First Snow

Angel saw snow for the first time this morning. She was shocked and dismayed.

1

“What is this stuff?”

2

“It’s cold! And it keeps trying to eat my feet!”

3

“Wait for me! I want back in the barn!”

I think Angel had the right idea, my first instinct on seeing snow is always to go back to bed and see if it’s gone when I wake up again. Unfortunately I can’t just go back to bed when there are hungry sheep to feed.

Mira was highly displeased with the snow, because all of her sticks are stuck to the ground or buried or both.

35

“Why won’t my stick move?”

4

“Come on, stick! You’re supposed to move when I drag you around and stomp on you!”

5

“My stick is stuck. What do I do now?”

Eventually she gave up on freeing her frozen sticks and joined the melee at the hay feeders. Everyone was mobbing the feeders in a panic because there’s two inches of snow and therefore there will never be any more grass ever and they’re all going to starve. Every year they have this mass hysteria over the grass being buried, and nobody’s starved to death yet.

6

“We have to eat it all as fast as possible anyway, just in case! This year, there might not be any more food ever! We might starve!”

Usually the whole flock follows me to the gate wanting in the yard. Today, they sensibly realized there wouldn’t be any grass out there either and stuck by the hay feeders. Only Mira, Nova, and Nina (and of course Angel) followed me to the gate hoping for crunchies, but they were visibly worried that all of the hay would be gone by the time they got back, and kept looking back nervously.

7

“Hurry up and give us the crunchies so we can go back! They’re eating all the food, and there might not be any more ever!”

I was in a bit of a hurry myself to get back in the house where it’s warm, so I quickly tossed them a few crunchies and we parted ways, sprinting back to our respective breakfasts.

Last time I looked, Angel was still hopping up and down, looking at her footprints and tentatively eating the snow. She has her own little hay rack all to herself in her own little private stall in the barn, so maybe she’s not as worried about starving as the others. I’m glad at least somebody’s enjoying the snow.

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Hanging in There

We’ve had two days of soggy-but-warmish weather, but the weather service says we’re going back to frozen arctic wasteland tonight, which I’m not looking forward to. I could happily skip the rest of January and February, and maybe the first half of March, just to be safe. I’m tired of everything being dreary, dead, and dark.

The little boys are getting along fine with the big(ger) boys, though they still occasionally start whining for their mothers. I keep quoting the Old Stag from Bambi (the novel, not the Disney movie) at them, “What are you crying about? Your mother has no time for you now, can’t you stay by yourself? Shame on you!”

Duke is a much nicer father than the Old Stag, fortunately for them. He dotes on all his babies, as long as they remember that he’s boss.

a

“Crunchiiiies!”

The only downside to having a million kids is that all those young whippersnappers are a lot faster about jumping up and sprinting to the fence in the morning than Duke is nowadays. He’s not what I would call old yet, but neither is he an adolescent with boundless energy like most of his boys. Waking up involves a little more stretching and head-shaking before he can properly get going and chase the youngsters away from the fence.

Duke’s ego aside, it’s nice having most of the youngsters in one place where they can all take their energy out on each other.

b

“Look what you did to my wool!”

Poor Angel now has no one her own age to play with, but that’s ok. Griffin was too big to spar with her safely, and Drake just wanted to flirt. Angel does not understand flirting yet, she’s still a baby. Right now she’s mainly concerned with “helping” me fill the hay feeders by climbing all over the bale, bouncing around underfoot and tripping me, and getting herself covered in dropped hay. She’s also trying to master Duchess’s double-jump trick of using a horizontal surface (a hay bale, a wall, my leg…) as a springboard so she can jump higher.

Neo isn’t up to any advanced acrobatics yet, but he looks much better now that he’s starting to heal up and has been rained on a few times to rinse him off. Especially if you stand far away and squint.

c

“I’m fine, except for my head, which hurts and has a dent in it.”

Mira, in the background, is reserving judgement on Neo’s appearance in favor of killing that particular stick for at least the twelfth time. She’ll kill any stick she comes across, but she has three or four that are her favorites. She always leaves them in particular places, checks on them every morning, and heaven help me if I try to move them out of the way.

d

“Don’t talk to me, don’t look at me, I’m not speaking to you!”

I’m in the doghouse with Lana for taking her boyfriend away, but she’ll be fine until Neo’s head heals up and we get a butting board in the barn to deal with the “bashing holes in walls” issue.

Sadly, that project is several items below “survive frozen arctic wasteland” on my priority list, so it may be a while.

