Annie Pepper being shorn, Spring Shearing 2010
It was a bit colder than I would have liked and rained on Sunday (with hail at times… eek!). Temperatures were up near 80 by the following weekend, though, so the sheep were very glad they got their coats off when they did! They’ve been very happy, naked little things now that spring has finally sprung. We even had a few days of summer last week with temps in the upper 80s, but it’s finally cooled off to more reasonable spring weather. I posted a lot of pictures of shearing weekend in my Farm & Animals album on Facebook, so if you missed them (or aren’t a friend yet) please go over there and check them out!
Jenna with Cookie, Spring Shearing 2010
The Tuesday after shearing we had a terrible loss for our farm. One of our big, woolly boys passed away in his sleep. JellyBean (aka Bean or Mr. Bean) was very much a treasured member of our family. For some reason these big wethers just seem to have an abundance of personality and Bean was no exception. I still miss his freckly little nose begging for carrot treats as the sheep come in every night. He always used to get in line several times, trying to scam me out of more than his fair share of carrots. And if I ignored him I’d soon get gently whacked with a hoof on the back of my leg, just in case I hadn’t realized he was still there! He was a wonderful boy and I know he’s enjoying greener pastures with all his friends who have gone before him.
Even on the saddest days, though, you know one of these critters is going to make you laugh. My Dad and I were on the golf cart, headed to the barn shortly after having buried Mr. Bean when I looked into the pasture where the ram lives and saw something strange. It took me a minute to realize what I was looking at and it felt vastly inappropriate on so many levels to laugh, but laugh I did! Here’s our big, manly ram Jeremiah standing there with a blue 5 gallon bucket on his head! I’d left a couple buckets out in the lower pasture for him and our stud llama and alpaca boys to drink out of. They have a creek down there but they seem to prefer a bucket. I’d not refilled them in a few days and apparently that morning Jeremiah had gone down and tried to get a drink out of whatever water was left in this bucket and the handle had fallen over his head! All you could see were his eyes over the rim! I had visions of us having to chase Jeremiah and his bucket all over the pasture but, surprisingly enough, he stood very still and let Dad take it off his head! The worst part was that when Dad tipped the bucket up to pull it past his nose, those few inches of water in the bottom fell out all over Jeremiah’s head. He looked so embarrassed like, “Oh, God, I hope the ewes didn’t see that!”
Well, Spring Break has come and gone since I last posted. My dad took my two nieces out west to explore Arizona and the Grand Canyon for the week. This was the second trip for eldest niece, but the first time the youngest had gone. Dad says eldest niece turned into quite a mother hen on the trip, telling him at the Grand Canyon that he should “remember, Bepaw, when you walk down you have to walk back up again,” and spent a lot of time admonishing her younger sister to stay away from the edge of the canyon! This is, of course, the same canyon she was cavorting along the edge of a couple years ago. When I reminded her of this I was informed that (at the ripe old age of 14) she’s older and wiser now!
So with Dad gone, that left his share of the barn chores to Mom and me. That wasn’t so bad. I figured there were parts of me that could certainly use the exercise of pushing that wheelbarrow. What sucked was the skunk that came visiting the night after he left. Oh, friends, let me tell you about Pepe!
Now, the women in my family have had to learn to be strong and independent because my dad was an airline pilot and nothing ever broke or got sick when Dad was home. So we’re quite adept at knowing how to suck it up and deal with anything. Mom and I did not, however, deal well with the skunk. Maybe we were just really tired or maybe we’re just too tender-hearted, but this is how it went:
I go down to the barn in the middle of the night every night to make sure Roo can get up and move around and isn’t lying in the same spot for 12 hours. He has arthritis which has made one leg a bit crooked and he doesn’t get up so well by himself anymore. So at 2AM I roll out of bed and let the Jacks out to potty. They immediately dash out, barking their fool heads off, and the next thing I know it smells like a skunk has walked in and sprayed my entire living room! I managed to get the dogs back inside and thankfully they hadn’t been sprayed, but that skunk smell was just gag-worthy and it was everywhere. Being a lovely spring night the windows were all open (naturally) and I thought about closing them and turning the air on, but I figured that wasn’t going to do anything but trap the smell inside and recycle it through the house. Instead I gathered up box fans and put them in the windows to blow the skunk smell outside. So it’s now 2:30AM and my cell phone rings. This is never a good thing.
