Not So Fluffy

Liam got his haircut yesterday. He was a very good boy and didn’t do any squirming at all, except in the very sensitive areas which I can’t really blame him for being twitchy about.

He’s not as fat as I thought he was, which is a relief. He is, however, shockingly, glowingly white under his fleece, and just a little bit funny-looking. No offense to Liam, who is a very handsome sheep, all Shetlands look a little funny right after shearing to me.

He’s also highly suspicious of me now. He’s not like the Soays, who enjoy sprinting away and flinging themselves into the air if I so much as make eye contact when they’re mad about something I’ve done, but he did keep a close eye on me and started edging away every time I tried to get close enough to take his picture.

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“Why did you go and do a thing like cutting off all my handsome wool?”

His wool is gorgeous and soft as butter; his wool is my favorite fiber of anything I’ve ever spun. Telling him so did little to console him, though.

And then Mira decided that I’d paid entirely too much attention to things-that-aren’t-her for one day, and came running over to claim my attention, so Liam was spared any further attempts at stalking getting a close-up.

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“MommyMommyMommy!”

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“You were out here all morning and only paid attention to Liam, and now you’re out here again with the camera paying MORE attention to Liam! What about ME?! I’m your baby, not Liam! MeMeMe!”

Liam continued watching me suspiciously and didn’t seem to mind at all if I paid attention to Mira instead of him. I think he was trying to hide among his flockmates, but that’s hard to do when you’re perfectly white and all your flockmates are varying shades of brown or brown-and-white mottled.

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“I’m watching you, ShepherdPerson! If you make a move towards me, I’m going to pointedly shuffle away in the opposite direction, just see if I don’t!”

Angel’s wool is starting to fall out in tufts, so I’ll probably try to roo her in the near future. She generally loves having her loose wool plucked (in strong contrast to Mira, who acts like she’s being murdered every time I so much as touch her wool with intent to roo) and she’s a small sheep, so it shouldn’t be as difficult as shearing the (relatively) big Shetlands.

I don’t think I’ll be working on plucking or shearing anyone today, since it’s been raining all morning. My entire body is telling me it needs a break before de-fleecing any more short little animals, anyway. In the meantime, I’m enjoying watching Liam walk around like a glowing white spotlight in a field of greens and browns.

Another Containment Breach

Jeb hid behind a gate when I was moving the boys out to the back field this morning and got left behind, so he got to sneak in with the girls. Will, Drake, and Griffin are still with the girls, as I haven’t managed to separate them out yet. At this rate in a week or two I’m only going to have one flock.

He picked a momentous day to make his escape, because Lana happens to be in heat today. He and Liam did a very good impression of a yin-yang chasing each other around in circles around Lana. I ran out with my camera to open the yard gate and get pictures, but as soon as he saw the yard gate open Liam abandoned the field of honor in favor of the field of grass.

Jeb and Lana, both being suspicious-minded sheep, decided they would hide out in the small pens instead of going out in the yard with everyone else. Except then Angel, excited by all the fighting but apparently not aware of why it was occurring, decided she needed to fight Jeb, too. So then they took off running for the rest of the flock, with Angel bouncing around brandishing her horns at them the whole way.

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“I’m the boss, Jeb! I dare you to say different! Stop running away and fight me!”

Maybe I could train Angel to be a sheepdog. Sheepsheep? Sheep-herding-sheep. I feel like that would backfire on me somehow very quickly.

She came flying back to me in triumph after successfully chasing Jeb and Lana all the way to the other sheep.

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“Did you see me? Did you see me? I showed them who’s boss!”

And then went flying back.

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“Wheeee!”

And back to me again.

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“Here I come!”

And out again.

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“Charge!”

After a few more laps she either got bored or forgot why she was running around, and had to pause and recover her train of thought.

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“I need to run back to Lana and Jeb again!”

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“Why was I running after them in the first place?”

Apparently she either couldn’t remember or couldn’t be bothered, because she decided to go fight with Nova instead.

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“I’m the toughest!”

