sheep


Every year I announce that it is Spring at some point, just because I’m tired of it being Winter, and don’t want to put up with it any more.  It doesn’t really matter what the weather is doing, there is always snow in spring just when you thought you were done with it, and cold winds, and all that.  It’s all psychological.

This year we’ve had such a mild winter (sorry, East Coast!) that I haven’t been tempted at all, and was perfectly willing to let the seasons change as they would, without interference from me.  But, I was moving some dirt tonight, and the inevitable Helping Hen found… worms!  Quite close to the surface too.  So there’s no help for it, it must be spring.  Crazy – we haven’t even run out of wood, yet!

Pupdate – Ulster doesn’t live here any more.  Ulster was killing chickens, and although he felt quite bad about it after, he wouldn’t stop.  Since the whole reason Ulster lived here at all was to prevent someone else from killing chickens, that just wasn’t going to work.  So he has moved in, at least for a while, with CK and The Ed.  And their other five hundred dogs and cats.

Ulster had not been gone twenty minutes when I walked in on this:

Funny, I didn’t think I was the one keeping the dogs off the furniture.  On the other hand, I was enjoying the lack of destruction.  Oh well.  Does anybody else have this problem where the thing that you do is “make nice stuff” and your whole life and acquaintance seem specifically arranged to “make stuff dirty and broken”?  I get upset about this, I’m not kidding.  I hate so much living in and around junky ripped-up furniture or whatever, but if I fix it, it will just be junky ripped-up stuff that I spent a lot of time and effort on.  I’m not sure which is more depressing.  Oh well, at least the puppy is cute.

Honestly, I love that picture.  I think we should blow it up and hang it over the couch.

Speaking of cute, you will no doubt have noticed that there are lambs.  Freyja’s two, born yesterday morning, are both ewes.  Freyja had no problems, and gave me just enough warning that I was able to be there and watch the whole process, from clearing a little nest with her hooves to lambing.  I had put down fresh bedding, but apparently it was not good enough.  What do I know, I’ve never had lambs.

Vellum watched too.

Chloe and Solly were more polite, and took Dash (yes, we went with Dashing the WonderLamb) outside.  I ran out of battery power, and thus have some really gross and exciting pictures on my cell phone.

The babies are adorable.  It turns out, apparently if you mix a white sheep with a blackface sheep, you just get polka-dot sheep, it isn’t only Chloe.  The youngest literally has white ears with black dots on them.  She looks more like Freyja, the older favors Vellum.

This is big sister:

And here is the baby:

That’s at about ten hours old.  As you can see, they are not as camera-shy as previous lambs have been.  Probably they get that from their father, as well.

That’s what I kept getting when I was trying to take pictures of the babies.

The older twin is the leader, and I swear, at less than ten hours on this earth I was already saying “you’re just like your mother”.  She was the first one to find and want to play with Dashing

(The pink is pepto-bismol, Chloe really did have a tummyache).  Chloe is good with Freyja’s lambs, she just kind of nudges them away, and she baby-talks to them the same as she does Dashing.  I love sheep baby-talk.

Apparently Freja and Chloe have both decided that Solly will be a good baby-sitter.  I’m not sure whether they asked Solly or told him, but they both left him watching the lambs today while they went to grab a quick bite to eat and some alone time.

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Day One:

Today I woke up. Then I went to sleep and woke up again. I had a pee. Mommy says I’m doing everything just right. She says I’m smart.

I had milk, too. I really like milk. And sleep. And waking up.

Day Two:

Last night I got half the barn to sleep in, except Mommy stayed with me. She said I needed that much room in case I grew, but I didn’t.

This morning I am learning how to be a sheep, which is what Mommy says we are. She knows everything. This is a picture of Mommy, isn’t she beautiful?

That is our favorite sunny spot.

Sometimes Sheep go Over There Really Quickly. We have to do it all at the same time. I don’t know why yet. I think it has something to do with chickens. There are a lot of chickens. Mommy says don’t worry about it unless they are eating, but I don’t know how you tell. I didn’t see any milk.

Sometimes other things happen like Wheelbarrows. If it was up to me we would run then too, but it isn’t. There is a lot to remember.

Day Three:

Mommy had a tummyache today. Bucket Lady said Mommy had too much corn but Mommy said no. Bucket Lady is dumb. I stayed by Mommy and licked her. When Mommy licked me it felt good, so that will help.

Freyja had a tummyache too she said, but then she started acting really strange.

I don’t think Sheep should do that. Mommy took me to the sunny spot for a nap. Now there are more Sheep! I don’t know where they came from. They are dumb, they don’t know anything. They don’t even know about the sunny spot! Mommy and Freyja said I can teach them how to be Sheep.

They have little coats. I had a little coat when I was a baby but then I lay down in a puddle so now I don’t.

Here is a picture of Everybody Except Solly Who Was Over There. That is Vellum. Bucket Lady says he is “Daddy”. I don’t know what that means. Mommy says sometimes the lady doesn’t make any sense but she has treats. That didn’t make any sense either.

