Had an interesting little adventure last night.
We’ve been in about four days of uncomfortably cold, high winds, accompanied from time to time by rain. Down in the South Island (and probably on the Central North Island Plateau too) there is snow on the mountains, a friend from Karamea tells me. I’m not surprised.
Last night I went up to get the sheep in at about 5.15pm, I guess. They were up in the gorse and tea-tree on the hill, and though we called back and forth, they were not inclined to come – heads down, eating, from what I could see through the scrub. Alright, so I left them. They will come – it’s a cold night with dark, lowering cloud.
They didn’t come.
I went up again, about 20 minutes later – with the pot of nuts this time, rattling and calling. They were still on the slope and not about to come down. Finally Alphie the ram detached himself from the girls and came to the sound of food. I led him down to the shed and fed him, hoping they would follow.
Still they didn’t come.
I went back up a third time, leaving Alphie behind a loosely shut gate. Two-thirds of the way up the hill, he overtook me, heading back to his women. I decided to leave it a bit longer.
Back at the shed I did a few things – keeping out of a rain shower. Thank goodness I’d already fed the pigs and put them to bed down below, I thought. I almost felt like leaving the sheep to their own devices, but the good shepherd inside sent me up for a fourth time. It was getting darker.
Just above a little grassy plateau, I stood looking up at the ewes in the scrub, and suddenly realized I couldn’t see the lambs. “Where are the babies?” I asked the sheep. Then I spoke in the high-pitched voice I use to talk to the lambs, and immediately App, the younger ewe, turned and moved towards a little hollow in the hillside. Then I saw the little heads – they were sitting in a bunch. It was a very nice camping spot with a bit of overhanging tree trunk, but if it rained they were going to get wet, no doubt about that. And the wind was coming straight across from the north.
So grumbling and grumping, and feeling thankful that I’d brought a staff, I threaded my way up the steep slope through the tea-tree and gorse bushes, over fallen branches and clumps of long grass – which being wet were quite slippery.
When I approached the lambs they jumped up, then the whole party moved off westwards along the ridge, near the fence line at the top. That would do just fine – they were headed for a corner in the fence that would send them down off the hill and along towards the shed. I have an arrangement down there with two 10 foot gates that can be opened and hooked together to form a race leading into the place they have been sleeping in at nights. Fortunately, I’d left it set up ready, because I was still a little way behind them.
They all had feed – Alphie for a second time – and I finally got in home at about 6.30pm: nearly dark.
It’s always a good feeling at the end of the day to know that everyone is fed and in shelter. Especially when the weather’s bad. It HAS rained, several times, since darkness fell.
Acrylic on illustration board. – 10″ x 14″.
For prints, products and more details, click on the images.
I’ve been out of circulation for quite a few months – and there’s a reason for that. Back in late 2014 I was struck by a nasty disease called polymyalgia, which came close at the time to destroying my mobility. Fortunately, once diagnosed, the solution was revealed – prednisone.
Aaargh! Well I wasn’t entirely happy with that, but does one want to walk freely or not? In addition, it was causing mayhem with my blood – too many platelets, anemia etc. So my doctor put me on a modest dose of prednisone and over the period of about 18 months we tailed it back and achieved a recovery.
In the meantime, however, I had an accident and decided to go to a chiropractor (fortunately a very good one). I’d had chiropractic before because I have 2 curves in my spine, not helped by riding horses. So we entered into a process of sorting out these curves and re-stabilising my backbone.
I’d been quite depressed at the time of the polymyalgia – a mental state that was not helped by seeing all the things that needed doing round my 10 acre property and not being able to do a thing about them (physically or financially) – and so the obvious answer seemed to be to move away from this place, which I’ve been associated with for 47 years and have loved dearly. I’d even got to the point where I wasn’t interested anymore.
But things kept getting in my way – not the least being shortage of finances to get things tidied up for sale. On top of that I had a tree fall on my roof (damage? – oh yes!) and a second tree taken down because it was in danger of following suit. Fallout everywhere. Funds getting even lower. I seemed to be stuck in mud.
Then just before last Christmas, the tide started to turn. We began to win with the chiropractic. I’m now getting around my land as in the old days – and for the most part it’s steep and hilly – and working quite hard, if carefully. There are a few things I used to do and now cannot, but apart from that, the recovery is little short of miraculous.
I’ve decided to stay – how could I ever have thought of leaving? To keep my grass down I’ve taken on breeding rare breeds Damara sheep. My first 2 bought in early July are a Damara/Arapawa cross and her daughter. Both have had lambs to a Damara crossbred ram, and I now have a fullblood Damara ram also. So the headcount is currently 4 females and 2 males – and the lambs at 2 weeks old are a delight!
Below is one of my drawings of an Arapawa ram. This breed, now officially accepted as a Rare Breed in this country, came about by early explorers and whalers dropping off sheep (probably of merino origin) on Arapawa Island in Cook Strait – where they continued to breed. No doubt the motive was to provide a food source.
Initially they were regarded as game. Later they were marked for extermination, until their value as a gene pool was recognized and a sanctuary established for them on the island, all thanks to the efforts of Betty Rowe and her husband Walt. Now there are a number of breeders of Arapawa sheep throughout New Zealand.
Like Damaras, Arapawa sheep are shedders, and are naturally resistant to fly-strike.
So here we are!! Hallelujah!
For prints, products and more details, click on the images.