Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

A Pony Christmas.

Posted on | December 24, 2014 | No Comments

No, we didn’t get another pony.  One fat hay-gobbling Shetland is quite enough, thank you.  But this post is about C.C. and this special time of year.  Special for her, not because she’s anxiously awaiting the babe in a manger, but because she got another unexpected arrival.

Joe.

Joe is a Jacob ram.  He came to breed my Suffolk/Welsh cross ewes.  We’ve never had lambs born here before because, unlike dairy goats, sheep don’t need to give birth to make their farm contribution.  Without kids, goats don’t give milk.  But sheep provide wool whether they’re male or female, bred or open.  I had actually decided we would never breed the sheep because:

1.  I don’t have any experience with bred sheep and new experiences can be traumatic, exhausting and/or deadly on the farm.

2.  I already had adult sheep in nice range of natural colors—white, black, brown, and 1 wether that carried a mix of tan, gray, and white all swirled together.

3.  When I got the sheep, I promised The Other Half that if I had 4 sheep of various colors, we would never need any more.  And I think he believed me.  Probably.  Maybe.  Sucker.

It’s true the sheep have done their fair share.  I have a little more wool than I am using right now.  By “a little”  I mean “a closet full.

Eh.

I prefer to use these lovely mesh athletic bags to store my wool.

Breathable, portable, and only 25 cents each at the local flea market.  But when I’m out of mesh bags and have to start using trash bags, it’s time to get on top of things.  So I plan to have all that wool carded and spun by this year’s farm tour or farmers market season so I can sell it and finally see a return on my sheep investment.  I have heard it said that “She who dies with the most wool, wins.”  I think that’s Biblical.  However, I was hoping to recover some hay money from my fiber habit, so I dutifully dug dug out the carders.

But just in case.  I mean, if something comes up.  In the event that I’m overcome with farm chores or shift work or meal plans or kids’ basketball games or hand-feeding the Venus fly trap its meal worms (that stupid plant is a lot more enjoyable during the summer when it lives by the pond and feeds itself than in the winter when it lives on the windowsill and expects hand-outs)….

….supposing for some unknown reason, I don’t get all that wool carded and spun, I figured I needed a back-up plan.

Even if there’s no yarn to sell this spring, there will be lambs to sell.

Which takes us back to Joe.

When Joe arrived, C.C. had a fit.  She generally takes new arrivals with a casual air.  She is always the fattest biggest animal in the barn yard so she rarely feels threatened.  She is also lazy so she doesn’t make much show of aggression.  Unless the newcomer gets close to her bowl of timothy hay.  In which case, they get a full showing of Shetland pony teeth.  But Joe went straight into the old chicken pasture, where Isabella and Samantha were waiting and he was no threat to anyone’s feed bowl.  C.C. starting racing around the pasture, kicking her heels and tossing her mane.  There was whinnying and snorting and more exertion than we’ve seen in ages.

Me and The Other Half watched and wondered.  Perhaps she was trying to protect the ewes?  Did she recognize a dominant male and think he wanted her spot at top of the heap?  Did he smell weird, coming from a different farm?  Maybe she thought he had some grain in there?  It was baffling.  We shrugged, figured C.C. didn’t have the stamina to do anything too crazy, took note that Joe was already busy romancing the ewes, and left them all to their business.

By evening, C.C. had trampled the ground in front of the pasture gate into 6 inches of hoof-printed muck.

“Stop it.  It’s fine,” I reassured her, where she stood outside the pasture.  “Leave him be.”  She was not convinced.

The next morning I found her exactly where I left her.  In front of the pasture gate.  Staring at Joe where he stood, safe and dry in the old chicken coop, with the ewes.

It had been raining all night and she was totally soaked.  Her forelock hung in bedraggled strands.  Shetland ponies are pretty much impervious to our moderate weather.  But C.C. had always taken to the barn during downpours in the past.  I checked to see if the barn door had blown closed, locking her out.  No.  I looked to see if the automatic waterer had overflowed, flooding the barn and driving her outside for the night.  Nope.

I looked at her again.

Oh dear,”  I said.  Because this is what I saw:

Turns out the problem was that Joe smelled weird.  He smelled like a wooly package of male hormones.  Or pheromones.  Or whatever else it is that turns a fat and sassy Shetland pony into a pathetic, needy, shaggy mess.  Plus, he had a nice rack, too.

It’s all too much for C.C.  She has spent the holiday season pining near the fence, hoping for sniffing, nuzzling, or any other tidbits that Joe tosses her way.

Luckily, he won’t be here too much longer.  Isabella was very receptive to Joe’s advances.  She is the more reasonable and practical of my ewes and was willing to stand for him within a few days of their introduction.

Samantha, however, might need 2 heat cycles before she is bred.  She’s much more skittish and cautious of strangers.  Hence her crazy eyes.

In the meantime I’m a little sad for C.C.  And a little bit embarrassed for her.  But at least I know what to get her for Christmas now.

A boom box.

Because, you know, this….

Hey, it worked for Lloyd.

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