A funny thing happened last week…
You’ve probably heard an opening like this before, but I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard a story like this. Since it is Easter and lambs are sometimes synonymous with this time of year, I thought it was fitting to share this story.
Last Sunday, my boyfriend was working and I was home painting a piece of furniture I wanted to repurpose. I was up in one of the bedrooms that I am making into my office/sanctuary and came downstairs to get a screwdriver when I noticed a very oily smell and a foggy haze. I realized something was very wrong, so I quickly shut off the furnace (yes it is still very cold here) and called my boyfriend saying I thought the house was on fire and he should get home quickly.
Well the house wasn’t on fire, but there was something definitely wrong with the furnace. So we started a fire in the wood stove and opened all the windows to clear out the sooty smoke.
With the whole drama out of the way, my boyfriend was saying how he wanted to play with baby animals. It’s something he often talks about. He is a sucker for anything small and furry.
We’ve talked about adding goats and sheep to our farm, but have been having trouble finding the breeds and availability of what we want. A call to a local farm advertising baby Nigerian Dwarf Goats revealed they were already sold out.
We had done our research on sheep breeds and knew we wanted Katahdins. A search on Craigslist found a lady about an hour away who had a small heard and had babies for sale. Should we?
We did. Since we don’t have a truck yet, we laid down a tarp and blanket in the back seat of the Murano and thinking the little critters would be small like the ones we had seen during the lambing clinic we went to in February, we jumped in the car and headed down.
Okay, so by now, some of you with a bit of sheep experience are either shaking your heads or laughing hysterically. I’m not hurt. I totally get it…now.
When we arrived at the farm, we went to see the heard of sheep. There were many to choose from and in many different colors, which is one of the things I like about the Katahdins. However, the babies were three months old and bigger than the little guys we had seen at the clinic…much bigger. As in about three times bigger.
Add to that the owner used the sheep to train her Australian sheep dogs and the babies were essentially raised by their moms with little human interaction. In other words…wild, well almost.
We looked at each other and the sheep and the lady, who, I am sure was laughing on the inside, but was kind enough to keep a straight face.
Realizing we were determined to bring the ewes home with us, she offered up an old dog crate she had. Insistent that two three-month old ewes would fit in the same crate, she had us back the Murano up to the pen. Then the fun of “catching” the little critters and “stuffing” them into the dog crate ensued. Someone should have been video taping this stuff.
Keep in mind that until this point, these little girls had NOT been weaned from their moms. “You take them, they’re weaned,” is how the lady put it.
Okay, I’ll give you a moment to dry your eyes a bit, cause it gets better…
So, we headed back home with two sheep in a dog crate in the back of the Murano. To give the little things credit, they did not “scream” during the hour plus ride back, which the lady had suggested they might do. In fact, they were quite content back there and only gave a small bray every now and then.
Of course, because we are newbies at all this, we hadn’t really prepared to bring two sheep home in the back of the Murano on a Sunday. The only feed store open was the Tractor Supply store so we stopped there to pick up food, buckets, and other essential items. (For all you PETA people, we did leave the windows down so they wouldn’t get hot.)
We finally made it home, but then had to figure out where to put them. (Remember, not much forethought here.) We have an old attached barn, (thank goodness) so we hastily moved a bunch of firewood and fashioned a small temporary stall. We put the dog crate in the stall and opened the door and … nothing. They were so content to just sit in the crate, nothing we could do short of dumping them out was getting them to move. So, we dumped them. They weren’t happy about it.
We still had the problem with hay. The problem being we didn’t have any. I tried calling one friend who has horses and donkeys thinking she might have an extra bale or two we could buy off her, but she didn’t answer her phone. So we called a local person who we knew sold hay and prayed he answered.
He did. (I’m sure he was laughing, too, when we told him what we were doing.)
This gentleman also makes maple syrup and this was the last weekend of March making it a very busy day. He was very kind to let us drive up to his hay barn, grab a couple of bales and square up with him later. Awesome, right?
Well, I had never been to this persons “barn” before and I do use the word loosely. The “road” (another word I’ll use loosely here) was actually two very deep muddy ruts that went up hill for several hundred yards before ending at a huge three-story barn that had more missing boards than it had left and leaned at a very precarious right angle. How we managed to make it up the road (yes, still in the Murano) without ripping the whole muffler system off is beyond me, but when we made it up and saw where we had to turn around, all bets were off.
We quickly grabbed two bales and threw them in the back. I will give my boyfriend all the credit for navigating us up and down this hellish road. I really should have taken pictures, because until you’ve seen it you wouldn’t believe it. The view from up there was absolutely stunning, though and I wouldn’t mind hiking up the hill sometime. Not sure about bringing my little SUV again.
Alice and Minnie, (we named the lambs after the two sisters who were first born and raised on this farm back in the late 1800’s) have settled in nicely. We built a larger stall and hayrack and have begun training them. Alice will eat out of our hands and Minnie will eat out of a cup while we hold it. We have started training them on a lead, which is pretty comical in itself.
While they still act like they don’t know who we are when we first enter the stall, each time it takes less and less time for them to settle down and then we can pet them and give them treats.
The field we have for them is still covered in snow and it will be a few more weeks before we can install the fencing so they can go graze. Once the fencing is up, they will get to spend their days out in the field eating all the grass they want.
So, that was our adventure in buying sheep. We also want to find a ram we can breed the girls to this fall. I’m thinking we’re going to need a bigger dog crate.