That girl has far too much energy. Even Liam and Jeb didn’t have that much energy, and they had a semi-valid reason to fight. (A very valid reason, if they weren’t both wethered, making the point rather moot.)

By the time I put everyone back in the field this afternoon, it was too hot for fat, fluffy guys like Liam and Jeb to do much fighting, so they decided on a compromise where they each guarded one side of Lana, and chased away any hopeful baby wethers who happened to approach “their” side.

Usually Liam doesn’t see the baby wethers as true competition and thus doesn’t bother to chase them off when Lana’s in heat, but a Shetland rival is another thing entirely, and if Jeb is going to chase the baby wethers away, well then Liam has to chase them off too.

Lana’s not used to being the center of so much attention, and isn’t sure what to do with her sudden popularity.

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“Is this what it’s like to be Duchess?”

At some point I’m going to have to put my foot down and boot some of these boys back over to the other flock. Jeb will probably go back tonight, both because he’s spooky about coming into the barn and because I’m reluctant to put him, Liam, and Lana together in the same stall tonight. Actually, I’ll probably try not have any other wethers in with Liam and Lana tonight. Last time Liam got jealous during the night there were boards knocked off the walls in the morning.

Today he’s exerting all his energy toward impressing Lana, but he’s been even lazier than usual since this warm spell started. He’s scheduled to get his annual haircut this weekend, and I’m hoping he’ll have a little more energy once he isn’t carrying all that fluff.

Containment Breach

The day I accepted as inevitable when I started letting the boys in the barn has finally arrived. Duke broke out of his stall and ran off after the girls this morning. This is why he was never allowed in the barn, even in a separate stall, until after he was wethered. He can make a pest of himself, but at least he can’t make any more fall babies.

I tried to catch him, but he wanted no part of that. Since he’s wethered and has never tried to hurt a lamb in his life I decided it wouldn’t hurt anything to just leave him with the girls for the morning.

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“Girls, look! I finally escaped!”

His welcome was not as warm as he probably expected.

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“Hey wait! Come back!”

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“Why are you all running away?”

I have to give Flynn (far left, just behind Angel) bonus points, he’s managed to stay right at Angel’s side all morning, regardless of all the high speed evasive maneuvers going on. He might have been smitten with Duchess the other day, but Angel is the Most Amazing Sheep Ever, and he’s been pestering her for attention ever since he was a mischievous little baby.

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“Wait for me!”

Pardon the strange person-shadow, ever since BB hit me in the leg that one time I prefer to photograph these sorts of shenanigans from outside the fence, which makes it harder to work with low-angle morning light.

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“This is not going the way I thought it would.”

Poor Duke. Finally breaks in with the girls and none of them like him today.

6.jpg“Shh, we’re hiding!”

Duchess, Daisy, and Mira decided to hide between a log and a brush pile, until Mira decided she’d be safer to vault over the log and run over to the fence by me.

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“Mommy! Rescue me!”

That tendency of hers to always hide behind me is exactly what got me butted by BB, but I suppose it’s normal for lambs to hide behind their mothers, so it isn’t really her fault.

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“Can we hide, too?”

Nova, Lady, and Lady’s two boys decided to come share the brush pile hiding place, but I don’t think Danny’s going to win any hide-and-seek awards.

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“I can see better from up here!”

I decided to let them wear themselves out, then separate Duke back out when I let the girls into the yard. Gates are usually good bottleneck areas for separating out individual sheep.

I succeeded at the main goal of letting the girls out while keeping Duke in, but unfortunately due to Liam’s reluctance to run he got left behind as well.

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“This has been a very trying day.”

Poor Liam ended up having to run whether he liked it or not, because being the “new guy” in the boys’ flock means being chased around a lot by hyper Dukelings.

Fortunately for him, the boys (unlike the girls) have a very short attention span for why everyone is running around, and any chase usually devolves fairly quickly into a general skirmish. In this case, the Soays ended up “steeplechasing” around and over the logs, while the Shetlands sneaked away out of the melee.

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“Whee, I can jump the highest!”

I was impressed, I didn’t know Duke could vault over logs like that, but he seemed to be having fun, even after chasing the girls around all morning. Griffin can jump higher though, being lighter.

