Every fall the extra sheep we’ve been herding all summer get sold off. The naughty uncooperative sheep, the too old to breed ewes, the rams and others that for whatever reason don’t fit into spring breeding plans or the next summers herding. We do continue herding through the winter but it’s a much smaller group of humans and dogs. Carrying livestock through winter is really expensive. Even though the farm where the sheep reside produces hay depending on how the hating season was they may need to purchase additional hay/grain to get the animals through. Hay and grain are so much more expensive in Alaska than the lower 48. So – thin the flock to a more manageable size where everyone who is left is pulling their own weight, so to speak. Sell the rest and try to recoup some if your expenses.
So for the last three falls we’ve gotten together with friends and bought six or seven sheep. They are mighty tasty – lean and well muscled richly flavored without that ‘muttony’ overtone. Sheep has been one of my favorite meats since the first time mon made a leg of lamb. Wicked tasty good.
Bing, Kate and I went herding like normal Saturday. After main herding was over we instinct tested two of Kate’s pups, one of Lucy’s pups (about 5 months old now) and a cousin about a year old. They were very excited to see each other, and mama Kate.
Suzanne took the pups in one at a time. The wind was blowing and leaves were falling like snow. The sheep were cooperative. The pups were interested in the sheep, concerned about being away from their handlers. Each pup followed the sheep and showed some degree on instinct. It varied from light in the pup that was our favorite from the litter, to more sustained and stronger, to ‘oh my what are these fascinating creatures I need to do something with them but not quite sure what!’ in the year old pup. Suzanne made some suggestions to help build their interest and thought it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have them come out again when they’re a little older.
It was great to see the pups again. They are inquisitive and sweetly friendly, endearing dogs working on growing into their ears and paws. I was so glad their owners were willing to bring them out.
Anyway – sheep meat…
Scott was working so Uncle Walter joined me at Suzanne’s to get our sheep. She’d already set aside several. Then Bing helped her gather the large flock together and sort out a few more for us. Bing was sassing her, probably because I was in the arena taking photos of them working.
With five sheep sorted we asked for a sixth. Suzanne popped up top to fetch one more. We got weights, exchanged dollars for sheep, and brought our bounty back to Anchorage.
We met up with the friend who was taking two of the six. Our setup was nice – tarp on the floor and the sheep hanging from forklift tines – very convenient. Walter was at the wrap stage with his ewe, our friend had the hide about half off, and I was severing the head from the body of one of the pain in the ass rams that gave Bing and the other dogs such a hard time this summer. Through I think Bing kinda enjoyed rumbling with the rams, he certainly never hesitated with disciplining them.
I forgot the rules of knife work. I forgot that when tension releases things snap. I put a clean deep 3 cm slice into the back of my left hand (holding the head down, under tension) that required six stitches. Damn stupid. Scott left work and took me to the hospital. I was a little gory but most of it was sheep blood. Walter and our friend finished my sheep and did the cleanup. A lot if extra work for them. Mel picked up the dogs and got them home.
The Joe’s gave us a lot of extra help with EKA.
Whuf. Stitches out in 8-10 days. Doesn’t appear I cut anything important.