Double Standards

Duchess and Daisy seem determined to usurp Angel’s place as The Most Troublesome lately. The day before yesterday the two of them ganged up on Lady so aggressively that they actually managed to hurt her. I had to split the girl flock between two fields to separate them. Lady is still walking a bit gingerly, but nothing seems to be broken so I think she just strained something when she fell down.

Duchess seems to have given up their vendetta, but Daisy is still following Lady everywhere. She isn’t butting Lady anymore or I’d still have them separated, but she is making an annoyance of herself. Lady’s going to be eight next spring, she doesn’t need this sort of nonsense.

She’s still behind me, isn’t she?”

“You gotta make her stop, she’s driving me crazy!”

“I’m not doing anything!”

Angel saw me taking pictures of Lady and Daisy and had to come over and run the two of them off to make sure I wasn’t giving treats or attention to anyone but her. And then she swatted me with her head when I tried to pet her, just to reclaim her title of Most Troublesome. She either doesn’t like competition or she likes it too much, I’m not sure which.

“I only like competition when I’m beating up the competition!”

Once Angel drew everyone’s attention to me there was a bit of a scuffle as the rest of the flock came over to make sure I wasn’t handing out crunchies, but all of those pictures came out as indecipherable blurs for some reason. The reason, of course, being Mira hovering over my lap and jostling my camera arm.

“This is my mommy! All you sheep go away!”

She likes competition even less than Angel, but while Angel finds fighting invigorating, Mira finds it stressful and upsetting. She will butt other sheep away from me if she “must,” but she prefers to get very whiny and clingy instead of fighting.

“Moooom, you’re only supposed to pay attention to meeeee!”

Poor little neglected girl. She gets no love at all. (Even Angel has begrudgingly accepted that she can’t keep Mira away from me. Much the same way Mira resentfully tolerates Angel.) I tried to give her a hug and got swatted by her, too. Both of my bottle lambs are Problem Children today. I am a pushover for Mira’s sad faces, but she is much less affected by me making exaggerated sad faces at her.

“I don’t want hugs! I want to sit in your lap and eat crunchies! It makes me very sad when I don’t get what I want!”

Personal space clearly is only a thing that applies to sheep, not to ShepherdPeople. Although Daisy isn’t respecting Lady’s personal space either, so maybe sheep just have one standard for themselves, and a different standard for everyone else. I stopped to scold Daisy one last time on my way back to the house, since she was still hovering so close to Lady that they looked like a shaggy pushmi-pullyu.

“I’m not bothering Lady, ShepherdPerson!”

“Yes she is!”

“ShepherdPerson, you need to stop following me around everywhere, it’s really annoying and makes me uncomfortable.”

On second thought I’m positive sheep just have double standards. Hopefully Daisy will get bored and find someone else to bother soon, so Lady can have some peace.

Disruptions Due to Snow

We’re getting the first snow of the year this morning. It likely won’t stick, but it was enough to coat everything in white by the time I got up and it’s still coming down.

Brrr. Fresh snow is beautiful, but I much prefer looking at it through a window rather than going out in it. The sheep don’t like snow either, it sticks in their hooves and it hides the grass. Every year there is a mass panic at the first snow, as they all conclude that there will never be any more grass ever, so I was prepared for that. They still managed to put one over on me, though.

We knew we were supposed to get snow, so for the first time in months we closed the wooden barn doors instead of just swinging the gate across the opening, both to keep heat in and to keep snow off of the hay stacked by the doors. The change must have thrown me off a bit, because I forgot to close the girls’ end of the barn behind me before letting the boys out. The boys didn’t notice either and they all ran out their own end of the barn as usual. I had just finished dumping hay into the boys’ hay rack, when I turned around to see Mira, Duchess, Daisy, Clover, and Neo running out of the barn into the boys’ field.

I wasn’t too worried about Mira, since I often let her come with me while I’m filling the boys’ hay racks and she never gives me any trouble, but the others were more of a problem. Neo gets hurt too easily every time he gets mixed up with the boys, and Clover likely would too, given that he’s so small and doesn’t have full horns. Duchess attracts boyfriends like flies and that causes its own set of problems.

