Monday, February 24, 2003

The view from home between snowstorms:

It has been a rough week. Snow still piled everywhere, the driveway only partly passable, and more lambs on the way. I fed the last bale of hay in the barn to the girls on Saturday morning. The neighbor we buy it from brought fifteen bales Saturday night, but had to leave it some sixty yards from the barn. Sunday, the oldest son and I carried the bales by hand and by wheelbarrow through the snow to the corner in the barn where it is now stacked. The sheep were glad to see it, but my forty-eight year old lawyer's body is murmuring in revolt. The barn is packed to overflowing with sixty ewes and their lambs, sheltering from the weather outside. Feeding is a mob scene. My non-rural friends laughed a while back at the news service story of a woman in England killed while feeding sheep. What could be more harmless than sheep? Imagining it was like imagining a man done in by wiener dogs, or by a pack of ravaging teacup poodles. Real sheep are not small and fluffy. A good half of our ewes are purebred Hampshires, weighing about as much as your typical NFL running back. Like the running back, they are mostly muscle. The sheep, however, add two more legs and a lower center of gravity to the equation. They take eating very seriously. It is one of the things they enjoy. They are good at it. Picture yourself in the barn standing by a trough. Picture the sheep pressing in, the big Hamps up front, the smaller sheep, just the right size to take your knees out, squeezing in from behind. I hand you the feed bucket. Several thousand pounds of single-minded mutton charges forward on two hundred forty hooves. Pandemonium ensues. Afterwards you check to see if the limbs you went in with are still attached to the rest of your body. Sheep; cute? Cuddly? Not quite. There are moments though where you forget the hassles. Here is one such; a mother and daughter caught in a quiet moment at the barn.