, it warms my heart. We’re still learning how to move our sheep.

    Just last evening, I spent about an hour introducing “Al” our 350lb ram to the idea of a halter or at least a lead line. Fortunately, he’s in his 16×16 foot pen, so it’s not a big chase, more of a maneuver.

    We keep (well, when they don’t go walkabout) our sheep in a pen we just enlarged. We’re going to place strategic cattle panels to help with moving them around.

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