We’ve had suspiciously summery weather lately, which I’m sure is a contributing factor in the recent high winds and storms. Temperatures in the upper sixties in late February/early March is strange on its own, but highs in the upper sixties and lows in the thirties tends to correlate with high winds. The wind Friday evening was so strong I was a bit worried we’d wake up in Oz! And there are rather a lot of woolly munchkins out there…
“That wind was no fun, don’t schedule that kind of weather for us again ShepherdPerson!”
Everything seemed pretty normal in the morning, though. The Soays were falling over themselves racing out of the barn. Liam and the other Shetlands hung back to stay out of the crush then followed more sedately, Liam giving me one of his frequent mildly reproachful looks as he went, presumably judging me for the way I let his flock mates carry on. (The weather and the Soay dedication to Maximum Drama are two things I do not actually have any control over, despite what the sheep seem to think!)
We lost a door off of the barn to the wind, but surprisingly no large trees went down. Mira diligently collected some of the shattered wood fragments of the doorframe for her stick collection, but the door itself was too large for her to move. She was forced to abandon it, with many a longing backwards glance.
“Hmm, I don’t think I can move this…”
“But I really want it…”
On the boys’ side, Apple hung back in the barn waiting for our morning routine of him trying to lick and/or bite my fingers until I take his cute little face between my hands, waggle his head back and forth, and briefly greet him with something like “Good morning, Apple,” or “Apple Stop That, that’s biting, that’s ouch,” or “Why are you such a silly Apple?” Once satisfied that he’d been properly acknowledged, he followed his brothers out for breakfast and apparently dismissed me from his mind.
Mira, Angel, and Lady closely supervised the distribution of hay. Watcher barked at us from the yard, certain there should be a collie supervising instead. Mira, Lady, and Nova followed me to the gate to collect a toll in treats for letting me leave. All routine, as usual. Probably not in Oz, then. Hopefully that was the worst of the weather and we won’t have any more winds like that!
I had my good camera all ready to take pictures for Mira’s birthday today, except when I tried to take a picture of her counting her sticks the camera informed me that while the screen would turn on and let me navigate around the menus, the battery was too low to actually take pictures. Would have been nice if it had given me a low battery warning earlier, but oh well.
I pulled out my cell phone to use that camera instead, but Mira saw my hand go into my pocket and immediately abandoned the daily Morning Stick Inspection in favor of Coat Pocket Inspection.
“What has it got in its pocketses??”
Of course she got some birthday crunchies, and of course all the other sheep noticed there were treats to be had, so I had to retreat to the other side of the fence to get any pictures that weren’t noses right in the camera lens.
“Are we having a party??”
Poor Mira on the left, as always very grumpy and indignant that so many people came to her birthday party. Rude of them to just show up like that. She moved off to sulk behind a fence post until everyone else started drifting back to they hay rack to resume their interrupted breakfast.
“That was a TERRIBLE party, Mommy. You paid attention to things-that-are-not-me and gave crunchies to people-who-are-not-me and everything.”
I tried to pet her to make it up, but she gave me the irritated head toss that she unfortunately passed on to Angel. Mira doesn’t have horns so it’s mostly just cute when she does it.
“No pets, only crunchies!”
She got a lot of crunchies. She is very spoiled.
The dogs were more than willing to accept any petting Mira didn’t want. Watcher got over his loud protests over me going to the barn without him (I do this every morning one would think he’d get used to it) and brought me his Jolly Ball. Echo simply wanted to go back inside despite the nice weather and was laser-focused on the back door.
I would have taken more pictures, but at this point my phone informed me my storage space had run out and disabled that camera, too. I could swear I just cleaned out my phone not long ago. Now camera-less despite having two cameras on my person, I gave up. Some sort of technological conspiracy against taking pictures today, I think.
Happy birthday, Miss Miracle! It may be atypically warm for late February, but I’m glad we have nice weather instead of two feet of snow like the day you were born!
