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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rainbow Butts

The Accidental Farmwife
Episode 1: Rainbow Butts
By Diana Fisher

Waking up to the sound of a donkey braying, I must admit, is far more pleasant than waking up to the sounds of several dozen taxis honking on the crowded streets of Taipei. The Taiwanese believe that joyful noise will scare away evil spirits. I’ll take peace and quiet and fresh air in Canada, any day. I returned to my hometown of Kemptville in 2006, after three years overseas. Last month, I became Mrs. Fisher. My husband is a college professor and a sheep farmer. I am The Accidental Farmwife.
I am proud to say that after one month on the farm, I now know how sheep end up with multi-coloured behinds. But that, I’m afraid, is the extent of my farm knowledge.
My parents moved to Kemptville from Ottawa in the ‘60s. Dad started teaching at North Grenville the same year, and Mom soon took up her post outside the Director’s office at Kemptville College. I was born at KDH in 1968, when my parents lived in the apartment above what was then Anderson’s Ladies Wear (now Gallery 6 and Butlers’ Victorian Pantry). We moved to George Street and lived there until I was about 8, then Carl Norenberg built us a wonderful house, “out in the country”.
My fondest memories were made while we lived in that house on Johnston Road. We climbed trees (pushed the neighbour’s son out of one once…those ambulances are pretty good at off-roading), “borrowed” kittens from the Williams’ farm down the road, and even learned to ride horseback through the quarry that is now Oxford Heights subdivision on Abbott Road. But we really knew nothing about farm life.
School friends who were members of the mysterious 4-H Club knew what farm life was all about. But, to the rest of us, they were simply “the boys who could dance”. Apparently dancing was something they learned at some of their 4-H meetings.
My husband jokes that the city folk are very entertained by life on the farm. Our Ottawa relatives come out to the farm, sit on the porch and watch the sheep, fascinated by their habits.
I remember driving down County Road 43 with my daughters a few years ago, and we passed by a sheep farm. One of my girls yelled, “Hey! How come some of the sheep have green butts and some have red?” Hmmm…
I was trying to come up with a creative answer to her question. The best I could do was “Green means go so…the green bum sheep are ready for slaughter, and the red ones aren’t ready yet. Maybe they are too small or something.” Silence prevailed while my daughter processed that information. I looked back in the rearview mirror to study her expression. I could see a thought coming… “But…they can’t see their own butts. They have to go around and ask each other what colour they are!”
“Yes!” I replied. “And maybe they are lying to each other! One sheep with a green bum comes up to his friend and says, Hey – what colour am I? And the other sheep says, Red, man, red. Nothing to worry about….and then he turns to the other sheep and whispers, Oh man…he’s green….”
Sheep don’t like to breed in the summer, apparently, as it is too hot for such behaviour. They prefer the fall, around Thanksgiving, which, unfortunately, means they are ready to birth in February. When it’s -30.
My husband was perhaps too happily ensconced in honeymoon mode himself to notice that it was time to let the ram out to mingle with the sheep. But the bunch of heated females leaning on the fence reminded him of the season. In fact, one jumped the fence to be with her man. Well, everyone’s man, actually. Farmer Fisher went and got a brand new harness (a jealous donkey had shredded the last one) and block of red crayon to strap on the ram. Properly equipped, the ram set out to do his business.
Last year, we had two rams. One wore a blue crayon, the other green. One of the girls (we have 5 between us) was jumping on the trampoline the first morning after we let the rams loose in the herd. “Do you see any blue or green bums?” the farmer asked.
“I don’t see any white ones,” she answered. “And some are kind of rainbow.”
We are hoping that this year’s ram, who has to take care of business all on his own, is up to the task. Stay tuned.

Disclaimer: The Accidental Farmwife reserves the right to exercise artistic license from time to time. And she would like to apologize in advance for any embarrassment caused to friends or family members as a result of this column. Readers may contact the writer at: Diana.fisher@yahoo.ca.

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