Archive for the ‘Sheep’ Category

Le Morte d’Sheldon

I have sad news. We slaughtered Sheldon. He had become violent and was a danger to everyone he came into contact with. With startling unpredictability, he would decide to ram people, often as hard and as fast as he could. We lived in fear that he would get out and go after a well-meaning neighbor or a child. One hit from him, an animal who runs into trees at full speed for fun, would shatter any adult’s leg and would have killed a child. I’m not sure if he would have gone after a child but he certainly went after adults. Despite that, it wasn’t an easy decision. He was more or less, a pet.

We did it in the most humane way possible. I wasn’t present for his death however, being practical, we did not waste any of his carcass. Every thing will be food for humans or dogs. Too macabre? Welcome to my life. Raising livestock is not for wussies. I’m kind of a wussy.

The most tragic part of this tale is we are the horrible warning. This didn’t have to happen. As it turns out, bottle fed rams, which are not raised in herds, become aggressive. They lose the concept of predator and prey. The treat humans like members of the herd and being egotistical males, they know that all of the herd is there to serve their needs. All the petting, all the hand-feeding, all the early games of matador between Chaos and Sheldon only reinforced the behavior.

Might we try sheep again in the future? Absolutely. Next time, I’m buying from a good breeder who understands what we want to do and sells us an appropriate animal. (To be honest, I think the person I bought him from found out that he was most likely going to become aggressive and sold him for that reason.) Next time, I’m not letting the livestock in the house. No good comes of it. Ever. You would think I would know that but sometimes, I have to make mistakes to learn. Sadly, for Sheldon, he was the victim of my mistake.

Freedom!

Imagine yourself laying in bed. Cozy. Sleeping. Enjoying the last good dream the morning has to offer. Now imagine yourself being ripped from those dreams by your neighbors doing construction at 5:30am. Bang, bang, bang. Their contractor sounds like he’s right in your basement. Except it’s not your neighbors and there’s no contractor. There’s just a sheep and he is, in fact, in the basement. He doesn’t care about you, or your neighbors. He’s just doing what a sheep does best. Ram the walls. Or fence. Or hot tub. Now you know where the word comes from but that doesn’t answer the age old question: which came first, the noun or the verb?

We had enough of the pounding every morning. I would wake up cranky and Dave, in a desperate attempt to thwart that, would gallantly spring from the bed to feed the sheep in hopes, that food may distract him. It rarely worked. Sheldon was still loud and I was still cranky. Combined with Sheldon’s growing aggression, we decided we could no longer keep Sheldon in the side yard. We could either move him to Redemption or eat him. Since I’m still a vegetarian, we opted for moving him, with an option to eat him if that didn’t work.

About forever and a day ago, I got some portable, electric, goat netting from Premier 1 Supply. I was convinced we were going to move a long time ago so I had prepared early. Rather than open it up when it arrived, and read the instructions, we let it sit on the deck for six months. Then we waited until 10pm the night before we were supposed to move the livestock, to open up the box and read the instructions. Probably not our best plan. Thankfully, Premier 1 has videos online that show how to set up the fencing and the hot shocker. It still took us a while to figure out that I ordered spare parts. Again, this is something I probably would have remembered within the first 30 days of ordering the stuff. Once we realized what was going on, the whole system made sense. We went to bed, at 1am, knowing we were prepared to set up the fence.

Early the next morning (thanks to our sheep alarm clock) we were ready to wrangle. First order of business, get collars and leashes on the sheep and goat.

No sheep were harmed in the making of this post. But I did have to carry a stick for my own protection.

I would like you to note the damage they did to the side yard. Sheep and goats are like furry little tornadoes.

I call that last one “Oh, say can you sheep?”

The weeds in the yard have never looked so beautiful.

Before we loaded Fin and Sheldon into the truck, we put mats down. We thought that would ensure their safety. What we didn’t account for was that Sheldon was going to take his aggression out on Fin. At one point, Dave had to pull over because Sheldon had pinned Fin in the corner of the truck bed and was ramming her as hard as he could. Thankfully, we had left his leash on, so Dave shut his leash in the tailgate with two feet of slack. This gave Fin the run of the truck bed for the rest of the trip. No one likes a bully.

