Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Sheep Rescue 2

You might be aware that Rock HQ is built under a cliff, in pre historic times the site was apparently a quarry and several monoliths on distant hills are reputedly taken from here.
Having a cliff as your immediate neighbour sometimes poses problems, by looking at the garden you can see that several large pieces have decided to join the flower beds. Since we have been here a forty ton rock fell into the trees and caused a few problems which took several weeks with a jackhammer to resolve.
The not quite sheer drop causes problems for our animals, which in turn leads to interesting times for us. Goats have climbed up and appeared stuck, prompting its brave owner to risk life and limb by climbing up after it, only to find the goat was bluffing and with a merry bleat leaves its fuming owner considering the merits of Caribbean cooking, in particular goat curry.
Geese will wander along and choose the most inaccessible ledge to try and nest on, they have to be persuaded down, perhaps with a size ten boot to prevent them becoming too settled and attempting to hatch a brood.
The pictures above show that accidents happen. The one was taken March last year and the lamb only survived the fall because it got caught by the stock fence before it bounced off the rocks at the bottom. I had done my night time checks of the residents at Rock HQ, it being March it was dark early and I could hear a pitiful bleat as I shut the front door. Convinced it was not one of ours but a sheep in the fields opposite I went to bed. First thing in the morning as we started to get ready to go out we heard the same bleating. Up on the stock fence we could see this lamb who had wandered off the cliff in the darkness and had spent an uncomfortable night hanging around. Fortunately for him it was easily resolved and we untangled it from the wire and reunited it with its mother who was frantically watching our rescue efforts.
That incident pales into insignificance given the trauma Meg caused last Sunday evening. If you haven't already seen the video clip called Sheep rescue, best have a look now.
The gorse bushes at the moment are flourishing and along with the bracken cover the sheep trails. Meg had followed a path and found herself on a ledge, she couldn't find her way off as the bushes had closed behind her and so she was faced with what appeared a solid wall of foliage. So she did what any sensible sheep would do and sat and bleated for help. Help duly arrived in the shape of her one armed shepherd and six out of his seven dogs. They enthusiastically forged ahead and showed the path to the stricken sheep, Rocky checked it out and decided the drop was too great for him and doubled back to the safety of the hill. I walked out onto the ledge and with my back firmly planted against the wall I got behind her and tried to guide her back through the bushes. This plan looked like it was about to succeed when things took a very strange turn. Meg almost made it to safety when she just keeled over and fell off the ledge and onto a large bush. Stuck fast and in a sea of thick gorse bushes I could tell the evening was going to be very interesting. Lucky for me I had changed out of my shorts and and was wearing thick cotton combats, I also had my machete which proved an essential aid as I tried to hack a comatose sheep out of a tree, drop down the slope with her and then physically drag her down the hill and onto the track. The task wasn't easy, only having one arm to chop the pathway and drag Meg along was one problem, hidden drops and rocks were annoying, a short sleeve shirt meant I obtained an impressive collection of scratches and thorns and Meg herself became spikier than a hedgehog as her fleece gathered up all the dead pieces of bush. At one stage grabbing hold of her caused more pain than grabbing hold of a gorse branch. After an hour we both emerged onto the dirt track that winds around the hill and leads to Rock HQ. Both of us were battered and bleeding, Meg was still lying on the floor unable to gather senses and assist by walking back to the cottage.
As usual my saviour was Tracey, she seems to have a sixth sense and can find me whenever I am in a spot of bother. Just as I was trying to figure out a way of carrying a full grown ewe back to the Rock Tracey appeared and offered to get Rene to transport the stupefied animal back to safety. I was so pleased to see her that I forgave the fact she omitted to notice her husband was bruised, cut, bleeding, covered in thorns, obviously exhausted after an heroic rescue. Meg, on the other hand, lying on the floor, the cause of the problem, the one with the thick protective fleece that repelled the assault of the gorse bushes was the recipient of lavish amounts of sympathy.
Safely ensconced in the back of Rene, Meg recovered her faculties and enjoyed the air conditioned luxury of the journey home.
Back on familiar ground she suddenly remembered how to walk and was positively skipping along when Tracey got a bucket of oats to help soothe Megs shattered nerves.
I have no idea what made Meg fall, vertigo, panic attack, or maybe she just wanted the attention. I have no doubt that had I not been there Meg would have become one of the many piles of sheep bones that litter the hill. I learned a few things from this event, that I should wear long sleeved shirts, always carry my radio and that to clear the gorse bushes from around Rock HQ will, I suspect, take more than a sharp machete.

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