It’s a little bit different from the first Birds in Beards, mainly in that the poetry is a lot better. I used all of the best old timey poets in the public domain, so they are high quality.
If you are in my Artsy Fartsy Coloring Group on Facebook, you have already seen these previews. Also, you are amazing. Everyone in that group is amazing in one way or another. 🙂
Incidentally, this has nothing to do with that, but I’m writing this outside on my tablet in the heat with these sheep, waiting for the vet to come. He is an hour and twenty minutes late! It’s hot. They were penned up in the sun, but I thought it was too hot and I leashed them and put them under a tree with me. They are panting, nonstop. One just wiped her nose on my leg. We have to get their health clearance papers to take them to the fair.
We have so much to do around here in Spring. There are lambs being born, meat chickens to take care of, plants to start indoors and transplant, mowing, weeding, planting, end of school stuff, planning for summer stuff, 4-h events, registering for the fair, getting all of our ducks in a row for summer camps and classes for the Zanimal. Other people say, with a smile, “Wow, it’s spring!” and we who live on farms laugh nervously and say, “Yes, Wow.” But we mean wow in a different way. Add to that all, for me, a book release. It’s a bit overwhelming. So, I’m just going to jump around here a bit, ready?
Part 1: Lambing Season
We’ve got lambs! Four lambs, now. We may have four more by the end. Professor Batty came to visit between two lambs and four lambs. I’m happy to say Viola finally had her lambs! Two of them, both black, one male, one female. The morning before last, I went out to check on her, and they were just born- still gooey. She was licking them off. She seems proud of herself, as she should be.
The following day, I was going to castrate the male (in case we want to keep him- I hate the logistics of separating a male all of the time, so I just castrate them) and Zanimal was super excited for me to show her how to do it! So, I did. I used the “*teeth” method. Joking. I used the band method. She hugged the lamb and I — well, you can imagine. She hugged the girl lamb, too, and I docked her tail. Zanimal is now “Official Lamb and Sheep Hugger.” Whenever I need a sheep to hold still for me, I am to call on her, and we will do a Good Cop/ Bad Cop deal: she will hug them and I will hurt them (albeit for their own good, of course).
- Some shepherds bite off the rams’ balls with their teeth to castrate them. It’s effective. Yep. Not crazy at all.
Part 2: The Self Portrait
Speaking of the Zanimal, at the end of the year, she just brings home backpacks full of trash. Among all of the crap, I found this gem:
A self portrait, clearly. I really like a few things about it.
- It’s not symmetrical. The one thing I’ve learned from doing lots of portraits is that people are not nearly as symmetrical as I thought they were. She seems to know that instinctively.
- She didn’t show it to me. She doesn’t care about this portrait. She’s modest, maybe. I don’t know. I’m just glad she didn’t put me on the spot about it.
- It looks like her- which is an important aspect of a portrait, you have to admit.
Part 3: Summertime
So, today I was mowing and weeding and putting a tarp up for Viola and her lambs to lie under (it’s hot). And tomorrow, I’ll do more of the same. And next week, more of the same, plus the Zanimal is home from school.
Things speed up over the summer. Wisconsinites wake up one day and come out of their holes and there are parties! Parades! Beer Festivals! Art Fairs! Brats! Bands! And on and on, all summer long, and then we’ll look back and wonder where it all went? And every year, I think What the heck am I going to do with this kid all summer? Because I like her, I really do, but I feel a bit of pressure to be entertaining or educational. Creative. I’m a creative type, you know. It’s expected of me. But I also, at heart, feel that children do better when they entertain themselves. So there’s the constant, “Let’s do this fun thing! (After this list of chores.)” But also the, “Do your own thing, I’m busy!” kinds of days. And also, of course, the “Let’s go to the lake. It’s hot” kinds of days.
Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is, I may not be blogging much. We’ll see.
Part 4: The Mystery of the Runners
When we first moved here from Colorado, we lived on the Isthmus in Madison, and we noticed all of these nearly naked people running by. Just running by, all summer long. Always, they looked straight ahead and did not acknowledge that we were there. Fast people, wearing shorts and shoes or shorts and sports bra and shoes, and that was all. And we wondered where they all came from, and where were they all going? After living here a few years, I *discovered that they just wake up one morning and say, “It’s time.” They take off their clothes, put on their shoes, and they start running around the lakes. And they run all summer. They never stop running. Day and night, they run, until the nights get cold again. And then they stop. They put away their shoes. And they sleep until next summer.
Of course, there are outliers- there always are, with any group. There’s the lady who runs up Gammon, all the way to Woodman’s West, at any time of day. What is her deal? Sometimes you’ll see her on PD, too. I mean, she only runs on the busiest roads. And long distances. You can be in town all day and see her twice, seven hours apart, running, still running. So strange. Lately, she’s been carrying a cell phone and talking on it constantly while she runs.
