Barn Chores in a Bathrobe

Sun behind Pioneer Peak on a foggy morning
Sun behind Pioneer Peak on a foggy morning

“The best laid plans of mice and men” my mother used to say, paraphrasing from John Steinbeck’s 1937 novel – Of Mice and Men. I was lucky enough to grow up with well read parents who encouraged the love of good stories by using quotes that made us ask questions and then handing us the books as an answer to our inquiries.

I had a plan for today, carefully thought out to maximize the time off work and without any familial distractions. I got up at the normal time, sent Tom off to work and Karl off to school, then proceeded down my list of what I hoped to accomplish today.

Coffee and Facebook, check email, start some laundry, put eggs in cartons for customers, sort and file the mound of paperwork on the desk… all was going along just swimmingly until I got up to prepare the drum carder for duty and saw a white tail run past the window. Mia was out of the pasture and in the front yard.

I was still in my bathrobe as the fog was so thick I had elected to put off morning chores until I could actually see the sheep. I wanted to get a good look at Nellie and Cocoa, the two closest to lambing, to ensure we still had a couple weeks before the blessed events. It’s warmed up but not enough for outside lambing and the barn is not yet set up for lambs. It’s on the list.

I was in a hurry to get Mia so I yanked the front door open and called through the screen as I whirled around looking for shoes. I had plenty of options in the entryway, open toed crocs, lightweight sneakers with laces, or my son’s Merrills. Since there was snow on the ground I opted for the Merrills, I can tolerate a lot of things but not cold wet toes. Luckily my son is finally grown enough that his shoes fit me with room to spare. I could slip them on quickly and easily and I’m sure they looked lovely with the emerald green terrycloth robe.

I ran onto the front porch calling Mia who came bounding around from the side of the house willingly enough. I told her to go to the gate, knowing she would be hesitant to come to me as she knew she was not where she belonged. I never scold them when they are out, I just give them directions that I know they will follow. “Gate” is a command they all know well. They like to walk us from the barn to the gate and since we spend a good deal of time walking with our arms full and in the dark, we prefer they go to the gate ahead of us so they are less of a tripping hazard. The gate is a place where they get lots of love and affection, we make time for them both coming and going so they are always willing to go to the gate when told to do so.

It’s a balmy 20° this morning. Up from -20° last week, this feels really rather warm. I was not at all uncomfortable in just a bathrobe and shoes as I tromped through the shallow snow to the gate to let Mia back in. And now that I was already out there, and the sheep had seen me, I decided it was probably a good time to feed everyone their breakfast.

The sheep were circling the barn as they always do. We go in the door and they seem to think if they circle we will get hay out that much faster. It cracks me up. A horse will watch you go in and stand right there until you come back out. But not sheep. They do the NASCAR routine, circling round and round the oval track they’ve made around the length of the barn until we magically appear bearing breakfast. Silly girls. They all come running like they haven’t eaten in a week and screech to a stop at the newly provided hay like stunt drivers in the Fast and Furious movies.

I counted noses, looked at udders, scratched a couple chins and an ear, and then set about dog duties. The Maremmas are super patient about breakfast. They sit in their designated spots waiting till the food bowls arrive. Mia had come into the barn with me (all the better to catch you my dear) but the boys were waiting by the door looking hopeful. I doled out feed bowls and then collected eggs while the dogs ate. Picking up feed bowls before heading back inside I decide I’ll leave Mia in the pen until I put on clothes and check where she got out. If I have to fix a fence I will need tools and the pockets of this bathrobe just aren’t equipped for that type of work.

All finished I let myself out of the pasture, securing the gate behind me. The boys see me to the gate and then go to nose around the hay pile with the sheep. As I crunch my way back to the house I’m glad I have no neighbors close enough to suffer the awesome fashion statement of bedhead above my Turkish terry robe, bare legs, and too-big grey shoes. Just another day in the life of a shepherdess.

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