Out and Back In Again

The sheep are very much creatures of habit (except when they’re not) and tend to follow the same routes with enough precision to wear footpaths through the grass. One of these footpaths leads from the barn to the gate, where the sheep walk out single file to eat sycamore leaves every morning in the spring and summer. For some reason once they pass the first gate they don’t have to observe the single file rule anymore.

“Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to work we go!”

Jeb appears to be off the beaten path, but he’s actually walking on the second, fainter path that serves as a “passing zone” the sheep take when the main path is moving too slowly or when they want to avoid walking too close to a pasturemate they happen not to like at the moment.

Holly and Marigold also seem to be breaking traffic laws by walking side by side instead of single file, but there’s actually a loophole saying joined-at-the-hip mama-daughter pairs only count as one and are allowed to make exceptions.

“Everybody follow me!”

Duchess and Daisy also employed the mama-daughter loophole as Angel led the way for the sheep who decided to wait around the barn for me. All except for Mira, who was rubbing her face against my leg and sulking because she tried to go first and Angel butted her from behind. Which is clearly a terribly unfair and cowardly thing to do. (Unless it’s Mira herself doing it, in which case it’s just good tactics.)

That second group (and a few from the first that doubled back) followed me down to the gate, having mass-hallucinated at some point last night that I promised they could come in the yard this morning. Which I did not, they have not been let into the yard in weeks because we’re trying to get grass to grow over their favorite mud patch and they kept pulling up the new grass and digging more holes in the mud.

“Ok, we’re ready for you to open the gate!”

They were miffed when I did not let them out despite the promise I hadn’t made, but quickly got over it and ran off to catch up with the rest of the flock by the sycamore tree. I’ve had to start chaining the gate closed again since they were exiled from the yard, because otherwise they keep letting themselves out. I haven’t caught them in the act to see how they’re doing it, but they have to be doing something, it’s happened too many times lately for it to just be me not latching the gate all the way.

This evening at bedtime, Barney understandably wasn’t keen on being locked in with the Dukelings and less understandably decided to try a new strategy for getting out of it.

Barney is a master tactician (for a sheep anyway) but I have always had a higher opinion of his intelligence than he seems to have of mine. He decided instead of his usual routine of balking at the door and refusing to come in unless he gets an extra treat, he would sprint around the side of the barn and stand in front of the window, presumably hoping I would see him through the window and think he was inside. It was too dark at bedtime for phone pictures to turn out well, but it was so funny I had to try anyway.

“What are you doing out there, Barney?”

Hush, Chestnut! If ShepherdPerson looks in the stall and sees me, she’ll think I’m inside!”

“ShepherdPerson, I think there’s some shenanigans going on around here!”

Me too, Chestnut. Though I think Chestnut, like Mira earlier, would have thought it a perfectly acceptable idea if it had been him doing it instead of Barney. Sigh. Sheep. It’s fortunate I (usually) find their antics more entertaining than annoying.

I went out and chased Barney in, much to his annoyance, but running in ahead of me meant he could run past the stall door and grab a snack from the winter’s hay before bed, so he wasn’t completely unsuccessful. Actually I wouldn’t rule out the whole rigmarole being an elaborate ruse to get at the hay, knowing Barney. Interacting with Barney always feels like playing a game of chess, except for shearing time when it’s more like a professional MMA tournament.

I was eventually able to get everyone in and settled down, where hopefully there will be no more clever ideas before morning.

Working Together

Angel is (more than usually) annoyed with me, because I finally finished helping her get her old wool off. This involves sneakily grabbing a handful of loose wool off her back and then jumping backwards before she can spin around and punch me for invading her personal space like that.

“I keep telling you, you need to have more respect for my boundaries!”

I told her she looks beautiful without all that scruff hanging on her, but she was not appeased. Fortunately there are plenty of Splendid Games to distract her from her fit of pique.

We cleaned up a lot of the fallen branches into a tidy burn pile, which of course means the sheep are contractually obligated to climb all over it, dismantle the pile, and drag the branches everywhere.

“Alright guys, let’s get to work!”

Angel appears to be supervising the job site.

“We’ll get started on this end!”

I think Mira’s been teaching all the others what a Splendid Game it is to drag sticks around.

“Don’t look at me, this is YOUR stick collection! I keep mine in the other field!”