I didn’t particularly want Liam over with the boys, so I stood by the gate for a while, swinging it open every time Liam went trotting by hoping he’d dart out and I could shut the gate behind him. I didn’t manage to get Liam, but I did manage to let Drake, Griffin, and Will Scarlet escape. Oops. At that point I decided I might as well stop before I ended up mixing things up even worse.

Drake and Griffin aren’t really a problem if they stay with the girls a while; they’re cute little guys and usually aren’t too aggressive. They’re surprisingly easy-going actually, considering BB is their sire and Angel is their sister. Griffin looks a lot like Angel to me, but Drake is a slightly finer-boned carbon copy of the older Dukelings.

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“Yay, we get to play in the yard with the girls!”

Will I’ll have to keep an eye on. Lady’s handsome-but-dramatically-inclined middle son is usually a good boy (aside from the dramatics) but he has quite a colorful record of shenanigans and sometimes he tries to beat Neo up, which is what got him kicked out with the boys in the first place. I’d think he has that middle child thing where he has to act out to get attention, except he was like that even when he was the baby.

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“It’s so not fair Neo and Holly and Danny got to stay here with Mama and I had to stay with the boys. All I did was crack Neo’s head open that one time; you’re always overreacting!”

I’m tired of chasing boys in circles trying to catch them and the girls are thoroughly disgusted with me for messing up their routine like this, so as long as everyone behaves they can stay where they are for now.

So Silly

Today there is a great deal in of silliness going on, because Duchess is in heat. I think. She herself isn’t acting much like she’s in heat, but her swarm of admirers insist that she is so I suppose she must be. Neo, Danny and Flynn were dueling valiantly for her favor this morning when I let them out of the barn, while she ignored them all.

This afternoon they were still being silly so I decided to go out and take pictures. Of course as soon as I did, they temporarily stopped fighting and running in favor of either running over to me to see if I had any treats, or eyeing me suspiciously. We sheared Lana yesterday, so I’m a very suspicious character today.

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“It’s about time you got here! Everyone is being entirely too silly about Duchess again!”

Liam has been known to be rather silly about Duchess himself, but generally she doesn’t seem to be his type.

The whole flock was generally divided along the lines of who was interested in following Duchess around, and who was more interested in avoiding me.

Angel wasn’t at all interested in Duchess, and just wanted to step on my feet and bite my jeans and find out if I had any treats. She was probably just glad the baby boys weren’t flirting with her for once.

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“I don’t care about silly old Duchess, I want some crunchies!”

Nova was also mostly uninterested in Duchess, but quite interested in the question of treats. She stood off at a safe distance to see if I actually had any treats before risking coming within grabbing distance.

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“You’re not going to grab me and cut off all my wool if I come over there, are you?”

Sadly I had no treats. It was a great disappointment.

Lady wasn’t interested in Duchess or treats, and gathered her whole extended clan (plus Clover, who actually has a good excuse to follow Duchess around but prefers to follow Holly) off to the right as soon as she saw me coming. Neo and Danny were a bit reluctant to come, since they were both intensely interested in Duchess, but Lady is their mother after all, and clever sheep don’t cross the matriarch.

Danny seems to be trying to sneak back the other way without her noticing, though.

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“Maybe Mama won’t notice if I graze my way back to Duchess…”

The Shetlands were sticking together off to the left. Nina usually splits her time between the Shetlands and the Soays, but today she’s staying close to her mother because yesterday we were very mean and took Lana away for a while and cut off all of her fluffy wool.

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“Silly Soays, a shady ShepherdPerson, why aren’t there more sensible people in this flock?”

Right in the middle were Duchess and the most determined of the sillies, Flynn and Mira. I wish I could say Mira was following Duchess out of some latent familial feeling, but it was actually because she can’t stand anyone being prettier than herself and was determined to drive all of Duchess’s admirers away.

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“Go away, Flynn! Stop flirting with Duchess!”

“Stop shoving! I need to flirt really hard while Neo and Danny are gone!”

