Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Riding in Cars with Sheep

I dream of pick up trucks, big broad ones with caps and extra cabs and four wheel drive. The kind of farm vehicles that could haul a whole months of hay in one load and then turn around and plow the driveway. Big, macho, heavy-duty trucks. In my dreams, of course, these trucks are diesel and already outfitted to run on used vegetable oil. Hey, a girl can dream….

The deeper into farming we get, the more urgent our need for a farm truck grows. Our family minivan can only do so much. We (read: Dan) take the seats out and haul hay in it just about once a week. We take our garbage and recyclables down to the Colrain Dump in it. We load it up with feed and fleece and whatever else and sometimes… sometimes we transport sheep in it.

As you might imagine, there are quite a few funny sheep stories about the van. In fact, each and every “transport trip ”has yielded at least ONE worthy story. I thought I’d send one of these stories out into the blogosphere today.

The first delivery was fun. Stewart (And yes, I did try to talk Micah out of leaving Stewart with the unfortunate nickname “Stew”) went off to Tweed Valley Farm in Vermont in the back of our last minivan, a tacked-together Mercury villager. Stewart was not happy about leaving his mom, Daisy, and he let us know it by bleating sorrowfully the WHOLE THREE HOURS we were enroute. We stopped at a gas station midway and attracted the attention of quite a few local folks. This being Vermont, no one was particularly amazed or impressed. People put their foreheads against out tinted back windows and asked “What d’ya got in there?” We’d answer, and get that knowing yankee nod. Seems everybody in Vermont has transported SOME sort of livestock in some unorthodox and interesting way.

Well, Stewart was unloaded without much ado and we said goodbye, picked up Pattur, a cute little moorit ram, and were on our way.

Our next stop was the beautiful Woolambia farm. Fellow shepherds Neil and. Maureen Dwyer invited us in for a cup of coffee. I took a look at Pattur. Backed up against the rear of the van, he seemed to be sizing me up as well. “You think he’ll be okay in here?”

“Oh, sure.” Dan said, with characteristic blind optimism. “What could happen?”

Well, we had a great chat with Neil and Maureen. Shepherds, in my experience, are terrific people, and Dan and I always learn so much when we get a chance to sit back and “talk sheep”. When we finally roused ourselves to check on Pattur, we found he’d breached the barrier separating the human section of the van and the sheep (or cargo) section. He’d also wedged himself quite nicely beneath the seating wheel.

Did I mention the pouring rain? No? Well, it was cats and dogs all day, a cold pounding variety. Besides the damp sheep smell and several tufts of moorit fleece, Pattur left us a few um, “presents” squashed into the damp minivan carpet. Oh, and it was NOT easy getting him out and around to the back either. As we learned that day: Wedged sheep do not pull (or push).

Once, Pattur was returned to his proper place, we quickly picked up beautiful badgerfaced Leela and headed for home. As it was raining torrents, we couldn’t air out the van much and we drove along gloomily, our silence punctuated by plaintive bleats from the lambs in back. We were wet and bedraggled and accosted by “sheep perfume”.

I’d had visions of a quick “dinner date” in Bennington. After all, the kids were with their cousins, and we never—I mean NEVER— get any “couple time” to speak of. Pattur put the kibosh on any dinner plans. Sheep were not meant for minivans. For all we knew, he’d figure out how to drive the damn thing if we gave him enough time. (We were lucky he hadn’t nudged the Mercury into gear and gone on a short and ugly joyride through the hilly and picturesque Woolambia pastures.) We returned home, put our new sheep in their quarantine pen, picked up the kids and went to bed.

Oh yes, I do dream of trucks….


Walter Jeffries said...

Beware those wet dreams of big rigs! Sexy cars cost a lot more and pickups are definitely in that category!

We discovered, after decades of hauling tons in our mini-vans, that the used cargo vans sell cheap. We now have an extended body E-250 which you could literally drive our old minivan into and it still gets the same mileage (16mpg). We've been hauling livestock in minivans for a long time and it is nice to have more room - now we have a commercial freezer in the van too which helps on meat delivery days.

On my blog you had asked if our pastured pork hot dogs were available in MA. Ironically, no we don't have the hot dogs in any stores in Mass. I say Ironically because the sausage stuffer that puts it in the skins and smokes it is located in MA so we drive down there each time for a batch to drop off meat and pickup the next hot dogs. This latest batch was also Kielbasa. Or should that be Kielbasi???

Walter Jeffries said...

"Are they available in Brattleboro? That's pretty durn close for us."

Not yet. Someone else suggested we contact the coop store there. It would be a good stop on our trip home to drop off. The processor we use asked us not to give out his name (again) as he is over booked. There is a need for more small processors of hams, bacon, sausage and such.

Christy said...

Good story! I guess we will need a truck, we don't even have a mini van. Somehow I don't think a civic will work for transporting sheep.

P said...

Some friends of ours picked up a sheep in a Volvo wagon once!Why not a civic? :)

Walter-- I'm going to look into the cargo van thing when we can afford to think about a new vehicle. (How does your van run in the snow and mud?)

I'll confess that next to trucks, I dream of owning one of those big ol' conversion van with a little table and "couch" inside! (This complements the "mountain top in Wyoming dream")

Christy said...

Well, it isn't a civic wagon. This car is small! But one small sheep might fit in the backseat.