I wonder if sheep “mirror” behavior like cats do, and that’s why they meticulously try to un-do everything we do out there, or if they’re just contrary and don’t like us moving or changing things without their permission and want to “fix” it. They definitely don’t like change, and Mira at least has always tried to imitate what she sees me doing, so my money is on both.

Spoke Too Soon…

I was just saying how surprised I was that no more of the lamb-cave tree had crumbled in the recent storms, but another big chunk out of what was the “solid” trunk has fallen.

The upper, living part of the tree is looking very sparse on leaves this year compared to last, so I think the sheep are going to lose their favorite shade tree entirely soon.

At least they still have the big sycamore down in the lower part of the field and the two hoop houses for shade.

Or they could all crowd around the completely shadeless wire fences and be miserable in the sun, that works too I guess.

“I’ve been laying by this gate for ages and I’m still hot! This is not acceptable!”

The boys are no better, and they don’t even have the excuse of part of their usual shade tree falling down.

“Our shade gate isn’t working, either!

Maybe they’re just tired of being in the hoop houses after all the rain we’ve had?

Last time I looked out they were back under the lamb-cave tree investigating the damage. Hopefully more of it won’t come loose and fall on anyone’s head.

Too Hot to Play

Today, for the first time in months, I managed to have my “real” camera, a charged battery for said camera, and the memory card in the camera all at the same time. It was a balmy 79 degrees this morning, the coolest weather we’re going to have for a while according to the forecast, so I decided to go out and try to get some pictures.

The sheep all came marching down to meet me, but it was too hot for them to have much energy.

“It’s too hot out here, did you bring us treats?”

Liam came down with the rest of the flock, but he didn’t even bother to see if I had crunchies, just found the closest poke weed palm tree and laid back down under it.

“Too hot to care about crunchies…”

Angel made up for his lack of interest, insisting on inspecting all of my pockets and both of my hands.

“Where are you hiding my crunchies??”

And then she ran everyone else off just to make sure I didn’t slip someone else a treat behind her back.

“Get lost, Clover!”

“I’m about to get punched, aren’t I?”

Angel wandered off herself once she was sure there were no treats to be had, and once she and her horns were out of hitting distance Mira came back and insisted I sit down and let her drape her head over my lap for a while.

“This is my spot!”

I let her sit there until she got either hungry or bored and decided to get up and eat, then I went to see where everyone else had gone off to.

“Zzzz…”

Lady and her “little” baby, Danny, sleeping directly in the sun for some reason.

“Zzzz…”

Duchess and her “little” baby, Daisy, also sleeping directly in the sun. There are two perfectly good hoop houses out there, I don’t know why everyone was so keen on sunbathing.

*munch-munch-munch*

Another mama-baby pair, Lana and Nina, in the sun but at least they’re grazing, so they have an excuse.

“You stay right over there, ShepherdPerson!”

The most tight-knit mother-daughter pair of them all, Holly and Marigold, for once without their heads through the fence but still keeping a close eye on me in case I decide to try to separate them. Which I have never done, the closest I have ever come to separating them was picking Marigold up for about five seconds when she was born to check if she was a ewe or a ram before giving her right back to Holly, but they prefer to be safe rather than sorry.

Mira stayed right by my side while I was taking pictures, always grazing within two feet of my boots, which I suppose makes the two of us the final mother-daughter pair.

“You’re not sneaking away from me, Mommy!”

Angel laid by the fence for a while, but then she was smart enough to get up and find herself some shade. She staked out the cozy spot in the curve of what’s left of the hollow tree trunk that formed the lamb-cave. If the rest of that trunk hadn’t fallen down a year or so ago she wouldn’t fit in there anymore, but as it is it’s the perfect size. There’s even a conveniently placed root to use as a pillow.

“This is the best napping spot, and it’s all mine!”

Nova was napping on the far side of the tree’s other trunk, but positioned herself perfectly to be able to spy on me through the peep-holes in the tree. Those Soays do love their peep-holes.

“I see you, ShepherdPerson! I’m super-sneaky!”

I tried to get a picture of the boys all sensibly settled down in their hoop house, but the minute they saw me coming their way they all jumped up and came running, so I had to settle for a group shot of them mobbing the fence.

“Crunchies?? Any crunchies for us?? Please?”

