Only way down for roving sheep

When Shrek the famous merino visited an iceberg off the Otago coast, he was fitted with little crampons so he didn't lose his footing in the slippery conditions.

My sheep were not so lucky last week when the ice visited them.

They had no problems on Monday in the snow, apart from feeling a bit hard done-by because all they had to eat was balage. But the snow began to thaw late on Monday, then froze solid overnight. Slick patches of ice covered the driveway, and I was glad I had the day off.

I was wandering around feeding sheep and chooks, when I heard a bleat from behind me, where no sheep should have been. One had escaped. She got as much of a fright as I did, and took off down the driveway to get away. But when she tried to stop, she couldn't, and she skated right to the bottom of the slippery slope. I couldn't go and get her without the same happening to me, so I went in for breakfast and to work out what to do.

But as I was filling the jug and looking out the kitchen window, I saw another three sheep heading for the garage. It was a mass breakout and I couldn't enjoy my tea and toast until I'd sorted it.

I decided to go down through the paddock to the bottom of the drive - much less slippery - where I found all four sheep had skated past the gate and on to the neighbours' long grass verge, which they were eating with gusto. I rounded them up, they headed back up the drive and I shut the gate behind them.

But they couldn't get up to the top. Their legs skidded out from under them; they slid backwards or stood still wondering what was going on.

I crunched uphill on the deep and crusty snow at the edges; a couple of sheep did the same. But, like clueless car drivers, the others were determined to go the way they always go, ice or no ice. Two steps forward, one slide back - it took at least 15 minutes for them to get back up.

Then I let the whole flock out to eat around the house, partly to tidy up some long grass and partly because I thought their pointy little hooves might help break up the ice. I amused myself for the rest of the morning watching them.

Ooh! There's some nice grass down there. Oops! How did I get down here so quickly? And why can't I get anywhere when I'm running so fast?

Meanwhile, I wondered whatever happened to those crampons.


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