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Friday, November 18, 2011

Philip, Gretel and the twins

We have a new addition to the Fisher farm. The Farmer brought a Suffolk ram home in the back of his truck last week. As he put the tailgate down and the ram hopped out onto the grass, I asked my husband what we should call our new sheep. Funny how this is always my first thought but it doesn’t occur to the Farmer that the animal needs a name.
“Uh, let’s see. He has floppy ears,” the Farmer replied. Well we couldn’t call him Floppy. That would just give the poor ram a complex. So I named him Philip.
We put Philip in the horse stall for now, after installing additional barriers so he couldn’t hop out over the feeders to freedom. The first night all he did was bawl until he was hoarse. We should have thought ahead. Sheep hate to be alone. The next morning we found a nice little ewe to keep him company. There might be a lamb or two born ahead of season in February–March.
Philip is very tame. He likes to have his nose rubbed and he comes right over to the side of the stall to be petted. I brought him a handful of sweet feed this morning to reward him for his good behaviour. He will have to stay in his stall until December, when he will be released to breed the females. We can’t put him in the barn with Rambo, or they might start fighting in the aisles. Love is in the air this time of year. The animals can smell that strange perfume and it makes them a little crazy.
Speaking of the ewes, we found the ringleader who was encouraging the herd to go running down the road on a daily basis. Gretel was easy to spot, as she had burrs all over her head from crawling under fences. She’s also extremely loud, with a voice that sounds suspiciously like my old enemy, the lamb squasher. I should get the book out and compare ear tag numbers. Anyway, she is currently serving as a companion to Rambo, who doesn’t really mind being alone but certainly prefers to have the company of a female if possible. And just like that, he doesn’t seem to stink anymore. It’s as though he has stopped applying that awful ewe-attracting cologne, because it worked. He caught one. There might be another lamb or two born in February–March.
I know I said I wasn’t going to write about my cats anymore but I feel this is the end of an era. I have no more tiny kittens in my basement. Since April, I have adopted out no less than 43 kittens after stealing them from ten female barn cats. Sheila, our barn cat-turned-house cat, was a real trooper. Not only did she nurse her own four kittens but she also nursed kittens from two other litters that I had stolen and brought into the house to tame. As I adopted them out one-by-one and sometimes two-by-two, Sheila would sit at my feet and let out this litany of complaints. I think it went something like, “you bring these cats in here, force me to feed them when they don’t even smell like mine, then just as I start to get used to them you take them away.” I learned to let her smell each kitten just as it was being packed up and shipped out. That seemed to work, and she no longer spent the evening calling and checking under furniture for her missing charges. And now it’s just Sheila and Shamus, a 6-month-old male (has had all shots and is fixed if you want him let me know!) in the house. They have similar markings and are probably siblings from two separate seasons. I call them the twins. With all the babies gone now, the twins spend their days lying on the sheepskin covered window seat in the sunroom. I think Sheila misses the kittens though. She has carried three stuffed animals upstairs, and is currently lying next to them on the rug.

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