I tried to go back to the house, but Mira followed me down to the gate and insisted she was going to be very upset if I left her behind, so I felt bad and stayed a while longer to pet on her.

“Mommies are never supposed to go anywhere without their babies!”

I was worried I was going to be stuck out there all afternoon, but once she’d had her fill of being fussed over she ran back to the rest of the flock and graciously allowed me to sneak away.

The temperatures are supposed to be even higher for as far in the future as the forecast goes. I know we don’t have it nearly as bad as other places, but it’s still far hotter than either the humans or animals would prefer. I’m hoping we get some rain or at least a break in the heat at some point this summer.

Make Hay While The Sun Shines

The first half of this winter’s hay is now in the barn!

I’m sure the sheep would find this reassuring, except they were all hiding in the shade trying not to melt.

“Great, so we won’t starve to death. Big deal. What are you doing to fix this heat???”

Except for Angel, who was very upset that we wouldn’t let her supervise the unloading and was trying to unfasten the carabiners holding the gate shut.

“This would be so much easier if I had THUMBS!”

And Mira, who couldn’t decide if she was more upset that she was on the wrong side of the fence from me or that she was on the wrong side of the fence from her favorite stick. Either way, yelling at me seemed the logical course of action. Yelling at me is always the logical solution to any problem.

“Hey! Get over here with me! And bring that stick with you! But also get away from my stick and don’t touch it!”

The boys didn’t care either way, they were all hiding from the sun. Ash was clever enough to monopolize the shadow of the hay rack, while Apple baked in the sun, determined to stay near his twin but for some reason not sharing the actual shade.

“All of this shade is only mine, not even twin brothers allowed!”

Once the hay was all uploaded and the gate reopened, Mira made a beeline for her stick.

“You better not have gotten any funny ideas while I was locked out, Stick! I’m still the boss of you!”

Danny was so happy the gate was open he left the shade to lay in the sun on the other side of the fence.

“Ha-ha, I’m on this side of the fence now!”

I don’t always understand sheep logic but I assume that made sense to him. The rest of the Soays at least ran for the shade of the lamb-cave tree instead of laying down just inside the gate in the sun.

The Shetlands decided they were quite content under their current tree, and felt no need to venture into the sun to a different tree just because it was on the other side of a gate.

“More room for us!”

Jeb is so dark he blends into the shadow of the tree trunk. I know Watcher with his black fur gets hotter than Echo does, I wonder if black sheep are the same?

I sat under the tree with them for a while, but even the nicest shade tree is still hot compared to air conditioning, so I expressed my sympathies to the poor sheep and retreated to the house.

Despite their initial lack of interest, I’m sure the hay will be subjected to great scrutiny at bedtime tonight. Liam may even forgive me for dismantling his private stall to make room for it.

When the Shepherd Closes a Window…

… the sheep make themselves a door. That’s how the saying goes, right?

Ash has recovered from his ordeal, and he, Apple, and Drake have been released from quarantine protective custody sheep jail and are back with the other boys. So far there hasn’t been a repeat of them beating poor Ash up, though Ash seems to have gotten used to the extra coddling and still comes over to make pitiful faces at me for extra treats. They seem to have moved on from fratricide and back to the Splendid Game of property damage, which I (grudgingly) prefer over them damaging each other.

The barn is equipped with two tiny ground-level windows on each side for extra light and ventilation, which the sheep love because looking through windows is a very Splendid Game. These little windows have wire fencing across them to stop sheep from getting out and predators from getting in and a door to close in case of heavy rain or snow.

Shortly after Ash and the others moved back in, the boys decided it would be fun to knock the wire out of one of their windows. I grumbled at them to stop breaking things, which the boys blithely ignored, and closed the door until we could put the wire back up, which they did not like at all.

Instead of just agreeing to all look out the other window, they somehow managed to work the latch free and pushed the door back open. They didn’t get out, presumably because all of their heads are too wide thanks to the horns, and I didn’t notice it was open the next morning because I’m so used to it being open all the time.

That night, when the girls were going through their nightly bedtime ritual (running into the barn, knocking over all of the brooms and shovels, running back out of the barn because the brooms fell over attacked them, coming in again and inspecting all of the stalls trying to decide where they want to sleep, then finally settling down in the same stall they sleep in every night) Duchess discovered the open window and escaped through it into the boys’ field.