It’s my mom, who says to me in a very sleepy voice, “Do you smell the skunk?” (As if anyone could miss that stench!) And then, “Your Beagle is beagling.”
Obviously in the time it’s taken me to deal with his visit to the house, Pepe has moved on to the barn so I hop on my trusty golf cart and ride down there. No skunk in sight, which pleased me immensely. I couldn’t smell the skunk in the barn, but by then my head was so filled with Pepe’s rank perfume that I wasn’t not sure if he’d been there or not. I was really kind of hoping that Mr. Beagle was carrying on because he had to go do his business but since he never howls like that at night I should have known better. I put his harness and leash on and the minute he got into the alley of the barn he started snuffling with that wonderful nose of his. And then he strikes up a howl as if he were a hound from hell instead of one small, portly Beagle. Sheep scatter. All thoughts of going potty fly right out his little Beagle brain and I cannot get him to shut up. I fully expected my phone to start ringing again with a cranky sister on the other end. Finally, I managed to drag Mr. B into the lounge where he quieted down long enough for me to pull up the pictures from the barn cam and see what in hell was going on down there before I got there. Sure enough, I had pictures of Pepe coming into the barn… and less than a minute later (insert Beagle barking) Pepe quickly exiting the barn! I made the appropriate “good Beagle” comments and put him back in his stall, quieted the sheep and got Roo up, and went back to the house.
By now it’s after 3:30AM and I’m wide awake, waiting for the skunk perfume to dissipate from my room so I can get back to sleep. Good luck with that! I had just drifted off around 5AM when that freakin’ phone rang again!
“Your Beagle is beagling again,” Mom says, “and I think the skunk is in the barn.”
So this time we both went down together and, sure enough, right there outside the barn was the skunk! And he had definitely sprayed this time. I left Mom flashing the flashlight at him and went in and got Mr. B.
“Let’s get the skunk,” I said, and he was more than happy to oblige.
I figured that Pepe would be scared of my vociferous hellhound and take off for the hills. Boy, was I wrong! Mom had chased him around the side of the shed and he was headed for the woods by the time Beagle and I got out there. He’s beagling, I’m hollering, Mom’s shining the flashlight… and I’ll be damned if that little beast didn’t turn right around and come straight for us!
Mom and I start high-tailing it for the barn. I’m dragging the Beagle behind me yelling, “Run, Mr. B, run!” What followed was an hour and a half of trying to keep one very determined little skunk out of our barn! I think now that Pepe was either a juvenile who had no clue what he was doing, or a female looking for a nice place to have her babies. Whatever the case, he wanted in that barn. Both Beagle and his stall reeked of skunk but I had to put him back in there because I couldn’t deal with Pepe and him at the same time. I did have the bright idea of putting up bales of wheat straw in front of the big barn doors to keep Pepe out. Of course, that started a whole debate between Mom and I about whether or not skunks can hop. I was pretty sure he wasn’t going to climb over the bale, but Mom was sure he would.
“They have claws, you know,” she said.
“For digging,” I replied. “You don’t see skunks in trees.”
I don’t know whether skunks can hop or not, but this one did not try to climb over the bales. He did once manage to weasel between them, causing a mad panic to move the bales and shoo him back out. I put them much tighter the next time, let me tell you! So here we are, watching this skunk go back and forth in front of the bales, trying to get inside. Occasionally he’d go around to the side of the barn and then come back again. And during this whole fiasco Mom and I are sporadically having a conversation (in between several way-too-girly screams and lots of blue words) that went something like this:
Me: “I’m gonna shoot that little bastard!”