The two wethers figured out their mistake fairly quickly and retreated back through the barn as soon as they could get away from their pursuers. Barney chased Neo through the barn and into the girls’ field, but I decided to worry about that once I got Duchess and Daisy back where they belonged.

The pair were being stubborn and refused to come back. I tried to bribe them, but Mira was right on my heels and snatched every treat I pulled out of my pocket before I could tempt the others into coming to me. Trying to shoo her off only made her upset and spooked the other two escapees into running away, so I gave up on that idea. At that point they had decided that I thought I was the boss, and therefore refused to cooperate on principle.

“You can’t tell ME what to do, ShepherdPerson!”

As usual with these sorts of mix-ups, it eventually became a battle of wills. Duchess and Daisy knew what I wanted them to do, they just didn’t want to do it. Fortunately for me, humans are designed to be endurance hunters. When this sort of thing happens I just have to keep walking after them and getting into their personal space bubble and eventually they will go where I want them to just to get me to stop. They know as soon as they cooperate I’ll stop bothering them, so they don’t get genuinely stressed by my low-speed chasing. They only get really stressed if they don’t know what I want, which doesn’t happen often anymore.

Mira thought I was pestering Duchess because I was feuding with her the way the ewes do, and happily joined in the pursuit, “helpfully” butting Duchess away every time I managed to get her to actually stop and look at me. Silly girl had a great time and seemed to consider the whole thing an excellent mother-daughter bonding experience. I’m glad at least one person involved was having fun.

“OK, we’re back in our own field, now stop following us, ShepherdPerson!”

They were quite grumpy with me by the time they gave up and retreated. Actually all the girls were a bit grumpy with me, as they’d had to wait at least five extra minutes for their hay while I annoyed the two rebels into cooperating, and five minutes is a long time when there might never be any more food ever.

And as it turned out, I didn’t need to worry about catching Barney after all. Liam caught him first. Liam gets along fine with Jeb and Barney when he’s over with the boys, but whenever one of them gets in with the girls he gets jealous over Lana and attacks them. I don’t know why he never seems to care about the Soay wethers being around Lana, but apparently only Shetland wethers (and Neo on rare occasions) register as true competition for him. Despite being rather slow and sedate generally, he’s a very powerful animal when he decides he’s going to fight somebody, so it took less than a minute and about three head-butts for Barney to come flying through the barn back to the boys’ flock, regretting all of his life choices. Much to his (and my) relief, Liam considered the matter settled at that point and didn’t chase after him.

I tried to get a picture of Barney once everyone was sorted out and the gates were closed, but he was hiding between Duke and the hay rack and I couldn’t get a clear shot of him. Liam must have made quite an impression if Barney went running to Duke for protection.

“My rival is gone and breakfast has finally been served! All is back to the way it should be!”

Liam went back to his usual placid self right away, but it took Lana a few minutes to calm down. Lana doesn’t enjoy being fought over the way Duchess some of the Soay girls seem to, and I usually don’t let either Jeb or Barney in with the girls for that precise reason, so she was a bit rattled by the whole thing.

“What on earth is going on this morning?! There’s no grass and there’s all this running around and fighting and sheep Over Here that should be Over There! I’m sticking close to Liam in case everything goes crazy again!

“See what kind of nonsense I have to put up with around here?”

Poor Lady, queen of such an unruly flock. It can’t be easy, trying to keep this bunch in line. Not that I would know anything about that.

“You should have let me help!”

Watcher was so wound up he spun in circles all the way back to the porch, jumping around like a puppy. I don’t know if he was excited about the snow or about the mix-up with the sheep or both, but either way it took me longer than it should have to get back to the porch thanks to his antics.

Echo, as usual, wanted nothing to do with either snow or sheep, and waited for me on the porch.

“Oh good, you made it!”

“Now hold my paw and pet my ears!”

Echo only knows one trick but he knows it very well. It’s just the part about only doing it on command that he doesn’t understand. He thinks offering his paw means I am obligated to pet him, regardless of whether I asked for it or not. He’s right of course, I do end up petting him every time he gives his paw. Partly because I don’t want to make him sad, and partly because if I don’t he just keeps getting in my way and whacking me insistently with his giant paw until I do.