Then she immediately ran around to the actual barn door and started crying because she was In The Wrong Field and it was Scary and she couldn’t figure out how to get back. Daisy started crying because her mama was In The Wrong Field and it was Scary. Angel tried diving through the window after Duchess, and I only managed to head her off because she hesitated at the last minute, not sure her horns would fit. It was a whole thing. Sadly this is a regular pattern with Duchess. She’s clever enough to figure out how to escape, but she always panics once she’s out and forgets how to get back in.

“Aren’t you glad I didn’t inherit that sort of behavior?”

Duchess may not have raised Mira, but I remember when Mira was newly weaned and she broke out of the field and came back into the house through the dog door. That ability to figure out escape routes is definitely genetic.

I let Duchess back into the barn and closed the little door again, wedging the latch down tightly so they couldn’t jostle it back open. The boys, determined not to have their window blocked, fell back on the tried and true tactic of brute force and not only bashed the little door open, but also broke the baseboard and knocked the adjacent wall plank loose. I had to shove a cement paver in front of the door to keep it closed, since the latch was attached to that plank and therefore unusable.

The loose board was very exciting, even once the “real” window was blocked again. Soays adore peeking through peepholes, perhaps even more than windows. Given the choice between looking at something clearly or peeking at it with one eye through a peephole, they will choose the peephole every time. I’ve seen the boys come to blows over whose turn it is to peek through a crack like that loose board. (Although coming to blows is also one of their favorite things with or without a reason, so perhaps it’s just a chance to combine two of their most Splendid Games.)

To prevent further escalation of this particular game, we came to a compromise where we humans fixed the side of the barn and fastened the wire back across the window so it could stay open, and the boys stopped trying to knock the barn down. They have now moved on to crowding around trying to get the main barn gate open every time I go out there. They insist they need daytime access to the barn, even though it’s terribly hot and stuffy in the middle of the day this time of year. Their nice breezy hoop house and their big field of spring grass just isn’t good enough, they must get into the stuffy barn with it’s two lousy square bales of leftover hay.

“Maybe we can dig a tunnel under the gate!”

It’s a good thing they’re so cute.

Ash’s Horrible, Terrible, No-Good Week

Last week the boys got it into their heads they needed to beat up Ash, and they did such a good job of it the poor guy could hardly walk the next day. The vet checked him over and said it was just soreness, nothing broken, so he got a few days of pain medication and a solo vacation to the small front pen, temporarily converted to a quarantine field.

Once he was back to walking around almost-normally, I tossed his twin, Apple, and their younger half-brother Drake in with him to keep him company. I thought about putting Little John and Flynn in there too and making it a Nova’s Boys Club, but Johnny is very big and Flynn hasn’t been in the same field with his brothers for over a year, and I was worried they might fight. Ash doesn’t need any more bruises.

Between their involuntary exile and Ash’s hated shots of pain medicine none of the three of them are happy with me at all, so I thought while they were mad at me anyway I might as well cut the two years of felt off their backs. Ash behaved reasonably well, but Apple was his mother’s son and fought me the whole time, which made his haircut very choppy, even by my standards. By the time I finished shearing him he looked like he’d lost a fight with a weed whacker and we were both worn out and very grumpy with each other. Drake therefore escaped having his hair cut, for now at least. I did not have the energy or patience for round 3 of shearing.

After I’d had time to recover both my energy and my temper, I went back out to get pictures. Ash was camped out in the shade of the hoop house and didn’t want to get up.

“What do you want now? Haven’t I suffered enough getting beat up, without you stabbing me with needles and cutting off all my wool?”

Poor Ash. He’s having a hard time.

Apple, on the other hand, only thinks he’s having a hard time. He spent most of his first day in the little pen pacing up and down the fence wailing about the Unfairness of It All. I told him he was in sheep jail for all his many crimes, not least of which was helping to beat Ash up in the first place. He insists he’s a mistreated innocent, but he didn’t earn the sobriquet Apple Stop That by being a well-behaved little wether. Keeping his injured twin company for a few days isn’t going to kill him.

“I have done nothing wrong, ever, in my life! Everyone is being very mean to me for no reason at all! You are a terrible ShepherdPerson!”