I tried to call Mira away, but she just glared at me and insisted she isn’t a baby and I should stop interfering with her when she’s busy interfering with Duchess’s love life.

Poor little Daisy was peeking out from behind the tree, hoping all the silliness would stop soon.

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“Mooom, go away, you’re embarrassing me!”

“My mama has too many boyfriends and it’s scary! I’m going to hide! And cry!”

I’m just glad Mira isn’t in heat herself, or she and Duchess would be dueling all over the field. If they have to be silly, at least it’s a relatively peaceful silliness.

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“Silliness is fun, but it’s too hot and there’s too much grass to eat to get too crazy!”

They make a pretty flock when they’re all (relatively) together.

Taking Turns

Since the weather’s been so much nicer lately, I decided the other day to sit outside with the dogs for a while. I don’t sit outside with them as often as I do the sheep, so I thought they could use the extra attention.

Cue Echo trying to crawl into my lap, despite being obviously too big to fit.

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“Look at my paw, you must pet me because I have my paw in your lap!”

I asked him if he was showing me his foot because he needed his toenails trimmed. He said no, absolutely no toenail trimming, he just wanted me to admire his paw and pet his ears.

Watcher, on the other hand, didn’t want to be petted very much, he mainly just wanted to eat my water bottle.

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“Here, let me get this lid off for you…”

Thank you, Watcher, for slobbering all over my water. It needed some dog germs.

A day or so later I tried letting the boy sheep into the yard instead of the girls, since their pasture is looking particularly bare and overgrazed. The boys were strongly in favor of this, and ran off to the far end of the yard, only allowing me pictures of their tails.

The girls threw a fit and ran up and down the fence screaming at the top of their lungs and pushing at both of the gates from their field to the yard. They get to come in the yard for a few hours almost every morning, so now they think they should have exclusive rights.

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“Aaahh! What are all those boys doing in our yard?! Aahh! Why are the boys allowed into the yard but not us?! It’s not fair! Completely unjust! Aaahh!”

Daisy proved her pretty face wasn’t the only thing she inherited from Duchess, and set out to jimmy the gate latch.

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“Hmm, let’s figure this out…”

While Clover insisted he was all grown up and should really be allowed to play with the big boys now.

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“Why can’t I play with the other boys? I’m as big and tough as any of them!”

I think he would have regretted that decision very quickly if I had let him out.

Today I decided to sit with Mira for a while since she’s been so droopy lately. I think she was happy, especially since I sat on the ground instead of up in that chair she doesn’t really like. My knees and back like the chair very much, but Mira can’t sit in my lap or chew on my nose unless I’m on the ground, so she prefers I leave the chair in the house.

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“Mommy! Where are my treats?”

Of course she had to hover jealously while all the other friendlies came to inquire about treats.

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“This is my lap! My crunchies! Only Baby Miracles allowed! No Ladies, or Neos, or Angels, or anybody else!”

Eventually she must have gotten her fill of petting and treats, because she wandered off and found a nice stick to take a nap with. She has a few favorite sticks she’s been playing with for years, but I haven’t seen this one before, so it must be new. It looks like it has wool stuck to it, so maybe it broke from the brush by the lamb-cave tree where they like to scratch themselves.

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“I’ve had lots of attention, I have a stick, now it’s time for a nap, I think.”

When I left to come back to the house, the girls (at least those who weren’t napping) all had to come to the gate and yell at me again for not letting them in the yard, even though the dogs were in the yard at the time.

Watcher was very worried about them and came running to check on them and lick Flynn’s head sympathetically.

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“It’s just not fair that ShepherdPerson never lets us have a turn in the yard and everybody gets to play in the yard except us and it’s just awful and not fair at all!”

Poor ewe flock. They’re getting their turn right now, so hopefully balance has been restored to their world. They seemed to be having fun when I sneaked a picture through the window from a gap in the curtain. I have to be sneaky to catch them playing in the yard; if they see or hear me at the window they all congregate on the patio and start yelling for salt.

