Friday, October 24, 2008

Bad Karma.....

Desperate times call for desperate measures. I have too many sheep. I can't afford to feed them all. I can't find homes for them. These are not culls!

American Idol was a beautiful, yearling ram, with excellent conformation, awesome horns, nice fleece and a friendly, yet respectful, demeanor. He deserved a chance to live and be a flock sire. That's why I kept him over as a ram lamb.

This year, I had even more, nice quality ram lambs that did not sell. Beautiful ram lambs. Sweet boys. No buyers...

Last Friday morning, I got up before dawn to load up Idol and three of the ram lambs and a yearling ewe. I put them in my trailer and made the hour drive to the nearest Livestock auction barn. My heart was heavy and guilt enveloped me like a dank, mildewy cloak.

I've never taken sheep (or any other animal for that matter) to "the sale barn". I had no idea where to go or what to do when I got there. After asking several people for instructions, someone finally told me to back my trailer up to one of the loading docks. Back my trailer up? To a specific target??? Yeah, right...

After some nice lady kindly backed my trailer up to the loading ramp for me I went to open the door to let the boys out. I felt like I was sleep-walking in a bad dream. Interestingly enough, I was unable to open the back doors to my trailer. The lock appeared to be stuck. The nice lady came back to help me once again. She pulled. And pounded. And twisted. It wouldn't budge. Seeing the two of us struggling with the trailer latch, a man unloading calves at the next ramp came over to help. He proclaimed that the lock was bent. How the heck it got bent between home (where I closed it myself) and the stockyard is beyond my comprehension. But it was clearly bent and not about to open. By now a group of men had gathered around and was taking turns trying to muscle the bent lock open. They finally managed to break it off with a crow barn and a hammer. Exit rams. My beautiful boys. I just kept thinking: "These are NOT CULLS"!

Gemini ~ Zodiak's lovely black/iset, yearling daughter (the one with distinct "moon spots") was in the front of the trailer ~ in a separate pen. I opened the side door to get her out.

Gemini was a good sized ewe. Probably close to a hundred pounds. She hit me like a freight train as I opened her door. I managed to grab a handful of wool as she blew past me. I clung desperately to her wool and a hoof as she slammed me to the parking lot and drug me across the gravel yard. Fortunately, (for me ~ not for Gemini) a young man with a rope came to my rescue. We put a halter on Gemini and led her toward the ramp. About six feet from the ramp, Gemini slipped her halter and made good her escape! Now there was myself (limping slightly) and about 8 guys chasing this poor, beautiful ewe all over Lanesboro, Minnesota. We chased her for about an hour. Interestingly enough, Gemini didn't really seem to be frightened ~ just determined not to be caught. I, on the other hand, was completely aware of the fact that she was clearly, running for her life!

Up and down streets, through back yards and alley ways, past churches and gardens ~ Gemini led us on a tour of this lovely, Hillside community. At one point, I was trying to run very fast to catch Gem before she ran into the street in front of an oncoming truck. Apparently my mind can think faster than my legs can run because I ended up falling flat on my face (and stomach and hip and knees) directly in front of said oncoming truck! I remember thinking "this can not possibly be the way that I am going to die!". It wasn't. The truck was driving slowly and stopped with plenty of time. I drug my weary body off of the pavement and set off in pursuit of Gemini. After what seemed like hours (it was probably close to one) Gemini let me approach her and put a halter on her. I led her back to the stockyard (down a steep hill through pickers and vines and over fallen trees and rocks) where she was quite content to enter the pen, next to the boys. I went in with my sheep. I petted and scratched everyone. I apologized for failing them. I said a prayer and then I said goodbye.

I have to say, I was impressed with how clean everything was at the barn. The people who handled the animals did so with respect and were kind and gentle. None of the animals seemed panic stricken. Maybe I'm just trying to make myself feel better. I didn't stay around for the auction. They'll send me a check in the mail.

On the way home, I decided to try to make something positive come out of this day. I stopped along the side of the road and loaded up my Jeep and trailer with stones from rock slides to add to the rock wall I'm building by my new barn. I thought it would be a kind of "Tribute" to Gemini and Idol and the ram lambs.

