Saturday, August 29, 2009

I Think Our Ram Has Learned His Lesson

Handsome isn't he? Our ewes all thought so.

Last year we bought two new stud rams. We met both of them at the Adelaide show and after I’d had a quiet chat with each of them I convinced Graeme we needed two, not one. The first fellow was up for auction that day and after a bit of fierce competition we were the winners. The second ram was going to auction at his stud’s farm a week later, so we arranged to bid for him over the phone.

The big day arrived and coincided with my quilting group’s day here so Graeme and I had an eager audience as we sat on the kitchen floor with our heads together and the phone in between us. We’d tried to fancy conference setting on our new phones and it worked beautifully until the time of the actual auction, then there was only silence at my end. Some pretty fast and furious bidding took place, with us having difficulty not knowing if our bid was the highest at the time – without the auctioneer staring pointedly at us it’s easy to lose confidence, but in the end all was fine and we were now the proud owner of the auction’s top priced ram. The quilting group ladies gave a mighty cheer in celebration and then returned to their sewing.

We hurried off to South Australia yet again to take possession of our ram and carried him home in triumph. He settled in well and performed well in his first mating season with the girls. He was also soon showing signs of wanting to be friends – always something I appreciate in 200 kg ram. Unfortunately as so often happens with rams I befriend, he developed a bad habit. If he’d confined his bad habits to just being friendly and getting in the way during drafting, like Farrer does, I could live with that. Two overly friendly rams trying to get pats while I was doing my level best to move the rams through the drafting race would have been difficult indeed, but so much preferable to this new ram’s sins.

Every night, while we were tucked up in bed, our new ram would find a weak spot in the ram paddock’s fence and go wandering. His wandering always took him to the same place – our ewe paddock. Each morning when Graeme was doing the rounds of the farm, there our ram would be, happily ensconced with a few hundred ewes to keep him company. He always had a very pleased with himself smile on his face and so did a few of the ewes. Graeme and I would return him to the ram paddock at the other end of the farm, then Graeme would check the fence for weak spots and not find any he could identify and the game would start again late that night. We are now convinced that he simply climbed the fence - some rams will do anything to get back with the girls

After a couple of these night wanderings we decided to lock him up in the sheep yards with another ram for company in the hope that he’d forget about the ewes and wherever the weak spot in the fence was. After a week of isolation we returned him to the ram paddocks. The next morning he was not among those present in the ram head count. He was very much in evidence in the ewe paddock though. Sterner punishment was called for. We now locked him in the sheep yards for a month. He and his ram friend lived high off the hog during this time, with unlimited hay and water and the occasional serving of lupins. Both rams settled into their new environment wandering from yard to yard. I’m sure he checked out the fences for weak spots but none could be found.

In the middle of his imprisonment all my grandchildren came to visit at the same time. This is a very rare treat and we made the most of it, working on our fairy garden, collecting eggs from the chooks, passing the time of day with the galahs and pigeon and generally having a great time. We were wandering around the yard this day when Michael noticed some wool on the fence. The conversation got around to shearing and I realised none of the grandchildren had ever been in the shearing shed, so I took them all over to the shed and showed them how we shear sheep. They were very impressed with the shearing gear and the chutes down which the shorn sheep go for a slippery slide to under the shed. It all sounded like great fun to them all. I had to dissuade them all from trying out the chute for themselves. We then walked out into the sheep yards so I could explain how we got the sheep into the shed for shearing. Hannah noticed the two rams in the yards and asked why they were there. I explained that the big one had been naughty, breaking out of the ram yard and wandering around the farm to go and visit with the girls, and he was in time out until he learned to behave himself. All five grandchildren quickly understood the concept of time out, all being quite experienced in the system themselves.

Hannah was indignant. At first I thought she was sticking up for the ram and thought he should be set free, but she soon made it clear who’s side she was on. With a determined set to her shoulders and a stiff little, irate walk, Hannah marched up to the fence and wagged her finger at the ram, giving him a stern lecture on good behaviour. It looked like such a good idea that Michael, Erin and Ethan all joined her and four little fingers were wagged as each child contributed their might to the lecture. Claire preferred to remain safely on my hip and watched the lecture with great interest from this protected vantage point. The ram just stood there looking in disbelief at these tiny people, with a sturdy fence between him and them, telling him off. When Hannah decided that he had learned his lesson she gave her parting shot, "And make sure you behave yourself from now on!" turned on her heel and marched back to me. Without Hannah there as back-up the other three gave a final wag of their fingers and a loud, "Yeah!" in support and quick marched back behind her. The ram continued to stand there looking at where the tiny people had been.

We returned to the house with all four kids feeling very smug. I was very good and didn't laugh once. It was difficult but I kept a straight face through the whole lecture and only gave the ram a sympathetic look when the kids weren't looking.

I think he must have taken Hannah’s and her posse's lecture to heart. When he was released after his month’s incarceration he didn’t go visit the girl’s even once. Of course his earlier visits are now paying off and we are about to have an unplanned lambing descend on us any day now – a reminder of his more irresponsible and care free days.