Well That’s A New One

I went to let the sheep out yesterday morning, and there were only three Dukelings at the fence to greet me. If Chestnut had been the missing one I wouldn’t have been too worried, (Chestnut is a sound sleeper and sometimes doesn’t wake up when everyone else gets up and leaves him), but it was Cedar and Cedar doesn’t usually wander off alone, so my brain automatically started screaming “Oh no, he’s hurt/sick/escaped and run off to conquer the world!”

I walked all over looking for him and couldn’t find him anywhere, but there was some sort of great commotion going on in the barn, so I decided to put the search on hold while I let the girls out.

And I found Cedar. In the barn, in one of the stalls with the girls. I have no idea how he ended up in there, and I have a strong suspicion he wasn’t sure how he ended up in there, but he was Not Happy about it. The commotion I’d been hearing was him bawling his head off because he’d never been more than a few steps away from Chestnut before in his entire life and he did not like it at all and wanted his brother back right that minute.

I got him back out with his brother and the other boys, much to his relief. Neo also slipped out, then immediately decided he’d made a Big Mistake when he was instantly attacked by every guy in the field wanting to hash out his place in the pecking order. In the process of rescuing poor hapless Neo, somehow I ended up with the boys all in the large front field. I was tired of sheep-chasing by that point, so I just shut the gate on them and let the girls have the small front fields and the back field for the day.

And of course I didn’t have a camera or even my cell phone to document any of this chaos. By the time I got back to the house and got the camera, Cedar had migrated to the front fence and was cramming his head under the wire to eat the yard grass (a totally necessary measure, what with him only having a whole field of grass to eat on his own side) under the watchful eye of Daddy Duke, while Chestnut and Prince Bran ate bark off of the nearby tree (also totally necessary, I’m sure).

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“Remember, son, the grass is always greener on the other side!”

And the equally watchful, but much less approving, eye of Watcher.

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“No no no! Get back! Stop!”

Watcher always has a minor existential crisis when I switch around who’s in what field, because the Sheep Are In The Wrong Place and it’s Bad, but having one eating the grass under the fence was just the last straw.

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“Do you SEE what they’re DOING?!”

He was disgusted that I decided to stay on the porch and take pictures instead of fixing everything back the way it was. Watcher firmly disapproves of things not being the way they should be.

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“I’m staying on the porch, too! It’s wet out there!”

Echo started to go help Watcher, but stepped in the rain puddle on the edge of the porch and changed his mind. Echo is firmly against getting his paws wet.

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“Break time!”

Evidently satisfied that the required level of chaos was being maintained by the boys and Watcher, the girls decided to leave off their hormone-fueled dueling for the moment and settle down to play happy family for a while.

I decided that Watcher and Apple could probably resolve their differences on their own, left them to it and went inside for breakfast.

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Hard Feelings

It must be fall, because the horrible hormones are starting to disrupt the peace (such as it is) around here. Yesterday afternoon, for no apparent reason, Mira and Lady decided that they absolutely loathe each other and cannot inhabit the same pasture peacefully. They were fighting so intently they weren’t even interested in their bedtime crunchies. Didn’t even flick an ear in the direction of the rustling bag.

I did finally lure them into the barn by shoving crunchies right under their noses to get their attention. This had to be repeated every few feet when they would stop following me and start squabbling again.

I put them in separate stalls and hoped they’d forget their feud overnight. No such luck. They went right back at it the minute I let them out this morning.

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“Back off!”

“No, YOU back off!”

Most of the flock retreated to the far end of the pasture, which is the sensible thing to do when two ewes are fighting.

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“Oooh, pumpkin! Yummy!”

Liam found a piece of pumpkin, and risked sticking around to munch on that. Liam can afford to risk hanging around the battleground, since he doesn’t really have many vulnerable points.

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“Charge!”

Lady and Mira were too fixated on trying to bludgeon each other to death to worry about Liam, anyway. Usually ewes butt heads from close range, but these two were doing the whole foreheads-at-ten-paces, running-start-full-speed-collision type of fighting, like rams usually do. Whatever they were fighting about, they were mad.

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“I don’t want to watch!”

Poor Neo also stuck around, mostly hovering and hoping if he closed his eyes it’d go away. He was very distressed that Mira wasn’t being nice to his mama, but he couldn’t quite bring himself to join in. Neo’s a lover, not a fighter.

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“I can do this all day!”

