Wednesday, June 1, 2016

catching sheep in 25 steps

1.  One stormy Sunday night when a fence came down, four of our sheep were frightened and escaped down the valley while the dogs and the chickens stayed behind.

2.  When they are stressed, sheep can run FAST and jump over and under and through many types of fencing in a single bound.

3.  Just because we are good and knowledgeable in dealing with one type of livestock does not mean we have a clue about dealing with any other.

4.  If sheep already have a good feed source, they will not be interested in the bucket of wheat or the handfuls of lucerne we are trying to tempt them with.  

5.  When chasing sheep through paddocks and forest we twisted an ankle in a ditch, scratched up our arms and legs on fences and gorse bushes, tore our clothing, lost a phone, cried. 

6. Just because everyone in the country appears to keep sheep quietly and happily in their paddocks or front yards, does not mean we can too.

    7.  Running through the paddocks and bits of forest we came face to face with some of the biggest and scariest looking kangaroos we have ever seen and teams of miniature horses that we never even knew existed.

    8.  Chasing sheep can be a full time occupation complete with phone calls, text messages, emails, appointments and many, and varied attempts.

    9.  After a few days we came to the conclusion that sheep are unpredictable and irresponsible.

      10.  Sometimes we found ourselves wondering about what the size of a flock actually is.

      11.  We worried night and day about the stress to the sheep, about car accidents involving sheep, about fox and dog attacks on sheep, and about other worse case sheep scenarios.

      12.  We had moments where we doubted ourselves as farmers, as animal caretakers, as wool lovers or as shepherds.

        13.  We stressed like crazy at the fact that all we did all day everyday was chase sheep instead of the zillions of other jobs that were urgently crying out for our attention.

        14.  During the days we were chasing sheep we spent more time with our neighbours down the valley than we have in the last 16 years combined.

        15.  During that time spent with our neighbours we were shown such generosity and kindness that we were humbled.

        16.  On one occasion we were threatened and frightened.

        17.  On the Friday I skipped my spinning group session because I was chasing sheep and because I was having a crisis of confidence about keeping sheep and spinning their wool and whether I should just stick to knitting anyway.

        18.  Each night we lay in bed at night catching NOT counting sheep.

        19.  No-one; not Dave in the fruit shop, not Sam our gym trainer, not the guy who made our coffee, not our kids, nor the other parents at school really cared about our lost sheep even though that's all we spoke about for a week.

        20.  It appears on the other hand that EVERYONE knows that sheep get lost even Game Of Throne's Lord of the Twins, Walder Frey who in last Sunday's episode was furious at the news his troops had lost control over Riverrun and shouted "It's a castle, not bloody sheep!"

        21.  Little Bo Peep was a fairy tale. 

        22.  In the end, one week and one day after they escaped, it was a beautiful sheep dog called Jess and Real Eggs farmer Paul who saved the day, thank you, thank you!!!! Thank you also to my Mum and Dad, Rob, Susie, Craig and Kimmy, Tracey, Lisa and Ally. xx 

        23.  The sheep have now gone home to Nats and Jono at Brooklands free range farm where they originally came from. N and J have shown us such kindness and patience throughout this adventure and we both feel very lucky and grateful. 

        24.  And as for us, well let's just say a book about keeping sheep found its way into our Amazon shopping cart yesterday. While we do feel a bit heart broken at the set-back, we are already making plans for sheep proof fencing a few paddocks, we are chatting about a  proper stock trailer and some yards, and we've decided that if we are lucky enough to try this all again, then next time we'll start with a few lambs. Maybe we'll even bottle feed them and warm them in the Esse.

        25.  Fingers crossed.


        1. I care about your sheep story. It was quite the adventure. I grew up in the Wimmera on a sheep & wheat farm. Sheep are unpredictable at the best of times & they are not known for their brains. The first week of July was shearing time each year (and school holidays) & it was all hands on deck. It was an exhausting time, but fun too and by the end of the week I had the softest of hands!

        2. What a wild week long crazy adventure! There's a romanticised view about keeping sheep but as your story details they can be a lot of work! I know exactly the kind of scary giant kangaroo you are talking about. We lived in the Kosciusko National Park for eight years and always had a nice kind mob of roos outside our back door but one day I arrived home from school pick up and there was a giant looking prehistoric sized buck outside our back door and it was SO aggressive. It would not let us out of the car and in to our house for half an hour before it skipped off.

        3. When we first got our sheep they promptly escaped through our not even close to the right kind of fencing to keep sheep in. They led us a merry chase for about 3 hours (definitely not a week and a half!) and we considered just giving up on them, expecting to sight them regularly over the years, sporting metre long fleeces, turning more and more feral as time went by. We did catch them and then spent the next week putting up proper dog wire fencing and they haven't escaped since. They are rewarding and beautiful, but stupid, animals, and definitely worth trying again with them, especially when you have lambs. I loved reading your story, best of luck with your next attempt!