I spent much longer out in the cold than I intended to thanks to the sheep and the dogs, so I think Echo and I are both going to hide inside for a while and see if the snow goes away.

Silly Shepherd, Chex are for Sheep!

The sheep have a very stable routine overall. The go out of the barn when it gets light, and they go in when it gets dark. Most of them have done this every day of their lives, so they know what they’re supposed to do and when and they’re (usually) pretty cooperative.

Every evening when they see me coming, Lady and Angel come to meet me at the first gate, Mira and Nova wait for me at the second gate, and everyone else lines up by the barn door waiting to be let in. Sometimes one extra sheep will come meet me, or sometimes the two queens will be lazy and wait at the second gate with Mira and Nova, but overall we perform the same ritual every morning and every night.

My own schedule is a bit less stable, since we humans are so smart we invented clocks instead of just following the sun. Sunrise and sunset aren’t always at the same time, so sometimes I have to shuffle around what gets done before the sheep and what gets done after.

As if that wasn’t enough, humans are so incredibly smart we decided that in addition to clocks, we needed to arbitrarily change what time the clocks say it is twice a year. Thanks to the time change, I have been rather abruptly forced to not only eat dinner an hour later than usual, but to delay even further because there is now not enough time to eat dinner between getting home from work and putting the sheep up. This has made me rather grumpy.

The other night I was grumping my hungry way out to the barn when I realized three facts in quick succession:

1: I had just opened a new bag of crunchies, so the cereal was clean,

2: I had just washed my hands after getting home, so my hands were clean, and

3: Despite being used primarily for bribing sheep, Chex cereal is actually manufactured for human consumption.

Delighted by these realizations, I popped a handful of cereal in my mouth. The whole flock immediately abandoned their orderly huddle by the barn and came flying at me, shocked and horrified that I was eating their crunchies! I had to wade through the mob up to the barn, holding the bag up in the air as they tried to jump up and grab it out of my hands, convinced that I would somehow consume an entire bag of Chex between the gate and the barn if I wasn’t stopped, leaving nothing for them.

On the negative side I got rather pummeled by many greedy little hooves, but on the positive side they all ran straight into their stalls without the usual dilly dally in the aisle trying to snatch some extra hay on their way to bed. Their confidence that I would still have crunchies whenever they decided to cooperate had been shaken! I am definitely going to have to remember the “Fine, then I’ll eat them all myself!” bluff for later use.

I did not get any pictures of any of this, because it was getting dark and it’s hard to take pictures while being mobbed, but it feels odd to make a post with no pictures so here’s one of the next morning when hay magically appeared in the feeders as usual and I went back to being just the waiter.

“Hurry up and eat fast, ShepherdPerson might be hungry again!”

And a very cute Miss Miracle from last week, blissfully ignorant of the fact that her mother sometimes eats cereal herself instead of giving it all to her.

“Where are my treats, Mommy?”

I feel vaguely like I got caught eating my kids’ Halloween candy, but I did get a good laugh out of it!

Head First

Mr Dandelion got his head stuck in the barn door the other day trying to reach the hay inside the door. Because the hay in the barn is obviously much better than the hay I put out for them. Everyone knows I hoard the good stuff.

Being a surprisingly easygoing sort of wether, he didn’t panic and hurt himself. When I found him he was alternately tugging at his head, then giving up and munching on the hay he’d stuck his head in there to reach in the first place before trying to tug his head out again. I’m not sure how he got his silly head through such a small gap in the first place, but he isn’t talking.

“At least I got to eat the good hay!”

His big brother Neo got his horns stuck trying the same thing about a week ago and we had to cut the wire grating to get him out, so the doors have now been adjusted to (hopefully) exclude even the most determined of sheep heads.

Frankly, I’m quite willing to blame the whole thing on Lady.

“Moi?”

