Welcome to a gorgeous sunny day in Otago, where the birds are chirping and the daffodils are running riot in the garden.
I’ve been house sitting in New Zealand since April. I love the variety that house sitting brings me and the chance to explore different parts of this gorgeous country of mine.
While there are many joys to house sitting, there are also challenges. While on a 3 week house sit on the Otago Peninsular I hit a few challenges, which I thought might give you a laugh.
On this house sit I was caring for Tip (a young border collie with the energy of a tornado), Pi (an elderly lab/pointer cross with impeccable manners), four beautiful horses, five funny chickens and 37 friendly sheep.
A Badly Behaved Dog & A Broken Gate Latch
On Wednesday I walked 5000 steps before breakfast…
Tip, Pi and I headed off on our morning inspection of the property. As I squelched through the mud I was once again grateful for the gumboots that were keeping my feet dry.
As we rounded the corner of the pathway in the first paddock I saw the sheep. Sheep? Hang on! They aren’t meant to be in that paddock. And there is Matuki! What on earth is going on?!
We passed through the first gate and trudged up the hill to inspect which of the gates was open.
There it was; the same gate whose latch had been broken yesterday when Tip chased two sheep. They foolishly went right instead of left, straight into the gate.
I was annoyed that my handy work in fixing that latch hadn’t held and mystified too, as the gate had to move through high grass and sticky mud to open.
The immediate suspects were the strong wind we had last night, and the older horses scratching an itch.
Now how was I going to get the mob of sheep and Matuki back to their paddock, while separating out the ram and two wethers that were meant to be in a different paddock?
I looked at the many gates in bewilderment. No combination of opening and closing those gates would give me an easy run into the yards. On further inspection I realised that I could close off the race way and bring the sheep through the gate at the top of the middle paddock.
I had the bright idea to take Pi and Tip with me to help get the sheep out of the far paddock as it was basically one great hill.
Let’s just say that I’ve now learned my lesson; Tip is rubbish with sheep handling. Pi took it all in his elderly stride and was happy to be out and about.
After taking the dogs back to the house I resumed my role as sheep dog and quietly bought the sheep into the middle paddock, closing the gate behind me in case any sheep decided to double back.
Back up that hill I trudged and steadily guided the sheep into the race way. Feeling quite victorious at this stage I realised there was no way I was going to catch the ram without accessories.
Down to the shed I went to collect a rope, sheep nuts and a halter for Matuki.
It worked! Well on the second attempt. On the first attempt I had lured the ram to me with sheep nuts and was happily leading him to the gate when the rope slipped and the ram got away. I was firmer on the second go and got the ram through the gate back into the middle paddock.
Now for the wethers. Except which were they? With full fleeces on I couldn’t see the identifying body parts unless I was on my hands and knees in the mud.
I decided that was a problem for another day and opened the gate that would take the 36 sheep back to their own paddock.
Back down the hill I trudged then up the steep hill paddock to collect Matuki. He’s a young, mischievous horse so I was prepared to fail. Especially as he had a certain look in his eye as I approached.
Quietly scratching his chin I slipped the halter on. Except it didn’t work. There was a piece missing! Laughing at myself, I slipped the halter rope around his neck and gave a tug.
Matuki was a perfectly behaved horse the whole walk back. Once though the gate into his own paddock he galloped up the fence line, kicking out his back legs in joy.
Now for that gate latch. Rummaging around in the tool shed I found larger nails and made sure that gate was not coming open again.
How To Rugby Tackle A Sheep
Sheep are a herd animal and get nervous by themselves so I was on a mission the next morning to get a wether into the same paddock as the ram.
Looking at the flock the next morning, I guessed that the two sheep who were bashing heads were likely to be boys so approached them slowly with my rope and bucket of sheep nuts.
Oh so quietly I got close to one of the wethers and slipped a rope around his neck. He was not happy about it! He was also a cunning so and so who reared up and got away from me, with the rope still dangling around his neck!
I tried to recapture him but the game was up.
At this stage I knew that one person wasn’t enough. My neighbour was due to come around the next morning so I gave her a ring and explained what had been going on. She was wonderful to talk to and is very practically minded. I do love a woman who has fencing staples!
Bev arrived at 8am the next morning. By that time I’d already got the ram and his ewe sidekick (who escaped during wethergate) into the race way and collected a new rope and the ever helpful sheep nuts.
On the way to the race way Bev and I checked the formerly broken gate latch. She admired my nailing skills and we put in two solid staples to permanently secure the latch.
The ram was already by the gate out of raceway so we lured him through with a rattle of the bucket of sheep nuts, while keeping the ewe in place. These things are so much easier with two people!
Up to the top of the raceway we walked. The plan was to get the rest of the sheep into the raceway as it would be easier to re-capture the roped up wether in a smaller space where the sheep were crammed together.
The well trained sheep were already heading towards the gate. I opened up the stiff gate and the sheep started to come through, in twos and threes. It was then I had my brilliant idea!
“Bev, I think I can grab the wether as he comes through the gate.”
The wether weights at least as much as I do. I knew the only way to guarantee capturing him was to throw myself on him and bring him down to the ground (no sheep were harmed in the making of this story).
He eyed me suspiciously from the other side of the gate. I looked away in a casual fashion, balancing lightly on my toes. Through he came at a run! Channelling all of my teenage rugby playing skills I threw myself at him. Down we came! My arms around his neck, one leg throw over his hind quarters.
She wrapped another rope around his neck to lead him to the gate. I held the other rope and straddled him rodeo style to make sure he didn’t get away. Having long legs were critical to this stage as they were just the right height to be able to straddle him and shuffle the 15 meters to the gate.
It was a slow journey with a grumpy sheep rearing up at one point and me having a true rodeo moment of arm up in the air as I rode him back down to the ground until he settled again. Bev was impressed with my skills.
Through the gate we went, releasing both of the ropes and off he went to join the ram, throwing me a filthy look over his shoulder.
A rattle of the sheep nuts (what is in those things?!) had the sheep moving back through the gate and into their paddock.
By then it was 9am and a well-earned cup of coffee was all I desired.
House Sitting In New Zealand
Of course not every house sit has these kinds of complications! I was happy to take care of this number of animals as I’d grown up on a farm and had done a few lifestyle block house sits before.
That’s me on the right.
If you’re interested in house sitting in New Zealand then I’d recommend Kiwi House Sitters to get you started.
You pay NZ$84 for a full year. If you’d like $10 off the full price then let me know in the comments below. The discount code only lasts for two weeks so I want to make sure that you get an active code. If you sign up I’ll also get $10 off when I renew. There are a lot of sits of all kinds on the site so whether you’re a country, or a city, person you’ll find a place for you.