November 10, 2011
“A man has to get a fox, a chicken, and a sack of corn across a river. He has a rowboat, and it can only carry him and one other thing…” Remember that old brain twister? We lived it the other night! But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Our spinners’ flock of 10 sheep — six ewes and four wethers (look it up) — has provided us with a nice diversity of breeds, fleeces and dispositions. After last month’s shearing, it became obvious that the Shetland ewes were producing especially gorgeous wool. This was wool that Frances preferred to use in her projects and that could be sold to eager buyers via our eBay store. So the idea took root: Must get more of the Shetland fleeces’ rich earth tones. There are only two ways to get more: bring in a ram to do what comes naturally, or buy some Shetland sheep from outside. We did both and now five Shetlands — a ram named Zorro and four ewes — were on their way.
Al Ziegler, livestock transporter extraordinaire, had left Tucson a day earlier with the sheep and a 12-year-old horse who was hitching a ride to Missouri. He called at 7 p.m. with the news that he was just 10 miles away. We cheered as Al slowed to make the turn into the driveway. We frowned as he stopped short because his long trailer just could not make the tight turn. Our house is set back about a quarter-mile from the road, so we jumped into our faithful Honda SUV to investigate. One thought loomed in our mind as we navigated the long driveway: Let’s hope Buddy, the over-zealous escape artist of a Great Pyrenees dog who lives next door, doesn’t get loose again and come visit.
At the end of the driveway, we were greeted by Al and, of course, Buddy. After sizing up the situation for a few minutes, we realized that we would have to shuttle back and forth to get the sheep from the street to the pasture out back. In our Honda SUV. With Buddy dancing around us. In the dark.
Given the size of the car, we could carry no more than two sheep at a time. On the theory that Zorro would be the friskiest, we opted for two trips of two girls each and then one last trip fror Zorro. We (and by we, I mean I) would physically carry each sheep from the livestock trailer into the car, on the theory that no good could come from allowing any of the flighty Shetlands on the ground, particularly with Buddy on hand to scare the bejesus out of them.
Improbably, our little plan worked just fine. Buddy was neutralized when his horrified owner rushed over to escort him away. The sheep were light and easily carried through mid-air. Zorro was a bit miffed, which he let us know by indignantly snorting as he was lifted. But after 20 minutes all five were safely in a segregated section of the run-in shed. The 10 original sheep watched the operation with great interest and attempted to establish communication through the fence that separated them. Not sure exactly what was being said, but it sounded something like “Bah-ram-ewe!”
The next morning, we let the five newbies out to meet the oldtimers. Clearly, we had not completely thought through just how a new, smaller ram would be greeted. Each of the wethers took turns making a run at him, no doubt taking out their deep feelings of inadequacy on their fully functioning new friend. Quickly, we rounded up the new sheep and deposited them inside the run-in shed, where they are now enjoying rest after their long journey.
So what was originally six ewes and four boys shooting blanks now becomes 10 ewes, four wethers and a ram. We anticipate a party in the days and weeks to come as the ewes go into heat, followed by as many as 20 lambs in the spring, depending on how inventive and energetic young Zorro turns out to be.