After extensive thought and digging through the blog, I’ve concluded that every single instance of someone having their head stuck was either Lady or one of her sons, aside from one (1) instance where Princess got stuck when she was a baby and wasn’t used to having horns yet and once or twice when Duke’s escape attempts went wrong and he got stuck. Clearly it’s something to do with either her genes or her parenting.

Lady and all three of her boys have had to be rescued from fences, and the only reason Holly and Marigold don’t get stuck is because they have no horns. Holly has a semi-permanent groove worn into the wool around her neck because she preferentially grazes outside the fence, and Marigold shares the tendency. I have a lot of pictures of the two of them grazing side-by-side with their heads through adjacent holes in the fence, pushing as hard as they can against the wire to reach the “best” grass.

There’s really no need for such desperate measures, they have plenty of grass in the summer and I don’t skimp on giving them hay. But it’s an unwritten but universally understood rule that the most difficult food to reach must be the best.

“I like hay because it means I don’t have to walk far.”

Understood by everyone except Liam, that is. He has no objection to easy food. The sheep have decided that what leaves are left on the big tree are past their prime, and therefore they mob the hay feeder first thing instead of marching down to the tree. Note Holly and Marigold climbing up on each side of the feeder to reach the “best” hay on top.

Nina is very vocally upset about this disruption in her morning routine, and stands by the gate yelling for everyone to hurry up for several minutes before giving up and going to join the rest.

“This is All Wrong and it’s not What We Always Do! I’m going to yell about it!”

Nina’s response to everything is yelling. She’s the most vocal sheep on the farm. I’m sure she’ll get over it in a few days. At least I hope so.

I now have two jumbo bobbins of Liam singles spun, so I am making progress. One jumbo bobbin is rather more full than the other once I wound the singles off. I’m relatively good at spinning reasonably consistent singles, but not at estimating how much I’ve spun. I’m hoping to get the third jumbo filled over the weekend. Also hoping not to have to pry anyone else’s head out of doors or fences.

Frustrations

In a turn of events I should have predicted, as soon as I got the motivation back to write, the hard drive in my “work” computer went out. Dead. Finished. Kaput. And the computer is less than a year old, which made it doubly annoying. Fortunately all the pictures I take with my camera are either still on the memory card or backed up to my external hard drive, so I didn’t lose any pictures, but my other computer won’t talk to the camera so it’s difficult to blog from that one. I just got the “work” computer back from the computer doctors with a shiny new hard drive in it, so hopefully this one will last more than a few months.

Our lovely writing spider that’s made her web between the corner of the barn and the fence is still hanging in there, despite the cold. She’s just made a third egg sac, which I find amazing. She’s made a new one every few weeks, and each one is larger than her body. And she constructs the whole egg sac in a single night! After watching how hard she works I’m going to be so upset if at least some of those eggs don’t make it to hatching.

When I let the sheep out in the morning most of the flock sets off to find breakfast without a backwards glance, but there are three exceptions. In the boys’ group Apple will stay behind and chew on my jeans until his brothers get too far away for comfort, because he is a very strange little wether and he loves the taste of denim for some reason. In the girls’ flock, Mira (of course) stays as close as possible to me while I finish up in the barn, while Angel runs back and forth outside in increasing frustration.

Angel is always worried that if she lets the rest of the flock get too far ahead of her on their daily trek down to the tree at the far end of the field they’ll eat all the fallen leaves before she gets there, but if she leaves me and Mira unsupervised in the barn I might give Mira crunchies behind her back and that would be Unfair. So she runs back and forth and gets very agitated if I take too long in the barn. Sometimes she takes out her temper on the new utility pole next to the road.

“I’m warning you, BigFakeTree!”

“Take that!”

I can’t imagine how butting a giant wooden pole in the ground doesn’t rattle her brain, but I suppose it’s better than her taking her temper out on me or the other sheep. Not that she doesn’t do that as well sometimes, though she’s better about not butting me than she used to be.

“Do we really have to leave the barn?”

Mira, on the other hand, has done the math and realized that the barn currently contains more food than the tree produces in a whole year, and is increasingly reluctant to let me shut her out every morning. She’s also a sleepyhead and isn’t always quite ready to wake up in the mornings.