Late winter is always such a slog. (I know we’re technically only a third of the way through winter. Let me delude myself it’s almost over.) Mud, rain, mud, wet hay, more mud, wet sheep, mud, and wet dogs. Blah.
We’ve had some high winds lately, so Mira’s been kept busy moving the resulting sticks around to whatever mysterious pattern pleases her.
“Stupid sticks just laying around all willy-nilly, never in the right place!”
She does not at all want me to help, but she still makes sure to glare at me at regular intervals. I’m not sure what she’s blaming me for, exactly. Maybe it’s my fault the wind keeps blowing sticks into her field.
“Nobody appreciates all my hard work around here!”
We had two different loads of hay this year from two sources, and we’re close to the end of the first batch. Yesterday I decided to fill half the feeder with the old hay and half with the new, thinking if I mixed it for a few days they wouldn’t know the difference.
I should have known better than to think I could sneak something past them. I think they noticed.
The people have spoken. Fortunately it’s the new hay they like better, it would be bad if I had half a winter’s worth of hay they wouldn’t eat! I left the old hay in the feeder and put new on top of it today hoping they’d decide to eat it. Initial signs were not promising.
Every feeder overcrowded except the conspicuously empty end of the covered feeder. Oh well. Tomorrow I’ll move it to the fence feeder, sometimes that will make them eat hay they’d previously rejected.
As I was leaving, Daisy pulled her face out of the hay long enough to look at me from where she was having to reach awkwardly over Liam’s head to reach the “good” hay.
“I KNEW you were holding out on us, hoarding all this tasty hay in the barn all winter!”
I think the sheep and I would all be happier if there was fresh grass to eat instead of hay, but we still must slog through a few more months of mud before the grass comes back.
Chestnut broke his horn a few weeks ago, which was traumatic for both him and me. Broken horns bleed a lot for a very long time so he was unfit to be photographed until recently.
“I had a Big Ouch and now my head feels lopsided!”
Poor guy. His horns were smaller than the other three Dukelings’ from his age group to begin with, and now he only has one. I told him that technically now he’s a unicorn but he didn’t seem comforted. The four of them are very nearly identical to everyone but me (and presumably to other sheep) so at least there’s one who will be easy to identify.
I had to start feeding hay early due to the drought, so they’ve eaten the first layer of hay bales down enough to reinvent the Splendid Game of Climb Mount Food. Nina started it and is the most enthusiastic player this year, but Angel will hop up there with her if she thinks Nina’s getting better hay.
“Why is ShepherdPerson scolding and waving her arms again?”
I don’t really like them standing on their food, but sadly there is no really effective way of scolding a sheep. They have no shame. If I shoo them off they jump back up the moment I turn my back.
“Get away from my stolen hay, Nina! Stolen hay is tastiest!”
I don’t really begrudge them their games, even if they make a mess and get in the way when I’m trying to feed them. The days are very short this time of year and the girls are cooped up in the little field so they don’t kill the pasture, so I’m sure they’re bored.
But if they could avoid giving each other any more gory head injuries I’d appreciate it.
Every year I want to get nice selfies with the sheep for Hug a Sheep Day, and every year they remain unenthusiastic about the idea. Mira sometimes wants hugs, but usually only when I am busy doing something else and not giving her attention. Which makes her very sad, because I should never pay attention to anything except her.
The sheep were far too busy with their morning routine for hugs. First order of the day is always to attack the hay on their way out of the barn, because the hay you steal from the bales on the way out is the best hay in the world, far superior to that same hay when it’s in the hay rack two minutes later.
Eventually I must shoo them out so I can reach the hay myself, so I can fill their hay racks. Most of them run out to wait at the feeders, but the bottle babies stay underfoot to supervise.
“Hey, what’s the hold up? I want breakfast!”
Angel was also helping to supervise, but she was busy chewing on my coat and I couldn’t get a clear picture of her. Bottle babies are such darling nuisances.
