Sunday 28 August 2022

Bert and Ernie

The Boys in Happier Days

About 8 months ago we acquired a couple of rams for free, Bert and Ernie, as their owner just wanted to get rid. Otherwise, they were destined for the knacker's yard. Mrs S is a big old softy (not me, I'm tough) and became upset that these young healthy creatures were about to be discarded unto the bone gatherer. At the time, they were about a year old. We already had three alpacas residing in one of our large fields and it was no problem adding a couple of ovines; the carrying capacity of the land was not to be exceeded. The lads were promptly delivered and the alpacas watched/awaited the delivery of the new arrivals with studied/studded interest (the alpacas had metal nose rings). Once released, the new additions began to graze immediately and we left them to settle in. As we left the field, Ted the alpaca came over to say hello and promptly mounted one of our new additions. 

It needs to be emphasised that neither my wife nor I are from farming stock. Prior to moving to our current rural property our only experience of 'livestock management' was owning a succession of white, fluffy lap dogs. However, managing alpacas and sheep is relatively easy- leastways according to YouTube. After all, both types of animals are just more woolly and larger versions of ferrets, aren't they?  Both sheep and alpacas require an annual cut and treatment for worms and other potential parasites, and nowt else. Of course, my wife and grandchildren regularly feed the animals over the fence with ovine/camelidae nutritional pellets. For a handful of nuts these, usually standoffish creatures, will allow hand patting and a little unassuming human interaction.

And thus the Great cycle/circle of life continues, without abate and drama, until..... One sunny winter's morn I toddle awf to the livestock field with a song in my heart and a beer in hand. Twas after 10.00 am after all. The purpose of the visit was to administer repair work to the hut that had been erected for the animals to gain respite from the extremes of New Zealand's weather. In this instance, a panel had come down due to rain and wind and thusly my woodworking ministrations and exertions were expressly, and sorely, needed. As I was about to set to work, I espied Ernie 'resting', supine. As the day was sunny and unseasonably warm I felt little concern. I, therefore, got to work and within a short span, I had undertaken the repair. Henceforth, livestock on the property would no longer be at the mercy of the vicissitudes of New Zealand weather. My husbandry obligations had been fulfilled with skill and undoubted aplomb! Satisfied, and filled with wonder, I regarded my land with a squint-eyed, vista-encompassing, sweep. It, at this stage, I noticed that Ernie had not moved since last regarded. With understandable trepidation, I drew near. His stillness at my approach did not bode well. I sat by the still, stricken animal and cradled his head. He was with life but by a small margin. I called the vet and she arrived within a short span. After a cursory, but professional inspection, she relayed that the prognosis was terminal and that to avoid any further suffering, poor Ernie, was to be euthanised. The family gathered and spent a few minutes with our ailing friend. Afterwards, the vet administered the drug and his family stayed until he gave up his last breath.

Next day, we buried Ernie and on the following morn, we assembled and my granddaughters placed a few wildflowers upon the place of his final repose. It was then we noticed that Bert had deposited a pile of his excremental waste (is there any other?). Could this be his way of saying, 'Goodbye'? We will never know.                    



  1. Hi Flax,
    first to say I feel condolence to you and your people about the loss of poor Ernie. Sheep are lovely animals, true experts in creating idyll (may sound trivial but try to do that on your own...).
    Then to answer the question about excremental waste (is there any other?). Just call it dung and it suddenly appears as very precious stuff to gardners, farmers... scarabs.
    Let´s toast on Ernie with a 10 a.m. beer in Sealand/1 a.m. in Hamburg.
    Cheers man.

    1. Farming folk we are not. The farmers hereabouts are prosaic about their livestock- food on da move. I can't align with this sentiment and all creatures on the plot are pets, even the slug, Fredrick. He lives in the moist midden pit and gives us no trouble. I will raise a toast to our Ern, tonight as I contemplate the unbidden/hidden mysteries of our existence. 'Are we there yet?' Not yet......

    2. but yet - nothing is real but the moment

    3. Now that is a philosophical conundrum- discuss.