Democracy Dies in Darkness

Democracy Dies in Darkness

I’ve borrowed the banner line from the Washington Post.  I’m sure they won’t mind.  I love it for its sense of drama, for the alliteration, and for the elegant simplicity of the message.   It's a bit like a three-word haiku.  Although I consider my flock to be an example par excellence of democracy in action, this Yarn is not about my sheep. It’s more by way of explanation for being mostly AWOL on social media and the farm journals for the last couple of months.

Snakebite, Lightning Strike and Gunshots

Snakebite, Lightning Strike and Gunshots

This is how conspiracy theories get started—in the vacuum of verifiable causes.  I know this because recently I created my own conspiracy.  Three weeks ago, three perfectly healthy ewes simply laid down and died within a few hours of each other.  The circumstances were similar and puzzling:  sudden death with no sign of stuggle or evidence of disease or pregnancy.  Only two sheep have died here in the past 12 months, making this a clear case of something—but what?

 

A Bonza Year

A Bonza Year

I first encountered the word “bonza” in Nevil Shute’s wonderful story “A Town Like Alice”.  (And no, Alice the sheep is NOT named after the town of Alice, but after Arlo Guthrie’s song “Alice’s Restaurant”—the line about “You can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant—excepting Alice…”).

The Nature of the Game

The Nature of the Game

Nature is certainly a game-changer.  While we struggle to adapt to one set of conditions, she simply crooks her little finger and, wham! a whole new scenario is in place.  At this point last year, I had just sold half of my flock because there simply wasn’t enough feed to carry them through winter without significant rainfall before the end of the growing season.  I experienced the first major grassfire on the property since I bought it in 2000, and even with the reduction in flock size, was not entirely sure the property would carry them through.

One Flock, Indivisible

One Flock, Indivisible

Those of you who know me personally and through reading the Yarns will have a pretty good idea of the horrified fascination with which I watched the US election campaign—a bit like watching a forest fire raging out of control—and the dismay I felt at the result. Until yesterday, I hadn’t found the words I wanted to write, but after watching changes in flock behaviour after I re-united the “mothers-to-be” with the main flock, I was inspired to share the following perspective with you.

Separation Anxiety

Separation Anxiety

In the past, October has been lambing month on my farm. Logically, it makes perfect sense: mid-spring (April equivalent for you in the northern hemisphere) with plenty of new growth for the mamas to make milk. However, year after year, September has seen reasonably settled weather and October has been truly awful.

Sheep Crocodiles

Sheep Crocodiles

For those of you who don't speak British Commonwealth idiomatic English, a crocodile can also mean a line of school children.  The relevance of this term to the real topic of this Yarn will become clear later.  (If you are one of those who read the last chapter first, skip to the video at the very end of the Yarn.) The real topic of this yarn is "Do sheep work?"  More specifically, do my sheep consciously choose to cooperate in the work of the farm?

Animal Wifery

Animal Wifery

We've had 3 ½ inches of rain in May (hooray!) and the property is looking better than it has in months.  Admittedly, it looks better from a distance than at worm's-eye level, where there is too much bare ground showing.  However, the lovely spring green look is most welcome, along with the beginnings of run-off.

Come Shepherding

Come Shepherding

Come Shepherding is a new initiative I’ve started, designed to give readers a more personal experience of shepherding, White Gum Wool style. Each time I do a shepherding circuit, I first post the map and plan for the day on the Come Shepherding blog, then provide a few photos via Instagram as I’m shepherding. At the end of the day, I write up my notes and add them and the photos to the Come Shepherding post for the day.

Six Impossible Things

Six Impossible Things

As often happens to me, I mis-remembered this quotation. I thought it was about doing six impossible things before breakfast, thereby revealing my lamentable tendency to jump into things with all four feet without due consideration of the consequences. Believing six impossible things is a lot harder, I think.

Flies and Spiders

Flies and Spiders

Devoted Tolkien fans will recognise “Flies and Spiders” as the title of the chapter of The Hobbit wherein Bilbo and the dwarfs enter the dismal forest Mirkwood on their way to reclaim their hoard of gold from the dragon Smaug. In Mirkwood, the flies are a nuisance, but the spiders are a fatal menace. This season in Tasmania, the roles are reversed.

Bonus Track: How long is a piece of string?

Bonus Track: How long is a piece of string?

This is a mini-skein of a Yarn, one I wrote alongside “Epiphany”. Although I wanted to include it somehow, it would have made Epiphany much too long. So you’re getting it as a bonus track. I didn’t take any photos of this episode—I was too busy trying to manage it. Instead I’m giving you photos of wildflowers blooming on the property at the moment, in defiance of extremely dry conditions.

Epiphany

Epiphany

Not the religious sort, more the “uh, duh” sort. Wikipedia describes this kind of epiphany as “an enlightening realisation that allows a problem or situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective”. Sounds better than “uh, duh”, huh? It started a few months ago, though I didn’t recognise it for the turning point it has turned out to be.

Trip Report: Bendigo, Design Spun and Hinewai

Trip Report: Bendigo, Design Spun and Hinewai

Life on the farm was pretty intense all winter, and particularly so after my trip in July. As I finally sit down to write this, shearing has come and gone and four tiny cygnets are swimming with their parents on a much-depleted Swan Lake. I’ll give you the shearing and end-of-winter shepherding report in the next Yarn, hopefully fairly soon. Meanwhile, here is the belated trip report.