My two oldest girls, Lady and Duchess. They hovered around outside the barn doors but weren’t quite willing to risk bottle baby wrath by following me back into the barn.
I always put a small amount of hay in the fenceline hay racks, to reduce crowding at the main hay feeder for the more shy and/or wobbly flock members. Which does work… I suppose… technically…
“All of this hay, just for me?”
…in the sense that they all crowd around the fenceline racks instead, ignoring the vastly inferior hay in the main feeder.
“This hay is not quite as good as barn-aisle-hay, but MUCH superior to that other hay!”
It all came from the same bale, but whatever makes them happy and keeps them entertained, I suppose.
“I’M not happy, there’s far too much ‘entertainment’ around here!”
Poor Liam, he is neither shy nor especially wobbly, but he doesn’t like all this drama. Also he was hoping for extra treats, since it’s recently gotten cool enough that I’ve started wearing the Magic Treat Coat again, with the endless supply of crunchies in the pockets. The sheep are clever enough to know if I’m not wearing the Magic Treat Coat I probably don’t have treats and therefore they don’t beg as much, but they’re always very excited to see the coat again every autumn.
He got his treats, because I did indeed have some in my pocket and I cannot resist a begging sheep face.
“I want some extra treats too!”
Lana is usually too shy to beg unless she can hide in the middle of a crowd, but she was atypically bold this morning. Coming up within three feet of me is practically a hug by Lana standards! I’m counting it as a hug anyway. She deserves an extra treat I think, both for being brave and for having had a rather dramatic week. She was in heat a few days ago and Duke and Liam kept fighting about it, which Lana finds very upsetting. It’s been a long time since there was friction around the general truce between Duke and Liam (Shetland girls belong to Liam, Soay girls belong to Duke.) I’m not sure what set them off this time.
Once the hay is put out, there is a great parade to the gate. Many years ago now, when Her Royal Woolliness Princess was a baby, she refused to let me go out the gate in the mornings unless I paid tribute in the form of a treat. After Princess died, both Nova (by virtue of being Princess’ daughter) and Lady (by virtue of being the new flock queen) insisted they should inherit the privilege. So I ended up giving them both a treat as toll for passing through the gate. Then the rest of the flock, significantly less cowed by either Nova or Lady than they were by the formidable Princess, said “Hey, why do they get extra treats and we don’t? Not fair!”
So now during the months of the year when I wear the Magic Treat Coat, I have a whole procession following me to the gate every morning like the sheepy Pied Piper, expecting me to bribe them before being allowed out the gate.
“Time for treats!”
It’s a ridiculous ritual, but once again I feel far too guilty to refuse all those adorable begging faces.
“Hey! Where are our treats!”
Holly using Flynn as a stepladder to peek at me over the fence rail is such a Holly thing to do. It’s a Splendid Game for all the Soay sheep to never look at anything directly if you can peek around a corner or through a peep hole, but Holly especially enjoys both climbing on her flockmates’ backs and being a sneaky spy sheep!
“Ugh, Mommy, make all these other sheep go away! They’re trying to horn in on my treats!”
Of course Mira is of the decided opinion that she is the only one who should have inherited the gate treats. Actually, she is the only one who should get any treats at all, ever, and I am a very bad mother for giving them to anyone else.
Duke never had much experience with this ritual before moving over with the girls, both because he spent most of his life over in the ram pen and also because I didn’t feed him treats from my hand when he was an intact ram. He has always been a very, very good-tempered ram all things considered, but the fall rut makes all rams unpleasant and I preferred for him not to be in the habit of crowding me when the hormones hit every fall. Now that he’s wethered and doesn’t go through rut anymore he can be much more spoiled.
“Gate treats are the BEST idea!”
We’re going to count that as an honorary sheep-hug, too.
My first collie’s birthday was October 27, so I’ve always treated Hug a Sheep Day as also being Hug a Collie Day. Watcher does not much enjoy hugs because he and Mira both see being held as being too close to being restrained, which is almost like I’m telling them what to do, (rude! Scandalous!) but Echo loves hugs. Sadly he did not get any on my way back to the house, because he didn’t want to leave the back porch to meet me at the basement door.