Voted Off the Island

Will and Griffin very nearly succeeded in assassinating Neo Friday afternoon, so they have been booted from the ewe flock. Drake and Liam got moved out, too, Drake because he’s Griffin’s best friend and I didn’t want to split them up, and Liam because he has been known to butt Neo in a friendly sort of way, and I was pretty sure at that point even a friendly knock to the head might have been enough to finish poor Neo off. So now Neo is the only wether left in with the girls.

It may have been a slight overreaction, but when I go out and find Neo with the whole left side of his face and shoulder covered in a horrifying amount of blood and a bit of his skull peeking out near the base of his horn, I believe I’m entitled to panic and overreact. And of course this had to happen Friday afternoon, because emergencies always happen right after the vet closes for the weekend.

I spent a sleepless night worrying about skull fractures and brain damage and blood loss and frostbite and infection and every other possible complication that might happen, but by the next day he was walking straight, if gingerly, and seemed lucid and it had pretty much stopped bleeding, so I think he’ll be ok. His stall in the barn looks like an abattoir where he got blood all over the walls and it froze, but as long as he’s ok I can deal with the walls.

The boys seem to be doing ok over in the ram flock. I was worried that the Dukelings would beat up Drake and Griffin, but they decided to harass Liam instead. I should have known they’d pick the biggest opponent to take on. By the time they got bored with bouncing off of Liam’s protective padding, Duke had already adopted Drake and Griffin, so now they’re honorary Dukelings, too.

It’s sweet that Duke is such a good father, especially given how panicked he was at first when I made him babysit the newly-weaned Dukelings, but his army of kids, grandkids, and adopted kids is starting to add up to a small army.

1

“Look at all these fine boys I have!”

Apparently I’m not the only one who finds the size of Duke’s brood concerning, because the three Shetland boys are staying far, far away. Bran used to always hang out with the Shetlands, but I guess he took a look at the numbers and wisely decided it was time to claim his Soay ancestry, so now he’s tagging along after Duke, too. He’s been a friend of Will’s since they were babies, so maybe that was also a factor.

The two little boys are having a great deal of fun playing with the Dukelings and following Duke around like big, important grown-ups, but every now and then they remember their mothers and start fussing about being weaned.

Tellingly, neither Nova nor Duchess has so much as glanced their way. I think they were very tired of keeping track of those two hooligans.

2

“Lambs? What lambs? Did we have lambs?”

That blur in the lower corner is Angel’s head. I kept pointing the camera at not-her, which was obviously a mistake, so she was trying to correct it for me. Mostly she kept making my pictures blur by jarring my arm.

3

“You missed one of the lambs, Mom, you forgot to kick Angel out! She’s annoying, too!”

Poor Mira. Every time I try to give Mira crunchies lately, Angel runs under my hand and butts it from below, so I end up smacking Mira in the face and dropping all the crunchies. Win-win, as far as Angel’s concerned, but it’s making Mira very grumpy. She’s been refusing to sleep in the same stall as the ram lambs for weeks now, and she seems relieved not to have to deal with their baby-flirting anymore, but I’m afraid she’s stuck with Angel.

Neo’s doing a lot better now, just keeping his bad side turned away from everyone and flinching if anything comes near his face. He lost a bit of skin and it looks like it’s going to be a gnarly-looking scar, unfortunately, but I (and more importantly, he) can live with that. And maybe it’ll heal up more cleanly than it looks like at the moment; it already looks much better than it did at first.

4

“Leave me alone, I have the awfullest headache…”

In the meantime, I think I’ll only be posting pictures of his right profile. Sheep are incredibly tough animals, hopefully he’ll heal up quickly.

Little Flying Sheep

I think Angel must have been worried that Nina was outshining the Soays (or as my vet calls them, “those little flying sheep”) in the bouncing department, because this morning I don’t think all four hooves were on the ground for more than a few seconds all the way from the barn to the yard. Either she was in midair or she was climbing on me wanting treats.

a

“Wheeee!”

b

“Wheeee!”

c

“Did you see how high I can jump? I’m hungry now, give me crunchies!”

It takes a lot of energy to be a flying sheep, Angel says. She needs lots of crunchies for fuel. That seems reasonable to me, with this cold snap it’s taking a lot of strong tea to keep this ShepherdPerson up and running.

And somehow she always ends up getting a lot of crunchies, whether there’s a plausible reason or not. I think it’s either her adorable pleading face, or her clever little pocket-picking nose, or possibly her sharp, insistently pawing little hooves. Whatever it is, she definitely inherited it from Mira. I can never say no to her, either.

