Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Shearing & Ranching . . . Not for the faint of heart.

 I love our profession. I truly do. I love ranching, though it was something I never imagined in my childhood what I would  be doing. I did have those days I dreamed I was cowgirl, something  I am still trying to achieve. Like I was saying, I love ranching, however, and I mean a BIG however, I have come to the conclusion: Ranching is not for the faint of heart.

Now this is something I knew, but the weekend after Thanksgiving continued to add confirmation to my belief. 

I am sad to say I didn't even take any pictures of this weekend, but for future generations & those one day this will be funny stories. I feel the need to add this one.

We had just finished up a wonderful holiday visiting my husbands side of the family. Friday morning we went up to the mountains, cut down a fresh Christmas tree & had every intention of driving the 2 hours "home" before coming back on Saturday to work. Its always nice to sleep in your own bed, even if it is just for a night. My husbands parents live close to where the ranch is, so while I packed up our gear he headed over to "check on things." He wanted to make sure we were ready to go for Saturday. Now Saturday was shearing day. Well partial shearing, but I will get to that in a minute. 

A short time later, I receive a text: "It's not happening."  In other words, "There is too much work to do, we aren't headed home." It wasn't a big deal, to be truthful I was kind of expecting it, but it is always nice to be wrong in these sort of situations.  My father-in-law, bless his heart, extended a stay at their house "for however long I need it, and to just plan on coming back here tonight." Now there is no house like your own, but this offer almost brought tears to my eyes I was so grateful & so thrilled not to be a sleeping  with sleeping bag & outhouse in November.

So we headed over to the "Ranch" & worked building a new set of working corrals until dark. We had a new plan & new system that we were hoping would be smoother & easier to work the sheep in.  At dark, we returned as guest to warm beds, delicious hot foods & crawled into bed early; tired & knowing tomorrow was going to be a long day.

My hubby got up & going by 5:30  a.m. The boys & I on the other hand slept a little longer & didn't make our way over to the ranch until sometime after 8. 

We began shearing, each person having their own area to work. The boys helped move the sheep into the different pens, it was my job to keep the sheep running up the chute into the shearing trailer. 

(These are pictures from last year's shearing)

 I held a rod in hand to help prod the ewes along, up into the chute & into the trailer for shearing. This weekend, however was a special shearing: Bellies & Tags. (Translation: Bellies & Bottoms. This is because we won't be doing our regular shearing until after lambing season has started. If we kept the ewes bellies & bottoms unsheared, when it was time for deliver & new lambs to find milk, it would make it that much harder for the lambs. It's a hard enough survival game, without adding additional risks.)

So we are shearing Bellies & tags. 

Here is a glance of what the inside of a shearing trailer looks like. 

(Last year's picture once again)

The morning goes a little slower than we wanted, but it goes. It is always good exercise. It was also so much fun to watch because we had 3 generations working those sheep that day. My husband, his father & my kids. 3 generations side by side. It was awesome. I am still kicking myself for not getting a picture. Besides the usual take care of the baby & few brief spouts of frustration from my hubby, it moves along.

Lunch arrives. It was delicious. A wonderful break to sit down. After lunch, life got a little more interesting. We are working, when I get the "MOM!" with panic. One of my poor boys wasn't feeling well & now needed me to run him back to the house for a fresh set of clothes. My poor boy.

The sad part of ranching  & days like today. It doesn't matter how you feel. The work still has to be done. So we return, I go back to helping & my boy that doesn't feel well becomes the designated baby sitter for the youngest. Pretty soon my husband wants to know where the eldest disappeared to? I go searching & discover that he doesn't feel well either. We make another make-shift bed in the car & I return to helping. 

Soon its a "MOM!" I go running back to the car. Now we have an outhouse on the place that was probably less than a 1/8 mile walk to it. Not far. TOO FAR for a sick belly & a little boy. So we load in the car I drive the short distance to the outhouse just in time. I drop him off, just in time for another boy to climb in & beg for a quick drive to the outhouse. And that was the rest of my working afternoon. I would help for 20 minutes. Hear "MOM" and then go driving like mad  women to the outhouse for a little boy. Except for the brief hour when two of the  boys were sleeping it off & I grabbed the baby to help me herd. 

