Business As Usual

I don’t post as frequently in late summer/early autumn as I do other times of year, because nothing much usually happens this time of year and I don’t want to sound repetitive. It’s a nice time of year, though. The craziness of breeding season hasn’t really set in yet, though there are small indications that it’s on its way. The girls aren’t pregnant or running themselves ragged after new lambs, just grazing and putting on weight, preparing for the next go-around. Circle of life and all that.

Echo continues to be torn between his desire to supervise me properly and his reluctance to get his feet wet in the dewy grass. Watcher has no such conflict, he winds around my legs and gets in my way as much as possible between the house and the gate.

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“Couldn’t we wait until later in the day, when the grass is dry?”

We could, but the sheep wouldn’t be too happy.

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*Munch-munch-munch*

Johnny’s on Dukeling Duty this morning; I’m sure that would lead to many destructive fun things if there was anything left in the field they could conceivably do more damage to.

Duke’s been so good with the babies, he deserves a morning off to hang out with his friend Barney.

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“I think those lambs are good for Duke! They make him appreciate me more!”

Out of the barn, the Shetlands immediately move off across the field the same way they always do. After a great deal of deliberation, debate, and minor scuffling, the Soays head off the same way for once. They usually head the opposite direction, but I suppose they were in the mood for a change. It wouldn’t do to become predictable.

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“We have independently decided to go this direction this morning. It has nothing to do with those fluffballs, we are most certainly not following them.”

It’s very important to Soays that everyone is constantly aware of their autonomy. Everything they do, it has to be their own idea. Or at least they have to¬†think it’s their own idea. If they want to do something, and then they discover I want them to do the very same thing, they will, more often than not, refuse to cooperate just on principle. Some evenings when they’re feeling particularly contrary, I have to stand outside the barn doors and conspicuously face the other way so they can rebelliously sneak in behind my back.

I don’t have any cats, but from the way I’ve always heard cat behavior described, I sometimes think my Soays might secretly be cats.

This morning, like most mornings, Mira independently decided to stick by me and investigate all of my pockets.

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“There are crunchies in your pocket! This pocket, right here, the one I’m poking with my nose! I know it, I can smell them! Why are the crunchies still in your pocket and not in my belly?”

Of course the moment the crunchy treats leave my pocket the Soays will all come charging back across the field to mob me, so she just has to nag fuss whine wait (im)patiently until I’m finished taking pictures. It’s too hard to take pictures with everyone milling around and jumping on me.

Watcher walked me back to the house a bit more sedately than the outbound trip, having taken the edge off his energy in my absence by running back and forth yelling at the boys and being soundly ignored.

Echo had retreated to the upstairs porch, where he was high enough to still keep an eye on me while staying out of the wet grass.

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“Can we go back inside now?”

I think Echo would be very happy to laze around the house all day eating and taking naps. He is a dog after my own heart.

Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head

It has been dark and rainy off and on the last few days. There’s a popular conspiracy theory among the sheep that rain is something I thought up in one of my more sadistic moods specifically to make them miserable. It’s an offshoot of the conspiracy theory that everything I do is designed to make them miserable.

I would argue that giving them crunchies generally makes them pretty happy, but sheep have selective memories when they’re grumpy.

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“Look at us poor, wet, miserable ragamuffins. How could you be so mean to us?”

I spy with my little eye something in the background that explains why they’re wet and miserable. And I had nothing to do with it.

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Boys, boys, boys, what am I going to do with you? That doesn’t even count as windows anymore. The ram lambs made a Splendid Game out of jumping up, latching onto the edge of the tarp, then tearing strips of it off on the way down, and now there’s no more tarp. Maybe I could get some nasty-flavored tarps? If the tarps don’t taste nasty enough already I’m not sure what the boys would consider nasty.

Anyone interested in a cute pet Dukeling or two? I know where some are available!

 

Love and War

Tonight putting everyone to bed was delayed, due to Neo and Will determinedly attempting to kill each other. All in a spirit of brotherly love, of course.

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“Chaaarge!”

Quite a few minutes later, the gladiators pause for breath…

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“Give up, Will?”

“Never!”