Once we got to the ranch we unloaded the livestock, taking time to pause for a funky family portrait:

Then we tied up the livestock while we tried to remember what we watched, in the instructional video, the night before.

I can never remember which color wire makes it work and which makes it explode.

Eventually, the livestock were released to their new mobile compound. Sheldon went around and touched the fence in a number of places. each time they would leap into the air and run around until they stopped at a new place, at which point he would touch the fence again. This went on for about 20 minutes. Everything they say about sheep being dumb, is true.

I can’t say I’ve ever seen the two of them so content and man can they take down some weeds. Their fence is 164 feet long and we have to move the enclosure at least once a week in order to keep up with their voracious appetites. The best part? They love thistles and poison oak best.

I think we are all enjoying our new-found freedom. Sheldon and Fin get to do what they do best- be sheeps and goats, and we get do what I love best- sleep in, every morning. Even Dave, who is normally an early riser slept until 8am the day after we moved them.

Now I can go back to humming the theme from green Acres and meaning it…at least until the next time Sheldon rams me.

A Sheep and a Goat Walk Into a Bar…

There’s not really a punchline to that joke but the real joke goes more like: A sheep and a goat spend all day every day bored in their pen. The sheep, has a sizable rack (maybe that’s the punchline to the first joke?) and insists on ramming things. Dave makes weekly repairs to their enclosure. Keep this information in mind as we journey through tonight’s tale (tail.)

There I was, parked in the driveway, sitting in my car, checking Facebook. I do this on most nights, when I can’t quite face the chaos (and Chaos) of coming home to the animals. I love the animals but the second I walk through the door, the madness begins and I must move very quickly to keep the system functioning. I enter the house and the two dogs in their kennels start to go nuts. I usually change out of my work shoes and put on sneakers, walk to the cages and release Chaos, then Lilly (the terrorist.) Chaos likes to leap on Lilly, who being smallish, doesn’t appreciate that sort of playing. Lilly in turn snarls at Chaos, who then gets offended and the dog fight starts. In order to prevent it, I walk to the door and send Chaos outside while I put the leash on Lilly, all the while yelling, “leave it,” at Chaos, who is usually too excited to actually leave Lilly alone. Lilly is not allowed outside without the leash because she’s a terrorist with no loyalties to anyone but herself, therefore, she does not believe in returning when called. All the while, I have to make sure the hairless cat doesn’t dart out the door. He is obsessed with going outside though clearly, he has no hair and no skills. After I get the dogs out to go to the bathroom, we go downstairs and brave the aggressive sheep to feed and water the livestock in the basement. Then I have to go back up to the house and feed the dogs (back into the kennels for everyone, feed the cats, let the dogs back out and then, maybe I can use the human bathroom or get a beer. I’m not sure if Dave has the same system. I never asked because the one I have works for me, it just takes some mental preparation. In my case, I meditate on Facebook.

Tonight, as I was saying, I was parked in the driveway. I had actually been there for a while because I had a bad day and needed extra prep time. Then I looked up. Three of my neighbors were standing on the roadway looking befuddled. Bewildered. The Ben Lomond house is in a mountain neighborhood. There aren’t many neighbors and it takes a great deal of unusual-ness to make them leave their castles of recluse. That’s when I saw the flash of color that is distinctive to only one thing…

