Monday, July 30, 2012

Rules for Rams

My first Icelandic ram was a movie star ram.  Churchill would have been famous if he had made it to Hollywood.  He would have been more popular than Lassie Come Home.

His behavior was astounding, especially during breeding season.  I had him in a corral with a tall physical fence of field wire and metal T posts, then a dead space, then another physical fence with another dead space; and around all of this was electric netting that was charged all the time, at 6,000 volts.  Most of the time, Churchill took out his energy on Rainier, one of his sons, who was penned with him.  But his patience was thin and he finally calmly walked up to the first fence, clamped his teeth on the metal clip that supports the field fence on the metal T posts, snapped off the clip.  He proceeded methodically down the T post.  Clamp teeth, snap off clip, and so on until he decided he had gone far enough.  It was a cinch for him to pull down the wire after it was loosened from the clips.  And so he stepped over the wire and walked purposely toward the next physical fence.  He did the same to this.  In a matter of minutes he had gone over the second fence, and then he tackled the electric fence.

To a real sheep like Churchill, a 6,000 volt charge was nothing.  He kept his eyes on the prize.  I had barricaded the ewes in a pen near the house.  Unfortunately, Churchill used his horns to tear out a hole in the back, just large enough for him to daintily step in and wreck my breeding program.

He was a gorgeous ram with a deep moor it fleece and his lambs were also beautiful.  His disposition was sweet toward people.  When I went out in the early morning to feed them before I, myself,  had breakfasted, or washed, or brushed my teeth, Churchill was all kisses when I showed up with flakes of alfalfa hay.  I certainly didn't have to dress for daddy.

Since then,  I have had a number of rams.  But now I have rules.  They must have gorgeous fleeces, have sweet tempers, never charge me, have a minimal impact on fencing, and not break into my orchard or rose garden.

And if I get one that breaks the rules?

Let's hope he's penetent.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Lamb in the House

Bummer Lamb learns how to get out of his box before he learns to et his nourishment from sucking on a Pritchard nipple.  He was too weak to stand up to nurse his mother and was in danger of drowning in the rain and dying from hypothermia; and so all the emergency lamb survival equipment was dug out of the drawers and a lamb milk replacer was purchased at the feed store.

He was wrapped up in towels in the newly remodeled kitchen, which was soon to undergo more changes due to the most exhausting examinations of a curious lamb.  He was so much like a puppy, soon exploring the insides of cabinets, pulling cans off the shelves, and, of course, puddling.

He had a terrible case of scours.  I took him to the vet and gave him something sure to cure him but didn't.  This diarrhea was so noxious and sticky; it was  like cement once it dried.  I had to keep prying it off.  I learned that if I did not monitor this stuff, the lamb would be in danger of dying due to "pinning," which meant that it would block his anus and he would be unable to poop.

I tried giving him Pepto Bismo but this did not work well either.  Finally I tried cutting his formula in half and adding a half dose of electrolytes.  This worked.  What a relief that was for me and for the lamb.

However, once Bummer learned to investigate the kitchen, he wifely learned to investigate all the other rooms of the house, puddling as he went.  He quickly developed a taste for literature, tossing books and manuscripts helter skelter and moving on to the computer cables, the telephone lines, and my knitting.  All had to be removed from lamb level.

He greeted visitors at the door and checked them out.  He was not shy.  He did detest the vacuum cleaner and hid out in the closet in the bathroom when I turned it on.

I had to barricade the stairs to my bedroom because he wanted to be near me all the time, puddling wherever he went, and I needed to minimize the housework

He graduated from sleeping in a box to sleeping on the carpet under the computer.  The home office soon became his headquarters.  This was becoming difficult because I did not want my home to be a barn.  But still the weather raged and refused to settle into a warm calm and I was reluctant to make him sleep outside.  I knew the other sheep would reject him as well.

But the day came when he had to move out onto the deck with the dogs.  When he realized  he could not come inside, he was terrified and ran around the house in circles.  Then he settled down with the dogs and watched the kitchen door.  He curled up with Moses, the St. Bernard x Great Pyrenees and hung out with both of the guardian dogs.  They watched over him; and so I did not worry  about raccoons swooping down to carry him off.  He stayed warm and dry.

He learned to nibble on green things instead of chewing on everything plastic, though he did not care for alfalfa hay for a long time.  He liked to eat the ram and ewe pellets I put out.  He tackled a fern leaf now and then.  But he especially liked roses.  He found the path to the blueberry bushes, the strawberries, and the fruit tree orchard.

And I still could not bear to put him into the jail of a corral.  I watched the plants disappearing and wonders if the sheep WOULD, maybe, accept him but knew they would not when he did accidentally wander into a mothering-on pen with an ewe and her newborn lamb.

I so enjoyed his companionship while I walked around and did chores.  But I did get tired of having to sweep the deck several times a day.  And I wanted the roses to bloom.  I wanted to smell the fragrance of the Butterfly Bushes that had been pruned quite enough.  So I did the right thing and put him in a pasture where Marissa and her twins are, separate from the rest of the flock.

Marissa does not accept Bummer most of the time but he has made friends with one of the twins.  They are younger than he is but they are larger.  Bummer is deformed, looking like a bull dog, with his front legs bowed, squatting forward like a bull dog, and he pees from his belly button instead of the usual way.  The vet said that the bowed legs are a birth defect and the urinary problem happened when the umbilical cord separated improperly.  His mother, a grey badger face Icelandic ewe named Ma Joie, is 13 and has never had a lamb.  She probably should never have become a mother and did not know what she was doing.

But Bummer is running around, relatively happy, feisty, and learning to be a sheep.   His identity problems seem to be correcting themselves.  He may have wondered for a while if he were a dog or why his momma is on the other side of the fence but he seems to be adjusting.  He still comes to me when I call him and he is still insatiably curious about his environment.

I still have to keep rescuing him from his curiosity, as he investigates a tiny space that leads to a larger pasture and then he can't figure out how to get back to the smaller one where the real food is.  But now he has a partner in crime: one of Marissa's twins, the smaller one.

He is black and she is white.  I look forward to knitting with their wonderful wool.  And at least they are still easy to find.