Cold Noses, Warm Hearts

I have taken virtually no pictures lately, because the temperature outside has been in the single digits and I can’t linger long enough to take many pictures without risking damage to my fingers and toes, let alone take the time to make sure I’ve gotten good pictures. I hate winter. Even the sheep are losing their enthusiasm, although I think that has more to do with lack of grass and leaves than the temperature.

I think birds have the right idea, migrating to follow decent weather instead of living in one place alternating between too hot and too cold. Hibernation also seems like a sensible strategy.

I’m definitely in favor of hibernating or migrating until things warm up a little. Sadly, none of my animals belong to migratory or hibernating species, and so I am outvoted 24 to 1 by all the animals. Or possibly 23 to 2; I think Echo might be on my side about the hibernation idea. Still, I’m a long way from getting a majority vote.

I spend as little time outside as I can manage when it’s this cold, but it’s still long enough to have sheep noses rooting through all my pockets.

1

“Crunchieees!”

And cold puppy noses in my face.

2

“Kisses!”

I guess there are a few things worth staying awake through winter for. I would miss having tiny sheep and overgrown puppies jumping up on me, clamoring for crunchies attention.

Nevertheless, I’m not going to be happy outside until either the temperature is above freezing again or I get a wool coat as thick as Nina’s. I am very envious of her puffy coat. And her energy.

3

“Wheee! Cold? What cold?” *Bounce, bounce, bounce*

In the meantime I’m staying inside with my fireplace and my hot tea and my knitting.

Happy (and hopefully frostbite-free!) New Year!

Lamb Shenanigans

I accidentally slept in a little bit this morning, so the sheep weren’t sleepy anymore by the time I went to let them out. The Dukelings all ran down to the fence to beg for crunchies.

1

“Give us crunchies! We’re cute!”

From left to right: Ash, Cedar, Apple, and Chestnut, with Johnny behind them keeping an eye out for Duke. They are terribly cute, those Dukelings. Almost makes me willing to forgive Nova and Duke for probably making more of them. Nova still hasn’t cycled, so it’s starting to look more likely that she’s pregnant, although I still can’t say for sure.

Of course Duke had to come running to make sure no one got any treats except him. He’s very indulgent with his Dukelings, but there are limits.

2

“Give ME the crunchies! I’m cute, too!”

I must admit, I do think he’s kind of cute. Although in my saner moments I suspect that might have more to do with sheepy mind control skills than actual fact.

Once I let the girls out, Holly went straight for the fence and stuck her head through it.

3

“All the grass on our side is dead! I must eat the identical, equally dead grass on the other side!”

All of Lady’s descendants tend to stick their heads in things at a higher than average rate, but Holly puts her head through the fence so often she’s worn a visible groove in the wool around her neck. Probably because she doesn’t have horns long enough to get caught in things, just tiny little nubs that never came through the skin.

4

“I must kill this stick!”

Mira had no time for grass, dead or otherwise. She was very determined to kill that stick. I’m not sure why she’s so fixated on sticks. She stomps on them with every indication of great annoyance, but if I make the slightest move in the direction of her stick she hovers over it protectively and glares at me. I made the mistake one time of tossing her stick over the fence, so now she’s paranoid.

I had to stop halfway to the gate and break up a fight between Drake and Angel that looked likely to break Angel’s head, or horns, or both. Griffin and Drake both received official warning this morning that they were in violation of the established annoyance limits, which state that any male sheep in the ewe pen must have an annoyance factor less than or equal to Will Scarlet, and if this was not corrected promptly they’d find themselves booted out into the ram pen.

Once I’d finished chewing the two hooligans out, I turned to find Will Scarlet himself, with his mama and sister, all giving me their best innocent/hungry expressions. They’re very good at that particular expression, which is probably why Will gets used as the benchmark for annoyance levels instead of getting kicked out with the boys himself.

5

“Aren’t you glad we’re such good sheep who never cause problems like those rotten little boys? I think we deserve crunchies for being so good!”

I think Mira was on her way to commandeer all the crunchies for herself, but there was another stick behind Holly, and she got distracted by the irresistible drive to kill it.

6

“Can I be your boyfriend, Holly?”

“No! Go away!”

Drake continued to make a great pest of himself all the way to the gate, flirting with ewes who aren’t in heat and picking fights with everyone, including his poor, longsuffering mama, Nova. I saw her butting him back pretty firmly though, so if even Nova has had enough of his shenanigans I think I could probably move him to the ram pen without feeling too guilty about it.

7

“Can I be your boyfriend, Mira?”

“No, I have no time for boyfriends! I am too busy killing this stick!”