Sheep and goat. I actually saw Sheldon. He’s a pretty distinctive shade of tan and black and he has a funky stiff-legged gait. I don’t know how long my neighbors had been starting at them because frankly, I didn’t pay any attention when I drove in but looking back, they were all standing there when I came up the road. I had tuned them out. Beat that level of meditation, zen masters! I leaped out of my car and walked towards them in my good shoes. Fluevogs, none the less! They were nervously grazing on the neighbors landscaping. In fact, they found the only house with landscaping to graze. I wasn’t sure what to do but as I overheard the neighbors debating about their point of origin (really? you don’t know which house has a sheep and goat that scream at odd hours and bang on the fence everyday?) I yelled that they were mine and walked that way. I had no rope or leash or dog collar or hope in Hell of getting them back. What I do know is there were kids around. Sheldon has been very aggressive lately and I didn’t want him knocking one down and breaking all of its ribs. As I walked up, Fin stopped and I distinctly heard her say, “Busted!” Sheldon however is stupid, maybe you had heard this about sheep? It’s true. He walked right up to me and I grabbed his horn. We had a short tussle but he eventually, reluctantly, allowed me to lead/drag him back to the house, by his big, curly horn. Fin followed along reluctantly. Once we got into the front yard, he followed my willingly. I led them, a la pied piper, into the basement and then into their living quarters. They were still pretty keyed up and Sheldon kept threatening to ram me, so I didn’t go in there but I could see that a section of the redwood security fence was down.

I walked into the main part of he basement that we use for storage. I say we but I think most of the clutter came from Dave. As I rifled through the crap, trying to find the can of rusted old nails that I know Dave keeps down there, I cursed him. Once upon a time, I was staying with Dave while my escrow was closing but my 30 days notice on my rental had long since come and gone, Dave took my tools. I had a set of tools. There were 7 tools, everything I might need as a renter and a relatively small human. There was a set of pliers, a smallish hammer, a box cutter, etc. And they had a case, which arranged them nicely so I knew if one was missing. Dave took my tools. he took them and he emptied them into his tool bag saying, “real men don’t use cases with pre-shaped holes that tools snap into.” And that dear reader, was the last time I ever saw my tools. I can only assume that he promptly lost them. I have since searched, fruitlessly. At the time, we were newly in love. I didn’t mind. Five years later, I’m a little miffed. I know, it’s too late. I shouldn’t be rehashing old problems but tonight the wound is new again. There is no hammer downstairs. All of the useful tools are at the ranch. All I could find was a big old coffee can of used nails and some sort of hammer-like thing, which lacked the weight or head shape to make it truly useful. I started using the “F” word a lot; mostly in my head but sometimes out loud. I also had to scavenge some wet lumber.

I spent a while staring at the fence. There was only one way to get to it and that was through the pen. Somewhere, someone was whistling the theme song to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. I walked slowly through the pen. Shel backed up and prepared to ram me. I pointed at him, menacingly and said loudly, “SHEL, NO!” He shook his head and paused. Perhaps he was remembering the fun times we had when he was young and innocent. Then he backed up again and prepared to ram me. I shouted again and kept facing him as I backed towards the fence. We did this dance for 20 feet. Eventually, he did hit the can of nails and spilled them everywhere. This distracted him long enough that I could get what was left of the nails, to the fence, where I lifted the fallen piece and slammed it on Shel’s head. Not on purpose mind you, he was trying to ram me again. I quickly salvaged some nails and rigged the fence to stand. I was wishing I had brought the roll of hot pink duct tape from the car. That would have fixed it. I wasn’t strong enough to get the fence into its real place so I found some extra boards and nailed them over everything else. It’s not something I would call pretty but it may hold for the night.

I called Dave and used the “F’ word some more. Not at him, just in general. I can conjugate it a number of ways. I told Dave that if he loves me, he would forgo the lingerie for our upcoming anniversary and just buy me a set of tools. With a case. With pre-cut holes that the tools snap into. And then he would never, ever take those tools.

The weird thing was we had been discussing moving Fin and Sheldon to Redemption. We took the electric fencing out there last weekend. I guess this weekend, we will take the livestock. I don’t think my mountain neighbors will be real happy if they keep grazing the landscaping and I will not be real happy if I have to keep fixing fences without the proper tools.

Give Me Shelter

The weather has been out of control here. Our normally mild coastal climate has turned on us and two nights ago, it snowed. It never snows here. And I woke up stressed about Fin and Sheldon not having enough shelter. Because we don’t get much wild weather, we never built a real water tight shelter. The sheep and goat would lounge in the luxury of the sheep bunker, which really was just a section of retaining wall with a roof on it. The problem is Fin won’t go in the sheep bunker when Sheldon is in there. She usually sleeps on to of the sheep bunker which has minimal shelter from the roof overhang but it’s not warm and it’s not water tight. yesterday, at about 5pm, I came up with a brilliant plan: cut a hole int he side of the house and let the livestock in the basement of our Ben Lomond house! Dave, my dearest husband, said, “OK. We better hurry it’ getting dark.” God, I love that man.