Last spring, Chloe had a lamb.  But she had a tough labor and some sheepy form of post-partum depression and she didn’t want anything to do with her baby, so I raised it.  Solly still thinks he’s my lamb.  Chloe still thinks he’s my lamb too, he’s certainly nothing to do with her.

This is a picture of Solly.  He is unfocused because he already thought I was mommy, and was heading toward me.

This morning, Chloe had a lamb.  He is the spitting image of Solly.  This is the new lamb:

He is in focus, because he does not care about me, he is safe with his mommy Chloe, who loves him.  This time around, Chloe has gone the other way.  She adores her lamb.  Right now, he is snuggled up in a corner trying to sleep, but probably he can’t sleep because Chloe is standing over him nickering softly to make sure he knows she is there.

The other, inferior sheep are not allowed near the lamb.  Nobody is allowed near the lamb except me, and that only with close supervision.  The lamb wanted to play with Hera (he probably can’t focus very well yet, she’s round and wooly and she was bouncing in a way that looked like fun), and Hera was briefly thrilled to find a sheep smaller than herself.  Then Chloe chased her away.

The new lamb hasn’t got a name yet.  He hasn’t had much chance to show off his personality or any special traits, I’m waiting to see what develops.  Chloe thinks he should be named “Prince Delightful” or “Dashing the WonderLamb”, but Chloe tried to tell me he was the smartest lamb ever birthed because he figured out how to pee on his own, so I suspect her judgment is a bit skewed right now.

Although you know, “Dashing the Wonderlamb” is kind of catchy…

Here’s day two of the egg:

Photo by Diana Martin, Chatham Daily News

Hera and I actually made the front page with this yesterday… presumably it was a slow week. We were at least below the fold, under Haiti!

And as an example of how things have been going this year – Blackie passed away yesterday afternoon. That’s what it’s been like. Kinda good thing, really really sucky thing. My karma is totally tipsy.

Blackie wasn’t a surprise, though. She’s been failing, and when I went out yesterday morning I was pretty sure we’d come to the end. So we had some cuddles, and I told her again what a beautiful perfect sheep she was. She died peacefully. And I dealt with the things that had to be done and then ran and hid in a shop window and knitted another four inches of egg. It is up above knee level now, and I am feeling pretty good about how it is going.

Also, I finished a sweater. Local artist Hank Bos is responsible for this, or at least that is what I am claiming.  See, there is this piece I’ve got in my head about wind farms, and Hank was encouraging me to get working on it.  I am not ready though, because wind farms make me angry (an immense oversimplification) and I don’t want the piece to be angry.  Or at least, not aggressively so.  So I had kind of pushed it to the back burner and stopped thinking about it.  Hank is a very encouraging sort of person though, and talking to him got me thinking about it again and trying to figure out how to tone down the anger or anyway channel it usefully.  And I decided that if I could work through some of my hostility on another project, maybe I could kind of get it out of my system and look at the idea with a clearer head.

So I made a sweater:

I think it worked.  I feel better now.  Also, I have a new warm sweater.

Here’s one final picture for the puppy fans:

See?  Bigger.  Eleven weeks.  Don’t they look sweet?  That’s because they are sleeping, unlike this very moment when they are thrashing around on the floor wrestling.  Actually they’re cute then too, just more dangerous.  And last night, Hera had her first big St Bernard drool!  Raven tried to take a picture, but it didn’t show up very well.  Baby’s first slobber, we’ll have to put it in the scrapbook.

Ok, so I did the enormous sweater for the brother.  And those gloves for my MIL were natural; I dyed them after knitting.  Ditto the clogs for my SIL.  Then work gloves for Raven, which weren’t dyed because they’re going to get shredded and why bother?

Now, The Immortal Grandmother needs wool socks badly, because her circulation is awful.  Although I haven’t had a chance to spin sock yarn lately, I do have some DK weight that will do fine – they can be bulky, she isn’t walking around, they just have to be warm.

But this yarn is also undyed, and I just can’t do it!  I frogged these socks three times, and it isn’t because there was anything wrong with the knitting, I just couldn’t face looking at the danged things.

As for the wool still on the hoof, Vellum is feeling much better, fitting in well with the girls, and has even made little challenges to Blackie, after which they rub noses and make up.  But things have been getting progressively stranger around here – I mentioned the upswing in the amount of sheep-cuddles going on?  Woah.  They have gone so completely touchy-feely it is weird.  They lie in the sun snuggled up like a ewe with her lambs, they rub noses, they hug.

Then, yesterday morning, Vellum noticed that Chloe is… beautiful.  He wants to be more than friends.  At the same time, Freyja noticed that Vellum is not at all the nerdy pain-in-the-butt she thought he was, he is in fact kind of attractively shy.  And really quite handsome.  Even sexy, in a sweet, naive way.  So Vellum was chasing the hard-to-get Chloe all over the yard, and Freyja was sidling up to Vellum and just kind of… being there.  Hoping he would notice.  If he did manage to get near Chloe, Freyja would push in between them, making it difficult for him not to notice.

