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10 Sep 2009 - 2:06 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

For my birthday, on a whim, I bought myself turkeys. Someone, sometime, had told me that if you rear them yourself, if they can forage for grass, if they’re allowed to range free, they don’t taste as dry, insipid and awful as those mass produced ones.

I don’t remember who it was who said all that but the live turkeys give me the creeps. They don’t respond to you like chickens, looking for food or shelter. They don’t play like the pigs, or wander around contentedly like the sheep. They just look at you. Often. And they escape. Often. And they get sick. Well mine have. One got ill and died. Another got so ill I had to put it out of its misery. A gruesome thing to do, but an act of humanity, I hope. The first one was fed through a syringe, nursed to try and get her back to health. But I can’t bare the suffering of the second. A razor sharp cleaver does the trick. It’s not easy. I feel like crap.

The weekend is hard. One of the ewes escapes while I’m at the market. Out through a hole in the fence, and something tells me the dog, Cari, is to blame. Bred to be a working dog, Cari loves to round up the chooks, the turkeys, the sheep, if she can get in with them. Just a gentle circling and crouching and stalking, but something that must tire the animals out well before the dog.

The ewe was gone at dusk, nowhere to be found. I spend the next morning repairing gaps under the bottom of the fence. The biggest is where the creek runs. When it runs. Some chicken wire and a star picket may keep the animals in. I bleed from several cuts where I re-tension a strainer post and jab myself with numerous strands of wire.

In the mid afternoon a neighbour finds the ewe skulking alone up the back of a paddock, in the bush. I spend three hours chasing a sheep through the scrub, learning a lot about how animals think. Sheep, for instance, will always head for higher ground. As a mountain animal, they don’t mind rough terrain, and like the shelter afforded by blue gum and black wattle. Most of the time it’s on someone else’s land, and it’s only as I give up, mentally and emotionally, that I get her back into the paddock, which is at the bottom of the hill, exposed. I think it’s only her will, and her desire to get back with her flock, that gets her back, not anything that I’ve attempted to do.

I sleep like the dead, with sore hands, sore legs, and feeling like this back to basics stuff is a bit overrated. I wake, fully rested, relieved to find that the livestock are safe and sound back on Puggle Farm, at least for the moment.