Sunday, July 24, 2016
Bebe is one extraordinary ewe, and one of my all-time favorites. Her name (BB) stands for Bottle Baby, because she was rejected by her mother (who we named Psycho, because of her complete lack of mothering skills) and we had to raise her on a bottle. I originally decided not to keep Bebe, because poor mothering can have a genetic component, and I sold her as a pet. But that didn’t work out and she came back to us. By then, Psycho had proven to be the most productive ewe of her age-group, so we kept Bebe. She was such a pet, the friendliest lamb in the bunch, always happy to be gathered up into my arms.
From her first year in the milking string, Bebe was our second-best producer–second only to the legendary Panties. She was such a proud and beautiful working girl. Paige Green took this lovely photo of the ewes coming up the alley to the milking parlor in the morning, with Bebe in the lead, stepping out like she couldn’t wait to get to work.
A year or so later, I took this portrait of Bebe in her prime. She was always a devoted mother—making me so glad I didn’t reject Bebe on the grounds of her mother’s deficiencies. In 2014, at the age of five, after giving birth to triplets, Bebe became paralysed in her rear legs. She was down and unable to get up for 5 days, and our vet held out little hope that she would come around. But Bebe was eating voraciously, and feeding her triplets even though she couldn’t stand up, so I decided to refrain from putting her down and wait to see what happened. Eventually we were able to get Bebe up, and she was able to stand on her own for a few minutes. After a few days more she could get up on her own. Pretty soon she was walking out to the pasture with her lambs. I told her she could retire to my back yard and raise her lambs, which she did. She loved those lambs and was inseparable from them!
When we weaned the lambs, Bebe still had so much milk that we returned her to the milking string, and she valiantly climbed the ramp to the milking platform twice a day. After that season we never bred her again, but Bebe has continued to live happily in the “pet flock” of retired and non-milking ewes at my house. I keep a couple of younger ewes as pets (Gracie and Maybe) and let them raise their lambs at the house.
This year, Bebe has assumed a very devoted “auntie” role with Maybe’s ewe-lamb. They are inseparable. Bebe calls after Little Maybe as if she were her own daughter and the lamb seems almost more attached to Bebe than she is to her own mother! This evening I was sitting out on our deck enjoying watching the sheep in the evening light and got this photo of Bebe with her “niece”, Little Maybe. It really warms my heart to see what a devoted mother and auntie Bebe has been. She didn’t get much love from her own mother, but she has been one of the best mothers in the history of our flock.
Thursday, July 21, 2016
I’ve been feeling pretty stir-crazy since I broke my ankle two weeks ago, missing my time working with Lolo, Lisa, Melinda and the sheep. Today I hobbled out to my back yard on my crutches and just sat down there with the pets. Gracie and her lamb Frankie were happy for the company. And their dog, Shep, didn’t seem to mind.
Friday July 15, 2016
Melinda got this cute photo of the pigs the other day enjoying a salad of garden trimmings. This triggered her to look back through her photos and find a photo of the pigs not long after they arrived in May. That’s a lot of growth in two months! But as Lolo is fond of saying, “Well, they are pigs!”
Watch our pigs enjoy a shower on a hot day in this you tube video.
Tuesday July 5, 2016
Barely a week after we lost Big Otis, another sad milestone: We lost Bugeyes on July 4, at 8 1/2 years old. Bugeyes was the first lamb born on our ranch, in March of 2008, to Edie, the ewe who wound up being the model for our label and logo. Bugeyes got her name because she was quite a homely lamb with protruding eyes, but she grew into a beautiful and very sweet ewe. She became one of my favorite lambs.
The day in 2008 before we put the rams in for breeding, Bugeyes went missing. We searched the pasture and she was nowhere to be found. We thought a mountain lion may have gotten her. I remembered the last place I had seen her; she and her mother had been at the fence making eyes at the rams across the driveway the previous evening. I went to the spot, and I heard a faint baaing. There was a storm culvert there under the driveway and I looked in the culvert, and there was Bugeyes, in the culvert halfway under the driveway, looking back over her shoulder and baaing. She must have been looking for a way to get over to the rams! She was panicked and every movement was taking her further under the driveway. It was a very small culvert and I didn’t know how we would ever get her out. While I was trying to find a long pole or something we could push through the culvert from the other end, Luke, a very thin guy who was working on the construction of our house, shimmied into the culvert feet first from the other side, shimmied all the way under the driveway, and pushed her out. Buggies emerged, rear end first, followed by a very shaky Luke (I can’t imagine the claustrophobia of doing what he did) and Bugeyes started baaing and running toward the flock. Her mother, Edie, who was very attached to her, actually did a sheep double-take when she saw Bugeyes coming toward her.
Bugeyes turned out to be a very poor milk producer, so we retired her from the milking string after a few years and she lived in the small pet flock at our house, and raised quite a few sets of triplet lambs. She grew to an immense size and it was hard to imagine she had ever fit into that drainage culvert. In her later years we didn’t breed her any more, but she was always ready for some loving attention. She had slowed down a lot this past year, and Lolo found her dead in the pasture yesterday afternoon. Sad at her passing, I found these two baby photos, but couldn’t find any photos of her as an adult. Then I realized we have this beautiful painting of Bugeyes with Shep by Christin Coy that we bought at the MALT art show last year.
Yesterday was a sad day–we lost Big Otis, our oldest livestock protection dog. Otis had been with us for 9 years–he arrived to protect our very first lambs in 2007, and on day one, at 6 months old, he headed out into that pasture of lambs, checked the perimeter fence, found the highest spot where he had a view of everyone, and got to work, protecting. He never stopped for nine years. I like to tell people that our dogs are professionals–they take their job seriously and don’t need to be trained, they just come in and go to work. And Otis was the greatest example of that. He gave us such peace of mind over 9 years protecting generations of lambs and ewes from predators without one mistake, ever. He hated human contact and we were completely unable to catch him in the pasture, although he would grudgingly submit to some grooming when we cornered him in the corrals or the milking parlor.
Otis is our only dog who ever bit anyone. It happened early one morning during lambing. Ignacio had arrived in the dark at 5 am and heard a ewe talking to her lamb in the pasture, where no lambs were supposed to be born–the ewes we were expecting to deliver soon were all in the barn. Otis was on guard with that group and this was the most stressful of situations–a newborn lamb out in the pasture at night! This was what he was born to protect! Ignacio went out to get the lamb and bring lamb and mother into the barn, and Otis BIT him on the butt! Ignacio wasn’t hurt–he had a towel in his hip pocket–and he thought the whole thing was very funny. Otis is the only dog of ours who I could imagine doing that–he was SO serious and had no sense of humor when the welfare of his sheep was at stake. That is why we chose him to mentor our new puppy Orbit last year.
Otis had been showing his age in recent weeks, and we all knew things didn’t look good for him when he didn’t want to leave the parlor with the ewes on Thursday evening. He had barely spent a moment of his life separated from his sheep. They were what he lived for. I took him to our vet, Bill Barboni, yesterday and didn’t have a lot of faith he would be coming home, so Lisa, Lolo and Melinda said their goodbyes. I was right–Otis was in kidney failure and Bill said the most humane thing would be to put him down. I consoled myself with the knowledge that Otis had had a good, long, useful, and, I believe, to him, very satisfying, life. When Lisa was saying goodbye she told him he would find lots of lambs waiting for him on the other side, including some of his dearest old friends.