“Boys are so silly, aren’t they, ShepherdPerson?”

They are indeed, Duchess. Even wethers aren’t above showing off in front of the girls. All male sheep are convinced that bonking their heads together really hard is the best way to get a ewe’s attention, but I’ve never detected that the ewes are overly impressed by a male’s head-bonking prowess.

Holly was very excited by this mortal combat Splendid Game her big brothers were playing, and kept bouncing around egging them both on, until she got so wound up she ran off to pick a fight with Mira. All in a sense of half-sisterly love, of course.

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“Fight me!”

“OK, but you started it!”

Mira finished it. She was not feeling the half-sisterly love. Then she saw me taking pictures, and came strutting over to me all proud of herself and her exceptional toughness, while Holly bounced back off to Lady and spent the rest of her energy vanquishing invisible opponents that didn’t hit back quite so hard.

Will and Neo were so impressed by Mira’s exceptional head-bonking skills that they forgot they were trying to kill each other. It may not do much for the ewes, but apparently the boys are very impressed by a good duel of foreheads at ten paces.

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“Whoa, did you see that??”

“I think I’m in love…”

I think Mira’s going to end up with as many boyfriends as Duchess.

Not Morning People

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“Zzzz…”

The little ram lambs are sleepyheads. I think it’s sweet how they always sleep together in a pile, like so many puppies. I think it’s even sweeter that Duke is always bedded down nearby, keeping drowsy watch over his boys.

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“Maybe it’s not so bad, having all these sons…”

I’ve taken to calling the boys the Dukelings, given the way they follow him everywhere and imitate him. I think maybe he likes having fans. He’ll probably like it less as the days get shorter, hormone levels get higher, and other males go from his pasture buddies to his Bitter Rivals. It’s fun to watch them for now, though.

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“Can the days just get shorter in the morning, so I can sleep later?”

I asked him who would save all the damsels in distress if Prince Charming slept the day away, but he didn’t seem too concerned. At his age, his interest in damsels is still a sort of vague and nebulous thing in the back of his brain. And I imagine any of my girls would probably be highly offended to be called a damsel in distress.

Every One to His/Her Own Way

It seems there is no one left in the flock bossy enough to keep all those conflicting personalities together, so the breed divide seems to be at least semi-permanent for now.

Every morning lately the Shetland (and half-Shetland) group wanders off thisaway and grazes peacefully together…

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“The flock that grazes together, stays-es together!”

…While the Soays wander off thataway and argue about it…

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“What are Lady and Duchess fighting about now, Nova?”

“I have no idea, Neo.”

… And Mira stays right by me to make sure no one infringes on her lap-sitting rights.

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“This is MY mommy’s lap. Mine. Only I can sit here. No Apples or Novas allowed!”

After giving her her morning tribute of petting, it’s back to the house where Watcher drinks from the faucet “helps” me fill the water bucket, soaking everything in a four foot radius. He then follows the bucket me all the way out to the field, hopping and craning his neck trying to lap at the water, usually causing me to slosh quite a bit of it over both of us.

There’s a nice, stationary bowl of water for him and Echo on the porch, but apparently it’s more fun to drink from a moving target.

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“It tastes better if you can make the water go everywhere while you’re drinking!”

Meanwhile Echo stays on the patio, sniffing the clover flowers and keeping his paws out of the wet grass as much as possible. He follows me down to the fence in the evenings when the grass is dry, but in the mornings it’s a 50/50 chance he’ll decide to keep an eye on me from a distance rather than get wet.

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“I’m just going to wait here, it’s awfully wet out there.”

I think my whole farm is a study in contrasts.

Family Resemblance

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“Munch, munch munch!”

Aww, look at my good flock, all getting along, and peaceful, and nobody getting in trouble for once.

Wait a minute, what’s that over there…

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“Mama says the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence!”

Holly… you are your mother’s child. Lady and her offspring have always had a predilection towards sticking their heads through every available gap. Fortunately, without horns Holly is less likely to get stuck than Certain Others I Could Name.

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“I love you, Mama! Are you sure I can’t have any miilk?”

“I love you, too. And I’m sure.”