Now, before you go thinking I’ve lost my mind and dragged Dave down with me, I should explain how our basement works. The basement is divided into three parts. The laundry room and the main room sit on a cement slab. They are essentially finished rooms, or could be finished easily. To the left side of the main room is a door that leads to the part of the basement that is under the addition. When the addition was added before I bought the house they decided to frame in the basement area bu not finish anything out. One side of the room leads under the deck (scary) the other sides are framed in and the whole thing sits on a dirt floor. We usually use that room for storing tools and things in plastic bins.

I’ve been considering ways to put the animals in that part of the basement for a while. Dave has shot them all down, mostly because it involves trying to get the livestock to go through the main part of the basement, without disturbing the mountains of stuff we have stored down there. He was right to say no way. Sheep horns in a small space is a recipe for disaster.

Of course, cutting a goat door in the wall solved everything. So we cleaned out the room, stuffed more stuff into our already crowded basement (Dave is a hoarder) and got to deconstructing.

I laughed as we started cutting with the circular saw because this was total crack-head style construction. There we were in the cold and dark, on the back side of the house, cutting a hole in our wall, to let the sheep in. I’m sure my father is very proud.

Parts came off quickly. Originally, we thought it would take two hours to do but we were done in just over an hour. It took us longer to clean out the room than deconstruct the walls.

Chaos assisted with keeping the curious goat out of the room while Hubby removed dangerous nails from the wall.

now I can sleep soundly knowing Fin and Sheldon are warm and dry in the inclement weather. I even did a nice warm straw bed for them. Fin, who doesn’t have much winter coat seemed especially grateful. Well, as grateful as a goat can be.

Greeting and Salutations from the Goat

I see you’ve met Fin the Goat. Or if she’s looking especially regal, Fin du Goat. Or if she’s screaming at 7am, Finnegan Goat (followed by “Shut up!”) Regardless of what I call her, she always does the same thing:

She puts her head up and gives me the floppy eared, goat eye. If I’m on the balcony, she’ll turn her head all the way up, and her huge ears open outward, like the Flying Nun. Her cuteness kills me.

Finn came to us by way of my sister-in-law, while I was on vacation. My sister-in-law got a horse from Horse Plus Humane Society and knowing that we needed a companion for Sheldon, decided to get  goat, too. Finn was surrendered after getting attacked by a neighbor’s dog, twice. When she first came home, she limped. Dave pulled out a farrier term and called her serviceably sound but after being chased around by an over-amorous Sheldon for several days, she worked out her kinks. Now she leaps deftly from high places, in order to get away from Sheldon, just as a goat should.

Finn is a Boer goat crossed with Saanen goat. The Boer goat gives her the color and the floppy ears, the Saanen adds the Flying Nun factor to her ears. It’s true, look it up. Functionally, the cross creates a meat goat that is also a good to be a good milk producer. Dual delicious and nutritious. Since Finn is a rescue, I have promised not to eat her but we may one day use her for a milk goat. She’s also just too endearing to be eaten. If you are going to eat cute animals, you really have to go in with that mindset. Who could eat this:

She’s a bit of a supermodel but she’s too shy to know it. She follows me all around the pen but she doesn’t really want me to touch her. I sneak a pet when she’s eating though and there’s nothing she can do about it if she wants to eat. Sophie’s choice.

Sheldon is completely smitten. He has discontinued his nefarious and disturbing affair with Chaos in order to focus on Finn full-time. He doesn’t really understand that no means no so for the first week Finn was home, there was a lot of screaming happening. Finn being a lithe goat would run from Sheldon, gracefully leaping from high places and continuing on without missing a beat. Sheldon, being a dumb sheep would try to follow. I’m surprised he didn’t break his neck jumping falling off the sheep bunker. After a week, they found common ground: taking apart what’s left of the hot tub.

