Thunder rolls, and I run, one eye on the sky to see if rain is coming, one on the ground so I don’t trip, my rubber boots slapping my legs with a monotonous thwacking sound. The sheep went to the back pasture for the first time this year today, and I’ve been worrying about whether they will come back up or not. It’s been a wild day, and although it is after 7 pm its not over yet.
Rewind to the beginning of the day, When Mom and I moved the flock before breakfast.
As I open the makeshift polywire gate to let the sheep out, I spot Tabitha, a yearling ewe born last Spring, hanging back with a newborn lamb at her side. Reluctant to leave her tiny, wobbly baby, but knowing fresh grass waits at the end of the poly-wire path, and anxious to follow the others. There are a few frantic moments of untangling the fence, trying to keep Tabitha and the other new mama, who had a lamb earlier this week, in, and let all the other sheep out, including the two lambs who were bumming around in the barn, and got left behind. Finally everything is back as it should be, and the flock disappears into the trees and around the bend in the path, leaping, baa-ing, grabbing mouthfuls of grass on the fly, racing to where Mom waits to let them through the gate. I’m sleepy. I’m “hangry”. But happy. The new lambs are so cute, and it’s not raining. Then it is time to take care of the chicks and one grown chicken. The chicks have recently moved into the chicken house, which Dad put wheels on so that I can move it around the pastures, a strategy to improve chicken, sheep, cow, and pasture health all in one. I peer in and count, once, twice, three times, but the number stays the same. One is missing. I move the house, and the wheels lift it high enough for the chicks to run out, and it is a circus to get them back in. That does it. This coop has to have a fence around it so that escaping chicks can’t go far, and so that they can also have some sunlight, and room to peck around during the day. But first the sheep need water. The tank is barely filling, a mere trickle exiting the automatic waterer. Mom walks along where the hose runs down from the house through the woods to the back pasture and finds multiple leaks.
After several internet searches and phone calls to farm supply stores I come up with a plan for a chicken fence. The plan does not go as planned. I’m tired. I’m hot. But happy. I can see the sheep through the trees, wandering over an emerald hillside, and I know this is the life I love despite many failures.
Tears. Frustration. Advice from Mom and the stupendous discovery of a previously used and then forgotten fence have a rough setup ready by supper time, with a break in the middle to help Mom fix the leaking hose in the woods (add itchy to hot and tired), and take care of my cotton seedlings. It’s so exciting to think of the chickens enjoying their new home, despite the work it will take to move them regularly
After supper, as the thunder rumbles and I run, I try to remember the weather report, so important because the shearer may come on Tuesday if the fleeces are dry. Hurry, hurry. My food hasn’t really had time to settle. I have a stitch in my side. But I’m happy. The two new mamas are shut up in their own little pens to keep the others out of their hay, and the barn behind me is like a haven as the clouds gather and the storm rolls in. Mom yoohoos from down in the woods, and I yell back to let her know everything is ready. She opens the gate. The sheep rush by and they are all there. Thank goodness. No searching for a lost sheep in the stormy dark tonight. They get a treat of grain, training them to come up every night, and Dad helps me get everyone locked in the barn just as the rain pours down. Dashing through the downpour to fill water buckets I’m soaking wet and cut my finger, and its stings, but I’m happy. The sheep are all safe, I am looking forward to finishing the chicken fence tomorrow, and this life that is full of work makes you feel strong and well, even though you are tired and glad to fall into bed at the end of the day. It is rejuvenating, and fulfilling. There is so much to do, and so much to learn, and it’s wonderful. I don’t always remember that when I am frustrated and things aren’t going well on a specific project, but it comes back again and again, this feeling of belonging and contentment. The magic is to remember the joy when everything goes go south.