Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Companionship and Comfort

Sheep are interesting animals and are quite different than cows or horses. Although they possess some very obvious distinctions like sporting furry fleece coats and saying “baaa” instead of “neigh” or “moo”, they also have some very unique attributes like their desire for companionship and comfort.

Sheep are very social creatures. They are rarely ever seen by themselves. They always desire to be with their companions whether they are munching grass, frolicking in the sun, or exploring the farthest boarder of their pasture. In shepherd’s vernacular this natural tendency is called their “heard instinct.” Because most of our grass is taller than the sheep’s heads, if they get too busy eating and forget to pay attention, they can get separated from the rest of the flock. When they realize that none of their companions are to be seen they will set to bawling and running until they find the rest of the pack.

Hand in hand with this desire for companionship is their desire for comfort and protection. Because sheep are smaller then cows or horses they are more susceptible to the dangers of prowling nocturnal predators. If left to follow their own instinct, when it becomes evening sheep will gather together as a flock and all lay down in a close area. In this way they look like a bigger mass and do not appear to be an easy dinner catch. Here at Bradrick Family Farms we try to accommodate this need for protection by every night bringing our sheep into a warm barn where there is no fear of danger. Being creatures of habit, our sheep have grown accustomed to their lodging accommodations. Last night I went out just before dark to put them in, and they were all standing at the gate with a look of anticipation on their faces waiting for me to open the barn door and let them in.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Curious Cows

The other day my brother Stephen and I drove our Ford Ranger pickup out into the field where our cows were residing. Now to a cow, you must imagine how odd a bright gold colored mass of moving metal must look. Well first, all the cows stopped munching grass and decided to race us. As we drove along, they went running beside us showing off their agility by kicking their heels and shaking their heads.

Once we came to a stop, they formed a large circle around us and began inching closer and closer trying to figure out what this gold beast was. Their courage got stronger as, shoulder to shoulder, they inched closer. Soon they were standing just feet away, stretching their necks and sniffing the truck all over.

Meanwhile, Stephen and I were sitting in the truck enjoying their humorous behavior and their attitudes of sheer curiosity. Now it was all fun and games, until one rather bold cow decided to try and bite the truck’s mirror off. At that moment, I came to action. I quickly opened my door and stepped out. All at once, the whole herd took one good jump backwards and then stood there looking in disbelief. It was almost as though they thought I was from Mars and had just stepped out of my space ship!

Not long after that, when we had finished the errand that had taken us to that part of the pasture, we were off again. As we drove back to the gate, we were still followed by those curious cows. They stood watching in rapt amazement as we shut the gate behind us and drove off into the distance.

Now, I’ve heard that “curiosity killed the cat . . . We’ll just hope it doesn’t the kill cows!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Cowboy

Most people across our land have a highly romantic or rosy conception of what it is to be a cowboy. For centuries, western films have depicted the cowboy as a rough and tumble character that spends his days on a horse, working cows, and riding the range. Now that is an accurate description of part of a cowboy’s life, but it is not the whole story. The part that is so often missing is the hours of cleaning out manure from barn stalls, building and repairing fences, putting up hay, and caring for sick animals — just to mention a small portion of the tasks that make up a cowboy’s entire job.

But, it is not too surprising that many people would have a misconception about a cowboy’s life, because every cowboy likes to show the very best of what he does. It is not too exciting to show someone how to clean a stall or mend a fence, but it is quite another thing to show off your horse and display its ability to rear, run, and round up cows!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Moods of Spring

There is a certain mood that comes with spring. It is an infectious mood that seems to grip man and beast. Deep down inside there is a growing excitement that explodes on the first warm day. This feeling universally grips both farm and farm life, but each different man and animal expresses this uncontrollable feeling in a different way. Take for example a cow. For the most part cows are quite down-to-earth creatures, but a cow that is gripped with spring infection will run and frisk and kick up its heels.

Sheep will also do strange things when they are feeling the energy of spring. Their mood will change from being peaceful and curious to frantic and frenzied. All at once they will leap with all four legs off the ground and then run in circles, butt heads, and wag tails. A sheep gripped with this infectious mood will make the most formidable stoic burst out laughing.

Now this mood takes a slightly different grip on the farmer. He will not be seen frisking or butting heads. He becomes very allergic to the indoors and the only cure is to get him outside. Some times this mood is so intense that it will cause him to shout aloud and then listen to his voice echoing on the hills beyond. But probably the most noticeable affect that this spring mood has is that he whistles most all the day.

Every year I see the effects of this mood. It is something hard to explain; but if I had to sum it up in one brief description, I would call it “Spring Fever.”