I think that was the third, possibly the fourth stick of the morning. Kill the Stick has always been one of her favorite games, but she’s been particularly obsessed with it lately and I’m not sure why. I’m still not sure why she plays Kill the Stick in the first place, especially since I’ve never seen any of the other sheep play it. Sometimes I think she just likes keeping me confused.

8

“The sooner you move those boys out, the better! They’re distracting me from my sticks!”

Well, we can’t have that, can we? If only she’d devoted a fraction of that dedication to mothering Angel, we wouldn’t have had a second bottle baby. And maybe Angel would also beat up sticks, instead of always trying to beat up my feet.

9

“I think you should kick EVERYONE out except ME! And I should live in the yard! And sleep in the house! And eat all the crunchies!”

I think Angel did turn out a lot like Mira in many ways, even if she’s not exactly the same.

I think if Nova does have a lamb, it jolly well better be a ewe lamb. Four ewe lambs and twelve ram lambs born in four years is a terrible gender ratio, even if “only” ten of the twelve boys are still here. I thought it was just Duke, but BB’s lambs turned out the same.

The ewe lamb has always been the first one born though, so maybe if Nova is the only ewe to lamb, she’ll have a daughter and we can skip all the ram lambs that would have come after.

Sleepy Mornings

It’s harder to take pictures in the winter, because there isn’t as much daylight and it’s too cold to linger outside for very long. Even the sheep are groggy in the mornings lately. They just want to stay in their nice cozy barn and munch on the round bale in there.

Instead, mean old ShepherdPerson makes them do difficult, complicated things like go outside and remember how to walk through gates without running into the fences or each other.

1

“Which way is breakfast?”

The Shetlands sleepily stumble off towards the hay. Barney and Jeb have gone on strike and refuse to stay in the field with Duke anymore until he stops acting so much like a ram in rut. Unfortunately, he is a ram in rut, so they may be waiting a while.

2

“This way is breakfast…”

The Soays insist the hay is much too far away, and prefer to crowd around my legs and sleepily nose through my pockets. I’m very impressed by their ability to find my pockets while their eyes are mostly closed and they’re too sleepy to walk in a straight line.

3

“I need crunchies… need quick energy…”

I haven’t seen Nova come back in heat since the last time Duke escaped. She could have come in heat and I just missed it, that’s happened before. On the other hand, unplanned babies from brief escapes have also happened before. Apple and Ash were conceived in a breakout lasting less than a minute, so I guess I’ll have to wait and see.

If she has another pair of twin rams I’m going to strangle Duke.

By the time they all reach the yard, the cold wind is starting to wake them up a bit. Nina decides to try to pick a fight with Jeb, who hasn’t had his coffee yet and thinks he’s had enough of this fighting business from Duke and the Dukelings.

Mira determinedly ignores Drake following her around, not quite awake enough yet to deal with his flirting.

4

“Play with me, Jeb!”

“Mooom, Drake’s bothering me again!”

Failing to draw Jeb into her game, Nina decides to bounce up and down on her own. The only picture I got of her mid-leap, she had her head turned and her legs tucked up so she looks more like the Amazing Flying Cotton Ball than a sheep.

Jeb and Mira watched her acrobatics with great interest. Watching a big Shetland fluffball bounce around is always entertaining, even before coffee.

5

“Wheeee!”

The others all have a lot more energy for running and climbing and bouncing by the time the sun is fully up and the frost has melted. I, on the other hand, haven’t felt fully awake in over a week. How long until spring?

Playground

I let the sheep into the yard for a while this morning. They’d been out a little while when I started hearing some worryingly loud thumping outside. I went out on the porch to see what they were up to.

1

“Oh, hi!”

If Angel looks up, but doesn’t come running, she must be up to something very fun.

2

“Don’t worry, me and Griffin and Drake are just playing in the rocks over here!”

4

“Standing on rocks is fun!”

I was happy to get a picture of her standing on that particular rock, because that rock was Griffin’s favorite rock to stand/pose/nap on when he was a tiny, grumpy-looking little lamb.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“This rock makes me look taller!”

Griffin and Drake saw Angel standing on a rock, so they had to find rocks to stand on, too. Of course they had to pick rocks that were inconvenient to photograph from the porch.

52

“This is my rock!”

53

“I can’t decide if I want to stay on my rock or go push Drake off of his…”

Griffin sure has grown from the little lamb who could take naps curled up on those rocks without falling off.

I decided that they were safe enough  playing around those rocks, since they’d been doing it all their lives, and came back inside. No sooner had I sat down than I heard another loud THUMP. Back outside I went.

They’d migrated over to the other retaining wall, which Griffin was making strenuous efforts to climb from the steep side. I really hope the thump I heard wasn’t Griffin being pushed falling off of that wall.