Once the barn is closed she usually trots away to catch up with the rest of the flock if she decides I’m not going to slip her treats. Angel runs off, too, though she stops and turns every now and then to check if I’m sure I don’t have any treats.

“Why are you out here if it’s not to feed me?? That’s what humans are for!”

She’s an awfully cute little crazy sheep. And she is sweet, in her less martial moments. Fortunately there’s an old stump down at the far end of the field that also serves as a punching bag when she’s angry.

“Angel is so amazing!”

Little Flynn (who is not so little anymore but retains the nickname since he’s the youngest Dukeling) is still Angel’s biggest fan, no matter how often she hits him. Maybe because she hits him, I don’t know. There’s no understanding the mind of a ram lamb. Or a wether who was once a ram lamb.

“I can’t believe there aren’t any crunchies! Makes me so mad!”

“Remind me why I have to put up with Angel again?”

My poor babies. Life is so hard. Mira is (mostly) resigned to Angel’s general existence after only three years, and the two of them actually don’t fight with each other much when I’m not there for them to fight over. Everyone else, yes, but not each other. Much. Relatively speaking. It is fall, after all, and even without an intact ram the girls are fighting a lot over who’s prettiest.

“I’m going to stay way over here, out of the line of fire!”

Liam is not the most inquisitive sheep and he doesn’t usually get involved in any of the Soay’s clever shenanigans, but he is not dumb when it comes to staying away from feuding ewes.

Speaking of Liam, I have my first full jumbo bobbin of Liam singles spun! Actually it’s three regular bobbins wound off onto a jumbo, but I prefer to spin a large amount of singles before plying oldest to newest, and I needed my regular bobbins emptied.

It’s taken a bit of adjustment to get used to the fiber, since this is mill-processed roving and all of Liam’s wool I’ve spun in the past was hand-combed top. I spend a lot more time picking neps out than I would have with hand-combed top, but it’s no worse than a lot of commercial roving I’ve spun, and the roving is so light and airy and un-compacted that a lot of the smaller bumps and lumps vanish into the lofty single without needing to be picked out. I’m also not spinning a super-fine single, which helps as well.

If my sampling and checking my plyback every now and then is accurate, these singles should make a heavy-sport-ish yarn in a 2 ply or a worsted-ish 3-ply, either of which should make a nice sweater that isn’t too heavy and bulky to wear or so light that it takes forever to knit.

I’m arguing with myself about the plying. I really don’t enjoy knitting with 2-ply yarns in general (though I’ve discovered they’re lovely to weave with) and the 3-ply sample is really gorgeous yarn, but making 3-ply yarn is so much more work when it comes to sweater quantities, and the 2-ply sample is also a very nice yarn. I made Liam’s lamb fleece into a beautiful 3-ply that I still haven’t found the right project for, but maybe I’ll have to actually commit to a pattern and knit it up to see if I think the 3-ply is worth it.

I don’t like making decisions when I’m crafting, particularly about “special” materials. It’s why my handspun tends to sit around for so long before I make anything out of it. I’ve done this enough times that I know once I actually start plying I’ll be happy with the finished yarn either way, but until then I’m going to fret about it and change my mind twice a day. Since I can’t hit things with my head to vent my frustration, no matter how cathartic Angel makes it look, I suppose I’ll have to settle for making a cup of tea and comparing my two little knitted sample swatches again.

Shenanigans

We put new latches on the gates hoping it would be faster and easier to open when things get cold and icy, but apparently they were faster and easier for sheep to open as well, because the boys got in with the girls this morning.

I was alerted to the problem by Watcher, who lives up to his name in every way. Granted he does tend to alert me every time someone stands up or sits down or walks or doesn’t walk, but there’s a different timbre to his barking when something’s actually wrong. Sure enough, those rowdy boys were running all over the girls’ field terrorizing everyone.

I didn’t take my camera with me because it’s difficult to wrangle a large camera while chasing sheep, but it turned out to be an unneeded precaution. The boys were perfectly happy to chase Liam and Neo all over the place, but the minute I got out there and asked them very sternly what on earth they thought they were doing they beat a swift retreat back to their own field. Being chased is apparently not as fun as chasing someone else. Sheep may be mischievous, but they’re not stupid. They know when they’re not where they’re supposed to be, and they know as soon as they go back where they belong I’ll stop pestering them.