I, too, have taken up running- indoors. On a treadmill. After injuring my ankle a few years ago during a mud run, it took a year to heal, so I am very wary of uneven terrain. Baby steps. I’m starting again on a treadmill. I listen to The Gist while I run. The Gist is the perfect time: about 27 minutes. Two miles, plus a cool down lap. A nice jog. I imagine Mike Pesca running beside me, never getting out of breath, interviewing famous people, right there in my basement. This is not strange. This is where I belong.
Part 5: Too Much Sun
Today was the day to take our borrowed ram, Fox Mulder (a.k.a. Muppet) back home to his nice owners.
- Get Fox Mulder the Sheep into a small pen, alone.
- Three hours later… Zanimal runs into the house, “Dad said Mulder is destroying the fence!” “Is he escaped?” “No… I don’t know! He just said to tell you.” I run out, and Mulder has escaped, but only to another pen, where his lady friends are hanging out with himI should have known better than to put him alone. Sheep do hate being alone.
- Figure out another fencing configuration to extract sheep Mulder. Now, it’s time for the nice sheep owners to come and help us. As we have scheduled with them.
- Drive truck out by sheep. Where are the nice sheep owners?
- Text sheep owners:
- And then BAH and I argue a lot. Decide to lasso Mulder with a tow rope.
- I lasso Mulder, but he is really big and heavy. Mulder is maybe 259 pounds. He runs around and I try to stop him. “Help!” I say as I am dragged around the little barnyard. “Help” “what?” “Help!” “What?” “HELP!” “Well, if you need help, just say help.” Bad Assed Husband is hanging on, too, now. Mulder is still definitely not under control. “HELP!”
- Mulder gets out of the lasso.
- I lasso Mulder again. Successfully. That’s me, lassoing a giant ram.
- Somehow, we get him close to the truck.
- We tie the rope to the truck. Mulder is growling. Zanimal is monitoring the fence.
- One hoof is in the truck. Mulder is growling. BAH is swearing. I am sweating.
- Two hoofs are in the truck. I’m growling. Mulder is swearing. Zanimal is sweating.
- Three hoofs… not really. Still just two. “He sounds like a horse,” says Zanimal. “I think we’re choking him,” says BAH. “BYRGOKoRgAZOYG!” I scream. I am swearing. Mulder is sweating. BAH is growling.
- Four legs in! “He’s in the truck! HE’S IN THE TRUCK!”
- Zanimal and I get into the truck cab. “What if they aren’t home.” Says BAH. “We’ll just drop him off there, at home, just leave him in their yard, regardless,” I say, and I mean it. “I’m not taking this sheep back here again.”
- Zanimal and I drive through Mount Horeb with a giant black sheep in the back of our truck. We sing the sheep song. Zanimal texts the nice sheep owners for me.
- Zanimal and I drive in the correct direction, but I don’t remember the road. “Is it U?” I ask Zanimal. “What, me?” She answers. “Where do I turn?” I ask. “Here! Turn here! I recognize that building. Do I stink?” “What?” “You said, ‘Is it you?’ And then you touched your nose.” “No, no! The road we’re on! It’s County Highway U!” “Oh! I thought I stank!”
- We get there. It is U! They are home!
- They tell us to drop off Mulder the Ram in their front yard, and he’ll find his way to the other sheep on his own. This was actually my joking plan for if they weren’t home. I’m quite surprised that this is actually the real plan for when they are home.
- We open the back door of the cage in the truck. Mulder jumps out. Mulder says, “where are my beautiful lady sheep friends?” (He says it in sheep. I’m translating, here.) The sheep around back say, “Over here, my love!” (In sheep, again.) Mulder wanders around back.
- A huge gap has been opened in the fence for Mulder to walk through. Mulder sees his lady friends peaking around the corner of the barn and says, “I’m going to show off a bit,” (but he says it in Sheep, of course) and then (surprise!) he jumps over the closed part of the fence and joins his lady friends.
- Zanimal and I drive off into the sunset. Our job here is done.
This is not a post for vegetarians.
We took a few rams to the butcher on Tuesday. (Tuesday is their “exotic animal”day— but I disagree that sheep are exotic.) Zanimal (formerly Big Z, and before that Little Z) said we shouldn’t tell them where we were going. “Just tell them they’re going to Spanish lessons!” She said. So, we did. And now “Spanish lessons” will forever be a euphemism for “getting butchered” in our house.
After we dropped them off, I went home and cleaned out the freezer to make room for lamb meat. There were dozens of chicken feet in the freezer, which I had heard once were edible, but I decided that really, I’m not eating a chicken foot unless I’m starving to death! So I threw all of the chicken feet into the trash, and then there was plenty of room for lamb.