Vellum noticed.  Repeatedly.  He’s still got an eye on Chloe, but it’s hard for a boy to turn down a beautiful and experienced older woman!  Chloe, meanwhile, seems to be feeling something, but it is manifesting as crazy high energy.  She has spent most of the last few days climbing the pile of straw bales, and she seems to be trying to do A Trick.  She climbs up on the straw, waits for a sheep to come close and then tries to step off the straw onto their back.  So far no one is willing to play along, so she falls a lot.  But she persists – she’s sure it would be a Really Good Trick, and probably generate lots of extra sheep treats, if the others would only co-operate!

Earlier in the fall, my girls were supposed to have a wild romantic adventure with a ram who lives nearby. But the ram doesn’t know how to drive, and his person and I were just too stupid-busy this past season to organize sheep-swaps, so it never happened. Then, just before Christmas, along comes The Little Ram That Nobody Wanted. His sisters and cousins had all gone, and his mommy had weaned him ages ago, and so all he had for company were some smelly pigs. He didn’t much like the pigs; he missed his sheep.

vellum2

He is not a black sheep. He is a white sheep who has been living too close to smelly pigs. His name is Vellum. He’s never seen a chicken before, and in fact he’d never seen Outside before, let alone snow. But having new Sheep Friends makes the whole thing a wonderful adventure.

vellum3

Chloe warmed up to him almost immediately – she’s only a few months older than he is, and she was glad to have someone new to play with.

vellum1

The older ewes took a bit longer, but eventually Blackie’s maternal instinct got the better of her, and she adopted him. Now even Freyja is warming up to him, and between the fact that he is sweet and smallish, and the fact that he is A Boy, there is a lot of cute cuddling going on in my yard this week.

It has been agreed that he can eat hay from the trough with the other sheep. (Lambs like hay. BigSheep said they didn’t, but BigSheep are always playing jokes like that. Hay is good.) In fact, (since Vellum was pretty much unsocialized) they have noticed a definite upturn in the amount of Sheep Treats on offer since he has arrived. There is nearly always something for them in my pocket now. I’m sure this helped his being accepted.

It’s taken him a bit longer to warm up to me, in no small part because he had a sore foot I’ve been treating, hooves that desperately needed trimming, and I had to take a close look at his eyes, which had been troubled by the smelly-pig ammonia. But all those problems are improving, and he has discovered that pets and scritchies don’t always mean “being turned upside down”, sometimes they mean “lamb snacks”. Just yesterday I received a very thorough sniffing, and he’s also got brave enough to try and stick his nose in the aformentioned pocket. I’m pretty sure he’ll always like Sheep better than People, but that’s fine and as it should be, Blackie’s attitude notwithstanding.

I seem to have come down with “Languishing Heroine Disorder” (LHD). You know, those Victorian damsels (and sometimes secondary male characters) who suffer from long-term unspecified ailments whose only notable symptoms are etherial beauty, frailty, frequent swooning, and the ability to survive for decades on the occasional spoonful of milky tea? Usually they die, either fevered and raving, or after making long-winded sweet and forgiving speeches – cause of death usually being their approaching marriage, presumably because swooning damsels are fine, but a matron confined to a couch is not a sympathetic character at all.

I don’t think my case is terminal: I must have a light dose, because I’m still getting by on mugs of black coffee, there hasn’t been any more feverish raving than usual, and my last chance at “etherial beauty” evaporated around the age of twelve.

See? It’s been all downhill from there. Anyway, I’m already married, and so I’m much more of a Thackeresque figure of fun than a swooning beauty. Although Raven has promised that if I can’t pull my act together soon I can have a fainting couch on which to languish picturesquely. Personally, although the couch is a serious temptation, I would much rather just wake the heck up and get my energy back.

So these last few days of Victorian recline/decline have been the reason that I haven’t already posted these barnyard pictures I was promising Red Kate.  Baby chickens have recently decided that sheep are cool.  Or more accurately, that sheep are warm.  And soft.

Even the hens are starting to get in on it.

That little one on Blackie’s head in the first picture is our best sheep-wrangler – he can even stay on when she shakes, and he rides around the yard on her head or neck.

In fact, though, I’m not certain whether it is the sheep specifically that attract them, or if the sheep just happen to be in the way.  They’ll climb on any one/thing.

There has been some spinning, and next time I’ll post the finished wheel mod, since I’ve done some more tweaking and balancing – no major changes, although a couple of the things I’ve done look big.  Also, Raven took a very nice close up of Phil the Goose, which is still in the camera, which is over there.  I am over here, languishing.  So I’ll get that up next time as well.  Now excuse me while I go try and give my head a shake.  Maybe I should try some of that milky tea?

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