Our Memorial Monday Shearing Marathon went the way of "the best-laid schemes o' mice an 'men", when we discovered that the sheep, members of a species not noted for manual dexterity, had managed to unhook the chain on the barn gate. Pushing open the now unsecured gate, they headed out to pasture just in time for an early morning rainstorm to turn their dry coats into a sodden, unshearable mess. I shouldn't have been surprised. A single sheep is, by definition, an accident waiting to happen. Several sheep are a chain of accidents waiting to happen. Putting seventeen together in an enclosed area has the same effect on the laws of probability that a black hole has on the laws of physics. One can only look on with a kind of despairing awe while muttering "no, that's just not possible."
Faced with an empty barn and a field full of walking wet wool, we gave up on shearing and decided to inspect the remainder of this year's lambs. After a few sales, and some losses due to the hard winter, we still have over forty running around the place. We selected five of the larger ones to go off to the auction in Winchester this morning to help cover the winter feed bills. Selling lambs is the point of the enterprise, but it still hurts a little every time we load the truck. Last year we reduced the size of the flock by half and selection was one of the hardest things we have done on the farm. One old ewe, a favorite of my wife's, had not had a lamb in two years. Making the rational economic decision, we tagged to her to go. As we were loading the trailer, she stepped out of the flock and walked over to my wife to greet her and have her chin scratched. She is still with us. She made it through the worst of the Winter, but will probably not last until Summer. Age has caught up with her and the decline has been rapid. For the last day or so, she has been resting near the fence, in a spot shaded in the day, out of the worst of the rain. There is good grass within easy reach and the rest of the flock is in view. I checked on her this evening and she was too weak to stand. I made her as comfortable as possible as we wait.