Meet and Greet

I let Nova back out with the ewe flock today. It took approximately 45 seconds for Angel to pick a fight with Nova. The baby wasn’t sure what to make of this new activity.

1

“I’M the BOSS!”

“Whoa, what’s going on??”

I was a bit worried Angel would attack the baby, but as soon as she noticed him behind Nova she freaked out and took off running in the opposite direction. Apparently an irrational terror of newborns is hereditary; Mira reacted to newborn Angel exactly the same way.

Pardon the shaky footage, Angel was pawing at my leg.

Baby wasn’t sure he really wanted to go in the yard. His tree cave didn’t seem so bad in hindsight. He was very curious about the gate. That gate had never ever been open before, and he wasn’t sure how that happened. He pushed it with his forehead a few times, just to make sure the gate knew he was keeping an eye on its shenanigans. Then Nova decided to come demand crunchies from me and he had to come with her.

3

“Hi! What’s the big deal about you?”

He came right up and sniffed my hand, while Angel hid behind me and pawed at my back to signify her displeasure. I should only pay attention to her, not to terrifying baby lambs.

4

“Do you have any milk?”

I tried to move the camera down to take a picture from a lower angle, but when I took the camera strap off my neck the little guy jumped up in the air and ran around behind his mother. Apparently he didn’t realize the camera was removable. ShepherdPerson isn’t supposed to have detachable parts like that, he says.

With him hiding behind his mom, Angel felt safe enough to peek around me and yell at him for being so scary.

5

“You stay away, ScarySmallSheep! All the crunchies are mine! I’m the boss!”

Once she was sure he was gone, she ran off to bolster her dented confidence by starting round 426 of her war with Mira.

6

“Don’t think I’m not the boss, just because I got scared of the ScarySmallSheep!”

Eventually everyone settled down to graze, with a wide gap between Nova and the others. Baby was disappointed that the yard trees had no lamb-caves in them, but at least he still has his mom to climb on.

7

“I think I like this new place, Mama!”

Lambs and wildflowers make a perfect spring picture.

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Compromise

Yesterday afternoon brought the first difference of opinion I’ve noticed between Nova and her latest offspring. I had just walked out to check on them, so I only had my cell phone camera, but I still got some fairly good pictures.

“Stop staring at my baby!”

Nova is very nervous about her baby. He is, she says, the most wonderful baby ever born, and therefore everyone who sees him must be out to steal him.

“Get in this hollow! Then I can lay in front and no one will see you!”

“It’s too squishy, I can’t see anything from in there!”

This lamb is proving less cooperative than Drake about hiding in the hollow tree, much to Nova’s annoyance. He wants to look at things, and he can’t see much from inside a hole with his mother laying across the entrance.

“See, I’ll lay right under your chin, then you can see me and I can see everything!”

Nova was anxious, but relatively happy with this arrangement.

“Time for a game of Climb On Mom!”

Nova was not so happy, but tolerant of that. Being climbed on is a fact of life for a lamb’s mother, and by now I imagine she’s used to it, this being her fifth lamb and all.

“I’m going to sleep over here now!”

“Wait, I can’t see you over there!”

Nova grumbled at him to get back over where she could see him, Watcher came running to see what she was grumbling about, Nova panicked when she saw Watcher running towards her baby, and promptly shuffled him off to the other side of the tree.

“You leave my baby alone!”

That side of the tree is significantly more hollow, so the baby could still get a good view of what was going on.

“I’m a sneaky spy-sheep!”

He is a cute little nosy thing. Eventually he decided the much larger hollow on the far side of the tree was big enough not to cramp his style too much, and consented to take a nap in it, while Nova guarded the entrance.

“Aah, this tree-cave is more my size!”

Cedar and Chestnut used to sleep in that hollow when they were babies, the two of them being too big to fit in the smaller hole she used to hide Drake in. This little guy looks a bit lonely in that big space with no twin to snuggle with, but he seems happy. Nova would rather he stay in the small cave, but is satisfied with this one as long as I back off when she starts getting more wild-eyed.

Today it is too rainy for pictures, and Nova has abandoned the rather leaky tree entirely in favor of the hoop house. From what I can see with binoculars through the rain, Baby seems to be happy exploring this large blue cave, while his mother stands and glares at the evil sky water. It’s all very well for Baby, his food can come under cover with him, but Nova’s food is outside getting wet.

