This Sheep Adventure started the night before with hooking up the trailer, gathering halters and panels, and checking to see which roads would be closed due to the fire burning in the general vicinity of where we were headed.
Someone named Michael in Idaho had called me a couple of months ago asking if I could help him sell Jacob sheep that were at his parents’ place in Napa County. It seems his sister and father got some sheep a few years ago but Michael thought that they had lost interest or there were health issues or for whatever reason the sheep weren’t getting the attention that they needed. I didn’t hear from him again until a few days ago when he said that his mother was in the hospital and the sheep needed to go.
Dona and Rick got here about 7 and we took off. I drove my truck with the trailer and Rick drove his truck with a sheep crate in the back.
I brought Ginny because Michael had thought that we might need a dog to catch the sheep. I had my doubts that we could do much with sheep that had never been worked by a dog and were possibly wild but it was a good excuse to bring Ginny along. She is not a big fan of car rides.
The map on the phone showed it would take about 1 hour 50 minutes to get to where we were going near Pope Valley. What with unclear directions and road signs (and maybe a bit of distraction as Dona and I talked the whole time) I had to turn around and back up the trailer in the middle of the road three times before we got to where we were going.
We were met by Michael’s brother who evidently is the person who has been feeding the sheep. He told us that their mother had just died a few hours ago but he’d help us get the sheep rounded up.
He said that he would be able to get them in the fenced in area with some grain, so we stayed out of sight while he enticed the sheep into the pen. This is nine ewes and one ewe lamb. Two rams were up the hill in another area. If you know anything about sheep you’ll see that this ewe is way overdue for shearing. All but one were in this condition. I wonder if the ewe in full, but not horribly excessive fleece (in the back in this photo) might have had a fleece break a year or more ago, lost that fleece and now has only a year’s growth.
We didn’t get photos of the process but we set up our panels to help catch the sheep. We put halters on the ewes two at a time and brought them to the trailer. Next we got the rams. It was a tight fit for those nine adult ewes with as much fleece as probably should have been on 25 sheep. The rams weren’t much better.
The drive home went better as far as not missing turns and having to turn around. However we did have another mishap. The first clue I had was the thump/thwack that I heard. Fortunately I was able to pull over in a wide driveway on this windy road (Hwy. 121) and the weather was relatively mild with a breeze because those sheep were really packed in. Fortunately Rick was there because he had the right tools in his truck — I never did find the lug wrench in mine (although now that I think about it, maybe it was under the hood). Fortunately Rick was there to get the lug nuts off because with as much trouble as he had with the last one I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been able to do it. I had made sure before we left that yes, I had paid the AAA membership that was due…but there was no cell service here. Rick replaced the tire with the spare and we lowered the jack. That tire was too low to drive on so Rick jacked up the trailer again, took the tire off, and left in his truck to find somewhere to fill it up. I think he was gone almost an hour before he came back with a fully inflated tire–he had found a group of fire trucks and been able to get the tire filled by the crew.
The original plan was to take these sheep to Dona and Rick’s place in Wilton where there were empty pastures waiting. But with no spare for the trailer (and the other tire looking in not very good shape) I didn’t want to drive an extra 2 hours on the freeway in rush hour traffic and 100 degree heat. So we unloaded at my place.After getting our hands on these sheep I think that they are in surprisingly good health. They seem to be in decent condition under all that wool and from their teeth I think that they are all four years or under. There are two with ear tags that indicate a friend’s flock. Those two are docked. None of the others are docked and I think that all of those descended from those two and maybe another that I was told had died. I don’t think that any of those born at this place have ever been shorn. So that’s our first order of business–to find a shearer. Then Dona and I will figure out the next steps.