Will Scarlet is also his mama’s boy. In every sense of the phrase. Even though he’s bigger than she is. He keeps trying to casually insert himself between Lady and Holly, hoping nobody will notice. He’s not having much luck on that front.

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“Hey! Will Scarlet, you stop trying to steal my milk! Meanie!”

It must be a displaced older sibling thing, because Nova did the same thing when Bran was born. Except members of her bloodline have a predilection towards Assertiveness with a capital ‘A’, so she was a lot less subtle about it. They were both a lot less subtle about it. There was a lot of pushing, shoving, and general squabbling in Bran’s early days as I remember.

If the worst drama going on today is some out-of-bounds grazing and low-key sibling rivalry, for my flock it still counts as a peaceful morning.

Bipartisan

Lana and Nina have been very popular with the Shetland and half-Shetland boys. They are thrilled to see some girls that Look Just Like Them. They all follow Lana, but the Soays won’t, which has sort of split my flock. I think it’s fascinating that the boys would gravitate so strongly towards a ewe of their own breed. The half-Shetlands are particularly interesting, given that they both had Soay mothers and never saw a Shetland ewe before these two came.

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“She looks like us! Maybe she’s not crazy like those Soays!”

Barney is particularly smitten, given that Lana and Nina are both his color, and Lana at least seems to have a similar fleece type to his.

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“Take that, Duke! I’ve finally got a girlfriend, and you’re babysitting babies!” *Blows raspberries in Duke’s general direction*

Duke will probably remember to resent that when he gets off of babysitting duty.

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“How much longer am I stuck in here? How. Much. Longer???”

Cedar, Apple, and Ash are all practicing their pitiful expressions, by carefully copying Duke. Chestnut is hiding behind Duke here, but I’m sure he’s getting pretty good at the sad face, too.

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“Breakfast!!”

The Soays don’t flock as closely as the Shetlands, but they all seem to more or less follow Lady around more often than not. For Soays, that’s a pretty strong endorsement. They’re a strong willed, independent little bunch. Having three of her lambs in the flock gives Lady a pretty good group of supporters by default.

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“Me, Will, and Neo follow Mama the most! Will kept trying to poach my milk at first, but Mama wouldn’t let him. She says I’m a big girl and don’t need much milk anymore, either. I don’t know what I think about that.”

Holly’s growing into such a pretty ewe, even if she doesn’t have horns. The freckles on her body are sort of being absorbed into the brown of her fleece, but she still has sharp white markings on the wool-less parts of her legs, tail, and face. I love her eye patch.

I’ve informed Holly that when she grows up she needs to shed clean like her mother and her big brother Will, not hang onto it all year like big(ger) brother Neo. Lady’s just got the one little patch left on her shoulder and Will lost the last of his fleece months ago. I didn’t think I would ever tell anyone to be more like Will Scarlet, but stranger things have happened. Probably.

Neo, on the other hand, only sheds in patches. He got his annual haircut a few days ago when he seemed to be having a little trouble with the heat, and in protest of my taking such liberties he’s temporarily joined the less ShepherdPerson-friendly Shetland Party.

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“I’m hanging out with you guys for a while; ShepherdPerson stopped me from getting heatstroke and I’m mad about it!”

“Tell me about it, she even does me twice a year!”

Barney’s going to need shearing again in August, which neither of us look forward to with much joy.

Neo’s always been a friendly boy, I’m sure he’ll get over his snit pretty quickly and go back to the Soay Party. Having your mother be (kinda-sorta) boss has to be a good thing.

Poor Boys

I had planned to wean the boys next week, but they started being… precocious… and it was driving the girls crazy, so they got weaned yesterday. Of course they instantly changed their minds about being big boys. Now they’re insisting they’re still babies.

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“What have you done to us poor littles? We are too itty-bitty to be weaned!”

That little doofus in front? The one yelling at the camera? That’s Ash. I was just feeling sorry for him the other day because he’d never done anything very noteworthy so I’d never given him any individual attention on the blog. He made up for it yesterday when I was moving them.