Sometime in the next few days I’ll have to reintroduce the two of them to the rest of the flock, but Nova’s going to need to relax some first, or she might have a heart attack.

First Morning

The lamb is definitely a boy, I checked last night when I moved them into the barn. Nova was not happy about me snatching her baby, however briefly, but I escaped with my kneecaps intact so I’m calling it a win. I’m still not sure what I’m going to name him.

This morning it was the boys’ turn to crowd the fence and gawk at the newcomer when he toddled out of the barn after his mother.

1a

“Hey! Who’s that? Who’re you? What’s going on?”

And the as-yet-unnamed newest Dukeling walked right up to say hello to his older brothers, much to his mother’s displeasure.

2a

“Wow, my big brothers are cool! Can I go play with them?”

“Nooo, stay away!”

Nova ought to be glad this lamb only wanted to sniff noses. His big brother Ash tried to climb right through the fence into the ram pen on his first outing from the barn. Or maybe she remembers Ash and that’s why she’s nervous letting this guy too close to the fence.

3a

“Someday I’m going to play with those big boys, but first I have to figure walking and jumping and stuff!”

“You’re not playing with those hooligans if I have anything to say about it!”

The little guy has an off-center white spot on his forehead like Apple’s, which is adorable the way everything about a newborn lamb is adorable. He is walking very well, but he still gets his legs tangled up every now and then. He seems like a calm little guy so far, just poking around, nursing, and napping. That might just be the energy drain from being born, though. All lambs sleep 20+ hours a day for the first few days. He’ll be more lively after that, judging by his older brothers.

I took a short video, nothing exciting, just him tootling around sniffing things and investigating the mineral feeder which I haven’t yet put back up after it was knocked off the fence for the hundredth time. I think it’s cute, anyway. Baby lambs are always cute.

They still have the small pens to themselves, because Nina is still strongly invested in stealing the lamb for whatever reason. Nova’s moderately grumpy about the other sheep being too far away, but I’m sure she’d be even grumpier with someone trying to snatch her lamb, so I think she’s good where she is. She has fence line contact with everyone else if she wants it, or she can hide her baby in the hollow tree or behind the hoop house if she’d rather have privacy.

4a

“You stay right next to me, ok? No wandering off!”

So far she prefers privacy, so I’m leaving them alone whenever she starts looking more anxious than usual. There’s plenty of time for him to make friends with everyone in a day or two.

Look Who’s Here!

Nova was very restless yesterday, so I spent this morning checking on her through the window about every half hour. Sometime during the half hour between checks, Nova decided it was time. By the time I looked out, the baby was up, licked off, and nursing. Even for a sheep, that’s pretty fast. Gender is not officially determined yet because Nova wouldn’t let me flip the baby over to check, but from what I can see I’m 90-95% sure it’s male. Boo. Oh well, it’s healthy and she’s raising it, I’m not going to complain. Much.

I would have left them alone to bond, but Nina was making pretty determined efforts to steal the baby and the other ewes were starting to look speculative, so I had to go chase everyone away and shut Nova and her baby in one of the small pens where they wouldn’t be disturbed. I don’t think she really needs to be jugged in the barn, she’s an experienced mother, she just needs everyone else out of her hair.

The other ewes had to content themselves with staring through the fence obsessively.

1

“Hey! Hey! Over here, LittleNewOne!”

Except for the bottle babies, who were too busy staring at me obsessively, pouting about being shut out.

4

“Hey, why’s the gate closed? We can’t get to your pockets!”

5

“I’m the boss! You’re not supposed to close gates on me!”

The baby was quite willing to toddle over to those other ewes, just in case they might also have milk, but Nova was not having any of that. For the first week or so, Nova isn’t content to walk and let the baby follow, she has to push the baby ahead of her with her nose so the little one is never out of her direct line of sight.

3

“You stay away from those baby-snatchers!”

“But what if they have milk?”

Nova wasn’t happy until she’d pushed Baby well clear of the fence and all those baby-snatchers on the other side. Baby decided that instead of climbing through the fence, he/she would climb on Nova’s head instead. Nova wasn’t especially pleased with that, either. I think maybe she had romanticized her memories of motherhood when she decided she really needed another lamb.

2

“You keep pushing me around with your head, I’m gonna climb up on top of it!”

