Wednesday, February 25, 2009


This has been a month of interruptions. I suppose living on a farm is all about interruptions. How does the Little Boy Blue nursery rhyme go?

Little Boy Blue come blow your horn
The sheep are in the meadow, the cows in the corn...

Now let's substitute the rhyme with our own,

Scottie and Annie don't make any plans
The horses are on the lawn, the ewes just had two lambs....

It seems little boy blue was not minding his sheep very well when he took a nap under the haystack (Where is the little boy that looks after the sheep? Under the haystack fast asleep.) It could be said there are some parallels for not keeping track of the randy little ram lamb last summer or the open gate to the road last week. Hmmm, does farming make us simple or is this simply farming?

The above "interruptions" luckily didn't happen on the same day, not even in the same couple of days...but they could have. I shudder to think! The horse and donkey escape coincided with a gate to the road I forgot had blown open with the wind. We rotate pasture on our farm so the grass is not over-grazed. This particular day I decided to let the equines onto the yard in front of the barn. We have fencing around part of our house and there is a creek that is hard to cross so there is no way the horses can get "out" without exiting the main gate to the road. I consider this gate my last line of defense, but it does no good if it is left open!

Imagine my surprise to hear Annie calling me from my office at the back of the house. Did I realize the horses were on the front lawn?! We both grabbed boots and jackets and ran outside. Now the question became, how to get these animals back into a pasture when the grass was so much more lush and green right where they were? Taking them all back via the main road seemed like a bad idea, but the gate to the orchard might prove tantalizing. Or not.

Annie grabbed Tater by the mane and he just ripped larger mouthfuls of grass. Moralecia had no intention of moving either. I looked around for something to lead with. There was one sorry looking piece of baling twine hanging in the carport which I quickly wrapped around Moralecia's neck and then instructed her to get her fat head out of the weeds and come with me. Reluctantly she complied - not fully understanding I had little control with my piece of twine.

At this point, Tater decided to become a rodeo horse and took off slipping and sliding up past the greenhouse, around it, ducking under the rose arbor, digging his hooves into the wet grass, looking at the open gate and Moralecia, and then taking off again. Chaco decided it best to follow his mare and trotted after us. The donkey ignored everyone and kept on eating.

Ultimately, the one that gave us the most trouble was the donkey! He refused to be herded with the rest, refused to go through the gate to the orchard, and ran back and forth behind our house with Annie, me and the dogs jumping up and down. After he had had his fun and run through my flower beds several times (why can't the animals tell these beds are special compared to the grass!), he gave up and cantered in his donkey way down to the horses.

We would have been done with this silliness except, when we put horses and donkey back in the main pasture, I didn't realize another gate was open leading to the barnyard and thus to the road... We went through the entire dance a second time later in the day. What is the saying: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!"?

Our lambing 'interruption' happened about a week before the horse escape. Annie discovered, as she was racing through morning feeding to be off to her genetics exam at her school 45 minutes away, there was a new lamb in the loafing shed. Wait, it's not April. How could we have lambs? Mom breeds for spring lambs. Spring - the natural time for babies - warmer temps, longer days, better grass, happier shepherdesses (this would have included Annie).

Except this morning there was a new lamb in the loafing shed that needed to be caught (hard to stay 'school' clean while doing this) and sequestered with its mom in a stall in the barn (no fresh straw down yet, and, where's the heat lamp?!). Great, all this an exam too!

Unfortunately for Annie, she had just decided to compile a genetic study of our sheep (applied education!) so we could cull for preferred traits. Now she had a problem. Obviously Red couldn't be the father of this lamb because it hadn't been five months since he was introduced to the flock. He also couldn't be the father of the lamb born the next day either!

Annie's plan for a decisive breeding study had just gone awry. As they say, but not usually on the farm, the question now became, "Who's your daddy?!!!" Annie looked at me with her brows furrowed. "Remember, mom, when I told you you better separate those randy little lambs from their moms before they hit sexual maturity? Remember last August when I thought you were late? Well, guess what ?..." The problem: we don't know whether our new daddy is a full Katahdin or a Katahdin-cross, nor how closely related he is with the ewes (as in "mommy" or "auntie"). As they also say, "Eeeew....."

Life is back to normal today. It's been raining buckets and the lambs are almost a weeks old and hopping all over the place. The horses are bored and the donkey wants to be brushed, when he is not being a brat and running away. We expect lambing 'interruptions' in a month, and, for now, we are simply farming and hoping we don't become simple in the process!

Photos: (top)#101 asleep on the hay; (bottom) Paco the donkey looking cute, but uncatchable

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Portrait for Rosie

When I unwrapped the painting at Christmas I knew immediately it was a portrait of Rosie. What other sheep could it be! Greg's comment was pointed. If I could now identify our sheep by name, and in their own portraits, I had been on the farm too long.

Actually, the painting was a wonderful gift from my mother. She had seen it at an art show in Vermont, 3000 miles away, and immediately thought of me. See how that goes? I have been transformed in the minds of family and friends from urbanite to farmer in no more than six years. Guests to our house can now expect to see our Judy Dater and Mark Klett photographs, and our large George Segal print, intermixed with a portrait of a sheep! I might call this our rural eclectic period. I have also added a print of a large tree just for good measure!

To think an artist took the time to paint her sheep is rather endearing. In fact, this painting is not intended to be a portrait of Rosie but rather another favorite ewe named Stella, most probably a resident on painter Caryn King's Vermont farm. See, there are others out there who name their sheep! Where I write stories about our farm animals, Caryn paints the personalities with a liveliness that makes others say, "My, that is Rosie...or Lily, or Lammie, or whomever". Her sheep come alive as they peer through fence rails or face the viewer straight on. Caryn also paints pigs and chickens and rabbits, even posters for the Martha's Vineyard Agricultural Fair, a fair I attended 40 years ago as a kid with my spotted pony Perky. Small world or what!

Why would anyone paint or write about their sheep? There is this odd thing that happens, I suspect mostly with small-scale sheep owners. When lambing season is upon us (usually springtime when the first daffodils are blooming), the barn and pastures become playgrounds for bouncing, playful babies. It's hard not to think lambs are the cutest things on earth. They jump spontaneously in the air. They have small pink noses and long legs. They are soft and wooly.

Certain lambs sometimes stand out. They have more personality, a bold way of being around humans that gives them license to be special. Rosie had this boldness as a lamb. She had freckles on her nose and none of the wildness some of our other lambs exhibited. Ruled by her stomach, Rosie let me hold her as a demonstration sheep for our guests and didn't mind if the dogs ran and played around her as long as she could be in the barn for exta hand-outs.

Then she grew up! Now at 150 lbs. she can no longer be described as "cute" when she pushes past me heading through the barn door looking for extra feed. Rosie is a bit of a sneak here. She has figured out how to slide the door just wide enough to squeeze through when I am down closing the paddock gates. Getting her back out of the barn is always a game between the dogs and Rosie and me. They bark and run around. Rosie darts from bale to bale grabbing mouthfuls of hay. And I yell at all of them at once.

The portrait of Lola shows an intelligent, kind face. The photo of Rosie shows something similar with a little added curiosity (the tipped head). Don't be fooled. These girls look best as pictures on the wall, their inner-lambness long gone but captured in a pose.

Photo: (top) Rosie's portrait; (bottom) Rosie as a yearling lamb

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2009 Scottie Jones

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