        4. Starting with lambs is a great idea, you won't have to do the chasing later on, they will come to you!

        5. we had a very similar sheep experience quite a few years ago, of course it happened when my hubby was away for work. My neighbour and I did lots of chasing some of it even off road in her Audi, not off road car! I too lost sleep over the whole car accident caused by our sheep thing. Needless to say, hubby came home, sheep also came home and were promptly dispatched, I will NEVER have sheep again! Luckily for hubby he is still here. ;)

        6. Oh Kate, what a heart wrenching story, but so beautifully told. I grew up around sheep and then married a sheep farmer. We are surrounded by thousands of sheep, literally. But, they are still unpredictable and difficult to handle at times, particularly if your yards and trailers aren't quite up to the task. They can drive the toughest of men crazy! I am pleased your story ended happily, lambs are a great idea. If we were closer we would bring a couple straight over to your place xx

        7. Hi Kate - I have a wave of feeling from reading your story. I'm so glad your sheep are safe and sound after their adventure, and I know you were thoughtful and caring shepherds. But, doubting that you have done the best for the animals in your care, oh, its the worst. We lost all our small back yard flock of chickens in one night to a super determined fox this spring. I still can't stop thinking of all the things we should have done differently. The wisdom of hindsight. One day, we will get better fences, and we'll try again. Watching the video of your neighbours' real eggs chooks has made my day though!

        8. I read your last post but didn't get a chance to comment. I'm sorry your first experience with sheep has been so stressful! I'm really glad you could send them back, and while you're buying sheep books, if you haven't already, make sure you get Natural Sheep Care by Pat Coleby.

          And yay for sheepdogs!!

          Sarah xxx

        9. So glad to hear they were found safely even with the adventure you could have done without. Best of luck next time! Dealing with a bit of an adventure with livestock of a sort and wildlife here as well (a big black bear and our chickens and honey bees). Thankfully no casualties (so far) but very close for the bees.

        10. Oh Kate, I'm glad they are home and safe at last, but so sorry you had such a hard time finding them. I know very little about sheep other than they are pretty stupid. The sheep on the moors near my childhood home regularly got into the village to cause havoc despite the cattle grids.

        11. What a nightmare of a week! I understand those sleepless nights and endless dreams about the worries of farm animals!
          We have Wiltipoll sheep and they are such darlings. They don't give the fleece though (meat sheep), which is such a shame because all fleece sheep seem to put a bad name to sheep - being stupid.
          My sheep are far from stupid. They are the brightest sheep I have ever come across. They follow me instead of me having to shepard them and have learnt the ins and outs of our working farm. They even let me sit by them and some let me pat them. The ram can be a bit like a dog; once you stop patting him, he will give you a nudge to continue!
          I love them so!
          I hope you have success with your next attempt. Look forward to reading about it.

        12. Such a big week for you and your family Kate, with a lot of lessons learnt along the way. Lambs are a great idea and I hope that the next time you venture into the big world of sheep husbandry that the journey is a pleasant one. x

        13. Oh I'm so happy you managed to catch the sheep, it must have so very stressful... Some of those country roos can be huge and very scary indeed... I had been meaning to pop back and comment on your last post that I was so sorry to hear how they'd got away, I kept wondering how you were going with them and if they'd been found... Am totally feeling a lack of confidence in regards to keeping some sort of farm animals myself, we need to get something soon (grass is knee high) but it's hard to know where to start when I've only ever looked after cats and dogs before. It feels a bit daunting, not knowing where to start... Crossing my fingers for you that next time is smoother for you ... Also, miniture horses!?!? How cute! x

        14. I am sure you will have better luck next time. I live in the English Lakes and am reading 'The Shepherd's Life' by James Reebanks - excellent read - which describes generations of sheep farming in the Lakeland Fells. Here in Cumbria they describe sheep as hefted to the land, attached to the open fells they graze. Lake District sheep have grazed this land for hundreds maybe thousands of years and from ewe to lamb their ownership of the land is ingrained. These lineages start somewhere and with your new lambs you could be at the beginning of an amazing hefting journey. I am full of admiration for your respect for land, animal and human. You will get there. In the meantime what about a couple of well trained sheepdogs to help you out! Best wishes for all future endeavours, M xx

        15. Oh you poor loves! I am so glad you found them eventually but so sorry it was such a stressful, sometimes frightening experience for you all. I admire you so much for trying. Some of us are dreamers and some of us doers and I think perhaps that those who 'do' and 'try' gain experience, learn lessons, move on and have a chance at a richer life. Good luck with any woolly adventures in the future Kate, Lucy xx

        16. Oh my, what a story. My childhood memories of keeping 6 sheep must have been romanticized over years cos I don't remember these types of adventures (but maybe the memories I have of our two goats outweigh the sheep stories). If it helps, I see a great Wallace & Gromet story here. I hope you get to have your sheep back soon.

        17. I was about to suggest a sheep dog when i read point 22. My pops fence is chicken wire then barbed wire on the top. The sheep occasionally get under it but as long as you check it regularly and put big rocks where they try and escape then you should be right :P Foxes will also mangle your fence so you do have to check it regularly. Good luck!

        18. Oh and a strip of wire woven along the bottom of the chicken wire will help sure it up and prevent things getting under it.

        19. Thank you for your sheep story, As a knitter I love hearing the back story on what is actually happening.

        20. Thank you for your tale. It has been 3 days for us and our neighbour is quite annoyed. I am out of ideas :-/

        21. Thank you for your tale. It has been 3 days for us and our neighbour is quite annoyed. I am out of ideas :-/

        22. Great article. I stubled upon it while Googling how to catch escaped sheep...oh dear. Lol


        Thanks so much for stopping by...

        I do read every single comment you leave and appreciate it very much, but I should let you know that I can be a wee bit on the useless side when replying to comments, that's just me, everyday life sometimes gets in the I'll apologise now, just in case.

        Kate XX

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