“Why did I want another lamb again? Suddenly I can’t remember…”

6

“You just stand there where I can see you and don’t move! I’m hungry and I want to eat in peace!”

The baby is, for the moment, small enough to run between Nova’s legs, and even though he wasn’t going far away, keeping track of where the little one had toddled off to was difficult enough Nova decided they weren’t far enough away from potential baby-snatchers and started pushing her newest bundle of joy off towards the far side of the pen.

7

“Let’s go this way, away from the baby snatchers!”

“Are you sure I can’t climb on your head?”

I decided to come back to the house and give them some privacy so Nova could relax. As much as Nova ever relaxes in the first few weeks of motherhood. At least I get to relax now, since everything went well and everyone’s healthy and bonding and eating and trying to climb things and all that good stuff.

I’m not sure about names yet, I’ll have to wait until I can confirm it’s a boy before I decide.

Who’s This Handsome Boy?

1

“Why are you hiding behind me?”

“ShepherdPerson is mean! She tied me up and tortured me!”

Neo finally got his haircut today. He is giving me many reproachful looks and staying well out of reach, but he was a very good boy and didn’t cause me much trouble at all. Just got a little twitchy when I was working around his belly and flanks, which is understandable. Those are ticklish areas.

2

“Mama, ShepherdPerson was mean to me, even though I’ve never done anything bad ever in my life!”

He’s sticking close to his mother today. He started getting twitchy again from me taking pictures of him, so I took some pictures of everyone else to allay his suspicions.

3

“Hey! Angel! Get away from my tree! This is my tree! Go get your own!”

Mira is spending her time glaring at Angel and playing with her sticks. She seems to have discovered that sticks grow on trees, because she was very determinedly trying to break the lower branches off so she could play with them.

5

“Ah-ha! I found you, stick! You thought you could hide from me in this tree!”

Mira is a very clever sheep; nothing gets past Mira. Except sometimes Angel. Not this time though, she finally got on Mira’s last nerve and Mira knocked her down.

4

“Hey! Mira’s being mean to me! Give me crunchies!”

Angel was very miffed that we ignored her all morning in favor of torturing Neo. She also got in a fight with the water spigot on the back of our house and turned it on. I would have been perfectly content if she had never discovered she can turn the water on, but hopefully she was deterred by being unexpectedly sprayed with water and she’ll leave it alone now.

6

“I’m eating for two, I need extra crunchies!”

Nova’s due to have her baby next week, so that’s exciting. She’s in the very grumpy, endlessly hungry, constantly yelling stage of pregnancy.

Hopefully Angel will behave herself around the new lamb. Haha, who am I kidding? Angel never behaves herself. More realistically, hopefully Angel will be too busy picking fights with bigger ewes, and Duke, and random tree branches, and her own shadow, etc etc etc, to pay attention to the new lamb. Or the water spigot, I’d like her to be distracted from that, too.

Her baby wool is starting to shed off. I’m not at all looking forward to rooing her. I have a suspicion she won’t be as compliant about it as Neo. I may need to research protective gear.

I am Anti-Fun

We had to close up the hay feeder again after refilling it yesterday, because crawling up on top of the hay was turning into a Splendid Game.

1

“I am King of the Hill! All this hay is only mine!”

Duke isn’t usually very playful, but if all the youngsters are competing, he has to show them who’s boss. No one is dumb enough to try to suggest Duke isn’t the boss, so I had a crowd of displaced Dukelings up at the fence wanting crunchies as consolation prizes.

2

“Dad’s hogging all the hay, can we have crunchies?”

There’s six of them now. I have told Nova if she has any more of these rotten (cute, but rotten) Dukelings instead of having a girl, her ShepherdPerson might have a nervous breakdown, and then where will they get their crunchies?

Of course once Duke saw his boys all competing for crunchies he had to climb out of the feeder and come running to monopolize that, too.

3

“All the crunchies are only mine!”

Duke and his army of mini-mes are one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.

Except maybe Liam’s determined effort to climb up on the hay while all the more competitive sheep were distracted elsewhere.

4

“Shhh, don’t draw attention!”

The girls were starting to feel neglected, since I’d spent so much time taking pictures of the boys. Everything is still business as usual over in the ewe flock.

5

“Take THAT!”