“I don’t want to walk all that way unless it’s food-time or naptime!”
Oh well. The day is still young, I’m sure he’ll get his hugs at some point today.
My last post everyone was complaining about the snow, and now everyone is complaining about the heat. The whole flock came running down to the gate to fuss at me about it when they saw me coming.
“Hey! What’s up with this weather? It’s too hot for wool!”
Except for the Shetland family, who hung back to avoid the rush.
“Unless we see crunchy treats come out, we’re staying over here where it’s safe!”
Lady asserted her right as flock queen to monopolize any treats that might appear. Her last lamb Dandelion, Mr Danny, asserted his right as her youngest baby to mooch some of his mama’s treats.
“I want all the treats, but don’t come at me with any more shots!”
Lady sprained her leg last week and had to get a pain shot. She was not a happy camper about it at all. But she’s fine now and is no longer lying around refusing to get up and insisting that she is at death’s door, so I suppose it was worth her being a bit grumpy with me.
“Hey ShepherdPerson, Angel is my girlfriend now!”
Flynn has been less determined about his hopeless infatuation with Angel since Duke moved over to the girls’ field and set a strict no-flirting policy for the younger boys, but occasionally if Duke isn’t looking he’ll give it a try.
“You’re my girlfriend now, right?”
“You’re lucky it’s too hot for more than halfhearted headbutts!”
You know it’s really miserable if Angel’s too lethargic to beat someone up.
Speaking of beating people up, her favorite target lately is Clover. I don’t worry about it too much, since he’s equally as likely to run across the field and pick a fight with her for no reason as she is to run over and pick a fight with him. I’m not sure whether it’s genuine antagonism, rivalry, or a very strange crush, but they’re both very invested in… whatever they have going on. As far as I can tell it started when they ran into each other one night going into the barn and got in a huge fight because each thought the other hit them on purpose, and they haven’t stopped squabbling off and on since.
It is too hot for any kind of combat today, so Clover hid on the other side of the tree where Angel couldn’t see him and begged for treats with his best sad pitiful hungry face.
“Just one little treat, pleeease?”
He is very very cute. Though I worry about the mental health of anyone who voluntarily picks fights with Angel on a regular basis.
Holly was also interested in treats, but is still worried I plan to steal her almost-four-year-old “lamb,” so sometimes she comes up to me and sometimes she hovers nervously at a distance. Holly’s mother Lady stayed attached to all of her lambs even once they were grown and weaned, but Holly holds the record for paranoid hovering.
“This is MY lamb, ShepherdPerson, no snatching my lamb! Marigold is the bestest, most perfect lamb ever! Everyone must want to steal her!”
Marigold seems equally worried someone will steal her mama, so they are happily side by side or draped over each other most of the time. She went through a phase for about two months this spring where she screamed her head off like she’d lost her mama every time the flock went through a door or a gate, even if her mama was right there, but thankfully she seems to be over that habit now. All the screaming got very annoying once I determined there was nothing actually wrong with her.
Holly’s older and younger brothers, Neo and Danny, are very friendly and also very cute and hungry and always interested in whether there might be treats available.
“It’s so hot and we’re so hungry, do you have any treats?”
Sadly I had no treats, so everyone quickly lost interest in me and wandered off to graze.
“What’s the point of ShepherdPerson if she doesn’t even have any treats?”
Except for Nova, who was insistent that there is no grass at all whatsoever in the field and she might die if I didn’t let her in the yard.
“Terrible ShepherdPerson, keeping the gate to all the yummy yard grass closed when we’re starving over here!”
And Mira, who was privately hoping I was just waiting until all those other sheep went away so I could give all the treats to her. Not that I’ve ever done that. Ahem.
“OK, nobody else is looking, now where are my treats?”
