Riding 29 year old Sandy in 1997

Friday, July 27, 2012

When sheep aren't sheepish.....

I was nearly cut in half by a sheep the other day.

Yes, a sheep.  My sheep, the one whose first haircut was described here a few posts back.  John Deere, my weedeater.

I sometimes tie him out to eat weeds and with the monsoon rains and my regular watering of my orchard (I have the drip system on timers now) the weeds had gotten nearly waist-high lately so I got the cable system and rigged it up in the orchard.  This system is a 100 foot cable that I ran from the orchard fence to the big tree on the other side, wrapped the cable around it a couple times, then wrapped it around a second tree about 10 feet away and tied it off.  (The orchard isn't 100 feet across so I had to use up the excess cable.)  There is a pulley that runs on the cable, and a second cable snaps to the pulley and the other end attaches to the sheep's collar.  You've probably seen dogs tied out on a system like this.

So I've had John out there for a few days eating the weeds.  Monday night we had a hellacious thunderstorm, lots of lightning and rain, and I chose to leave him where he was rather than risk my life trying to bring him in during a lightning storm in the pitch black.  He's a sheep; sheep are out in storms all the time, he had trees to shelter under.

He survived the night.  The next day I had a friend here helping me convert my guest bedroom into a room for my female cat, Alfie (long story), and on one of our trips out to the garage to get something, we noticed that John was very agitated and there was a bit of thunder and it looked like a storm was going to hit.  So I decided to take him off the cable and put him in his pen, where he has a little roof to get under and he's close to the horses where he feels safer.

John is not a tame sheep.  He does not come when called.  To catch him, I usually have to corner him.  I keep a one-foot piece of lead rope hanging from his collar, and usually once I catch him he will walk on leash like a dog.  To catch him when he is cabled out is a bit of a challenge because he runs from me until he hits the end of the cable -- and then he doubles back.  If I'm between him and whatever he is tied to . . . well, it can get interesting.

It got interesting Tuesday.  I walked toward him and he turned and ran toward the big tree that held one end of the cable.  I walked quietly toward him while my friend Marty stayed outside the orchard to avoid making him any more nervous than he already was.  He ran to the tree, turned around, and started back toward me.  As he got near I grabbed the tie cable.  And then the fun began.

Instead of continuing to the west on the north side of the long cable (I was on the south side of it) he turned back with me holding the cable that was attached to his collar and before I could realize what he was doing and get out of the way, he circled me.

The long cable was hanging about waist high at that point.  When he circled me, the tie cable wrapped across the front of my stomach, and when he completed the circle he had me trapped against the long cable -- right at the pulley.  He came around again and as he tried to run to the west, he dragged me and the pulley with him.  My polo shirt got caught in the pulley, which effectively anchored us all in that spot, but I was being painfully pinched between the two cables.  

I lost track of the action at that point.  I remember him rearing up (I was desperately trying to drag him back around but couldn't because I was trapped) and kicking me once; later I found the bruise on the back of my right arm.  

Once Marty saw I was immobilized and trapped, she came in and managed to get hold of the sheep and lift him off the ground enough to prevent him from moving.  I squirmed out of my shirt and got free of the cable and quickly detached the cable from his collar and grabbed his lead rope.

He was agitated all the way back to his corral but I got him put up.

Marty couldn't get my shirt out of the pulley so we went in and I looked in the mirror at the result of this ordeal:

Where the cable pinched my left side, just below the ribs, the red streak is of the nature of a rope burn

The next morning I went out to see about cutting my shirt out of the pulley.

The yellow thing dangling in the center is my shirt, hanging from the line

See where the shirt is and realize that my skin was right under the cloth

The dirt area on the front shows where the cable was wrapped around my waist in front as he ran around me

I freed the shirt by manually rolling the pulley backward and then pulling the shirt out after it had backed off some

 Ironically, a couple days before this happened I had noticed that John was tangling up in the 12 foot cable he was attached with and was having trouble freeing himself because the cable was getting some permanent bends and kinks in it.  I was worried he might cut off circulation to his leg one day; I freed him Sunday and I think the cable had been around his leg long enough and tight enough to put the leg to sleep.  He was limping for awhile after I got him out of it.  So I doubled the cable and shoved it through a six-foot section of garden hose so it couldn't wrap around him any more.  It worked great and he no longer could get the cable around his leg.

I shudder to think of what might have happened if I hadn't done that, and he had been able to loop me two or three times with that narrow cable.

What saved me from worse damage was the fact that the tie cable was run through a piece of garden hose
But if you look at this last picture, up where the thing attaches to the pulley is a section not covered by hose and has two snaps, one snap is attached to the pulley and the other snap is snapped to the bottom of the first snap.  It was THIS part of the cable that had me in a vise and caused all the bruising.  

I iced the injuries right away the day it happened, but today is the third day after and we have reached the painful, itchy phase and the bruises have colored.  

