Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lifes little Teachers.

We've been docking these past weeks. That very busy time where we muster all the new lambs and their mums off the hills and dock tails, castrate, vaccinate, treat for fly and count how successful lambing has been. Its a fun time even though the actual task is somewhat messy and unpleasant. Fun because we do it together, the whole family and anyone else who happens to be around and unoccupied. Fun because the whole success or failure of the farming year hinges on the number of lambs that survive to form the trading base of our operation. I always look forward to knowing the results of our decisions and management practices of the past few months. Of course some things are beyond our control and if the weather has been particularly unkind docking can be more like a disaster assesment. This year we had unseasonal snow and cold heavy rain that left a trail of dead lambs in its wake. Although unfortunate that is the challenge of farming. Doing your best and then doing your best again should things not work according to plan.
It was not however the fortunes, good or bad, of lambing that caught my attention the other day on the hill. It was something rather more attitudinal you might say.
Mustering young lambs can be a challenge at the best of times and things can easily go horribly wrong especially when approaching gateways. The combination of mis-mothered panic stricken lambs and exhuberant excitable young dogs in an ever decreasing space means the smallest of misjudgements can be the difference between a clean muster or several hours wasted regathering the escapees.
We have had our share of misjudgements by both shepherd and dogs this week, but we have had some satifiying successes too. It was while approaching just such a pressure point on a muster that had gone exceedingly well up to that point that I learnt a major lesson in life from watching what happened next.
A largish mob of ewes with triplet lambs (alot of lambs) was approaching the gate to the yards. Two shepherds with  four dogs between us had the mob in hand and our partners and another dog were holding a potential escape route around the head of a gully. Everyone was well postioned and the sheep were moving pleasingly forward. Suddenly one old ewe broke away down hill with a determined look in her eye. Everybody tensed and shifted slightly to cover the escape, and the only dog left out of the action broke free of its tie and came to 'help', running through the gateway in front of the mob. The whole mob spun around and suddenly we were faced with several hundred lambs and their nervous mothers intent on breaking the ring of dogs and people that surrounded them. Now disorientated as to the direction of the gate, our preferred escape for them, they were ready to charge at any percieved weakness. A vital moment. For perhaps five long seconds or more nobody moved a muscle. Nobody.
And this was the lesson. Nobody moved because everybody was in the right place and if you are in the right place then moving is the wrong thing to do no matter what you are faced with. Many people, myself included are fooled into rushing around trying to placate or plug the gaps or 'do' something to make life better. We do this because we are either in the wrong place, space or mind set, or we believe that we are in the wrong place, space or mindset because someone has turned life around on us.
The truth is standing still, holding your ground can be the best solution. Waiting, in the right position, although difficult, can achieve far more positive results than panic actions based on fear or insecurity, whether yours or others.
Those lambs danced on their toes and mock charged us all. But faced with unmoving opponents they turned and flowed through the gate like magic.

As we breathed or thanks and patted our dogs I reflected on how even lambs can teach us valuable lessons about living successfully. All it takes to learn is a moments stillness.

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Our friends- please share with us your thoughts and words too. We welcome hearing from you and your unique insights.With love ..Greg and Tammy