Daisy and Clover were playing on the retaining wall while Angel debated joining them. Mira was industriously moving all the rocks back around to where she thinks they go, since some awful person had come through and put all the landscape rocks in the landscaping, of all places. She has a very strong sense of aesthetics. Either that or she’s OCD; between her rock thing and her stick thing I’m not really sure what’s going on in her head.

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“If I find out it was you lambs that messed up all my hard work on these rocks you’re going to be sorry!”

Oh well. At least they’re not yelling and they’re keeping themselves (and me) entertained.

Less Miserable Day for Sheep

The weather is is cooler today, the sort of early spring weather where it’s slightly too cold when the sun goes behind a cloud and slightly too bright when it’s out. At least according to my perception, although the sheep think the weather’s perfect.

Mira’s having another of her periodic strange turns where I’m not sure if she’s sick, having a hormonal issue, or just having a bad mental health time. She’s not running a fever or limping or showing any other particular symptoms of being hurt or sick, but she’s being antisocial and hovering over her sticks so obsessively that she doesn’t even want to leave them long enough to go into the yard for very long.

She keeps moving them around, pawing at the ground, baa-ing at them, and even napping next to them. If she hadn’t been cycling like clockwork all winter I would think she was getting ready to lamb; sometimes ewes act like that just before they give birth. As it is, I’m not sure what’s going on with her.

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“I don’t want to go into the yard, what if something happens to my sticks while I’m gone? But I don’t want to be all by myself, either. Why is everything so hard for me?”

I told her she was worrying me and I missed having someone sit in my lap. She ignored me. Angel decided to take a break from trying to kill my chair and be my substitute lapsheep for a few minutes.

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“See, I can be sweet, too!”

And Neo is always willing to be a lapsheep in exchange for pets and crunchies.

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“Me too! I’m sweet!”

Even Lady is willing to be chummy if she sees crunchies are available.

4.jpg“I’m the matriarch, I think I need extras!”

Finally Mira noticed all this going on and had to run over to reassert her position as my baby and the only approved occupant of my lap.

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“Nooo, no feeding and petting them! Only me!”

And then she ran off back to the gate to make sure no one was messing with her sticks.

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“Those sticks better be right where I left them!”

So far she’s always gotten over these weird turns eventually, but I always worry about her until she does.

Lady has been acting different lately too, although in a less worrisome way. She has decided that a perk of being the flock matriarch is that she should be able to run up and demand tribute in the form of treats any time the impulse strikes her. Princess always did, after all, so now that Lady’s boss she ought to have the same privileges.

She’ll wander off all the way to the fence with everyone else, then after a while her head will suddenly pop up like she’s just remembered I’m there, and she’ll come running across the field and poke her nose in my face until I give her something, then she’ll wander back off to graze again.

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“It’s been two minutes! It’s time for more treats!”

She probably doesn’t actually come running every two minutes, but it’s often enough that I’ve reduced her “treats” to a single piece of corn at a time, so she doesn’t upset her tummy or gobble up all my treats at once. So far she hasn’t protested my stinginess, so it seems to be a good compromise. Neo sometimes joins her. Being the oldest son of the matriarch has to have some advantages. But Lady isn’t keen on sharing, even with her own children, so sometimes he doesn’t bother.

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“Can I have some, too?”

“No! My own son, trying to poach my rightful tribute! Shameful!”

I’m hoping the weather will stay in that sweet spot where it’s not too cold for me or too warm for the sheep for a while. Maybe if I can stay outside more Mira will feel better, and Angel will get bored with chair-killing, and my being out there won’t be such a novelty. Being outside more will probably help me feel better, too, after being cooped up most of the winter.

Miserable Day to be a Sheep

We’ve had another sudden spike in temperature, which always makes the woolly ones unhappy. I like it though, because it means I can take my camp chair outside and hang on for dear life while Angel does her best to knock it (and me) over.

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“I’m the Boss, chair!”

Mira was not quite doing the full misery flop yet, but she was definitely working on an unhappy huddle. Facing away from me, to make sure I know she holds me responsible for all her unhappiness. So, business as usual, basically.

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“It’s so hot and I’m so woolly and I’m very upset about it!”