They also enjoy dining together.

Please stay tuned for more adventures of sheep-goat and goat. I’m sure there will be many adventures that involve the intelligent goat leading the stupid sheep into danger.

Of Sheeps and Squashes

It’s post Halloween and the pumpkins the kids carved are starting to go bad. The weather was unseasonably warm followed by wet and rainy; a combination that makes molds happy. What we’re left with after the pumpkin carving fest is soon to be pumpkin soup. not to worry, we’re all about recycling and sustainability around here…in fact, just recently, I finally convinced Dave to rinse the recyclables by explaining that those items are hand-sorted and if they’re full of food, they just get thrown away. He gets it now. We also recycle all of our veggie food waste. I don’t even like to think of it as waste because all of the vegetable matter goes right back into our food supply. (Isn’t science fun kids?) Our pumpkins went right back to this guy:

Oh, don’t be afraid! It’s just Sheldon the sheep that looks like a goat. He’s a teenager now. He back-talks, he has hair sprouting in places there was no hair before, his voice is changing. I’m kidding about the hair. He’s always been hairy. He is however, getting more chest hair. I’m not kidding about the back-talk. Last week he decided I would like to play and tried to headbutt me. It did not end well for Sheldon. Now, all I have to do is point at him and say, “NO!” He gives me the sheep eye but backs off. He’s only two feet high at the shoulder. I always tell parents, they have to beat their children while they are still small enough. If you wait until they can overpower you, it’s too late. You lose the intimidation factor. The step-kids are nodding. They have heard this before.

*Editors note: Anyone who would take child rearing advice from someone with a sheep in their side-yard and plan to eat its progeny, should get a visit from Child Protective Services.

Back to your regularly scheduled programming…

As it turns out, Sheldon’s favorite thing is squash. He likes all the squash that we give him. Halloween pumpkin is the most amusing for the humans. Because the top is opened, he sticks his entire head inside the pumpkin to check it out. Today’s pumpkin was a little too moldy and he immediately came out sneezing and spitting . Yeah, we thought it was funny. So what?

Is that not the single most adorable thing you have ever seen? Two things I would like to point out. 1) This was Moo’s pumpkin. It was Pac-Man themed. Jule’s pumpkin was the first to go bad so he had that one last weekend. Her pumpkin was done in the anime style. The Boy’s is next but if Sheldon doesn’t eat it soon, it will be too moldy to feed to him. In that case, it goes to the worms. 2) I would also like to point out: CHECK OUT THE RACK ON THAT LAMB! I don’t mean that in any sort of lewd or lascivious way so get your mind out of the gutter. I mean, check out how big his horns are. He’s about 10 months old now and he’s already getting his first twist in his horns. I’m thinking that’s a good sign. I of course know nothing about the growth of American Black Belly Sheep but this seems like an impressive thing to me. He’s two feet tall and his horns are as long as his head. And you know what they say about a lamb with big horns…

You shouldn’t let him headbutt you. Ha ha ha. I crack myself up.

And in case you were going to ask, yes, he is wearing a Chartreuse collar. It’s a fashion statement and eventually it will be a useful tool when I teach him how to walk on a leash.

Look What the Dog Dragged In

There we were, hanging out in the garden when the dog came prancing up with this in her mouth…

Not sure what that is? Weren’t either, at first. Let me zoom out a little.

Still not sure? We had to wait for her to get a little bit closer (while you have to wait for me to get a little farther away with the camera.) I think this next shot should clear up any confusion.

If you guessed a whole deer leg, that’s stinking and rigored, you would be correct.

She must have found this leg in the meadow, which makes me wonder how the beast died. If it’s coyotes, I should be concerned. If it was old age then I don’t need to hot wire every fence I have, against predators. This all happens just when I was thinking of moving Sheldon out to the ranch and putting him out to get a head start on the winter weeds. I think I’ll wait a little longer.

And the first tow shots are proof that anything can be beautiful if you use the macro setting on your camera.