My baby love sheep &  was doing a great job. He as thrilled with the chance to be in the corrals & herding ship. He was thrilled until he went head on with a ewe with a dog on her tail. The ewe took definite victory & my baby went face first into the yuck. Poor boy. Road rash & everything. Then more "MOM" a run to the bathroom, trying to soothe a baby, running back to work to help with the sheep. Then just push repeat on it, over & over again. Until it becomes dark & the wonderful words of  "I guess we better call it a night." Hallelujah.

I make a plan with my hubby take  the sickest boy & the baby & drive the 20 minutes to town to stock  up on snacks, Gatorade & whatever else I can think of to make it through the next day.  I finally arrive at my in-laws home, to which my wonderful mother in law has made us a fantastic dinner, and once again around 8 o'clock  I send my kids & us to crawl into bed, because no matter what: we have to do it again tomorrow.

Sigh.  That night my hands are throbbing in pain. Eventually morning comes. We fix breakfast, and a while later follow the hubby back over to the ranch. For day 2 of shearing Bellies & Tags. 

I resume my post of helping prod the ewes into the chute. Except today I realize how little arm muscle I have. My hands hurt from grasping my rod for hours on end  the day before. Every time I lift my arms I want to cry. I am officially a wimp. The shearer  I am standing next too, looks at me, smiles & says in broken English  "How it is such a good arm workout." I smile & agree. "Yes, yes it is."

The 2 youngest who aren't feeling their best hang out in the car, & come out every now and then to pet the puppies & check sheep. Around 10 they appear to be doing well, and come out to work. My little dude helps move sheep & rides on the ewes backs when he can. The baby just walks back & forth on the outside of the corrals. Yelling at sheep & petting dogs.

Lunch time comes but not before I get another major workout in for my arms & hands. However, shearing  went a lot better this morning & everyone seems to be doing alright. We only had to make a couple quick emergency runs to the outhouse. We join some visiting family for lunch back at the house & linger a little longer than normal because my husbands tells me they are moving sheep around. I only partially feel bad, on the inside I am secretly rejoicing. My husband may be superman, I am not & was grateful for the extended break.

Once we visit with family & they head down the road, we make out way back out with lunch for my hubby & the herders.  We had friends drop in to see us & the shearing for a bit. It was a great little visit & my boys always enjoy playing with their kids. Once they leave my husbands informs me, that my job has been given to another man & I may just help move sheep & take it a little easier the rest of the afternoon. So move sheep we do & of course a few quick runs with the car to the outhouse. The rest of the afternoon, besides the huge amounts of wind & dust goes along nicely. The beloved words of "Lets call it a night." are said & we can return back to the house to make dinner for everyone.

Then night came. Oh. what a night. In short description, the 2 middle boys & I all got hit with the flu. Not fun, not fun at all. My blessed husband is up most of the night with the boys & I get up only on occasion to  throw up before returning to my bed. About 4 a.m my dearest hubby wakes me up, informs me even though I am sick he has to get at least of couple of hours before he goes again for another long day. I agree & try my best to take over my parental duties. Morning comes, I give him a kiss goodbye & beg for Mercy. "I can't do it honey. Not another day. We need to go home."  He agrees that sick kids need to be home & so does their exhausted mother. " I can finish up today. No problem. Go home."

I silently cheer. "Yea." Then run into the bathroom. We must be loved from up above because for a brief period of a couple hours we were able to pack up our bags, load our car & make the drive home. Incident free. 

Upon returning home. the flu continued to claim us for the rest of the week.  That first night though as I cried out in pain when trying to lift my sore arms above my head, & my exhausted body crawled into my bed. I realized " I love what we do. I love the ranching & working sheep on days that are less than ideal. I  may have married Superman, but I am far, far away from every being wonderwoman. Yes, I am still quite faint of heart."