Lady went over to check on her, but Mira was just annoyed by the gesture. I thought it was very nice of Lady, considering how hard she and Mira were fighting earlier this week when they were in heat at the same time. Again.

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“Are you ok?”

“No! I am deeply unhappy! Leave me alone, you’re interrupting my sulk!”

Flynn was trying to hide in the shade of the retaining wall, except it was the wrong time of day for there to be shade, so it didn’t work too well.

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“Ugh, so hot! Why isn’t this cement cooler?”

6“Maybe if I roll over this way it’ll be cooler…”

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“Nope, still hot. Why isn’t this working? Maybe I should just get up and go see if Angel wants to be my girlfriend.”

I tried moving my chair over by Mira, since she usually wants me close when she’s unhappy. She got up and moved farther down the hill and flopped down with her back to me again, so I suppose I’m really in the doghouse this time.

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“I am not speaking to you until you do something about how unhappy I am!”

If I tried to relieve her of her wool she’d only be angrier, so the only thing to do with Mira when she’s in such a huff is ignore her. Evidently it really wasn’t her day, because I didn’t look away for more than thirty seconds, and when I looked back Mira had been run off by Angel, who stole her spot and sat there looking highly pleased with herself.

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“Gotta make sure they all know who’s boss!”

Sigh. That whole yard, and she had to have the exact spot Mira was sulking on. She can be such a bully sometimes.

Mira found a nice stick to kill when it was time to go back to the field, so hopefully that will make her feel better.

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“Why is this stick here? It doesn’t belong here, I must kill it!”

It’s supposed to cool off a little bit over the next few days, maybe it’ll warm up more gradually next time, so it won’t be such a shock to their systems.

Dusting of Snow

We got a slight dusting of snow last night, just an inch or two. Enough to make the sheep panic, as always. You’d think by this point they’d trust me to feed them as long as the snow lasts, but no. They are definitely going to starve this time.

The bottle babies (and Nina) at first refused to leave the barn at all, and insisted on staying inside to ‘guard’ the remaining hay supply.

“This is an emergency! This is all the hay that’s left! We need to eat it all up before it’s all gone!”

I sat on the hay and let them munch for a minute or two, but then Clover started crying outside because only¬†three of the four hay feeders were filled, and he was just going to starve to death if I didn’t hurry up and fill the fourth one. I shooed the girls out as I went to fill the all-important last feeder, and was the target of many reproachful looks for making them go outside.

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“You are the meanest mommy ever!”

Competition at the feeders was intense, both on the girls’ and the boys’ side of the fence. They had to eat it all as fast as possible, since there was definitely never going to be any more food ever.

“Mine! Mine! Mine!”

Though Barney took a break from the battle come ask for extra food from my pockets. His hungry face was somewhat less convincing than usual due to the big clump of hay sticking out of his mouth.

“I’m just- *munch munch* -so hungry, *munch munch* I haven’t had- *munch munch* -any food- *munch munch* -at all!”

I offered him a few pieces of corn, just to see if he could actually fit anything else into his mouth. As it turned out, he could fit corn in around all that hay with perfect ease. I was very impressed.

He wasn’t the only one biting off more than he could chew. Instead of nosing through the hay in the feeder and trying to pick out the best bits, several of the bigger boys have developed the tactic of dragging big clumps out of the feeder and carrying them away, so they can get out of the crush and chew in peace for a minute or two before going back for more.

“What do you mean, I look like I have a beard? I have to eat lots of calories because you’re a mean old ShepherdPerson who cut off all my fluffy warm wool!”

That tactic doesn’t always work though, as I’ve seen the Dukelings chase someone around trying to snatch the hay trailing out of their mouths, and of course if anyone manages to get any sizeable amount of hay out of the feeder and it hits the ground, it instantly becomes the very best hay of all and gets swarmed. Still, it gives everyone a bit more breathing room to have the big guys back out for a while now and then.