I arrived home exhausted. And depressed. I decided to to take a nap. I had worked until midnight the night before and got up before dawn to have the sheep at the sale barn by 8. It was a damp and dreary morning. I wiped the blood off of my knee and climbed into my warm, snug bed. When I awoke, 4 hours later (!) I went out to see my flock. I decided to carry some of the rocks over to the new barn. I loaded up my wheel barrow and trucked them across the yard. They fit nicely onto the first layer of rocks that I had already placed. I went back for another load. I was tired and impatient so I put a few extra rocks into the wheel barrow ~ figuring it would save me an extra trip. It must have weighed 300 pounds! I managed to push it about 2 steps when I felt something "pop" in my right calf. The pain was excruciating. I figured I had torn my calf muscle and the only thing that I could think of was that I had to get into the house and get ICE!

It probably took me a half-hour to hobble into the house. I got an ace-bandage and wrapped an ice bag around my calf. I spent the evening sitting on my couch, with my leg elevated on a pillow and wrapped in ice. I kept thinking: they're not culls...

I guess I didn't actually tear the muscle. Must have just strained it. By the next day, I was able to hobble around a bit. I even managed to get outside and move the rest of the rocks! I needed the wheel barrow, to feed the sheep, so I took most of the rock out and just moved a few at a time. I was determined to make something positive happen from that horrible day. As I was placing one of the last of the rocks on my retaining wall (a big, heavy one), I didn't get my fingers out of the way fast enough and smashed my ring finger and pinkie between two large rocks. Once again ~ excruciating pain. I broke the finger nail about half way down into the 'quick'. I finally came to the realization that NOTHING good was going to come out of having taken those magnificent animals to the sale barn...

So, I accept it. It was a horrible thing. A desperate thing. But, for me ~ this year ~ a necessary thing. I still have too many sheep. But I will NOT be taking any more to the sale barn...

A big branch fell on my fence last night. The fence in the ram's pasture. I was able to remove it myself. Life goes on in the Bluff Country.

For Lois...

..."Don't worry, I'm still here!"


  1. Oh! I was choking up as I read this post!! I have been there once before myself and swore I would never do it again either. It was horrible reading about how you kept getting hurt too, wish I was closer to help you...and to give you a hug. Tammy

  2. Nancy you had me in tears in the first part of the post. And between grimacing and shuddering to your unfortunate luck, the way you were writing made me laugh. Only because you are a great story teller and I love the way you describe things (and picturing you TELLING me about it) Some days its better to just stay in bed. I think you are right....stay away from the sale barn!

  3. I can't even imaging how difficult a day this must have been--both physically AND emotionally. This is why I slap myself twice really hard when I think maybe it would be nice to breed Big Face and have another little lamb.

  4. Oh what a sad time for you! I don't know how much it costs to keep a sheep but what if you did a sponsorship with people? They get the fleece each year and pay for the cost of keeping the sheep or part of the cost? I would be interested.

  5. Nancy, I am so sorry for the anguish you've had to go through. We are in the same boats here. I have even offered a ewe to a person who said they just can't afford the gas to come get her. It's been sad here too. We have a much smaller place, so have to keep our numbers small and the genetics moving. You will see on my blog that even Skit is for sale. It was an incredibly hard decision for me as I love hime dearly, but I need a new ram for genetics and don't have room for two. (But don't worry if he doesn't sell - he's my buddy and I'd sell Ralph before I'd let Skit go to any auction or worse. He just needs a home where he has more ewes to "play" with.
    Those of us who haven't had to make these kind of decisions should consider themselves lucky.
    Hugs to you from us here in the SW...

  6. Oh Nancy, what a horrible day that was! I have to admit though, the way you told it had me laughing at times. I'm still chuckling at the truck part - wouldn't that be an ironic way for a shepherdess to go? LOL. I've never taken sheep to the sales barn either. I just don't like not knowing their fate. Of course, you can always hope that Gemini is now living in someone else's flock though. I like to line up buyers for the lamb and then bring the sheep directly to the butcher myself. Or even better is when we can do the slaughter right here. I know it sounds morbid, but after witnessing it, I've seen how little stress they go through that way. The other good thing about direct marketing the lamb is that you can have the pelt/fleece. I have three gorgeous 3/4 ram lambs and two very sweet Shetland boys with tight horns that need to go also. We'll be direct marketing them - even working out trades for pottery, etc. Let's hope we all have better years to come in our shepherding endeavors!