Angel is working her way up the pecking order in her quest for world domination, while everyone else watches with rapt attention. Except Mira, who has found a new stick to play with.

Angel’s not really picking fights with Mira as often anymore, but any time she gets within about four feet of Nova it’s instant war. The only ewe more dominant than Nova is Lady, so I’m sure Angel has her penciled down next on her warpath. I don’t think I’m ready for Angel to be undisputed queen yet. She will be someday, I’m almost certain about that, but I think she can afford to wait until after her first birthday.

Angel says I’m a spoilsport and she wants the record for World’s Youngest Supreme Ruler. Nova is full of late-pregnancy hormones and has absolutely no spare patience for upstart lambs. I’d rather they postpone their war at least until after Nova has her baby, but I think I’m not going to try to get between these two particular ewes until they call an armistice.

 

I Have Some Questions

1

*Munch-munch-munch*

Johnny, what are you doing inside the hay feeder?

4

“Umm, eating?”

My brain stalled for a minute trying to figure out the logistics of a very big sheep squeezing into the hay feeder before I remembered I’d opened one of the panels yesterday when there was ice on everything because they were having trouble reaching the hay.

2

“This is the hardest hay to reach! So it must be the best!”

Somebody actually climbing inside wasn’t exactly what I had in mind, although in hindsight I honestly can’t say I’m surprised. I try to make something moderately difficult (eating through the feeder) easy for them, and they think of something that was previously impossible (crawling around into the back of the feeder) but is now only very difficult.

3

*happy sheepy chewing noises*

Looks like Jeb is also making himself at home in there, although at least he’s sticking to the open side instead of climbing around to the back. Johnny’s Soay genes are showing. The Soays firmly believe anything difficult to get must be better than what’s easily available.

But then I’m the one who deliberately picked the most rare, most primitive, most difficult to find breed of sheep I could possibly raise (I actually researched Ouessant sheep first, which are just like Soays except smaller, woollier, and less feral, but they sadly don’t exist in North America at all) instead of settling for a more common primitive breed like Jacobs or Shetlands in the first place. I guess I can’t exactly point fingers at them for making things difficult for themselves.

I suppose the sheep match their ShepherdPerson very well. Which is both funny and a bit embarrassing. I’m not crawling into any hay feeders after my breakfast anytime soon though. I’m sticking to my bagels and tea. My tea which I order online because most of the blends I like are unusual and not locally available… oh dear. I really can’t point fingers, can I?

Johnny, I apologize and withdraw all my questions. You go right ahead and enjoy your breakfast however you want to, as long as you don’t get stuck.

Snow, Snow, Go Away

Neo is no doubt very happy he escaped being sheared, because we’ve had snow or icy slush pretty much every day this week. The panic is real. Two dozen miserable, panicky, hungry sheep are not fun.

I think whoever coined the cliche that March “comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” did not fully consider the fact that lions sleep 20 hours a day and lambs are, for the most part, tiny little explosions of aggressive self-confidence and destructive energy.

1

“We’re going to freeze, because MeanShepherdPerson won’t let us in the barn!”

They have a perfectly serviceable hoop house, it’s not my fault they’d rather sleep out in the snow.

The girls have decided that leaving the barn is unnecessary under the circumstances, and they want to camp out inside with the round bale until spring.

2

“There’s lots of food and no snow in here, why would we go out?”

I end up chasing them in circles around that round bale for ages every morning before I can get them to go out. It’s amazing the amount of mess they can make from that bale in five minutes.

Angel tries to work it the other way around. She keeps refusing to go in her private suite at night, saying she’d rather stay in the aisle with unrestricted access to the hay once everyone else is locked in the stalls for the night. Since her desire to eat the hay is almost outweighed by her desire to climb the hay, I hate to think what kind of mess she’d make overnight.

3

“What was that noise?”

Watcher is not letting the inclement weather get in the way of him doing his self-appointed duty of keeping an eye on everything, although he is making his patrols faster and staying inside longer in between whenever there’s snow or slush on the ground.

4

“Maybe we can keep an eye on things from the window?”

Echo doesn’t want to go out at all, poor guy.

I don’t want to go out, either. It’s almost April, surely this will be the last of the bad winter weather?

If at First you Don’t Succeed…

I made attempt #1 to give Neo a haircut today. With that special mind reading ability that sheep have, Neo instantly knew I was up to no good and ran to hide behind his sister instead of coming over for treats and chin scratches.

