There was a tree growing by the gate of the new field until we cut it down this morning. This tree was of the species generally known as an osage orange, or hedge apple tree. Both are misnomers, since the tree does not produce apples or oranges. It does produce giant thorns worthy of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, so obviously these trees should instead be called the Evil Trees of Deadly Thorniness. Botanical classification Thornicus Deathicus.
We used to have quite a few of these Trees of Evilness on our property, but as far as I know the one we cut today was the last. It had to go because a) I’ve gotten tangled in it half a dozen times this week trying to squeeze through the gate without letting Mira follow me, and b) at some point yesterday Prince Bran and Little John got into a fight with this particular Tree of Thorny Death and lost. They both had long thorny sticks painfully tangled in their wool. These trees never release their victims, so the thorns have to be cut out.
Johnny is usually pretty easy to catch, but today it took forever to chase him down. Sheep become extremely skittish when they’re sick or in pain, because they know predators are attracted to the weak or injured.
That, and he found a really big leaf and he didn’t want to share. He was moving awkwardly because of the thorns pulling on his wool and probably jabbing into his skin, but he wasn’t going to let someone else eat his tasty leaf just because of that! Sheep sometimes have strange priorities.
“I have thorns slowly working their way through my wool towards my vital organs and it hurts! I must run away from ShepherdPerson, she’s after me with crunchies and scissors so she’s obviously decided to eat me! Also, I found this really big leaf and it’s yummy!”
“Wow, that’s a big leaf! Can I have some of that?”
“Noooo! My leaf! Go find your own! I’m injured, don’t poach my leaf!”
I did manage to grab him eventually, and hung on to both horns while my dad cut loose the thorn branch. The whole thing was at least 18″ long, winding from his neck down between his forelegs and ending somewhere on his belly.
Prince Bran the Brawny, other victim of the homicidal tree, did not inherit either his father’s friendliness or his mother’s fearlessness. Normally I describe him as being standoffish and shy. I’ve been trying to catch him for his own good for almost two days now, so today I’m not feeling so generous. Today he is an antisocial coward. I finally decided he only way I could possibly catch him would be to get him into an enclosed area, such as the barn. Problem: Duchess and Bran are still too scared to set hoof in the
barn Gaping Jaws of Death.
It took 45 minutes this evening to force persuade Duchess and Bran to enter the super-scary barn. I didn’t think anybody in the flock was more of a scaredy-sheep than Duchess, but I only got Bran in because Duchess went first and he didn’t want to be alone. Poor Bran was so terrified he crawled into the barn after her practically on his stomach, then collapsed in the aisle and just sat there in a trembling, woolly lump.
When I tried to touch the thorny stick embedded in his wool he miraculously recovered the use of his legs, jumped up, and fled into the stall with everybody else. By that point it was almost completely dark, so he’s just going to have to deal with it until it’s morning and I can see well enough to cut the stick free without cutting him by mistake.
Normally I don’t like cutting trees, but I am not at all sorry to see this one go. It was obviously a supervillain among trees.
*** In other news: Princess came in heat today, so assuming she settles her tentative due date will be April 12. Normally you can tell a ewe is in heat because they become outrageously flirtatious, but with Princess the only sign (besides the obvious) is that when Duke sniffs her she glares at him and then goes back to grazing and ignores him, instead of her usual response of kicking him in the face and running off. Princess doesn’t say “I love you,” she says “I hate you less than I usually do.” So romantic.