Eventually I had to separate the combatants into different pens, because Drake and Griffin got really excited about the fight and decided to join in on Mira’s side. I think maybe they thought if they helped her beat up Lady she’d agree to be their girlfriend. Whatever the reason, poor Lady was getting pummeled and couldn’t really handle three to one odds, even with Neo hovering around fruitlessly trying to shoo the little boys away without actually hitting them. I shut her and Neo into the small pens and locked everyone else out in the front field.

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“You broke up the best fight we’ve had in ages!”

Drake was indignant enough at having his fun spoiled that I actually got a clear picture of his face! He and Griffin didn’t pout very long before they decided to burn off their energy fighting each other, instead. I don’t mind that, they’re about equal in size and they’re just roughhousing. I only try to break it up when a big sheep starts beating up a little one, or when multiple sheep gang up on one target.

It didn’t take long for Duchess to barge in and start scolding them into behaving, anyway. Griffin may be the first lamb she’s raised, but Duchess is a very experienced lamb-wrangler from playing auntie for all those years. Which is fortunate, since Nova has a very laissez faire attitude towards parenting at this stage, and Angel’s various human parental units aren’t outside as much as she thinks they should be.

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“All of you lambs behave!”

Mira, in the background, is still making mean faces at Lady through the fence. I always think of Mira as my delicate, 2.4 pound lamb; it’s a bit disconcerting when she does something that reminds me she’s now the biggest of the Soay ewes, by a slight but definite margin.

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“What are you doing over there? Come over here and fight me!”

That picture looks almost friendly without the hoof stomping and head tossing that happened in the few seconds before and after. I don’t know what’s gotten into those two, but I hope it wears off soon. Family feuds are exhausting.

A Study in Faces

The Evil Cow Spies are lurking in the woods next door again spending their time staring our way, much to Watcher’s consternation. I’m not sure what Watcher thinks the cows are going to do with all their surveillance, but he’s not going to stand for it, whatever it is.

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“Moo?”

My personal theory is that being a cow is probably very boring, and watching what my little sheep get up to is probably the most interesting option available.

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“Do you have any crunchies?”

Frankly, I think these guys are more suspicious-looking than the cows, but Watcher knows best I’m sure.

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“They’re shady, all right!”

Except maybe this one. Barney looks pretty trustworthy, if a bit soggy at the moment.

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“It’s about time we got breakfast, I almost starved to death!”

That face looks pretty honest, too. Although I don’t think he’s remotely as close to starving as he thinks. I’m sure it’s an honest misunderstanding.

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“My boyfriend Liam says you’re ok, but I’m keeping an eye on you!”

Lana has a good, respectable-looking face. She’s not any too sure about how trustworthy I am, but that’s whole other issue. I am a bit suspicious about why that hay rack is hanging sideways, but I’m sure Lana had nothing to do with it.

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“Nooo, no taking pictures of my face!”

I thought I might get a good shot of Drake’s ever-elusive face while he was distracted chewing on that fallen gate (I’m also suspicious about how that gate fell down, but nevermind) but he ducked his head down at the last minute.

Before I could focus the camera again, I made the mistake of looking in the same direction for more than a few seconds, and my field of view was instantly filled with less shy faces clamoring for treats my attention. Drake managed to shuffle off and hide behind all the others in the crowd.

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“Crunchies!!”

Little Grumpy Griffin still has his adorable grumpy face, but overall I suppose they look like a harmless bunch.

Of course, appearances can be deceiving.

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“Moo.”

I’m sure those cow could tell some tales, if Watcher’s right about them being blackmailing Evil Cow Spies. Maybe he’s right to keep an eye on them.

Business as Usual

The Dukelings are all healed up and back in with the big boys again. Duke is very happy to have his entourage of Dukelings back.

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“All together again!”

Well, he has the Dukelings plus Johnny tagging along after him. Johnny is Duke’s grandson, so I guess he counts as an honorary Dukeling.

Angel continues to be an adorable little mooch with improbably big eyes.

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“Crunchies, please?”

She’s going to be just as beautiful as her grandmother when she grows up.

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“Nuh-uh, I am the fairest of them all!”

Poor girl’s looking a bit boney from feeding Griffin all summer, but she’s still beautiful.

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“ShepherdPerson’s taking pictures! Quick, Drake, hide your face!”

Drake continues to find ways to hide his face, even in the middle of an open field. Silly boy.