Liam is not interested in navigating all of that stress for his breakfast, and he always calmly munches his way through the contents of the lonely smaller feeder farther down the fence. I started filling that rack for the little guys that sometimes get squeezed out at the main feeders, but instead it turned into the favorite feeder of the Shetland Club in the ewe flock. It worked out either way, since the Shetlands are the ones who tend to inadvertently crowd the little ones out sometimes, just by being so big.

“Can’t talk yet, haven’t had my breakfast…”

Usually Liam, Lana, Nina, and Neo stay at the little feeder, and the Soay ewes flit back and forth in ones and twos between the small feeder and the big ones, but today it looks like Lana and Neo stayed up by the barn with everyone else, at least for a while.

If the forecast proves accurate, I think the snow will be gone by this afternoon, then maybe they won’t be so worried about starving. This could be the last snow we get for the season, so it might be the last chance they get to be so dramatic about hay until next winter. Once the grass starts coming back the hay goes from delicious manna worth fighting over to horrible dry stuff not fit to eat.

It seems like we haven’t had much snow this year, certainly not as much as they’re having north of us. All we seem to get is rain and mud. Snow can be very pretty, but the sheep and I are all eager for the pastures to start growing again.

Gray Noses

Barney is definitely one of my favorite sheep. He doesn’t have a very handsome face compared to his pasturemates, but he’s so sweet I say he’s a cute sort of homely. I always call him my puppy-sheep because when I’m out with the boys he follows me around wanting pets and crunchies like a puppy.

Every morning when I let the boys out the back of the barn, Barney runs off with the others, then doubles back to see if I’m still leaning on the bottom half of the dutch doors watching them, and if so, to see if I have any treats for him. (I usually do.)

Pardon the dark pictures, the weather is gloomy today.

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“Do you have any treats for me?”

Look how he even tilts his head, just like a curious puppy. Today, when he came up to the doors to get his treats, I noticed a tiny little smattering of gray hairs on his nose and chin that definitely weren’t there before.

“Barney!” I said. “You’re going gray on me!”

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“Gray, shmay,” says Barney, “Where are my crunchies?”

This prompted me to run out and take pictures of everybody’s noses to document the different patterns of gray or lack thereof.

I’m not sure exactly how old Duke is, but he’s definitely no younger than eight, which makes him the oldest sheep in the flock. Despite his age, as far as I can tell his nose has pretty much exactly the same amount of gray on it that it had when he was two, or however old he actually was when I got him. He has a somewhat freckled face that helps disguise whether he’s developing any new gray hairs or not.

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“Hey, girls!”

Eight is pretty old for a breeding ram, but he’s still in good shape, no signs of arthritis or missing teeth or trouble keeping weight on. Maybe a little less aggressive than he used to be, but that could easily be the difference between a confident, mature boss ram and a very young boss ram with a lot to prove. Allowing for the difference between a dark rainy photo and a dry sunny photo, he doesn’t look much different now than he did circa early 2014.

Dukie

“I am so handsome, all the girls love me!”

Nope, not much has changed about him at all.

3

“I saw you give Barney treats! I’m the matriarch, I should get treats first! Where are my treats?”

Lady is definitely the grayest nose in the flock, but she and all her lambs have started to develop a white muzzle before they’re even grown, so I don’t know whether to call it premature gray or just a facial marking that’s slow to appear. I don’t know about other breeds, but Soay colors and markings don’t really stabilize until they’re full grown at three, so I lean toward calling it a marking. She, Barney, and Duchess are all six years old this year, so it could also be a little of both.

4

“Gray hairs? What gray hairs? Are you saying I’m old?”

Duchess is of course still flawlessly beautiful, gray hairs or not. The gray on her lips and chin is definitely a marking, all my Soays have that same pattern, usually from birth. She has a few gray hairs on top of her nose, but not as many as it looks like. Most of the “gray” is just light reflecting off of her unusually glossy black hair. None of her various descendants have much if any gray on their noses either, unless one counts spots, which I don’t.

I tried to get pictures of all of Lady’s family to document the way the white muzzle markings develop, but I didn’t have much luck due to her having skipped a year lambing and too many white spots on her middle two lambs to tell. So “nose goes gray at some point between six months and five years of age” is about as far as I can narrow it down, unless I go digging through five years of pictures looking for shots of just Neo’s nose, which is more effort than I want to put into this impulse project.

