Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Fuzziest Sheep That Ever There Was, and a Very Good Dog

I am currently in possession of the fuzziest, wooliest sheep that ever existed. Okay, probably not, but he's certainly up there! His name is Rasta-Bob, and here's his story:

In spring 2006, I sold two weaned wether lambs to some folks who had an old orchard/pasture that needed to be mowed. The whole thing was fenced, and they had planned on feeding the lambs some so that they'd be ready for the freezer in the fall. Since these folks had no dog, and really very little sheep experience, I sold them the b
ottle lamb and the runt. The bottle lamb, Bruiser, was a huge honkin' North Country Cheviot cross who was dumb as a box of rocks (even by sheep standards), but acted like a dog as most bottle lambs do. The runt was a Romney x Coopworth whose mother decided producing milk was not on her agenda (she's long since been sent to the freezer). Turns out, the sheep became more pets than food, so they hung around for a year until these folks moved to a less-well-fenced place. Bruiser and R13 (he was still unnamed save for his ear tag number) took to wandering down the road and causing trouble. They were large and woolly beasts- their owners apparently not having followed up with any of the shearing contacts I'd given them. After a number of complaints from neighbors about the marauding sheep, one of whom had no qualms about climbing on porches, etc, the boys were sent down the road.

This second owner is, well, less than respectable. I have no idea what his fences are like, but they must not be good, because in short order, Bruiser and R13 showed up in a friend of mine's yard. He chased them away, not being so thrilled about the sheep turds everywhere, and eventually, the terrible twosome ended up being shooed into the pasture across the road by a nice driver who probably nearly had a heart attack when two large, woolly blobs darted into the road in front of him.

Then it snowed. And snowed. And it stuck, which doesn't happen very often here. Bruiser, who'd always been a little off, died in the snow and was rapidly eaten by our healthy population of Bald Eagles. Poor R13 hung around his buddy's dwindling remains and won the sympathy of the friend who's yard he'd fouled, and said friend's girlfriend. Being kind-hearted folks, they started hauling some hay and mushy apples to the sheep, who they christened Rasta-Bob due to his now enormously woolly, dreadlocked bulk. It didn't take long before the fairly neglected horses sharing the pasture figured out what was goi
ng on, and they chased Bob away from the feed, and rather put him off people.

So my friend asks if I'd come wrangle the poor sheep, since his neglectful second owner could care less that his sheep (plural) are loose and now sheep (singular). Last Monday, I took some pen panels, and Nick, the Border Collie, and went down to see about nabbing the varmint. We managed to get him in a paddock by himself, through a series of very "interesting" gates whereupon Bob promptly smashed a mostly-broken fence and took off into another pasture. Fine, I think, I have The Dog. So out comes Nick. Now, Nick is
fantastically well bred for stock work, he has a ton of instinct, but he's young-ish and pushy and I'm not the best stock dog trainer in the world. It is also Very Hard to work one single sheep. Apparently, all the work I've done building Nick's confidence and taking inside flanks (flank= move around the sheep, for all you non stock-dog folks. Inside flank= flank between the handler and the sheep) has actually worked, because my little brown dog took every direction I gave him and pinned that sheep in a corner so I could knock him down.

In any case, my friend & I heaved an incredibly heavy sheep into the back of my truck, and Rasta-Bob is now residing in my barn awaiting shearing so I can figure out how fat he really is. His wool is more than a foot long. It's so thick, I can't feel his body to see how much of a fat pad he has. If Bob is actually fat under all that fluff, he'll be sausage soon; if he's skinny, he'll get wormed before going out to graze with the flock until spring, when he'll get butchered with the lambs. Yeah, I know. He's a Sheep With a Story. But he's a wether. He's useless to me except for in the freezer. Besides, you can never have enough ground lamb (ground mutton really), and he'll tasts awfully good.

The really great thing about this story is that since Nick proved himself capable of working one sheep, he's been helping me with the ewes who are lambing at an alarming rate. It snowed here last night (global warming?! I don't think so!), and one of my first-time lambers was having no part of following me-holding-her-lambs into the shed, so I grabbed Nick, and in no time, he'd put the ewe in a pen in the shed where she happily spent an otherwise cold, gross night indoors with her lamblets (lovely twin ewes, by the way). The more I work this dog, the more I realize just how lucky I am to have him. And he's a sweet, happy dog to boot!

I suppose you'd like a Pip update, too, even though this has gotten rather long.

Pip is doing wonderfully! She's doubled in size (8 Lbs!), and she motors around like a little wind-up toy, her legs still being a bit funky. She is, however, officially a Bottle Lamb, as her mother started butting her away the second night I had them in. Oh well, I haven't had a bottle lamb in two years, I was due. Scott is smitten with Pip, and is generally willing to do her noon feeding, which makes my life easier. I hate bottle lambs, but it is disgustingly cute to see the man I love snuggling with one!

Here, for your enjoyment, is Pip. And a very bad picture of me feeding her:


  1. Hi Ben, Pip is adorable! And those kumquats sound interesting. Im going to have to see if I can find them some where around here.

  2. What a cute Pip-let! And what a connoisseur of chocolate you are ... it takes one to know one ;c)