The one new development I’m glad to report is that a) Angel has gotten big enough or brave enough to hit Mira back, and b) Mira and Angel now take occasional breaks from hitting each other to graze together.

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“Time out for breakfast, then we can go back to fighting!”

I’m 90% sure they’re grazing next to each other as some weird kind of competitiveness, but it’s nice to see anyway.

Road to Forgiveness

Apple has forgiven me enough to resume his usual habit of licking my jeans, much to my relief. I’m adding the fact that I was relieved to have him licking my jeans again to my collection of evidence that sheep have mind-control powers. “I was brainwashed by my sheep” should be a valid explanation for strange behavior in ShepherdPeople.

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“Yum, denim!”

My jeans are his favorite, but he also likes to lick his brother’s face and the cement pad under the barn walls, among many other things. If you try to shoo him off with a stick, he will completely ignore your attempts at shooing and start trying to lick the stick. I love Apple, but he is a very weird sheep. Fortunately he is both very cute and Princess’ grandson, both factors which make me tolerate his nonsense with much less complaining than I would otherwise.

Drake is also Princess’ grandson, but I am starting to get very annoyed by his obsessive avoidance of my camera. I’ve had animals that love to pose, and animals that love to photobomb pictures of anyone else (*cough-Mira-cough*) but I’ve never had a consciously camera-shy animal before.

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“Aah! A camera! Hide me!”

That was going to be a lovely shot of his face looking at me over Griffin’s back, but he jerked his head down right as I pushed the shutter button. It would have been a nice shot of Liam, if I’d managed to get his whole face in the frame. Oh well, animal photography is frequently disappointing.

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“I’m going to be king of this hill!”

By sneaking up from behind, I did manage to catch Drake getting up to mischief under the careful tutelage of Mira and Apple, hoop house climbers extraordinaire. Also Nina, who as far as I know has never climbed a hoop house, but seemed intrigued by the whole idea.

Then something off to the side startled the sheep and they all spooked away, leaving Drake briefly with no one to hide behind, and I managed to snap a picture before Drake could turn his head away.

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“Aw man, she caught me!”

Not a particularly good picture, but I felt a great sense of triumph for getting his face in a picture at all. His unerring ability to turn away or get behind someone else just in time to avoid being photographed is also going in the “sheep are telepaths” file.

Once I’d gotten the elusive picture of Drake, I decided to head back into the house. My jeans were starting to get rather damp.

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*Lick-lick-lick*

The other three Dukelings have been mostly hanging around the fence by Duke, wanting back out with the rest of the big boys. They’re pretty much recovered, so they’ll be getting their way soon. Duke, the Dukelings (except maybe Apple), and my jeans will probably be very happy about that.

Unforgiven

I am still getting glared at from all directions. My crimes are great. They may never ever forgive me for at least for another week.

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“I’m keeping an eye on you!”

You do that, Chestnut. I’m not planning anything else dastardly for the near future.

Even Apple hasn’t been obsessively chewing on me. That’s a pretty big grudge, for Apple.

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“Me and my brother are mad at you, ShepherdPerson!”

The Dukelings are feeling better except for being grumpy. They’re still walking funny, but they’re walking funny at almost normal speed. The baby boys are still taking it slow, though. Nova keeps walking all the way to the trees then realizing she left Drake behind.

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“Hey, where’d my baby go?”

The three lambs are sticking close together. I don’t know why Angel would be hanging out with the boys, unless it’s just sympathy.

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“I’m hiding behind Angel so ScaryShepherdPerson doesn’t grab me!”

Drake’s ability to avoid being photographed is approaching the ridiculous. Eventually I’m going to lose my patience and chase him all over the field with the camera until I get a clear shot.

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“Where are my Dukelings? I want my Dukelings back!”

Don’t worry Duke, you’ll get your little minions back, just as soon as they stop walking funny.

No Good, Very Bad Day

The boys, both the two rams from this year and the four Dukelings, finally had their long-delayed appointment with the vet. I think my vet and her assistant are going to need a chiropractor after wethering six tiny guys in one day. I know I could use one.

Mira and Angel refused to go out in the field with everyone else, so we had to work with Mira playing supervisor and “helping” by sticking her nose in everything, and Angel running around yelling at all of us for not paying attention to her. Bottle babies are always so underfoot. It’s a good thing they’re so lovable.