93

“Get down here and fight me, Drake!”

Whatever it was, nobody seemed hurt and nobody was confessing. Mira had joined in the game of walking back and forth along the wall, I guess because I was paying attention to the lambs playing instead of her.

92

“Anything they can do, I can do better!”

Duchess also appears to be wondering if somebody pushed her baby off the wall.

However he ended up at the bottom, it didn’t take long for Griffin to run back around to seek revenge.

94

“Now I’m gonna push YOU off, Drake!”

I think those boys will get along famously with the Dukelings when they get big enough. They have the same taste in Splendid Games.

Happy Thanksgiving!

I tried to take Thanksgiving pictures of the flock eating sheep feed around the trough yesterday, but they ate faster than I expected, then tackled me en masse looking for more, so that didn’t work out too well. I had to settle for breakfast-the-day-after-Thanksgiving pictures instead.

a

*Munch-munch-munch!*

And a special happy Thanksgiving to the kids’ table, who always stick too close to my legs for me to take their picture except from a weird, straight-down perspective.

b

“I need more of those Thanksgiving treats we got yesterday!”

Mira has a permanent seat at the kids’ table, I think, although she has to share with Angel nowadays.

c

“Me too! I need more treats, too!”

Everyone had plenty of treats, which they greatly appreciated.

The fence has been fixed so Duke can no longer push his way through, which I greatly appreciate. He is not as appreciative. He ignored all treats in favor of pacing the fence raking his horns against the panels in protest.

d

“Back when I was a young ram, we didn’t have all this nonsense with gates and fences and ‘no lambs this year’, we had lambs whenever we jolly well wanted, like nature intended!”

There’s always that one relative who just has to make things awkward on Thanksgiving by whining about whippersnappers these days, but everyone else seems pretty happy, so I’m calling it a win.

What’s the Opposite of the Darwin Award?

Duke managed to find a 6″ weak point of the fence right by the barn, and even more impressive, cram his big shaggy bulk through what I could have sworn was too small a gap for him to fit through. It involved climbing halfway up the fence and turning his head backwards so the tips of his horns wouldn’t get caught in the panels. I am reluctantly impressed with his ingenuity. I am less impressed that he bred at least two of the ewes, so now I have the “to-Lutalyse-or-not-to-Lutalyse” quandry to decide in the next few days. I really wasn’t planning on any lambs this year. I have never met an animal so determined to ensure the continuation of his genetic line in my life.

Fixing the weak point in the fence is a bit involved, so until it’s fixed the girls have to stay in the back field (containing the weak spot) and Duke has to stay in the front fields which does not have any weak points that I’m aware of. yet. I’m not too happy about this, because I like having the girls closer to the house, but it beats ending up with every ewe in the flock bred because Duke won’t stay where I put him.

0

“Off we go!”

The flock was mostly happy to follow Lady off across the big new field, although Mira dawdled behind a bit, and Angel wouldn’t leave my side at all for a long time. She’s never been in the back field before, and it was a bit scary for her.

2

“Don’t leave me out here! It’s scary! I’m hungry! Give me treats and put everything back the way it was!”

I suspect that maybe Angel is starting to pretend she’s scared so I’ll dote on her, the same way her mother always pretends to be sick. Or at least play up how scared she is. She’s always clinging to my leg and crying while I’m outside, but if I’m not there she runs around, picks constant fights with Griffin, and seems to get along fine.

While Angel was busy being melodramatic, her grandsire, Duke, was being even more melodramatic running up and down the fenceline calling for the girls.

3

“Why won’t she let me make any more lambs?”

Wonders Duke, while five of his twelve lambs and grandlambs wander by in the background. Every Soay or half-Soay on the farm is descended from Duke except for Lady, Duchess, Prince Bran, and Griffin. Enough is enough, Duke.

The Dukelings were too busy to bother about the girls; they had too much exploring and climbing to do. The girls’ field has a fallen tree mountain for them to play on. It is a Splendid Game to climb up on the tallest part of the stump. It’s an even more Splendid Game to knock each other off.

4

“I bet I can climb the highest!”

5

“Watch me get up on the stump!”

Cedar and Bran abandoned the game in favor of eating dead leaves, but the others played for quite a while. One or another of the Dukelings did manage to get up on top of the stump a few times, but someone else always knocked him off of his lofty perch before I could get a picture.

I have to admit, Duke does make awfully cute babies, even if they are troublemakers. He already has a dozen, maybe another one or two won’t hurt…

… somebody remind me I said that next year if I end up with six lambs running around causing havoc.