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Sheep Journal: baa, Breaking Ice v3#25

Posted 12/11/2007 6:58am by Catskill Merino.

Saturday at market was warm with a high of 43, good weather for selling wool. My cell phone rang about 1 PM; it was Clara back at the farm telling me that ewes from the breeding group were walking out on the frozen pond. When I heard this I saw sheep plunging through the thin ice like children. The horrific thing about frozen pond rescues is that more often than not the rescuer falls in and dies too, or this tragic aspect is what makes it news.

Clara said she shook a feed bucket at the sheep and they came off the pond, but when they realized the ruse, several walked back on the ice again. Clara didn't know what to do. I knew what to do, but I couldn't fence them back from the pond until tomorrow. I wouldn't get back to the farm until after dark.

But what to do now?

Then it hit me, "Break the ice!" around the edge of the pond, I told her, and that should keep the sheep on shore. Use heavy stones, a sledge hammer... She said she would try; I went back to my market customers preoccupied with visions of foundering sheep.

I called Clara back at 3 PM; she said the ice was too thick to break but she was keeping an eye on the sheep and so far they were all well. I thanked her. When night fell, Dominique and I packed up. It had been a good day at market. We got back to the farm about 8 PM detouring around a maddening traffic jam in Jersey.

On the way to the barn we drove past the pond. Dominique gasped, "Look, the ice is broken." My heart sank like a sheep. But when we got closer what we thought to be broken ice was thinner, darker ice near the pond's overflow. The ice on the pond was intact. The ewes were safe. We looked at each other and shook our heads in either belief or disbelief, I'm not sure which.

The day had begun at 3 AM but it wasn't over yet, we had to feed grain to the sheep. We carried pails of oats to the ewes illuminated by the headlights of the truck. When we stepped over the net fence the hungry sheep swarmed around. Their long shadows flashed across the yard disorienting us like a disco strobe.

Sheep being fed are loud and cacophonous; with a pail in hand they will rush you, bang into your knees, knock you off balance then sometimes push you face first into a trough feeder all the while desperately telling you how hungry they are, and butt in the air you will cuss them. It was good to be home.