I cleaned up the area where the vet worked pretty well according to me, but according to the sheep it’s a blood-drenched crime scene to be avoided at all costs. Possibly including white chalk outlines. They all scooted out of the barn single file this morning walking as close to the edge of the aisle as possible and staring at the “crime scene” suspiciously.

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“Something very bad happened right there, we can sense it!”

The boys stayed in the lane for 24 hours after they were wethered, but today I let them out with the girls until they recover. They don’t need to have to keep up with Duke and the big wethers in their current… compromised state.

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“Mama!”

Although apparently Griffin at least wasn’t too compromised for important things like nursing. Griffin and Drake are both old enough to wean, but the boys and their mothers have both made it clear that no one asked me for my opinion on the proper weaning of lambs. Since there’s now no chance of the boys causing any unplanned pregnancies, I guess there’s no harm in letting them sort it out at their own pace.

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“Mira, will you be my girlfriend?”

All the Dukelings plus Griffin immediately started trying to flirt with Mira, which. Well. You have to give them points for resilience, if nothing else, to be thinking about flirting again that soon after such a Very Bad Day. She wasn’t in heat, so she ran off pretty quickly and they weren’t quite up to chasing after her.

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“Daaad, it was terrible!”

Duke misses his Dukelings, and I think they miss him, too. He was at the fence looking for them, and they all made a wobbly, toddling beeline for the fence to complain to him while everyone else headed for the trees at the far end of the field.

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“Don’t walk so fast, Mama!”

Some sheep made faster progress towards the trees than others.

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“You are the worst ShepherdPerson EVER!”

Grumpy Griffin and his angry little face. In this case I think he has complete justification for grumpiness. He has no way of knowing his choices were to be wethered or to be exiled to the ram pen.

Drake was even grumpier, and Nova was keeping him hidden behind her while glaring at me accusingly. I couldn’t get a picture of anything except his tail today.

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“Don’t you try to touch any of MY babies!”

Lady was also trying to keep all of her children close, even though all three of them are big and grown up now. She really didn’t need to worry anyway, since Holly is a ewe and Neo and Will already had their Very Bad Days. Fortunately none of the boys this year were as dramatic as Will Scarlet was. Nobody is as dramatic as Will Scarlet.

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“I have been faithfully waiting here all these years for you to come back…”

No one except sad Echo whose ears went unpetted for far too long while I was up at the barn. Fortunately, neglected ears are an easy problem to fix.

Getting back into the boys’ good graces is going to be a harder task. I think I’d better stock up on crunchies.

Mother Love

I try to update the blog at least once a week, but I somehow missed last week. Oh well. I suppose that means nothing terribly noteworthy must have happened.

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“zzz…”

The boys were all dozing right up against the barn doors, as usual. I reminded myself for approximately the 375th day in a row that I really need to call the vet about getting the Dukelings wethered so they can go in the barn safely. Drake and Griffin now, too. The boys are starting to pile up, and they’re all getting too big for their hypothetical britches. Apple was chasing poor Jeb all over the field last night trying to pick a fight. Apple, Stop That!

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“Charge!”

They all came thundering down to the fence when they saw me, even though they know they don’t get crunchies in the morning. Hope springs eternal.

Mira was deeply torn about whether she should run off with her friends for breakfast or stay with me. She actually does get one or two crunchies in the morning every now and then, just because she’s my baby and I spoil her. I didn’t have any this morning, though. If I have crunchies she always stays with me, if I don’t she dithers and usually compromises by grazing about halfway between me and the rest of the flock. I don’t know how she knows if I have treats on me or not, but she always does.

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“What should I do?”

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“Why can’t you just stay out here all the time, like all the other mommies?”

Poor Mira, she has such an uncooperative mommy. Of course nowadays it’s not only the crunchies she has to worry about. She also has to keep a close eye on her Bitter Rival, and give her a swift bump if it looks like I’m paying too much attention to Mira the Second Angel.

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“I think we should always get morning crunchies! Especially us little lambies who are still growing!”

Little Angel may be a bit spoiled and bad about jumping up on people, but she is such a pretty girl you can’t scold her. Just like her mother and grandmother. I imagine she’ll have a lot of fanboys when she grows up, also like her mother and grandmother.

Drake was the first to start flirting with Mira this morning. That ended the same way as always. Mira butted him, they got in a fight, Nova came flying over to protect her precious little boy, they got in a fight, and in the end Mira and Nova ended up mad at each other for no good reason while Drake went back to grazing and forgot the whole thing happened.