Mira, in the background, was loudly protesting that I was on the other side of the fence paying attention to things-that-are-not-her. Apparently nobody is happy with me today.

I moved up by the gate to try and get the sun behind me, and Apple and Drake forgave me enough to come see if I had crunchies. I didn’t, so they went back to ignoring me in favor of the girls on the other side of the fence.

“Hi girls!”

Nova leaves a very distinct “stamp” on her lambs, all five of them look very similar in the face. Drake is just smaller than the rest because he’s BB’s son, and Johnny is much bigger because he’s Liam’s. They are very handsome, though my poor attempts at barbering don’t show them to their best advantage. In my defense, Apple was trying very hard to break either my neck or his own when I was trying to shear him, so I blame the ragged spots on him.

Ash got up and followed us, though he hung back behind his brothers instead of coming close. Ash is not quite as friendly as the other two even under normal circumstances, so I wasn’t surprised. He’s also not feeling back to 100% yet, so he wasn’t as interested in potential crunchies.

“If I see even a hint of a needle, I’m gone.”

He’s also a very handsome boy, even with a tragic haircut. And he was much less violent about the whole ordeal, so he’s my favorite Dukeling at the moment. It’s possible he only behaved well because he’s still too sore to throw himself around like a sheep possessed, but whatever the reason I’m not complaining.

Mira followed me up to the gate to be sure I was aware of her continued disapproval. She says I’ve been hovering over Ash for days now and she’s tired of being ignored.

“Mommy! What are you doing Over There? You’re supposed to be Over Here giving me crunchies! You are paying way too much attention to those boys and not paying enough attention to me!”

Mira’s fleece is starting to loosen, which always makes her even more volatile than usual. She absolutely does not want my help in removing it though, she’d rather just be miserable and irritable about it.

Nova saw us all by the gate and came up to the fence to check for any interesting gossip. I suspect Apple was telling his mama all about how evil I am. She got a haircut this year too, so I’m sure she was willing to believe the worst of me.

“Mama, ShepherdPerson is being so mean to me for no reason at all! I’m stuck over here away from my flock and I got a bad haircut and it isn’t fair!”

“What did you do to my little boy, ShepherdPerson?”

Nova usually loses her obsessive protectiveness of her lambs at around six weeks old, but I’m sure she still knows which ones are hers. And Soays never need much encouragement to jump in when there’s potential for drama.

I got tired of being glared at from all sides, and since I’m unlikely to be forgiven until tonight when I come bearing treats I decided to leave them alone under the watchful eyes of Watcher.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got my eyes and ears on them! I’ll let you know if anyone makes a wrong move!”

Watcher’s definition of “wrong move” is very flexible, but it’s usually easy to tell when he’s barking in genuine distress and when he’s just being bossy. He may have been focused on something up by the driveway when I took his picture, but I don’t doubt he knew exactly what was going on behind him. He’s staying under the shade of what remains of the lamb-cave tree now that the weather is warm and sunny. Black fur and hot sun don’t get along very well, but his post under the tree lets him keep an eye on the sheep and the road at the same time, so it’s a nice shady spot to watch from.

Liam should be next up to get a haircut on Monday. He and Jeb are the only two left that I expect to have good fleeces this year. Barney and the two crossbreds will come after that, though their fleeces are likely ruined, and then any of the particularly shaggy Soays who haven’t shed on their own. I’m running very late on shearing, but better late than never I suppose.

Now if only the boys would stop trying to murder each other, I would be a much happier ShepherdPerson.

Hello Yes I Have A Complaint

This is the end of April. I should not look out my back door in the morning and see this:

This is far too much snow for the end of April. Any amount of snow is too much for the end of April. Watcher loves the snow, but the sheep are decidedly on my side of the argument.

“Mommy! Where’s the grass?! It’s all gone since yesterday!”

Mira followed me around yelling at me at the top of her (considerable) lungs the whole time I was out there. Clearly the snow was all my fault and I should do something about it. It didn’t take her long to notice that on the other side of the lane the trees had prevented most of the snow from reaching the ground and there was still green grass.

“Hey! There’s grass over there! Why is all the grass over there?”

And it didn’t take the others long to notice what Mira was looking at.

“Hey! Hey! There’s grass over there! We should go out there!”