Then, I went back to the butcher and picked up the pelts from the sheep. We usually cure them, have them tanned, and make beautiful sheepskin throws out of them. As I was stretching them to dry them out, I noticed something really weird. Whoever butchered them had left the bony front legs on the pelts, and the hoofs. I prefer my blankets to be hoof and bone free, so I cut off the bony, furry lamb legs, hoofs and all. I threw the sheep legs and feet into the trash with all of the chicken feet.
And then I thought, man, do I have some funky weird trash.
How many feet are in your trash?
Mulder isn’t really our sheep. Some kind friends have loaned him to us, so that he might get it on with our lady sheep and make more black sheep with great wool! My idea is to eventually make felted top hats with the black wool from all of the sweet little black lambs.
This is the second time they have pimped him out to us. The first time, they couldn’t quite remember his name when we picked him up. We thought that tuft of hair on top of his head made him look like a giant muppet, so we named him “Muppet.” Then his family companionators called a couple of days later and said they remembered his name was “Mulder.” By that time, we were already having lengthy conversations with “Muppet,” so the name stuck. I guess Muppet is his street name, for when he’s gigoloing.
Mulder enjoys his work. He’s enthusiastic. The lady sheep sometimes look as if they wish he weren’t quite so eager. But they like him better this time than last year, I think. At least they aren’t running away this time. They huddle together and cautiously peer at him from a safe distance. Give them a few days, though, and they’ll like him a lot (if last year was any indication).
He’s a gentler breed than our Jacobs, and also (as you can see) hornless. This makes for an interesting aesthetic: all of the females have big horns, and the male has no horns. Muppet is completely comfortable with his masculinity, and he doesn’t worry about that sort of thing.
Last year’s lambs are a nice bunch, small and black, but all except one are male. We’re hoping for more ewes this year.
P.S. Thank you, Mo and Ned, for loaning us Mulder. He’s great.
Cloudy Wether likes to get my attention by ramming me in the butt when I’m not looking. Now, I have installed an early warning system:
I never knew it before: Cow bells are really loud! I hear Cloudy now, wherever he is.
Cloudy is such a jerk. He just rams everyone.
Cloudy was a bottle lamb. He grew up with us feeding him, and he looks at people as his peers. And what do rams do with their peers? Well, they ram them.
I don’t know what to do with Cloudy. He has great wool, but if you want to go anywhere near him, you have to carry a big stick and poke him with it whenever he looks too excited. He’s actually pretty easy to control. It’s just this idea that we have an animal who charges at us at every opportunity that is a bit bizarre. It’s like staying in an abusive relationship. I currently have a giant bruise on my leg, because I forgot about carrying the big stick the other day, and he rammed me. I scolded him. I don’t think he really understood.
We could butcher him and eat him. Except, you know, he’s our baby Cloudy.
When he was a baby lamb, his mom rejected him. He was so pathetic and sad. He had one ear that wouldn’t stand up. It just flopped over. We thought we still might eat him someday, him being a ram, so we called him, “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” Then I castrated him, and we changed his name to “Cloudy Wether.” So, you see, we are a bit attached to him. So we keep him in a separate area from the more gentle sheep, and we can admire his massive horns from afar.
Every day, I go out and count the sheep, making sure no one got eaten in the night. I look them over and see how they’re doing. An easy way to tell they are all right is to drive a little farm vehicle beside the pasture, and if they all run after it- well, they’re probably doing okay. I took a movie of this yesterday on my tablet. Then I edited it in the youtube editing feature, which I had never used before. You can tell. I got a little carried away. I hope you find this amusing, anyway.
This is the Cutest Sheep in the Universe, Mimi. Mimi is a pure bred Jacob Sheep. She is one of Yoshimi’s spring lamb twins from 2015. (The other is called Yoshi.)
Mimi’s horns go straight out and curve down in front of her face- not a common sight. I wonder what the world looks like to Mimi? Is it like having giant stripes of cataracts in your eyes? When she was first growing the horns, I was afraid they would go out so far that she wouldn’t be able to graze (because the horns would touch the ground before her mouth did). Luckily, that did not happen.
Mimi has the most amazingly thick eyelashes. She’s like a camel. She could be a mascara model, for sheep make-up, if that’s ever a thing. (There are sheep shows. It could happen!)
Mimi’s personality is somewhat shy and sweet, like most sheep. The only time I have ever seen her upset is when her mama, Yoshimi, had triplets this past spring. Then she tried to chase the new lambs away, and I had to put Mimi in a separate pasture. It’s not easy when you get three siblings in one day. I felt for her.
Graze on, Mimi. Graze on.
I don’t want to sound all judgy or anything, but these sheep could have worn something a little less racist looking to go to the Dane County Fair last summer.
These sheep were our neighbors (our sheep were in a pen next to them). Their people were really nice people. Am I weird to think these sheep look like they belong in the KKK?
P.S. Update: Yes, they do also look like WW1 flight suits. Bad Ass Husband agrees, too. Okay. I am crazy, then.