It turns out Fiona the donkey is a very nurturing protector. 2 days after Fiona the donkey arrived at the summer pasture, the sheep bus made 3 trips to Wiles Lake, bringing almost all the ewes and their lambs to begin summer vacation. Fiona's reaction? She was very careful to not go around the lambs. She spent a few minutes putting the vacationers in a football like huddle and telling them "Listen, the Boss told me I have to keep you safe while you are on vacation. So, if you will just listen to me when I tell you there is danger then we are going to get along just fine. Now, who is the leader here?" A dark faced beauty stepped forward. "My name is Audrey Hepburn, daughter of Gertie, one of the Boss's original flock. When Blackie retired last fall she suggested to the sheep that I be the new flock lead."
With that knowledge, Fiona the donkey promptly grabbed the flock leader by the skin on her hind end. The surprised flock leader attempted to run but was unable to move because Fiona the donkey was holding her by the teeth, not hurting, just holding. And so, pecking order has been established. Fiona listens to me, the flock leader listens to Fiona and the rest of the flock just goes where the flock leader leads them.
Summer 2018 has been extremely hot for a long period of time. The heat started just when I separated the lambs from their moms in order to wean the lambs. I wanted to ensure the moms get time to relax on their own and regain their strength and weight on the lush grass of Wiles Lake. The lambs separation from their moms caused stress for a few days and the heat that continued on for 3 weeks added more stress. The result was stress induced diarrhea. It has confirmed for me that having long tails, an experiment I tried this season, is not the best choice for my sheep. Even with the hot weather the grass has continued to grow and provide great natural nutrition to the flock in Wiles Lake. This summer I have had the help of two young gentlemen students, new to Canada from Syria in the past few years. The students were a great help as I did regular health checks of the flock throughout the summer. The health checks included asking the border collie to gather the sheep, all the while keeping away from the potential flying hooves of Fiona the donkey, an added challenge to that job for sure. Once separated from the donkey, the border collie put the flock into a holding pen. Each sheep is then walked, single file, through a long narrow aisle that I built, aptly called a "squeeze" in shepherding lingo. In the squeeze, each sheep has a five point health check, described in previous blogs. This summer there was a memorable day when Mohammad, one of the students, had to help me carry two rather hefty lambs from the bottom of the drumlin to the top when the dog gathered the sheep. The lambs had not joined the rest of the flock because they needed some extra care. Those lambs were taken to Petite Riviere in the cab of the truck because they could not wait for any alternatives. I am not sure that Dodge considered this use for the backseat area of the trucks when they designed the truck but it worked just fine that day. All was well with those lambs within a week. That incident is testament to my philosophy of nurturing naturally with care. The time spent for regular health checks continues to be a worthwhile investment in my philosophy of this very nurturing business.
The summer has flown by, busy with health checks, moving sheep to new strips of fresh grass regularly, keeping water tanks clean, cool and full of fresh water, ensuring the portable sheep shade coupled with natural shade has always been available. All the while, Fiona the donkey has watched over the flock.
Her protective presence with the flock has been a great comfort to me at the summer pasture.
Summer vacationing concludes at the end of October; it will be interesting to see if I can transition Fiona to the closer life in Petite Riviere.