26 May

Barn Rebellion, A Tense Time, All Is Well. Maria Got It Under Control

by Jon Katz

Our large animal vet Jack came to the farm this afternoon to give the sheep shots for worms – Suzy has them – and also to provide the donkeys with rabies and other vaccinations.

For some reason, and for the first time, the donkeys and sheep rebelled and went into a panic I felt was dangerous and sometimes out of control. It was tense.

We have never had that happen before. The donkeys were terrified and refused to be still. I’ve not seen them like that in 15 years. Something had frightened them badly; we don’t know what.

I hate that I have to stand back and watch, but I couldn’t get in there with my recovering foot and the aftermath of the surgeries.

Maria kept her calm and held on while they got their shots, and we got the sheep into a smaller space, and she and Jack went in there with needles and shots.

Maria morphed into a shearer and grabbed every one of our sheep by the head, holding it up as the shearers do. One by one, they all got their shots. They gave her little trouble.

Usually, these visits by vets are orderly and calm. They are often light and fun, a time for gossip and story-trading. Not this one.

This one got out of control. It was difficult for me to sit back and watch while Maria took the brunt. I thought she was at risk.

Jack didn’t have his usual huge helper to wrestle the animals. I learned at the first Bedlam Farm that I should never forget that animals are animals, and when I forgot that, I paid dearly for it. I love our donkeys dearly, but they are not furbabies.

Any dog can bite; any donkey can kick, butting, stomp, or bolt. They don’t speak our language.

Maria handled it well, as she always does; I was about to call a halt several times, but we got it done, animal by animal. We let the sheep and donkeys out of the barn, and Lulu and Fanny were angry and upset.

They wouldn’t let us come near them.

It was an ugly and frightening time, something new for us.

Once we got the sheep into the small pen, they quieted down, and Maria grabbed them one by one and wrestled them into position so Jack could give them the shots. Next thing, Maria will be shearing her sheep (no, she says, she won’t be).

Maria trusts and loves the animals, and I am wary of them at times.

Sheep and donkeys can do a lot of damage if they freak out. They are can bike, kick and panic easily.

It turned out well, as Maria pointed out to me more than once. But I felt I should have stopped it. I still do. She disagrees. And to be honest, I wasn’t in charge of this event.

We were shocked by the donkeys’ terror and resistance.

I waited a while and brought alfalfa bites to Lulu and Fanny, who ran from me several times. But they ate the alfalfa bites. A few hours later, Maria went to the pasture with some leftover pizza from yesterday’s dinner.

Fanny came over and ate; Lulu had to sulk for a while. Donkeys have long memories.

They forget nothing. But all is forgiven.

It all turned out well. Suzy got her worm shots, and so did all of the sheep. She even got the halters off before dark. They ran off before we could get them off in the barn.

They also got their vaccinations as did the donkeys.

We got a bill for $515. All is calm.

I just went outside.

It feels like a peaceable kingdom again. And our animals are healthy and safe. So are we. That’s the news that matters.



  1. This is such a powerful and interesting post, Jon. On Saturday, we went to a garden workshop at Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum not too far from our home in CT. It also happened to be sheep-shearing day, done with hand cutters, and it was fascinating to watch one of the historic interpreters doing the shearing on the ‘town common’. He was a younger man, with three shearing under his belt, with a more experienced interpreter standing close by to be sure all went well. The ewe was completely calm, almost appearing to enjoy the shearing as if it was a ‘spa day’ as it was. The more experienced shearer explained that sheep are ‘prey animals’ and just give in when they are pulled to the ground for the shearing. I took so many photos, and was mesmerized by the entire process.

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