  7. I kept hoping through the various parts (the bent lock, the runaway ewe) that your post would end with you taking the hint and bringing them all back home. I'm so sorry that wasn't an option. I, too, would direct-market lamb if someone HAD to die to make room on the place; while it would be terrible for me, I do think it would be easier on the sheep.

  8. Nancy I'm so sorry to hear about the awful day you've had. Take a few days off and just rest, would you please? :)
    I cried the first time I took sheep to auction. It isn't even like butchering chickens, the sheep have so much personality comapred to other livestock. I do call some of them friends.
    And although I get attached to the sheep, too, I make myself take them to auction many times a year now, and it does get a little easier the more I do it. I have no choice, I have to move some of them out of here.
    I do not stay to watch my sheep go through the ring. That is way too hard for me.

  9. I knew that something was wrong when you didn't post for such a long time. I am so sorry that you had to do such a traumatic thing. I still want those two girls if only I could figure out how I could get the dollars. Take care of yourself.

  10. Terry7:34 PM


    It was painful to read even though you had already told me the story when I helped you trim hooves a couple days later on Sunday. I was glad I could help and have missed your postings, too. Did you get that mohair we left on the back porch back in before it rained? Hope so. I still haven't sorted mine--hope to this weekend. Take care and I hope your leg is still healing well.

  11. Anonymous8:14 PM

    Dear Nancy,
    I am so sorry for your pain. I hope you recover soon.
    Angela in Missouri

  12. I'm so sorry you had such a traumatic time. I've been sitting here wiping away the tears. It is still unsettling for me to take any of them to the sale barn....even after all these years.
    I'm sure your prayers brought the buyers like me. When I visit the barn - I specifically look for your kind of sheep, and we try to visit often.
    I also wish I were closer. I'd bring my boys to finish your wall, while we sat having tea and talking about your beautiful flock. (((HUGS))) for your heart and hopes you mend quickly.

  13. I admire you strength to do what you did & for sharing it with everyone that reads your blogs. I know that choice to go to market/auction is one that I struggle with the most & I know one day I will have to make that hard decision also. I can deny it all I want, but it will happen. I kept reading to hear that you just said heck with it & took them all home but life's lesson are not always like that. Some how we become stronger individuals through moments like this. My heart & warmest sheepy hugs go out to you:)

  14. What a horrible, lousy day! I am so sorry you had to experience it, some days it just doesn't pay to get out of bed. Hang in there, times are tough but I can tell you are a tough person and you will get through this.

  15. Oh heart and prayers go out to you. I cried when I read this post. These are hard times for all...including those creatures we love so dearly. Sadly, none of us knows what lies ahead so we have to do what we have to do in anticipation. Mical told me the barn came in at double the budget. Ouch. And...I didn't even put up those chandeliers or surround sound :-) You know I'm kidding don't you??? But...I'm so grateful to have the new barn this winter even if we have to cut back elsewhere.

    I think it's a good time for all of us to sit down and count our blessings and take joy where we can in the simple things because it's those that soothe our souls. Even when I've had the worst day I know I can go outside and hug on the goats and pass out cookies and it will lift my spirits.

    You never cease to amaze me at all you do by yourself. You are an inspiration to all of us. You are the Good Shepherd.

  16. Im so sorry mom, i had no idea how difficult your day had been when i talked to you. I knew it had been hard, but goodness. I just wantedto say how proud i am of you. I know howhard it must have been because you do love your animals so. But I hope that will also be a reason you dont feel as guilty. Remember how we always joked "if im reincarnated i want to come back as one of nancy's animals!"?? You did what you HAD to do, and gave those sheep an amazing life while you had them. I hope you never feel the need to "apologize" to your animals again. If you had them for only a week they would benefit; you cannot, possibly!, be a failure to your flock. The economy had failed you, and you're doing the best you can to help as many of your flock as you can. Again, i am proud of my mom. All my love,


  17. Dear Nancy, I am so sorry that you had to take the sheep to the auction barn. Knowing how you love your sheep makes me also know what this cost you emotionally. I am holding you in my heart and mind. Thank you for the sweet photo....