“We were invaded! We’re traumatized now!”

All of the girls’ flock huddled together behind their two queens. Well, Lady is more of a matriarch and Angel is more of an indomitable force of nature, but the other sheep and I agree that it’s easier to tell them they’re both pretty and let them both be queen. Nova abandoned the huddle in favor of commiserating with her lifelong best friend, Watcher, about how unacceptable the whole thing was.

“I’m so sad and pitiful,” they all say, “locked out in this great big field all alone except for all ten of my pasturemates…”

So sad. I’ve told them it’s their own fault, but they don’t listen. I thought once everyone was wethered I wouldn’t have to maintain two separate flocks anymore, but the big boys can’t play nice and are much too rough on the smaller and/or gentler sheep. So now I have to keep two flocks entirely due to personality conflicts.

“We need crunchies to help us get over our trauma!”

Even once everything was straightened out all the mama sheep kept their babies tucked protectively behind them. Clover was off camera to the right, but Daisy is right on Duchess’ flank where she should be. Poor Lady really is a matriarch in the truest sense and has too many babies to try to hide them all behind her tiny little self. Danny is immediately behind her, with Neo off to the side by the Shetlands and Holly behind Danny. Her granddaughter Marigold is the most protected of all, a barely visible dark outline behind Holly. She has a mother and a grandmother to look out for her, lucky girl.

I tried to move to the side to get Clover and Marigold’s face in the frame, but that was just too much for their shattered nerves and they all ran off. Except for the Shetlands and Neo the honorary Shetland, who decided they’d already done enough running for one day, thankyouverymuch. Maybe enough for a whole week.

“We’re not moving another step unless ShepherdPerson pulls out the shears.”

Once the adrenaline wore off everyone crashed and decided they needed to take an early nap. I’ve looked out the windows a few times to check on them since I got back to the house and everyone is still asleep, boys included. Causing trouble is an exhausting job, I suppose.

I’m not sure how they managed to open the new latches, but we better figure it out quickly or the girls may decide to pack their bags and move into the house where it’s safe.

Silly Sheep

I went out to get pictures of the boys, since I feel like I don’t take pictures of them as often as the girls. They were not really cooperative, so I still ended up with more pictures of the girls, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

“Morning crunchies? Or we’d be happy just to chew on your fingers and jeans!”

Ash (left) and Apple, Nova’s nearly-identical twins and half of the original “Dukelings.” Who can usually only be kept far enough away to take pictures if they are distracted or if there’s a fence between us, because otherwise they are generally chewing on me. Handsome boys.

“All the crunchies are for me!”

Duke had to come see what his boys were doing, and make sure they weren’t getting any contraband crunchies behind his back. He is a very handsome boy, too.

Some of the girls noticed me paying too much attention to the boys and started drifting over, also worried I might be sneaking treats past them.

“As flock queen, all treats should go to me first!”

Lady, with her oldest boy, Neo, in tow. All the ewes stay attached to their daughters forever, but Lady also stays attached to her sons. Her unruly middle child, Will, is over with the boys because he can’t behave. I’m not sure where Mr Dandelion had gotten to when I took this picture, but he showed up again by the time Lady got to me.

“Here I am!”

I love this picture of Lady and her last “baby” who isn’t a baby anymore. It would have been even nicer to get her with both her first and her last baby, but Neo was investigating my pockets with his nose and didn’t want to back up enough to pose. That’s his hip in the bottom right of the frame.

“Remember, Danny, crunchies are for mommies, not for babies!”

“I don’t think that’s right at all!”

Mira hung back and sulked because there was too much attention being paid to things-that-were-not-her. She couldn’t properly glare because the rising sun was in her eyes, but her ears and her body language was definitely sulking.

“You are a terrible mommy, paying attention to things-that-aren’t-me all the time!”

