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Friday, July 4, 2014

Optical illusions and a new partnership on the farm

“Well that’s something you don’t see every day.” The Farmer was standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window at the pasture.
I craned my neck to see what he was looking at. Misty the big Belgian horse was lying on her side, her back to us. Just then her tail flipped up and something moved under it.
“Ohmigod she’s giving birth!” I yelped.
“No….go get the binoculars.” And a moment later, “that’s just Donkey.”
“Wha?” I took the binoculars from him to confirm the sighting. Yep. Donkey was lying in mirror image to Misty, right in front of her. Basically they appeared, from our vantage point, to be spooning.
“She gave birth to a Donkey,” my husband smiled, patting me on the shoulder.
Just then my horse rolled around on her back for a minute, her favourite back-scratching technique, huge dinner-plate hooves in the air, bicycling and stretching. Then she got up, shook her mane out and proceeded to graze. Donkey followed suit, a scruffy gray copycat.
Sigh. We have bred Misty twice now, with zero success. We won’t try again. She came back from her two-week conjugal visit the last time a little more world-weary, and looking a bit sad and confused. The next time she leaves the farm for any reason, it will be for training. I would still like to be able to ride her through our forest trails and meadows.
I remained at the window. “Where’s my sheep?”
Since we sold the rest of the herd early spring, Gracie my tame ewe has been going through various stages of adjustment. First she did a bit of crying and looking for the rest of her herd. Sheep hate to be alone. I kept her in a pen for a while to ensure she wouldn’t go running off into the field, a fat, fluffy snack for a coyote.
She was a bit thin after her last birthing so I left her on the lawn in front of the house to take advantage of the fresh new greens we had growing. Unattended, she decided to follow the Farmer’s truck down the road. It was, after all, the very truck that she witnessed carrying the rest of her herd away. As he gathered speed and lost her at the bend, she veered right and wandered into the woods. Now, sheep don’t like to go into the forest, but Gracie probably saw the cows, Misty and Donkey and decided she needed to find a quick way back into the barnyard. Unable to breach the fence, she headed into the bush. I was notified by the neighbours and had to spend my morning retrieving her. No easy task, rolling a fat, stubborn sheep under a wire fence.
Next, Gracie got a long, sharp piece of grass wedged between her teeth. This caused her considerable discomfort, along with the parasites that caught her before we could give her the monthly shot that keeps her clean and healthy. The tooth abscessed and she was left with an open wound on her cheek. I had to woo her with sweet feed and tackle her every day so I could treat the wound and the Farmer could inject her with penicillin. She regained her strength and became smart to my daily ritual. Soon she was much better at getting the sweet feed from me than I was at getting medicine into her. I worried that having one lonely, mischievous sheep might indeed be too much trouble for one farmwife.
Then, like a miracle, Gracie decided to team up with Donkey and Misty. Instead of standing in the barnyard, looking longingly at the pasture and pining for the herd, the fat little sheep now follows that horse and donkey everywhere. If there is a threat of any kind, she just stands behind Misty.
Which is where she was at the exact moment that I was peering out the kitchen window.
“See that rock? It’s your sheep.”
The rock suddenly lifted its head and became a sheep again. She had been mimicking the exact movements of the horse and donkey, her trusted friends.
She got up and shook out her fleece, as if to say, “are we going now? Ok, I’m ready. Let’s go.”

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