She was disappointed that there were still no treats, but they all get treats at bedtime (and yes Mira gets a few extra when everyone else is busy squabbling,) so no one is as deprived as they think they are.
We had snow again this morning, which meant the sheep had to chase each other all around the field. Since this isn’t the first snow of the year their running and fighting was more playful than serious, but Liam still hid by the lamb-cave tree until the Soays (and Nina, who despite appearances is Obviously a Soay) got the excitement out of their systems and calmed down.
(Video may not display in email, click through to the blog if it doesn’t show up.)
The snow is quickly melting away now, but it was fun while it lasted!
It is once again Miss Miracle’s birthday! We have neither rain nor ice today, which I suppose is the best weather one can hope for in February. The two of us had her birthday party in the barn when Mira was ‘helping’ me choose which bale of hay to open today. I was trying to be sneaky because otherwise the whole flock wants to join in and Mira gets very huffy and upset when too many people come to her birthday party.
The light is not good for picture-taking in the barn, and hiding in there to give Mira her birthday treats didn’t last long before everyone else came barging back into the barn to see why breakfast was taking so long, so I decided I’d go ahead and feed everyone else and then we’d do cuddles and pictures.
This was a miscalculation on my part, because I didn’t take into account that once Mira ‘helps’ me put all the hay out, she completely loses interest in me, crunchies or no crunchies.
“I don’t have time to pose, Mommy! I have to get my fair share of breakfast!”
One could get the impression she’s only interested in me for food, but I try not to take it personally. Sometimes she does want petted and fussed over, just not at breakfast. Breakfast is a serious competitive sport around here, even though there’s plenty to go around.
Lady is a clever girl and has figured out that if I’m calling “Mira!” there are probably treats to be had, so she came running when I was trying to get Mira’s attention.
“We don’t know when my birthday is, so today might be my birthday, too! Can I have birthday crunchies?”
The only information the farm Lady came from had on her birthday was “the lambs mostly came in the second half of February,” and it does happen to be the second half of February, so I gave Lady some of the treats. (Not that she wouldn’t have gotten treats anyway, she has a very cute face and she is the queen after all.) I hoped Mira would get jealous and come over, but no such luck. She was buried up to her ears in hay and didn’t see me feeding someone else.
Holly and Marigold are eating next to her, and you don’t see that mother-daughter pair letting breakfast get between them and their desire to always stay as close to each other as possible. Though that’s possibly because they eat the same thing for breakfast and Mira and I do not.
So I didn’t get the birthday pictures I wanted, but after some thought I decided that burying her face up to her ears in food is probably Mira’s favorite activity, so as long as she’s happy that’s the main point.
We had another ice storm, which I once again failed to document in a timely fashion. The front barn door was frozen to the ground for days. The only notable picture I got was this one of Angel straining to out of the top of the hay feeder:
“If only there was an easier way to reach the hay!”
Someone needs to invent a feeder with holes in the sides, so she doesn’t have to go up on her tiptoes and crane her neck like that that. Oh, wait.
This morning was brisk, but it’s supposed to get fairly warm by this afternoon. Future warmth isn’t much comfort first thing in the morning when I’m letting the sheep out.
They’ve knocked this hay feeder half off the fence for approximately the seventh day in a row. That’s not because they’ve only started breaking it in the past week, it’s because I’ve only started bothering to put it back recently and they keep knocking it loose again. I’m trying to divide their hay across all the feeders I have so that hopefully no one gets squeezed out.
“I think we should open this bale next, Mommy!”
Mira helps me feed the boys, taste-testing the hay when I open the bale and testing it again once it’s in the hay rack, just to be sure the quality didn’t suffer in transit. For a little girl who still whines at me about how bullied she is every time someone shoulders her out at the girls’ hay rack, she has no trouble forcing her way in at the boys’.
“Hmm, which bale do I want to choose?”
Angel usually takes over taste-testing for the girls’ hay. I don’t know why they trade off like that, but it’s what they do more often than not.
“If only the hay was easier to reach!”