I was wondering why so few of the sheep had come up to me, but to my annoyance I discovered they were distracted by licking and/or chewing on the barn. I have no idea why the new paint triggered this, but I’m ready for them to stop now. It already looks almost as bad as it did before we painted, and it’s probably not good for either their teeth or their tummies.

“Delicious paint!”

I went back to the boys’ field to chase them away, for whatever good that does, and got a good picture of the other pair of Dukelings. They weren’t very happy with me for chasing them off of the paint, but at least I got them to look at me.

“Spoilsport!”

Cedar (right) and Chestnut, Princess’ less-identical twins. I think it’s interesting how the two pairs were born right around the same time and have spent their whole lives together as a gang of four, but each of them still knows which of the other three is his own twin.

“Did you come back to give me crunchies?”

And handsome Duke again. Everyone took advantage of me turning around to sneak behind the barn and start chewing on the other side. Sheep are sometimes very good at being sneaky, and sometimes very bad at it. When the whole flock goes sidling around to the back of the barn “behind my back” it’s a good sign they’re up to something they know I don’t want them doing.

“ShepherdPerson will never think to look for us back here!”

They were quite disgruntled when I chased them away from that side, too. By this point the girls were sure something was up so they all came running when I came back into their field. Even Lana came running, and she’s usually too shy to come anywhere near me! Maybe with both Liam and Nina between us she felt it was safe enough.

“This is very scary but I don’t want to miss out on treats!”

And just as I was leaving I got a picture of another shy pair, Holly and Marigold.

“Don’t try to snatch my baby, ShepherdPerson!”

I’ve tried to explain to her that her daughter is two years old and it’s a bit late now for me to try to snatch her even if I wanted to, but Holly remains unconvinced. They still have the habit of one or the other of them physically draping herself across the other’s back every time the flock starts milling around just to make sure they don’t get separated, which is both sweet and funny-looking.

And then Watcher got to escort me back to the house in a very professional manner to where Echo had been supervising from the safety of the porch.

“You’re back! Come up here where it’s dry and pet my ears!”

Mornings are too full of dewy, wet grass for Echo’s liking. He doesn’t have waterproof boots like I do, sadly. He and I are kindred spirits, neither of us are morning people by nature. Unfortunately we are vastly outnumbered. And it is nice to be out in the early mornings once I’m up.

I got a very large (by my standards, anyway) bag of Liam roving back from the mill this weekend, so I’m very excited to start sampling with it! I’m not sure what I’m going to do with six and a half pounds of white wool, but I’m sure I’ll think of something. I don’t usually wear much white, but I don’t really want to dye it because a) dyeing is complicated and scary and b) if I dye it, it won’t look like Liam anymore. I’ve been looking at knitting patterns and weaving drafts, but I think I’m going to have to play with it and spin some samples to see how it “wants” to be spun before I make any firm plans for it.

Summer is Ending

A multitude of different factors have sadly stopped me from taking pictures or blogging for… yikes, almost 4 months? And now the computer with my photo editing software has turned into an expensive block of plastic until I can get it fixed, but that’s how technology goes.

The sheep are all doing fine, and are very happy that the weather has been cooler the last few days. We repainted the barn, and then had to exile everyone from all the fields adjacent to the barn because they started eating the paint. Which made the humans and the sheep very annoyed with each other for a while, but it seems like the novelty of paint-eating has mostly worn off. Today was the first day I’ve left the gates open so they can go up by the barn, and so far they’re (mostly) behaving themselves.

First thing in the morning means it’s time to go eat leaves from the tree at the far end of the girls’ field. Since this is a daily routine, by this time of year only the very tall sheep like Neo can reach any of the remaining leaves.

“Why are all the leaves so high up?”

Poor Mira is not a tall sheep. She’s not the shortest, but not tall enough to reach the leaves. Fortunately for her, she has an advantage: a bipedal mother with thumbs.

“Moooom! I can’t reach! Pull the branch down for me!”

I pulled the branch down and tried to take pictures, but the whole flock swarmed around like woolly piranhas to strip all the leaves, and it was all I could do to hold the camera out of the crush. Once everyone had gotten a taste I let the branch go, and Mira instantly forgot she’d ever had a leaf in her life.