5

“Gray hairs? I’m just a baby!”

No gray hairs on Danny or Marigold yet, but since Lady didn’t have a lamb in 2017, the next youngest member of the family is three-year-old Holly, whose nose isn’t going to show much graying as she ages, for obvious reasons.

6

“My nose has always been white!”

Four-year-old Will Scarlet isn’t much better. His face was so freckled to begin with it’s hard to tell what’s changed, if anything. He also wasn’t keen on pulling his face out of the hay to have his picture taken, so the best one I got looks like he’s blowing raspberries at Johnny.

7

“My face is devastatingly handsome, as always!”

At five years old, Neo has a white nose like his mother. Neo is my other puppy-sheep. He does have a handsome face, even with all the little scars from getting beat up over the years, poor guy.

8

“Everybody’s so mean to me, I think I should get lots of treats and chin-scratches!”

The only member of Princess’s lineage to have a white nose is Chestnut, whose muzzle is completely gray at not-quite-three years old. His twin, Cedar, doesn’t have a single speck of gray on his nose, nor does his five-year-old full sister Nova, which I think lends weight to the theory of the white muzzles being a slow-appearing marking, not age-related graying.

9

“I think it makes me look distinguished!”

It’s fun to keep a breed with such a variety of colors and patterns. Shetlands have a lot of fun colors and patterns too, but I only have five Shetlands, so I don’t think my flock does justice to the breed’s impressive variety. Liam does have some very cute tan freckles on his nose, but I couldn’t photograph them today due to his nose being very firmly planted in his breakfast. Oh well. I love all of their dear little noses no matter what color they are.

Golden Queens

When I was a teenager I loved the Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey. As an adult, I can recognize that the relationships and gender issues in most of McCaffrey’s books are… far less than ideal, but she had a knack for writing animal voices well. (In addition to her famous dragon series, she coauthored two less-famous books about spacefaring cats that are hilarious.)

In the world of Pern, when the golden queen dragons came in heat they would have to be completely removed from sight, sound, or scent of each other lest they fight to the death in order to be the sole center of attention.

Mira and Lady have come into heat within 24 hours of each other several cycles in a row now, and I find myself irresistibly reminded of those golden queens. I’m mentally superimposing wings and scales and very sharp teeth on the rivals, and yelling “Clear the weyr! The queen is Rising!” in my best, most sarcastic “you are being very silly and over-dramatic sheep” voice.

Today they were going at it so hard that I ran out and tried to separate them, which failed miserably, so I settled for trying to distract them, which was only marginally more successful. Once they got tired enough that they were stopping for a mouthful of grass between rounds, and I was pretty sure they weren’t actually going to kill each other, I pulled out my cell phone to get video evidence of this nonsense.

Notice how I keep trying to move around to film them from the side, but Mira constantly keeps one eye and ear on me so she can back up against my legs. What she’s really wanting is for me to do my motherly duty and fight Lady for being so mean to my “lamb.” I used to stand with her at the hay feeders when she was a baby and make the other ewes give her a turn to eat, but now Mira’s bigger and younger than Lady; she doesn’t need my help.

They eventually got so tired they were both swaying on their feet and too tired to fight anymore, but they still exchanged glares and occasional sneak attacks for the rest of the afternoon.

I made the executive decision to put Mira in Angel’s private stall tonight, since she was being ornery and Angel (for once) was not. I told Mira that when she starts making Angel look reasonable, it’s time for her to take a long hard look at her behavior. Mira insists that she is the prettiest and she was completely justified in her attack because Lady had no business trying to upstage her or generally existing in her vicinity.

I’m finding it increasingly hard to believe that a lot of big operations drug their ewes/cows/whatever to make them come in heat at the same time on purpose. I understand wanting all the lambs/calves/whatever to be around the same size at market time, but dealing with all those females in heat at the same time, then months later dealing with all those births at the same time seems downright masochistic to me. I’m almost tempted to drug either Lady or Mira to desynchronize them.