Angel’s taste in hay is at least predictable. The harder to reach, the better.
Liam, on the other hand, prefers whichever feeder lets him best avoid any Soay nonsense.
Liam is why I have to fill all the feeders now, I used to just fill one for Lady, but once Liam realized semi-private dining was an option he stared monopolizing it. He doesn’t mean to, he’s never aggressive about pushing anyone else away, he’s just so big and solid he takes up half the room at a feeder by himself and he doesn’t notice a little sheep like Lady trying to push her way in. Now I divide the extra hay across multiple feeders and it seems to work better.
Neo left his buddy Liam to his breakfast and followed me down to the fence with Nova, hoping for treats at the gate. Usually it’s Nova and Lady, but Lady must have been distracted by something else.
“I’m hiding behind this fence post so Nova won’t see me and chase me away!”
Nova and Neo were the very first lambs to be born here, so Neo has a lifetime’s experience in avoiding provoking her. She may have only been physically larger than him for about two weeks, but she made sure to leave a lasting impression. She isn’t Princess’s daughter for nothing, after all.
“Hi, ShepherdPerson! Mama’s busy, so she said it was all right if I got the gate tribute crunchies today!”
Lady finally noticed I’d sneaked off behind her back and came running to disabuse me of any notion I could get away with gate-tribute-evasion.
“I said no such thing! Gate crunchies are all mine!”
Angel’s there too, I tossed a treat in her direction so the sheep at the fence would get a turn, so she was still busy looking for it in the grass.
“Where do you think you’re going without paying tribute to the queen??”
It’s a good thing I’d just refilled the treat pocket in the ever-popular magic barn coat, so I had enough for everyone.
Now that all of the snow and resulting snowmelt floods have been gone for a week, I can look at the pictures without getting depressed. Last Thursday around noon the snow started…
… and by Friday morning everything was covered.
The sheep have a yearly ritual where the first snow sets off a panic that there will never be any more food ever, leading to a lot of fighting over what is left. Fortunately they got all that out of their systems Thursday afternoon, so I didn’t get knocked down trying to carry hay out Friday morning and there was only a moderately higher than normal level of pushing and shoving.
If you’ve ever been curious about the insulating quality of wool, the snow stopped Thursday night and the sheep had just come out of the barn in these pictures, so the amount of snow on their backs is how much sat on their backs overnight without melting.
The boys were also worried there wouldn’t be enough food, even though there are only nine of them versus seventeen in the girls’ field.
The little feeder, as always, has the best hay according to both groups.
“Yummy special hay!”
Liam, in the background of this picture, has noticed lately that Lady gets private, drama-free breakfasts down the fence and has started hanging around her feeder waiting for me to fill it instead of pushing in at the more crowded feeders. With all the snow it took me a little longer than usual to get everything filled, so he eventually came back to see what the hold up was.
“Hey, where’s breakfast? I’m starving and all the grass is gone!”
It’s clear from his slim figure that he hasn’t been getting enough hay, poor guy. Granted some of his spherical shape comes from wool, but I’m pretty sure he isn’t starving.
Once everyone was fed Lady followed me down to the gate to get her “tribute” of treats. It’s a long standing tradition all the way from Princess’ reign that you can’t go through the gate without paying a toll to the queen.
“Pay up, ShepherdPerson!”
And then once she’d gotten her crunchies she ran back to her no-longer-very-private feeder to complain at Liam (and everyone who followed Liam) for stealing her breakfast.
“Hey! Stop eating that! That’s MINE!”
Today, a balmy, snowless, thirty-something degree day, the sheep got to come and eat yard grass for a while, which made them very happy.
Except Nova, who wandered off on her own again to complain that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. She seems to have decided that if yard grass is better than field grass, front yard grass must be the best grass of all.
“Hey ShepherdPerson, there’s a whole lot of grass over there with no sheep eating it! It’s going to waste!”
Unfortunately the front yard is not fenced, so Nova will just have to make do with “only” the hay and the yard grass.