So this is the end result of the damage done by one skittish and strong sheep.  I now have a 12 foot lead rope on him that I can get hold of and use to pull him away from the long cable before I take hold of him.  Don't let this happen to you:

And that, painfully, is the latest from the Ranch.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Passing the torch

Sometimes you just need to find another way around it.  Seems those times are happening more and more, the older I get.

I went riding with my riding buddy, Tessa, yesterday while it was still relatively cool.  Because of forest closures on our side of the highway, we had to ride through an underpass to get to the trails that were still open.  (Nope, I have no idea why we can go south of the highway but not north; both sides are as flammable as matchsticks right now)

I'd never been on these trails, but Tessa has run them on foot so she was leading. At one point we got into a wash.  There actually was water in a couple places, which surprised me, but we were actually in a branch of Lion Springs, not just a runoff wash.  The dogs liked that -- they got to get a drink and Lacey got to lay in the mud.  

But going down that wash we came to a couple of what were, to me, scary parts.  I was on Dash, the horse I rode up Gibson Peak, and there were places that reminded me of some of the places on that mountain where we were going down a steep slope and had to step down a ledge.  One step-down in the wash was probably about 18 inches but it was in the open (not next to or under a tree) and I just sat still and let Dash figure out how to drop her front end down, using her hindquarters to hold herself in place.  She did great.

In another place we had to do a double step-down and had only a narrow passage to go through and a six-inch tree limb was diagonally over the place where the horse had to start the descent -- just at the height of my head.  Tessa had gone through it but I hadn't seen how she did it and I couldn't figure out how to get my head on the downhill side of the tree limb before Dash got to the edge where she had to figure out how to get down.  So . . . reluctantly . . . I got off.  I ducked under the branch and stepped down into the wash and led Dash to the edge of the drop off, and she maneuvered her way down.  I got back on and we continued the ride. (Tessa later told me she had leaned BACK to go under that limb, something I wasn't willing to try; I wanted to see where we were going.)

But there was another place that was even more treacherous.  We had to go down a slope covered with loose granite, where we had only a narrow path to go down, and a misstep could cause us to slide sideways down a slope.  Tessa got off and led Poncho down to the bottom, but when I tried to do it, I was having trouble with my own footing.  So I handed the rope to the more sure-footed (and younger) Tessa, and she led Dash down for me while I held Poncho.

Dash willingly came down, sliding sideways a bit, but stayed upright and I got back on and we continued the ride.  It was a bit challenging compared to our usual rides but really no more dangerous than anything I've encountered on the posse rides.

There were a few places where I didn't choose to follow Tessa, and rode around a scary part because I didn't feel like ducking branches.  

Gone are the days where I feel I have to prove I'm as tough as anyone.  While I consider it "wussing out" to some extent to get off my horse and lead it, discretion is the better part of valor and I'd rather stay safe than feel I have to prove something.  (One reason I wear a helmet now.)

Thirty years ago I would have been the one offering to ride or lead someone else's horse through a "scary" part; but thirty years ago I was about Tessa's age.

The torch is passed.

And that's the latest from the Ranch.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

One Bold Chicken

It takes a brave chicken to decide to roost inches from where its distant relatives have been barbecued, but apparently my hen Britney is not faint of heart.  I came back from a six day trip to Oregon to find "evidence" that one of the hens had been roosting on the shelf on the side of the barbecue grill.  I brushed away the evidence and went about my day. 

About 5:00 I went out to turn on the grill in anticipation of grilling a steak, potatoes, and corn on the cob for a Fourth of July feast.  My hens go to bed early, and with the cloudy skies "dusk" seemed to come earlier than usual.  Britney was already on the shelf.

I opened the lid, turned on the gas, lit the grill, and closed the lid and she didn't move an inch.  Over the next hour and a half I opened the lid several times to turn over the foil packets of potatoes and corn and eventually to put the steak on, and turned it over a couple times, eventually removing all the food, shutting off the gas, and bringing it in to eat.

She stayed put the whole time.  You'd have thought it was a bit warm through all the cooking but she was more determined to keep her spot.  Silly bird.

The two Araucana hens, Marilyn and Britney, are the last of the sixteen chickens I brought here from Norco seven and a half years ago.  They're about nine years old now.  Britney still lays an egg for me now and then.  Her eggs are light olive green.  When Marilyn was laying, hers were blue-green.  They're sweet hens -- Araucanas are friendly -- and I can pick them up if I want.

Lately they've been pretty much living on the porch with the dogs, and of course the porch is where the barbecue is.  They've been eating the dogs' food so I don't even have to feed them any more.  I just need to make sure there is water they can reach.

Anyway, I took these pictures of Britney on the barbecue grill:

They were named Marilyn and Britney because there originally was a third one, Madonna.  As chicks, they were all yellow, so I named my three blond chicks after three blonde chicks, Marilyn Monroe, Madonna, and Britney Spears.  I later gave Madonna to a friend.

So that's a chicken tale from the Ranch.