I got the other lambs into the small pen pretty easily, but Ash figured out the fence isn’t anchored where it meets the corner of the barn. He got out and started running laps, through that gap, around the side of the barn, down the aisle of the barn, and through the gap again. Over and over, round and round, screaming at the top of his lungs the whole time.

I must have chased that brat around the barn for at least 15 minutes before I finally caught him and dragged him off by his horn. I only managed to catch him because he got out of breath, tried to hide behind a bunch of shovels and rakes and knocked them over on himself. That’ll teach me to feel sorry for him.

I let all the wethers in with the girls and put Duke in the small pen with the babies. Normally I wouldn’t use a ram as a babysitter, but Duke has always been very gentle with lambs. I suppose they’re too small to register on his Bitter Rival Radar. The lambs were scared of him at first, but he’s been a very good boy so far.

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“Lambs, I am your father!”

“Nooooo!”

The screaming was ear-splitting. I took a video of nothing in particular just to get a recording of the sheer volume those boys were producing.

Poor Nova is very upset. She was tired of looking after the boys, and they were driving her up the wall, but without them she doesn’t have any family left to hang out with now.

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“You stay away from me, ScaryShepherdPerson!”

Holly keeps hiding behind her mother and eyeing me warily, in case I realize I missed her when I moved the lambs. I’ve reassured her that girl lambs don’t have to move out, but she’s still suspicious.

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“Ram lambs are usually annoying, but I think I miss Cedar and Chestnut…”

“I don’t! They were annoying!”

Duchess misses her foster lambs, but she’s got Mira to hang out with, so she’s not totally alone. I’m happy she and Mira are friends.

Mira does not miss the boys. At all. They kept flirting with her, and competing with her for my attention. Mira says good riddance.

This morning the crying has mostly died down, and the boys have decided they like Duke after all, unfortunately for him. They keep trying to nurse off of him and keep punching him in the “udder” trying to get milk. They’ve never been in a field with an intact ram before, so apparently they don’t recognize that’s not an udder they’re punching. I am proud of Duke’s pain tolerance.

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“I’ll keep an eye on you runts, but I am NOT feeding you!”

That silver/red gate won’t keep little ram lambs in, so it needs to have some chicken wire attached. As soon as that’s done, Duke and the babies can move into a larger field with some of the older wethers. For now, he’s stuck in the small pen with a row of little ducklings lambs following him around.

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“How long do I have to stay in here? Why do I have so many sons???”

It’s really all his fault. If he’d listened to me, there would only be two ram lambs to be weaned. Ash and Apple were conceived without my permission. Rams who bust through the fence and double my lamb crop don’t get to complain about babysitting duty.

Math According to Mira

So Mira, say you’re dozing with your head on my lap, getting your ears petted, then Apple comes along and wants to put his head on my lap, too. How many sheep would I have on my lap?

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“Ah yes, I like the sound of that…”

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“Wait, what? You’d have one! Me! This is my lap, I don’t want to share!”

Ok, but what if Apple pushed his head onto my lap anyway?

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“I want my ears petted too, ShepherdPerson!”

“I don’t THINK so, buster!”

*Mira backs up about four paces and knocks Apple away just as hard as ever she can*

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“Then you’d have one very grumpy sheep in your lap, and one very sorry ram lamb running back to his mommy with his tail tucked. That’s what you’d have.”

Apparently Mira missed the sharing lessons, too. She was very put out with me until I made a great fuss over petting her and taking lots of pictures of her. She’s a diva, she knows what a camera is and loves having her picture taken.

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“Cheeeese!”

I think my babies are spoiled. And not very good at math.

Math According to Watcher

So, Watcher, if you had two bones, and Echo wanted one, how many bones would you have?

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“That’s easy, I’d still have two!”

OK, but what if Echo came and took one?

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“Watcher seems to really enjoy chewing these, I think I’ll try one…”

*Watcher makes an outraged yelp of protest and a dramatic lunge to grab the other bone before Echo can pick it up*

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“Then I’d have two bones and a dead body!”

Really, Watcher? Sitting on one while you chew the other? Really?

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“I don’t think I like the way Watcher does math!”

I don’t blame you, Echo. Watcher must have missed the ‘sharing’ lessons in puppy school.