Normally I make fun of them for thinking the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but in this case it was true. The view of the pastures looked like this:

And the view 180 degrees in the other direction looked like this:

Still too snowy for April, but not remotely as barren. The sheep were very grumpy that I wouldn’t let them out in the road and doomed them to starve in an unseasonably frozen wasteland.

“I am the queen and I say there is some bad shepherding going on around here!”

The snow was already starting to melt and should be gone by noon, but I put hay out anyway to prevent outright revolt.

“We are saved!”

Given the dire conditions, the dogs decided I needed a two-collie escort back to the house.

“Come on, hurry up! I want to get to the dry porch!”

But my “escort” quickly got distracted by the joy of tussling in the snow and fell behind.

“I’m gonna bite your ears!”

Echo doesn’t like the snow much either and ran ahead to the porch as soon as he could escape from the tussle, but Watcher loves the snow and stayed on watch.

“You go inside, I’ll keep an eye on things out here!”

Currently he’s barking his head off and refusing to come in because the sheep are running around in circles and jumping up to snatch leaves off of the snow-burdened tree branches without his permission. He appears to be having the time of his life. At least somebody’s having fun.

Evening Rituals

I usually take pictures in the morning when I’m letting the sheep out, so last evening I decided to try to take pictures while putting everyone to bed. ‘Try’ being the operative word, since bedtime is usually more chaotic than breakfast. Or at least differently chaotic. My camera batteries were dead again and my phone pictures are terrible, but that’s what I had.

Upon my journey outwards, I found the gate to the field guarded by a fearsome sphinx, who instead of posing riddles demanded to have his ears petted and his paws admired before allowing me to pass.

“You aren’t getting past me!”

“Not until you hold my paw, anyway!”

I taught Echo to ‘shake hands’ back when he first came to live with us, and he took to it with great enthusiasm. I would say it’s the only command he’s ever learned, but that implies that he does it when I tell him to, when actually he’s the one who comes up and offers his paw with increasing insistence whenever he decides he wants someone to hold his paw and pet his ears.

When I entered the field, I was set upon by a band of desperate Soays, who had had nothing to eat ever in their lives and would definitely fade away to nothing if they didn’t get their bedtime crunchy treats before they were actually in the barn. Patience is not a virtue the Soays possess in any great measure, except for mothers with their lambs.

“Woe is us, we don’t have the strength to make it to the barn unless you give us treats!”

The picture blurred because Angel jumped up on me and knocked me off balance just as I tapped the shutter button. Weak from hunger, indeed.

Mira abandoned her usual position as the most desperate of the beggars, because she was putting some last minute fear of herself into one of her sticks. Just so they didn’t get any funny ideas while she was gone for the night and couldn’t keep an eye on them,

“Five more minutes, I almost got this stick moved to my pile!”

And the Shetlands hung back at a safe distance from the chaos. The Shetlands are Highly Practical Sheep and believe that since I always give them treats with no fuss once they’re in the barn, there is really no need to make a dramatic scene on the way demanding to have them early. Soays, by contrast, seem to think a dramatic scene is its own reward and any extra treats they may get are just a bonus.

“We’ll just wait over here until the traffic dies down…”

Once in the barn, all the Soays (plus Nina, who most of the time believes herself to be a Soay, and Jeb, who prefers to be in the center of the group as much as possible when I’m around) piled into their stall and waited expectantly for their treats.

“All right, we’re in here, now pay up!”

Liam and Lana, as usual, headed straight for the private suite. Technically it was built to be a quarantine/lambing stall, but the fact that it is small and private made it desirable, and I have on occasion counted st least ten sheep trying to cram into it at once. Which makes it no more private and a great deal more crowded than the main stall, so when that happens I have to chase most of them back out so they actually have room to lay down.

Duchess and her twins got the private suite almost every night ever since the twins were babies, but since Duke moved over to the girls’ flock I’ve gently suggested that Liam sleep there instead to prevent any nocturnal warfare between him and Duke. As always, where Liam goes Lana goes too, and they are both quite satisfied with the new arrangement. Sometimes Nina will decide to stay in there with her mama, but more often than not it’s just the two of them.

Duchess is not happy about being displaced at all, but Duchess plus both of her (full-grown) babies plus two big, fluffy Shetlands (or three, with Nina) makes things rather claustrophobic in there and she usually runs back out in an indignant huff.

