Cold and wet

Today is a cold and rainy day; not the type of day during which you want to work outside. Although I do have some discretion on days like this as to how much time I spend outside, there are a few outdoor activities in which I have little choice. The dogs still need their exercise, the ewes still need to get their grain ration, and the eleven ewes in the high nutrition group must still get their additional grain. All of the rest can wait!

In this type of situation, I always try to time my visit outside with a break in the rain. This morning I ran the dogs in light drizzle, not knowing whether it would ever stop. As I finished with the dogs, I realized that the drizzle seemed to be ending. I quickly put the dogs into the house and drove the truck out to the gate at the Fire Circle Pasture just as the rain stopped. I honestly couldn’t believe my luck in finding a time to feed the sheep without getting soaked!

When I arrived, I began to unload my buckets of grain: a couple of five gallon buckets for the lambs’ creep feed, another similar bucket for the ewes’ daily ration, and then eleven small colored buckets for the girls in the high nutrition group. Unfortunately, as soon as I had unloaded everything and filled the ewes’ troughs with their ration, the rain resumed, but this time it was more than drizzle! The winds quickly came up and before I knew it, I was being pelted with heavy rain and some small hail. Honestly, I wasn’t very surprised – this is pretty much the way my luck works. It is a rare day when I can avoid the rain on a rainy day!

It was nearly impossible to fill the creep feed for the lambs with this type of weather, since the lambs crowd into the creep house we provide for them to get out of the worst of the wet and cold. Huddled together under the tarp roof of the shelter, they crowd in, shoulder to shoulder, always seeming to find room for one more as another lamb figures out that the conditions inside are much better than out. I shifted my focus to feeding each of the ewes of the high nutrition group her bucketed ration, and left the creep feed for later today.

Normally, as soon as the ewes eat their ration at the trough, the ewes who get buckets come to find me to get their individual ration. Unfortunately, the rain seemed to drive any thoughts of food from their minds, so today, I had to walk among the flock to find the ewes that I needed. Besides that, the gate where I had parked the truck was at the east end of the pasture, and the winds were coming from the east, driving the rain from that direction. As a result, the ewes were all lined up in the pasture with rumps pointed east in the direction of my truck, making it that much harder to identify the girls I needed as I walked towards them.

I did eventually find each of the ewes who gets a bucket, but not before the pouring rain seeped in between the hood of my raincoat and the coat itself, and created a stream that ran down my back and down one leg. My leather work gloves, too, became so saturated that I continued to wring them out to avoid dripping water into everything I did. I can honestly say that when the last ewe, Grace, finished her ration, I was overjoyed to be finished in the field for the day and return to the dry and warm indoors!

Tomorrow is supposed to bring more of the same weather, but only for the morning, it seems. At this point, I think I will plan on feeding later tomorrow. Perhaps I will be lucky enough to miss a repeat of today. Yet, I know it won’t be long before I am standing out in the rain again; this weekend, we will be at the celebration of Maifest at the Amana Colonies here in Iowa. This has become an annual event for us; we bring a couple of ewes and their lambs for a display outside the Amana Woolen Mill and allow the public to get to interact with our sheep and get their questions answered. Although we look forward to it every year, the weather forecast for the coming weekend tells me that we will be standing outside in the pouring rain – at least for part of the time each of the two days. Although I do hate cold, wet weather, we always have a lot of fun at this event. I hope to see at least a few of you there!

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