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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Buck-naked Belgians and Lucky Lambs

Ashley is a nudist. She loves nothing better than to doff her halter and run naked, tossing her hair. Good thing Ashley is a horse.
Sometimes it takes us a while to notice that our Belgian mare is, once again, naked. She comes sidling up, shaking her mane as if to say, “notice anything different about me?”
“Well, now, I don’t know, girl. Have you done something different with your hair? No…that’s not it…do you have any new bug bites? No? Are you in heat again? Aha! Your halter is gone! That’s just great…”
The halter is obviously a bit too large for Ashley. She can pull it off her head without much difficulty. This usually occurs while she is scratching her ears on an old piece of farm equipment or nibbling sweet green leaves off one of the highest branches she can reach. The halter gets caught up and after a few tugs, it is off. Sometimes the farm implement has been dragged halfway across the pasture in the process, but it does the trick.
Sometimes we get lucky and find the halter after a quick retracing of horsey steps around the barnyard. We know their usual hangouts. They like to lick trace minerals off the sides of the rusty manure wagon (ick – I know), they hang out in the shady cool of the big barn on a hot summer day, and they scratch their dry, bug-bitten hides on the antique tractor skeleton in the yard. I tried looking in all of these places this morning, and could not find the bright blue halter that was once on my Belgian.
The horses have been spending an increasing amount of time down in the meadow these past few days, as the early morning mist is quite refreshing. I suspect the halter is lying down there, in the row of trees at the pasture’s edge. It’s going to take me a while to find it.
On the other side of the barn, I have thirteen lambs, each around seven months of age. They share a pasture with the cows, because I don’t want them in the same area as the rams. We have recently opened the gate to allow them into the second field, because they had given the front field quite a close shave and needed access to more feed.
The problem with this scenario is that they cannot seem to find their way back to the barn at night.
I am often summoned from the house by that telltale bleating that sounds like someone singing “M-om! I’m stu-uck!” Honestly. It’s a very distinctive sound.
A few days ago I went out to find the source of the call and discovered that five sheep had made it to the second field and five more had climbed the stone wall inside the fence, trying to find a way over to join their herd mates. I played the pied piper, beckoning the little ones back down the field to the gate and around the corner to meet their friends. Once reunited, the lucky 13 bounded off together to find a corner of the barn to snuggle in before dark.
The next day, I went out to the yard just as the sun was coming up, to feed the dogs and cats. Again there was a funny little “ba-ah” song coming from the corner of the barnyard. This time two little lambs had squeezed through the gate to join their elders in the main barnyard. The other 11 were lying up against the fence. Obviously they hadn’t found their way back up to the barn the night before, and spent the night huddled together against the tree. I felt bad. I had been enjoying dinner with my hubby and a friend who was visiting from out of town, instead of checking on my lambs. What kind of shepherdess forgets to check her lambs? Now they would have to be led back to the barn for water. Clearly they couldn’t find the way on their own.
As I trudged through the muddy barnyard back to the house, I saw the mist on the pasture lifting to reveal the Belgians. They were standing shoulder to shoulder, staring in the same direction. I followed their gaze and saw a coyote running along the fence.
I went back to count my lambs. Phew. Lucky 13.



Shirley said...

Hello Diane,

My sister lives in Carleton Place and she forwarded your column to me. May I use your article about the Buck-naked Belgians? My monthly nature journal called, Feathers 'n Petals, is a non profit venture I began five years ago. All articles are contributed by our readers.Is there a photo of your Belgians and the lambs? Love your column. Contact me at

Shirley said...

Hello Diane, Hoping to hear from you soon.