Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sheep Riding -- I Don't Recommend It

I met a woman who was looking for baling twine for a large project she's working on. I told her I had lots and lots (and lots) of baling twine, and she was welcome to it. So she and her son visited today.

The sheep kept up a lively conversation with us while we were bagging the twine. When we finished, I asked if my visitors would like to go in with the sheep and meet them. They said sure.

As I was unchaining the gate (yes, there is both a latch and a chain -- sneaky sheep), I glanced away to tell my dog, Logan, to stay. At the same time, Gimli, one of the rams, pushed against the gate, apparently thinking I was going to let the sheep out to graze.

That's when things got really interesting. Logan charged towards Gimli. Gimli lunged for freedom. I tried to block the ram and shut the gate. Gimli rushed forward, somehow ending up between by legs. Considering the ram is tall and wide, I ended up straddling him, backwards, with my feet not touching the ground and him heading off to graze.

Now, Gimli's a gentle ram, but with Logan in the picture, things could have got pretty scary if he decided to chase the sheep. I managed to slip to one side and roll off of him. Unfortunately, I landed at the edge of a pile of scrap fencing. Luckily, I only scraped one elbow on the wires, although I think I may be a bit sore tomorrow. Falling off of a moving sheep onto hard ground isn't the most comfortable thing to do.

My visitors managed to shut the gate before any other sheep escaped. By the time I got to my feet and got hold of Logan, who thought the entire event was terribly exciting and was eager to play some more, Gimli had returned to the gate. I opened it; he trotted in. I pushed Logan away and latched and chained the gate.

Do I offer guests adventure or what? My visitors felt bad about what happened. I told them it wasn't their fault. Logan was to blame, with a sizable contribution from Gimli.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Return Trip

A few weeks ago I sold one of the lambs, Midnight, to a friend, Pam, in Chino Valley, a town about 30 miles from Wilhoit. Pam has a Shetland sheep and a few goats, so Midnight had ready-made companions.

At first, Midnight seemed to be doing alright. But after a few days, Pam emailed me, concerned that the lamb seemed depressed. We exchanged information and ideas and agreed to keep in touch. By the end of the week, though, Pam and her husband were really worried. Midnight was barely eating, and she was spending most of her time laying by herself near the barn. They asked if they could bring her back to Wilhoit. We agreed we needed to do what was best for her health-- that they return her and I refund their money. We just hoped that she would recover once she got here.

So nine days after she left, Midnight came home. She started grazing the minute she exited their van. My other sheep were in the sheep enclosure, munching on hay. I opened the gate, Midnight entered, ran straight for the hay, and started eating.

She and her mother, Sierra, didn't even exchange glances. We, the spectators, had hoped for a movie reunion moment and were disappointed by their lackadaisical attitude, but at least Midnight was eating!

After awhile, the sheep sauntered over to say hello and get petted. At that point, Sierra and Midnight did acknowledge each other, with Sierra smelling the lamb and a metaphorical light bulb going off over her head. Midnight tried to nurse, but Sierra kicked her away, basically saying, "You're weaned. What do you think you're doing?"

Happily, Midnight has eaten and behaved normally since she's been home. She enthusiastically kicks up her heels when I throw hay over the fence, and when I open the gate, she joyously rushes out to graze with the rest of the flock. She hangs out with her mother and the other lambs and acts like she never left.

I've sold quite a few sheep over the years. I've never had one not adjust to their new environment. It was odd. But, you know, sheep are people, too, and every one is different.

Midnight, back at home

Sierra and her daughter, Midnight

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Save the Cottonwoods

The grass is growing, and I want the sheep to graze the larger property. However, I have some young cottonwood trees coming up that I want to save from hungry, cottonwood-loving sheep.

I decided to fence off the trees with some plastic garden fence I already had. I drove in a few T-posts and attached the fence with cable ties. It wasn't a strong physical barrier, but I hoped it would act as a visual deterrent.

It worked at first.

However, less than two weeks after I erected the fence, the wind blew down a medium-sized dead cottonwood tree, which took out part of the fence. I removed the dead tree and repaired the fence.

Today I let the sheep out to graze and turned around to see Gimli, one of the rams, had broken through the fence and was happily snacking on young cottonwood leaves. I ran over and tried to push him away. He didn't budge. I took hold of the torn end of the plastic fencing and tried to use it to force him away from the young tree. He surged forward, and his head went right through the plastic mesh. Now there's a large hole the size of Gimli's head in the fence.

After extracting him from the mesh (he didn't seem to notice it), I started shoving him, trying to get him away from the trees. I felt like Harry and Hermione when they tried to get Hagrid to leave the centaurs after showing the two of them Grawp. Gimli didn't seem to notice me any more than Hagrid did Harry and Hermione. However, after several attempts, I finally got the ram to turn around and start munching grass instead of leaves.

I'm glad my sheep like me and aren't afraid of me, especially the rams. But their trust can be a drawback when I want them to do something that they're resisting. They ignore my efforts to shift them and basically look as if they're saying, "Huh? Did you want something? I'm eating, you know."