Thursday, October 11, 2007

Oh, My Aching Back

My day started out with unloading 1,000 lbs. of sheep grain (with Ken's help) into the barn, then loading another 1,000 lbs. of hay into the truck and unloading it again to distribute it to the animals. Then I distributed about 75 lbs. of grain to the various critters, and filled about 500 gallons worth of water troughs.

I also had to drive to the slaughter house and pick up the hides from the sheep we sent yesterday. The first time I ever did this, I (foolishly) assumed that I would be getting back nicely skinned and relatively clean hides, ready for salting, much like the deer hides I used to help my dad with during hunting seasons back when I was a kid.

What I get back from the butcher is something quite different: a heavy, bloody garbage bag, with all four hides lumped inside. Because I salvage the horns and skulls to sell to people who want them for craft projects, I tell the butcher to give me the heads back. They're in the bag too, still attached to the hides. When I open the bag, the stench of dead meat is overpowering.

Originally, the first time we sent lambs to slaughter, I felt a little guilty for not having to face the animals' deaths directly---after all, I order their deaths, but my part consists of delivering them to the slaughter house and picking up neat white packages several days later. I felt a little bit like I was getting off easy, because I didn't have to participate more directly.

But now that I know what it's like to deal with the hides, I know that I do face their deaths directly. I reach my hands into the bloody bag and haul out a hide. I cut the head from the rest of the hide, then turn the pelt upside down and bit by bit cut off the leftover bits of fat and meat still attached to the skin. When the first one is done, I hand it to Ken to carry into the shed to be salted, and I start on the next one.

It's a disgusting, smelly job. By the time all four hides are salted, the scent of dead flesh has soaked into my hands. It'll take many washings to remove it completely.

On the bright side, at least the pelts, heads, and horns won't go to waste. I even have a new idea in the works for an interesting use of the sheep bones.

And of course, the ones I don't use, our dogs will eat. They're eating a big pile of beef bones right now. The butcher had a huge box of them he was about to dispose of, and he offered them to me for our big dogs. Even Leeloo got a little one.

After that, I did some cleanup around the house, and packed up some of my recent Ebay sales---although unfortunately, I missed getting them to the post office before closing by just a few minutes.

Now, my back is aching from all the lifting this morning. It doesn't bother me until after I sit down for a while. It'll be fine by morning, but now I'm going to go to bed early and get a good night's sleep.

I tried to go to bed early last night, but for some reason the horses were all going crazy in their pastures, galloping around like wild things, neighing at the top of their voices, setting the dogs to barking.

I got up out of bed to go check on them, and they all seemed fine. I think it must have been a bunch of deer crossing the field that spooked them, and since the weather has finally gotten seasonably cool, they were just having a good time exaggerating their fear to give themselves an excuse to run.

Oh... and here's a neat thing: my stallion Senter has developed a helpful new habit. First, a little explanation: Senter gets his hay and grain in a big plastic trough. When he runs out of hay, he tips the trough over, so he can eat any wisps that have fallen behind it. Every day, the trough ends up knocked over.

This is annoying because when his trough is upright, I can drop Senter's feed directly out the back window of the feed room into the trough. But when it's tipped over, I have to walk all the way around the barn, through three paddocks to set it upright again, then walk all the way back and toss the food in.

Well, for the past week, Senter has been knocking his trough over as usual. But when he hears me in the feed room getting ready to feed him, he knocks it back upright and (most days) shoves it back into place under the window!

He's done it almost every day this week. Every time it happens, I'm just floored. That's pretty advanced reasoning skills for a horse to figure that out all on his own, and then care enough to do it.

Now if I could just teach him to muck out his own paddock, I'd be all set!


Mark said...

Good Lord, Nancy! I'm exhausted just reading this. I couldn't imagine the effort you had to expend to get it all done. Your back pain is well deserved ... well, you know what I mean. I do hope the pain is eased before your next day of work!

heather said...

yea Senter! Good Horse! grins!
and lucky dogs!

ann said...

Goodness!! what a busy day. If you teach Senter to muck out his pasture, I have a couple to send to you LOL.