Ballyhoo Fiber Emporium
Sustainability in Every Skein!
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Ballyhoo Fiber Emporium podcast for fiber artists and producers featuring farm tips, sheep education, guests active in the industry, farm updates, and more!

Near Misses

It only takes a second. Every parent knows that. There were a couple of near misses on the farm today that, a second longer or an inch different, could have been truly disastrous.
Yesterday Daimhin left for his new home and was replaced by (Tiny) Tim, an outstanding two year old Shetland ram. We've been allowing the boys to graze the front yard since it's too wet to mow, however I didn't want to risk a strange ram having access to the front door. We put Cake in the ram pasture with Tim, Cake is older and big enough to stand his ground. This afternoon the boys decided to leave the front yard and graze on the side. Fine, I said, if you don't want to be near the house you can go meet the new boy.
Rams play by prison rules: find the biggest, baddest guy in the yard and beat his ***. That's exactly what Aillil, the second smallest sheep on the farm, did. He caught Tim by surprise - Tim has enjoyed freedom from competition and unlimited access to ewes until now - and battle commenced. Tim has at least fifty pounds and a year of growth on Aillil, and a much thicker neck. Aillil has (friendly) experience and the aggression of home defense on his side. After a couple of minutes, Tim began to run Aillil over. Augustus, Aillil's half brother and the youngest of last year's lambs, called for peace. When the rams didn't listen, he stepped between them. Rams are designed to hit and be hit directly head-on. Rarely they'll lock horns, gouge one another, or break each other's necks. Commonly, one ram will back up or run away, signaling that the fight is over. Augustus didn't want to wait that long. Tim and Aillil charged toward each other, caught Augustus in between them, and backed up for another hit. Augustus stumbled backward, his head lolling on his right shoulder.
One second, the best of intentions. My heart stopped - would I have to shoot this precious sheep? The peacemaker, the shy, surprise late summer lamb with delicate features? Augustus staggered and shook his head, eyes rolling. Tim and Aillil crashed forward; so did I. Augustus and the wethers jumped (sheep are sensitive to quick movement, even from their shepherd), suddenly holding his head up straight. He trotted around, shook his head again, and resumed observing the fight. Fatality avoided.

No one would expect similar violence from something as innocuous as a spinning wheel. I've caught up two cats while spinning, no harm, just tangled. Having the wheel fall over on me is about the worst thing I could imagine. This evening Zeke ran up to me as I sat spinning. I don't know what was racing through his tiny Border Collie mind. Maybe he wanted attention, maybe he was seeking solace from the waves of thunderstorms passing overhead. As he stepped back, some part of him - his eye socket, I think - caught on my orifice hook. He scrambled to retreat, screaming as the hook held fast and the wheel crashed down on him. The cotton band that holds the hook on the wheel snapped in half. There was a spiral on the handle end of the hook; now it's nearly straight. The flyer popped out of its bearings, the brake band popped off, the Mother of All's hinges bent. Thankfully, both dog and wheel seem functional.
In a second, my working sheepdog could have lost his eye. My source of income could have broken. That didn't happen. Zeke hid under my bed. When coaxed out, he wanted to play. Frida is sticking to his side, comforting him, enticing him into the living room. His eye is weeping. That's good, it will flush any possible infection. We'll watch him carefully and he won't be allowed near the sheep until he's healed (a Border Collie's worst punishment).
In both cases, it wasn't fair, it wasn't right, but it could have been worse. I'm truly thankful all is well.

Madeline RosenbergComment