Friday, May 23, 2014

Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom, Shearing Sheep

I believe a good education is extremely important in my children's life! And I do everything I can to support that, but sometimes an education is not traditional at our house. Every once in a while (usually when Grandpa needs help at the ranch with big jobs, such as branding, docking, shearing, etc) I allow the kids to skip school for a farm education! We live on a small farm and it's a wonderful way for my kids to grow up, but I also like to allow them to have experiences on a larger scale farm/ranch, like my dad's. We took one of these "non-traditional learning experiences" this past Friday. Grandpa brought the first herd of ewes home from the desert winter range to be sheared before they start lambing. Unfortunately the "before they start lambing" turned into shearing while they were lambing. The shearing crew was delayed by rain and was about a week late getting to us, so we had ewes starting to lamb before they were sheared. This may not sound like a big deal, but let me assure's better to get them sheared before they start lambing! It makes the whole job slower and more work, but you can't change what Mother Nature throws at you, so you just roll with it. (A good life lesson!)
The kids working the chutes for grandpa.

We had 862 pregnant ewes (and some already with lambs on the ground) to run through the chute to be sheared. We had a skeleton crew of a sheep herder, my dad's good friend, myself and my kiddos. Dad was busy tending to the lambing so we tried to keep things moving through the chute! (so he could keep an eye on the lambing situation) The kids learned how to herd, but not crowd the ewes, how to get them moving, but not spook them into a craze, how to manage what needs to be done next to keep things moving (great managerial skills!), how to recognize a problem or something that doesn't look right (like a ewe about to have a lamb that needs to be put in another pen for some private time, how to listen and follow instructions, patience, self confidence, leadership, hard work, and working together as a family. These are lessons that are taught very easily in a farm/ranch setting. And just being outside, free to explore and play is a fringe benefit! I remember how much fun I used to have as a child in the same lambing sheds, playing in the chutes, chasing each other around, playing games and enjoying life! I'm grateful that I can extend these same adventures to my kids.

Here's one little group of babies waiting on their momma's to be sheared.

We all learned a little patience as we got to the end and had about 45 ewes that had lambs to run through. We could only take about 10 at a time, take the babies away and put them in a pen close by(which means picking up each lamb by hand and transporting them, so they didn't get trampled. Put the ewes through the chute and shearing trailers, and back out to be reunited with their babes, before we could run any others through, so to make sure all the babies got back with the right mommas. Sometimes they get confused and "adopt" someone elses baby or reject their own in this scenario, so we had to do our best to make it as less traumatic for everyone as possible. It's a slow process, and much better to shear without lambs.

The kids playing a game in the back alley.
I learned that I can still hop a lambing chute fence about a hundred times in a day and take a pretty good hit from a couple hundred pound ewe! We had a ewe get down on the ground and cast herself up against the fence (it's hard to get up when you are on your back and super preggo! Kind of like a turtle on her back!!) so I went over to give her a hand. I leaned over to get her up and just then the trusty Border Collie Dog spooked another ewe and she took me out like a NFL line backer sacks a QB! She actually took two of us down in one smack, as Bob, (dad's friend) was behind me! We were both OK, nothing a little Ibuprofen and hot bubbly bath didn't fix!! Farming/Ranching is not for Sissies I tell ya!!

I remember the first time I had one of these experiences as a kid. I was helping dad give scour medication to a sick calf. His momma didn't appreciate the kind gesture we were offering her baby. As dad held the calf and kept the tube in him, I was in charge of pouring the medication into the syringe that went into the tube. I looked up just in time to see his momma with nostrils flared, coming right at me! I learned I could run and hop a fence like no body's business!! (I think that helped my track and field career later in life, LOL!) Even though some experiences can be difficult or sometimes scary, you can learn confidence and how to face and conquer your fears! (I still haven't conquered my fear of Rattlesnakes...probably never will on that one! Thank goodness I didn't have any run ins with any of those this time!!)

The kids had a great time at the ranch and they were a lot of help!! They enjoyed sluffing school for a farm education!  It's always good to spend time with my dad, even if it's just working. So grateful for my family heritage of farming and ranching and that I can share that with my kiddos too.

Until next time, Hug a Farmer, Thank a Rancher!!