Monday, October 10, 2011

Houdini has come back as a sheep

Specifically, Houdini has taken refuge within our herd and has taught them one and all how to escape from a perfectly comfortable barn, with it's locked gate intact. We have had wolf sightings in the area, and I think I may have even seen 4 of them on the way home tonight. They were a ways off, and too large to be coyotes, too small to be deer, and very very black. I couldn't swear to it, but I'm fairly sure that I saw at least a part of the wolf pack that inhabits our fine county. Now, I have nothing against wolves in general, I just don't want them thinking my livestock (any of my livestock) is on the menu. So, we've been locking the sheep up at night in the barn. It would be more accurate to say that we have been attempting to lock the sheep up at night in the barn.

I sent Sarah out last Friday evening to lock up the sheep, which she did. The next morning, I looked out at 5:30 am, and the sheep were out. I said to her, "Didn't you lock up the sheep last night?" To which she replied, "Yes, why." I described the current view out my window (21 sheep happily grazing in the pasture and not in the barn, and she agreed that perhaps she needed to rethink her gate-locking technique. I agreed, until I went out to the barn to find the gate still locked! And locked in a manner that I would have considered secure. So the issue was clearly not her technique. The next night, I spent in the Tri-Cities with Steve, so our nephew locked up the sheep, and they got out for him too. Now, last night, I really needed them confined, since the mobile slaughter folks were supposed to be here at oh dark thirty to take our one boy who is large enough to fulfill his mission in life.

So, I dutifully locked them up in the barn, after which I made a detour past the chicken coop to make sure the chicken butler had closed (it had) before coming inside the house. By the time I got in (I had to detour around to pet on the horses, after all), it was nearly full dark. I went upstairs to change into my lounging clothes, and happened to glance out in the pasture to see 21 dark blobs that looked an awful lot like sheep grazing in the pasture. The little buggers hadn't even stayed in the barn for 20 minutes. I told them if they that they were on their own and settled in with my book for a while before going to sleep.

So, this morning, I was up at 5:00 to get out to the pasture at 5:30 so I could get the sheep contained. They, of course, were not in the pasture closest to the barn. Nor were they in the ram pasture, nor on the back hillside. That left the orchard. I decided to try the easiest path first, and went towards the barn, calling, "Here sheep sheep, here sheep." I'll be danged if it didn't actually work, and they came into the barn all on their own. You likely could have knocked me over with a feather. I got them all in, surveyed the situation, and decided they must be sneaking out one of the 2 foot square (approximately) holes in the end wall of the lean-to. Luckily, we have a gate that encompasses the area outside these escape routes, so I closed it and then proceeded to put as few sheep as possible into the small outside pen for the mobile slaughter fellas. By now it was close to 6:30, so I was expecting them at any time. I came into check on a few things. 6:30 came and went - no mobile slaughter truck. 7:00 came and went and still no mobile slaughter. By this point, I decided that they were probably not going to make it before I absolutely had to leave for work at 7:30, and wrote them a note telling them which animal to kill (blue ear tag #2), and hung it on the outside gate with duct tape (which I was actually able to find because Steve had organized the old house earlier this summer).

On this trip, I also noticed that the chickens were not out, which was odd because it was full light and the chicken butler should have been open. Not so much. Into the coop I went to flip the switch to manually open the door. I happened to look into one of the nesting boxes, and spied one of the latest batch of very wild kittens hanging out. Now, this means that he had to have been in there when the door closed at 8:00 last night. I'm thinking this may be our egg sucker. He, of course, disappeared as soon as I saw him, so no capture was accomplished. I informed Steve of my suspicions. My job is done.

So, added to Steve's already impossible list of tasks is eliminating the escape routes from the barn. Hopefully a single panel will fix this, as the lean-to is going to be taken out of service next year following the repair of the barn roof. It's looking like the horses may have to winter in the orchard. Now, this won't really hurt them - they have fur coats - and if it gets really bad, I'll take them into the lamb shed, but we need to think about how best to feed them so that we loose as little feed to snow / wind / rain as possible. I haven't come up with a good solution yet. I'm still working on it.