“Mom, help me! I’m so sad I can’t reach all those tasty leaves up there…”

The sheep were curious about the reappearance of the camera, since they hadn’t seen it in a while. Most of them were too hungry to come investigate, but Clover came up to see if maybe I had crunchies.

“Do you have any treats for hungry little boys, ShepherdPerson?”

I don’t know how much Mira understands about cameras, except that she will look at the screen over my shoulder if I let her and she has very firm opinions that the camera should always be pointing at her. Whether she knows what I’m doing or not, she doesn’t like me taking pictures of anyone else.

“Go away, Clover! Mom’s ClickyBox is only supposed to be pointed at ME!”

I tried to get pictures of Liam with Lana and Nina, but they were not cooperative. Liam and Lana were not at all interested in having their breakfast interrupted, but Nina came over to see what was going on.

“Do you have any treats?”

Nina doesn’t look like she needs any more treats. She can still run and jump like the Soay she thinks she is, so I’m willing to believe it’s mainly wool. Regardless of her size, or maybe because of it, Nina isn’t as easy to push around as little Clover is.

“Go away, Nina! All the attention should be on ME!”

“Don’t tell me what to do!”

I stayed outside long enough for them to get bored, and did finally get a relatively good picture of the three of them. Or at least one of Nina and Liam eating while Lana eyed me suspiciously.

“I’m watching you, ShepherdPerson!”

Hopefully there are enough nice days remaining in the year for me to make up for some lost time.

The Hairdresser is Open

Much as the sheep might prefer otherwise. Good weather and my free time finally coincided and I gave Liam his haircut this morning. He wasn’t happy about it.

“Why would you do this to me, the goodest boy?”

Liam is the goodest boy. That’s why he deserves to not walk around all summer like a marshmallow. He was getting so fluffy his neck had all but vanished. It can’t be comfortable to be just a ball of wool with a face.

“Is it just me, or is it a lot cooler all of a sudden?”

He’s not as fat as I was worried he’d be, and his fleece is so soft. He is still grumpy at me but I’m sure he feels better.

Jeb is the only Shetland left to do, then I can do some of the Soays that haven’t shed on their own.

He’s Practicing Social Distancing

As I started back to the house after letting the sheep out, I suddenly heard loud tarp-flapping noises. This was startling, because there was no wind to speak of that could have caused the tarps to flap. I turned, and saw that Clover had decided for some reason he really needed to be on top of the hoop house.
Why do they always get up to funny shenanigans when I only have my phone? Pardon the cell phone pictures, I think they’re funny anyway.

“Mom! Clover’s on the roof!”

The others all knew he wasn’t supposed to be up there. They weren’t sure if they should be looking at me or him.

“I’m King of the Hill!”

Duchess and Daisy, off to the right, were concerned about their son and brother being up on the roof. Or possibly they were debating the merits of jumping up there with him.

Clover was highly pleased with himself, until he realized that there was no food on top of the hoop house and he would have to find a way to get down. Getting down is much scarier than getting up.

“Whoa, it looks awfully high on this side! And the roof is getting all wobbly under me!”

“It’s even higher here in the middle! Uh oh!”

“Maybe I can jump off this side?”

“Hey Daisy, get out of the way! I’m coming down!”

“Wheee!”

Daisy bolted a few steps to get out of her brother’s way, which was very startling and caused everyone, including the intrepid explorer Clover, to run away in a panic. I very firmly called after them to stay off of the roof, but I don’t think they were listening.

Now we will have to put something up to stop them from being able to jump up there, because otherwise it will surely be the newest Splendid Game, and almost all the others are a good deal heavier than Clover. I don’t want anyone getting stuck because their legs punched right through the tarps. I’d also rather not have holes punched through the tarp at all, actually.

The boys have been having a lot of very enthusiastic games of King of the Hill on the dirt pile behind the barns recently, mostly at bedtime when I’m trying to get them to come in the barn. Duke always wins, of course. I’ll have to try to get pictures of Duke knocking everyone else off the “hill” like bowling pins next time it happens.