1

“Nothing to see here, this is not the sheep you’re looking for, move along…”

I think the instant suspicion was because I was carrying the rope halter in my hand instead of hiding it in my pocket like I usually do. The sheep all know the rope halter is a horrible thing that only comes out when I want to make them do something they don’t want to do, or torture somebody by giving them a haircut and trimming their hooves, so they all start avoiding me when they see it.

All except Angel, who has never been haltered and thus retains her youthful innocence of halter-related tortures. She thought maybe it was a new toy for her to beat up and/or chew on.

2

“I’m the boss, rope!”

And Nova, who stayed well out of grabbing distance but still wanted her crunchies.

3

“Toss the crunchies over here and keep that nasty halter to yourself!”

I put the halter on the hoop house and covered it with my coat, hoping that would make them less suspicious, but since about 90% of the reason they like having me around is because of the crunchies in my coat pockets, they all just ran off and continued to shoot dark looks at me over their shoulders.

5

“ShepherdPerson looks extra shifty today, we better keep an eye on her!”

Angel didn’t run off, mostly because she was busy trying to decide if my coat needed to be beat up separately since I took it off, or if it had been sufficiently intimidated by being beat up while I was still wearing it.

4

“I’m the boss, you got that, coat?”

To my complete lack of surprise, she decided yes, the coat needed to be taught a lesson on its own. One might think that the muddy hoofprints all over the lower half of my poor coat would be sufficient proof that the coat knows who’s boss, but no.

6

“Take that!”

Eventually, with no halter in evidence and Angel otherwise occupied, Mira and Lady thought it might be safe to come see if I had any crunchies, as long as they stayed out of arm’s reach. No such luck with Neo, but I hoped if I could get his mama to relax it’d make him relax.

7a

“If we come over there for crunchies, you’re not going to try to grab us, are you?”

But the minute they started walking towards me, Angel abandoned trying to beat my coat into submission in favor of running over to jump up on me and make sure no one else got any of her crunchies. It’s hard to try to catch anyone else when you have a lamb attached to your hip throwing jealous tantrums at everyone who gets too close.

8

“Mine! My person! My crunchies! Mine! ‘Cause I’m the boss!”

This is how I always end up with muddy hoofprints all over my clothes. Angel, Mira, and Nova are always climbing on me trying to monopolize my attention. And my pocket full of crunchies. I’m just glad the Shetlands generally don’t try to jump up on me.

I made a few more efforts to catch Neo, but he was able to avoid me pretty easily, and Angel kept snatching all the crunchies before I could try to bribe him close to me, so I gave up. I’ll have to catch him in the morning before I let them out of the barn, when he doesn’t have so much room to escape.

They always feel so much better once their itchy old fleeces are gone, I don’t know why they have to make the process so difficult.

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words…

… how many words is a video worth?

The weather and my camera batteries are not cooperating with photography. It was snowy yesterday. Angel was once again deeply concerned that the white stuff was trying to eat her feet, and everyone else was deeply concerned that the white stuff was hiding all the grass. It melted in a few hours though, before anyone could starve to death.

I used my cell phone to record letting the girls out of the barn this morning, until the battery died unexpectedly. With my luck, I managed to capture the day I accidentally shut Nina in the barn because she’d decided to lag behind and eat the round bale in there. Fortunately her loud protests started before I got very far away.

Videos apparently don’t show up in emails for some reason, so click through to the blog if it doesn’t show up.

I’m about 90% sure at this point that Nova is in fact pregnant, I think I’ve started seeing some udder development in the past week, so that’s exciting. She’ll be due around April 9th if she is pregnant.

I’ve also noticed that Mira has been a lot happier these last few days; I think she’s finally getting over her postpartum depression or whatever was making her so cranky for the past year or so. She’s still keeping all the sticks in line, though, when she isn’t pestering me for treats or squabbling with Angel. I’m glad to see her happy again, a perpetually sad/angry/grumpy Mira isn’t much fun for anybody.

One of these days I’ll actually manage to a) charge the camera battery, b) put both the memory card and the charged battery in the camera, and c) bring the camera outside with me, all at the same time, so I won’t have to keep relying on my cell phone camera. Maybe I’ll even manage it on a day that isn’t too gloomy to bother photographing.