Re-reading my Resolutions of a (Nearly) 40 Something I sense that the last one, namely “Be a Better Bo”, was the one I was least expecting to achieve – downgrading my goal from “sense of ownership” to zero deaths in a year was not exactly the act of a confident shepherdess. It’s true to say that my flock of three is no longer with us, but never fear they are still with us in body and soul and our parting of the ways is only a temporary state of affairs.
You won’t be seeing me on “One Man and his Dog” any time soon and I don’t think Babs, Margo and Myfanwy consider themselves “owned” in any way, but I do feel I’ve made some progress towards becoming one with my flock. Ok, so much of the progress has involved bribery with sheep nuts as bait and rounding them up still requires reinforcements in the form of family, friends, cats, dog and passers-by, but, dare I say it, I really am just a little bit fond of my girls. Brave Babs, with her spotty nose, will eat nuts from my hand and stamp her front hooves like a little madam having a tantrum when the nuts run out; tentative Margo will snatch nuts from my hand then back away as though she’s expecting me to whip out an insecticide gun and pair of hoof clippers to give her a once over at any moment; tetchy Myfanwy will eat nuts thrown on the ground at a safe distance then turn tail and scarper at the slightest twitch in her direction. Not quite a shining example of the “bucket training” espoused by shepherds everywhere, but believe me, this counts as progress!
Right now, Myfanwy, Margo and Babs are on holiday up the road in a field belonging to a friendly neighbourhood farmer and his ever so friendly young rams. I gave the girls a pep talk about what to expect. Given my limited knowledge of sheep loving, it wasn’t a long chat and even then they wandered off before I got to the bit about the stork. I obviously hadn’t filled them with enthusiasm as the usual debacle ensued when it came to rounding the flock up for the journey – if you count the dog (which is probably being very generous given how easily distracted she is), we had a ratio of two herders to every sheep and still their little cloven hooves ran rings around us. Time for a cunning plan – cobble together a sheep race using 8 hurdles, a tree lined ditch and pig pen fence line, position family members in the ditch with the brambles, hide the open trailer round a corner at the end of the race, swap the dog for an energetic teenager, hide the dog, fill the bucket with nuts, speak nicely, push up gently, wait patiently, push up gently, wait patiently, swear, push up, wait impatiently, bundle them in, shut trailer – hey presto, easy-peasy lemon squeezy!
Up the road we get a lesson in trouble free flock moving.
Position one person in the lane…
… position two people at the other end of the lane, open other gate, flock obediently turns in the right direction, into field, into holding pen….
Then we played a game of “Who’s the Daddy?”. Now our girls are big old units. Not one of them is some scrawny rag tag poor excuse of a ewe. We needed a trio of young rams who’d be up to the task of mounting our girls without the aid of a stool to stand on. I’m mighty glad it wasn’t my job to single out the chosen ones from the flock and wrestle each one out of the pen. All I had to do was point and say “what about him, he’s got a nice face”. Thankfully others present had a better understanding of relevant criteria against which to judge who might be the right ram for the task ahead and it was nothing to do with job prospects.
It was difficult to tell whether the rams were “up for it”, but to say my girls were unimpressed would be to overstate the level of their disinterest in their new field mates. Babs, Margo and Myfanwy promptly trotted off to explore the furthest reaches of their new home.
So long girls. See you in six weeks. They grow up so fast. Sigh.