Evening Rituals

I usually take pictures in the morning when I’m letting the sheep out, so last evening I decided to try to take pictures while putting everyone to bed. ‘Try’ being the operative word, since bedtime is usually more chaotic than breakfast. Or at least differently chaotic. My camera batteries were dead again and my phone pictures are terrible, but that’s what I had.

Upon my journey outwards, I found the gate to the field guarded by a fearsome sphinx, who instead of posing riddles demanded to have his ears petted and his paws admired before allowing me to pass.

“You aren’t getting past me!”

“Not until you hold my paw, anyway!”

I taught Echo to ‘shake hands’ back when he first came to live with us, and he took to it with great enthusiasm. I would say it’s the only command he’s ever learned, but that implies that he does it when I tell him to, when actually he’s the one who comes up and offers his paw with increasing insistence whenever he decides he wants someone to hold his paw and pet his ears.

When I entered the field, I was set upon by a band of desperate Soays, who had had nothing to eat ever in their lives and would definitely fade away to nothing if they didn’t get their bedtime crunchy treats before they were actually in the barn. Patience is not a virtue the Soays possess in any great measure, except for mothers with their lambs.

“Woe is us, we don’t have the strength to make it to the barn unless you give us treats!”

The picture blurred because Angel jumped up on me and knocked me off balance just as I tapped the shutter button. Weak from hunger, indeed.

Mira abandoned her usual position as the most desperate of the beggars, because she was putting some last minute fear of herself into one of her sticks. Just so they didn’t get any funny ideas while she was gone for the night and couldn’t keep an eye on them,

“Five more minutes, I almost got this stick moved to my pile!”

And the Shetlands hung back at a safe distance from the chaos. The Shetlands are Highly Practical Sheep and believe that since I always give them treats with no fuss once they’re in the barn, there is really no need to make a dramatic scene on the way demanding to have them early. Soays, by contrast, seem to think a dramatic scene is its own reward and any extra treats they may get are just a bonus.

“We’ll just wait over here until the traffic dies down…”

Once in the barn, all the Soays (plus Nina, who most of the time believes herself to be a Soay, and Jeb, who prefers to be in the center of the group as much as possible when I’m around) piled into their stall and waited expectantly for their treats.

“All right, we’re in here, now pay up!”

Liam and Lana, as usual, headed straight for the private suite. Technically it was built to be a quarantine/lambing stall, but the fact that it is small and private made it desirable, and I have on occasion counted st least ten sheep trying to cram into it at once. Which makes it no more private and a great deal more crowded than the main stall, so when that happens I have to chase most of them back out so they actually have room to lay down.

Duchess and her twins got the private suite almost every night ever since the twins were babies, but since Duke moved over to the girls’ flock I’ve gently suggested that Liam sleep there instead to prevent any nocturnal warfare between him and Duke. As always, where Liam goes Lana goes too, and they are both quite satisfied with the new arrangement. Sometimes Nina will decide to stay in there with her mama, but more often than not it’s just the two of them.

Duchess is not happy about being displaced at all, but Duchess plus both of her (full-grown) babies plus two big, fluffy Shetlands (or three, with Nina) makes things rather claustrophobic in there and she usually runs back out in an indignant huff.

“This is the Shetland clubhouse, now! No silly Soays!”

That pink around the base of Liam’s horn is new growth, not blood. Or I suppose it actually is blood, technically, but it’s all inside him where it belongs. Liam is the only sheep I have with white horns so I don’t know if it’s normal, but in the spring when his horns are growing the new horn is more transparent and always looks pinkish for a while before it darkens to the yellowish-ivory color of the older growth.

The boys didn’t give me any trouble about coming in except for Barney, who had also never had any food in his life and had to sneak around me to grab a snack from the hay bales before going to bed. He does this every night, it’s a constant dance between us.

“I think I’m just gonna stay here tonight instead of going in the stalls; someone needs to keep an eye on the hay!”

Barney has an incredibly clever mind behind that unassuming face, and he’s also very stubborn. I never manage to block him from reaching the hay the same way more than once before he figures out how to out-maneuver me, so I’ve mostly stopped trying. There’s grass out there and not much hay left, so it doesn’t matter if he sneaks a few extra mouthfuls, aside from the way it gives the other boys ideas.

Once everyone was safely in their stalls, I gave them my nightly “It’s time to go to sleep now, settle down, no fighting, I love you guys, please don’t break anything before morning” speech, closed up the barn, and went back to the house so that Echo could relax from his vigilant guarding of doors and gates for people who might be persuaded to pet him.

“You’re looking at me, does that mean you want to hold my paw and pet my ears?”

And Watcher could relax from a long day of racing cars down the lane and yelling at the sheep through the fence and generally doing his self-appointed duty as the resident Farm Alarm. Even in sleep he had one paw on his beloved frisbee. It’s actually the latest in a long line of identical frisbees, but I’m not sure if he doesn’t realize or just doesn’t care that we replace it every time it gets too nasty or torn up.

“Zzzz…”

I charged the camera batteries so I hope to get some “real” pictures soon, but at the moment I think all I would get would be fleeing tails. Nova got a haircut this morning, so I’m highly unpopular out there at the moment. Sadly her fleece was hopelessly felted and had to go in the garbage, but at least she looks a lot more comfortable and isn’t carrying around all that nasty shaggy mess anymore. Hopefully they will have forgiven me by tonight, or maybe tomorrow.

4 thoughts on “Evening Rituals

  1. Those stories (all true) you tell and very enlightening and entertaining. you do a good job of keeping up appraised of all those clever sheep you have 🙂 Echo/sphinx is quite the guy…….paw pet ears.
    Watcher and his Frisbee…….

    • It’s the same thought process that makes them panic every time it snows– no more grass ever! Even the older ones who should know I’ve never left them to starve, haha

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