  18. I just want to take a moment to Thank You all for your love and support. It means more to me than you can know. It helps to heal my wounded soul.

    And thanks to those of you who contacted me personally to offer your support. I am often amazed by the kindness of "strangers".

    There will be better times ahead in the Bluff Country. This I do know. Thank you all for helping me to get through one of the darkest times...

    With Love,


  19. I am so sorry Nancy. I suspected that is why we hadn't heard from you. I am glad you are feeling well enough to share your story and take comfort from your friends.

  20. Anonymous3:23 PM

    So sorry to read about your injuries and having to sell some of your sheep. I hope you are on the mend.

  21. As the Farm Witch says, sometimes it's a miserable thing to be a farmer, it comes with the territory.

    You aren't suffering because of karma - look at all those other farmers who were there, doing the same thing, and they weren't having the problems you were having. You are suffering because you are a good, kind and loving person... and it's not a bad thing that you are a good, kind and loving person. It's just an uncomfortable thing, at the moment.

    'This, too, shall pass' - until then, treat yourself the same way that you would treat a friend in the same circumstances, a friend who did the best they could and still had to make hard decisions. You deserve a little comforting!

  22. Oh Nancy - how heartbreaking to have to do this. It takes so much courage. Please don't beat yourself up over it - it's something that we all as farmers will have to face at one time or another - and the experience is never pleasant. I've been there as well. Have a nice big cup of hot chocolate and go sit with your sheep - they will make you feel better.

  23. Poor you Nancy, I've only just been catching up with everyone's blogs so just read this.

    Don't beat yourself up, it is just part of the reality of keeping livestock that we have to sell some of them on and we can't always choose who buys: or at least those of us without bottomless pockets can't!

    Just remember the great service that you're doing for the Shetland breed and how happy your stock are. It's not all bad news at auctions: I recently helped a friend of mine sell some of hers and she was dreading them going as culls or ending up somewhere horrid. In the end however some lovely people bought a lot of them and they have happy new homes :o)

  24. Wow! What a terrible experience. I have never taken any of my animals to the sale barn and don't think I ever will. This year, I started talking about butchering goats that weren't selling, which shocked my human kids. I didn't think I'd ever butcher goats, but I'd rather do that than take them to the sale barn. They are selling, although VERY slowly, so I think I might be spared that experience for this year at least.

    As someone else said, the economy has failed you -- and all of us. People can't afford to buy new stock, AND hay prices are skyrocketing WHEN you can find it. That's not a good combination.

  25. Nancy, I'm so sorry for your horrific day. {{{VB HUGS}}}

    It's not all bad taking animals to the sale barn. There are good sale barns and bad and it sounds like you have a good one being the sheep were being treated kindly.

    It's very very possible the sheep got GOOD new homes. Some folks prefer to "shop" at sale barns and know what they are doing! Some are families looking for good stock and a chance at GOOD luck in finding stock for their start up herd/flock/etc.

    Please don't berate yourself for circumstances you can't control. It's a bad time right now and sometimes one has to do what one has to do. It's much much better to take a few to the sale barn than to not have enough feed for the whole flock/herd, etc. It does show that you are a GOOD caretaker of the animals in your care that you won't make them go hungry. As hard as it is, it really is better to put some in the hands of others in bad times and it's up to those next owners and their Lord for them to do right by the animals he entrusts to them. I've sold animals and had them end up in a home much lacking compared to what I expected. I've sold in the sale barns and had them go to excellelnt homes.

    Chin up and you did just fine. I'm sorry for the injuries. Don't you wish we had magic wands to heal ourselves faster?

    Hugs to you! You have a GOOD heart and you're a GOOD caretaker!



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