“This is the Shetland clubhouse, now! No silly Soays!”

That pink around the base of Liam’s horn is new growth, not blood. Or I suppose it actually is blood, technically, but it’s all inside him where it belongs. Liam is the only sheep I have with white horns so I don’t know if it’s normal, but in the spring when his horns are growing the new horn is more transparent and always looks pinkish for a while before it darkens to the yellowish-ivory color of the older growth.

The boys didn’t give me any trouble about coming in except for Barney, who had also never had any food in his life and had to sneak around me to grab a snack from the hay bales before going to bed. He does this every night, it’s a constant dance between us.

“I think I’m just gonna stay here tonight instead of going in the stalls; someone needs to keep an eye on the hay!”

Barney has an incredibly clever mind behind that unassuming face, and he’s also very stubborn. I never manage to block him from reaching the hay the same way more than once before he figures out how to out-maneuver me, so I’ve mostly stopped trying. There’s grass out there and not much hay left, so it doesn’t matter if he sneaks a few extra mouthfuls, aside from the way it gives the other boys ideas.

Once everyone was safely in their stalls, I gave them my nightly “It’s time to go to sleep now, settle down, no fighting, I love you guys, please don’t break anything before morning” speech, closed up the barn, and went back to the house so that Echo could relax from his vigilant guarding of doors and gates for people who might be persuaded to pet him.

“You’re looking at me, does that mean you want to hold my paw and pet my ears?”

And Watcher could relax from a long day of racing cars down the lane and yelling at the sheep through the fence and generally doing his self-appointed duty as the resident Farm Alarm. Even in sleep he had one paw on his beloved frisbee. It’s actually the latest in a long line of identical frisbees, but I’m not sure if he doesn’t realize or just doesn’t care that we replace it every time it gets too nasty or torn up.

“Zzzz…”

I charged the camera batteries so I hope to get some “real” pictures soon, but at the moment I think all I would get would be fleeing tails. Nova got a haircut this morning, so I’m highly unpopular out there at the moment. Sadly her fleece was hopelessly felted and had to go in the garbage, but at least she looks a lot more comfortable and isn’t carrying around all that nasty shaggy mess anymore. Hopefully they will have forgiven me by tonight, or maybe tomorrow.

Sticks and Stones

Now that everything is no longer frozen to the ground, Mira has resumed her one-sheep war on all the sticks and rocks she can find. This is a very long standing feud going back to when she was just a wee lambie in a turtleneck sweater.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“Look at this stick I caught, Mommy!”

Now that she’s grown, she maintains a collection that she hoards obsessively in the upper corner of the field until she gets bored and forgets about it. Then I can clear out the debris without her losing her mind at me, and a few months later she can start all over. Right now she’s just started on her latest collection.

“This stick is not where it goes, who moved my stick?”

She has amassed quite a collection of sticks in her corner already, where she can push them around and rearrange them however she likes. She gets very distressed if anyone else touches her sticks. I had to wait until she was in bed for the night before I could take a picture without her getting upset.

Sticks she likes to collect in one pile, but rocks she likes to spread out over as wide an area as possible. It is an ongoing struggle trying to keep the lava rock in the landscaping where it goes, since she is determined that the rocks should be anywhere else but there. We regularly find them up to eight feet away from where they are supposed to be.

There is a small pile of rocks and chunks of broken cinderblocks up by the barn that she is always trying to dismantle as well.

“This rock does not go here, it’s driving me crazy!”

I’ve been using that particular rock as a doorstop to keep the barn door propped open so the barn can air out during the day (with a wire gate across the doorway to keep the woollies from raiding the barn) and every day Mira drags the rock off to some other position that better suits her sheepy feng shui.

“Every day I get this rock exactly where it goes, and then someone comes along and messes it up. Why are you sabotaging me like this, Mommy?”

She is more stubborn than I am, today I just gave up and left the rock where she put it yesterday. Somehow I am still in trouble, even though I didn’t touch it. The Right Spot yesterday isn’t the Right Spot today, I suppose. And this is clearly my fault.

“This place would be an absolute mess if it wasn’t for me!”

Whatever keeps her entertained is all right, I suppose. I’m glad she has a hobby. I do wish she’d leave the lava rock alone, though.