Mom: “You can’t shoot him here. He’s going to stink up the whole barn.”
Me: “Have you smelled the barn? I think he sprayed my Beagle. He needs killin’!”
Mom: “Do you really want to have to clean up and bury skunk parts?”
Me: “Well, no, I don’t want to have to shoot anything at all, but are we just going to stay down here all night playing skunk pong?”
Mom: “I think he’s gone.”
Me: “Nope, here he comes again. Dude! Seriously! Don’t go away mad, just go away!”
Mom: “If your dad was here he’d shoot him.”
Me: “Do you want me to shoot him?”
Mom: “It’s gonna stink.”
Me: “Maybe I could just whack him with a shovel?”
Mom: “Well, that’s just going to piss him off.”
Me: “Not if I whack him hard enough.”
Mom: “Could you do that?”
Me: “No, probably not. I’d wuss out at the last second. Aw, hell, this is ridiculous. We’re way tougher farm girls than this! We should be able to handle one skunk!”
This went on for about an hour, during which time Pepe was all over the place. The barn cats kept a respectful distance but seemed to think the whole thing was great fun. Except for George Earnest, the kitten, who apparently thought that the skunk might be kin to my sister’s tuxedo cat, Ozzy. As if I didn’t have enough to deal with, dear George sprints up to the skunk and very earnestly (because he’s just a sweet, earnest sort of kitty) says, “Hey, are you my friend Ozzy?”
I, of course, didn’t even think about it before dashing up to the cat and the skunk, snatching Georgie up, and tossing his little orange butt back in the barn. I’m lucky we didn’t both get sprayed. Meanwhile, Mr. Beagle is rolling around in his stall, trying to get the skunk smell out of his nose. I still don’t know how the skunk managed to get him. He has one little hole in the corner of his stall where the walls don’t quite join to the sloping floor. It’s big enough that he can stick his nose out (and nothing else) and I think Pepe got him there. Whatever happened, I was washing a Beagle the next day and, bless his heart, his stall still has a faint skunky odor to it.
Eventually Pepe wandered around the side of the barn and Mom and I found ourselves leaning out over the wheat straw bales with our flashlights, afraid to hope that he’d given up and gone away. I was just about to whisper “I think he’s gone” when mom yelled, “Holy shit he’s in the barn!”
The little monster had figured out we weren’t going to let him in the front doors, so he’d gone around back and come in through the gate to the sheep’s paddock. My sheep, let me assure you, were not amused. So here’s Pepe, wandering around in the big stall with several of my braver sheep preparing to stomp him into little smelly bits. I grabbed my pitchfork, yelled at Mom to open a path through the wheat straw bales and went in to do battle.
First I coaxed and cajoled, trying very nicely to shoo him out of there… and then the wee fiend backed up and sprayed at me! Now, I have endless patience with animals and a very long fuse on my temper, but I had reached the end of my tether at that point.
“Oh, hell no, you did NOT just spray me!” I roared and it was on. I was like Alice in Wonderland playing croquet, only with a skunk instead of a hedgehog. By the time I’d whacked his little black & white ass out of the big stall, down the alley, and through the front doors of the barn, I was livid. And we were all gagging from the smell. I can’t believe Pepe had any skunk juice left at that point.
I looked at Mom and said, “That’s it! I’m going to get the gun. Pepe is toast!”
Wouldn’t you know it, though, by the time I got back to the barn Pepe had decided that whatever he wanted in there was too damned much trouble and had taken off across the pasture. I’m glad now that I didn’t have to kill him, but at the moment I dearly wanted to shoot something! Apparently Mom and I made an impression, though, because he hasn’t been back. Nearly two weeks later, however, there are parts of my barn (and Beagle) where you can still catch a faint whiff of Eau de Skunk, so Pepe made an impression of his own.
And in case you were wondering, it was 6:45AM when I crawled back into bed. This is why I always say that John Denver was full of it when he sang “Life on the farm is kinda laid back.” My ass. LOL…