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“Don’t you come near my baby, Mira!”

“Your baby is a menace!”

“Hmm, this grass sure is good! I wonder what Mama and Mira are mad about?”

And then he ran off to try flirting with Duchess, who was deeply unimpressed by his attentions. The ego of a ram lamb is eternally resilient.

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“Hey, Duchess!”

“Leave me alone, I’m trying to eat breakfast!”

“Nova, your baby’s being a menace again!”

Nova pointedly does not see any objectionable behavior her little prince might be up to. Not that Duchess has too much right to complain, since her baby has equally bad manners, which she is equally blind to.

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“Will you be my girlfriend, Mira?”

“No.”

“Please?”

“No. Go away.”

Nova is definitely judging Griffin there. Nova is quite firmly of the opinion that Griffin is a pest. No lamb of hers would ever act like that, she’s sure. Her four sons are all perfect gentlemen who never cause trouble. (Johnny, Apple, Ash, Drake… nope, no colorful characters there at all!)

I’ve decided that lambs have a supernatural power which compels their mothers (surrogate or not) to spoil them and let them get away with everything no matter how naughty they are. It’s the only possible explanation.

Bagel Bandits

I slept in today, so I carried my bagel out with me to the barn instead of eating it in the house.

Eating a bagel without sharing did not meet with the approval of Miss Angel.

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“Gimme! I want that!”

I offered her a small bite torn off of my bagel, but she quickly determined that it wasn’t crunchy, made a face, and spit it out.

Eating a bagel and offering a bite to Angel did not meet with the approval of Miss Mira.

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“MINE! Not Angel’s! I want that!”

Mira also got a small bite of bagel, which she also made a face at and spit out because it wasn’t crunchy…

… and then she and Angel both came back and demanded again that I share my bagel. Which they’d already tried. And spit out. Kids…

I wasn’t willing to give up any more of my bagel if they weren’t going to eat it, so I finished it myself by the time I got to the yard gate.

Echo was very Betrayed and Disappointed that I ate the whole thing and didn’t share my bagel with him. I can’t stand his Betrayed and Disappointed face. It’s just so sad.

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“You didn’t give me any bagel! I don’t understand, I love bagels! I’ve never had one, but I know I’d love them! And you didn’t share with me! I just don’t understand why you would do that…”

So I sat on the grass and petted his ears and held his paw for a while, until he got over his slump. Echo loves having his paws held. (As long as you’re not trying to trim his toenails. Toenail trimming is mean and results in the Betrayed and Disappointed face.)

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“Well, since you held my paw I suppose I forgive you.”

Normally I think Watcher would have also been upset about the lack of bagel-sharing, but he was busy being the official Farm Alarm and yelling at a deer that dared to pass by our field, so he didn’t notice that I was eating.

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“Did you see that deer run? I sure told HIM off! Let’s play ball!”

I threw his ball twice, then that got boring and he decided to play fight with Echo. About seventy-five percent of the time play fighting with Echo involves Watcher spinning in mad circles snarling and snapping while Echo just stands there half-heartedly sniping at Watcher when he gets too close.

The other twenty-five percent of the time Echo usually wins. Echo is over fifteen pounds heavier than Watcher. Watcher is lucky he’s usually laid back and lazy.

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“Fight me!”

“Do I have to?”

And off we all went back to the house, Watcher spinning along in front of us, and Echo sort of half chasing him.

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“Ah-ha! I knew I could get you to play!”

“This game is too much work! Why can’t I just stay in the house and eat bagels?”

Poor Watcher. He works (and plays) so hard, and nobody has enough energy to keep up. If anybody around here needs the extra carbs of a bagel it’s him.

Home Invasion

I didn’t get the porch gate closed in time today, so I had Angel running around the porch yelling through the windows at me. I hid in the dining room and recorded her through the window. Pardon the shaky footage, my zoom is wobbly and I kept accidentally bumping the camera into the glass.

Mira eventually popped in just to make sure I didn’t come out and give Angel attention behind her back, then they both went around the corner where I couldn’t see them anymore. I tried calling them back, but I think they had decided to stake out my bedroom window or something, because they didn’t come until after I’d stopped recording.

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“Stop pointing that camera through the window and come give me crunchies, Mommy!”

There’s a reason the sheep are usually locked off of the porch.