You may want to go get yourself a big cup of coffee- we need to go back a ways to explain THIS sheep!
Shortly after we moved to our farm 10 years ago, we got a call from a farm animal rescue in Pennsylvania. They asked if we had room for any of the sheep they were working to re-home. We agreed to adopt 12 of the sheep-one gave us the first lamb ever born on our farm shortly after they arrived! They were 12 of 150 sheep that needed new homes. It makes me proud that we helped them re-home over half of the sheep into safe homes right here in WI. But we need to go back even further.
The sheep belonged to a retired dairy farmer and his wife. They missed having animals so decided to raise a small flock of sheep. They had plenty of land so the sheep would have a nice big pasture with some trees for shade. He was advised by someone to start his flock with Merino, Icelandic and Romanov sheep. What he probably didn’t realize is Romanov sheep are known as ‘lambs by the litter.’ He had trouble keeping up and finding help when it was time to fix the boys, vaccinate or do any vetting of the sheep. Within 5 years his flock had exploded into over 150 sheep.
The rescue took in every sheep, trimmed their feet, sheared, vetted all and fixed the boys. What a job that must have been right? I wonder how long THAT job took? If we’re counting (and we are), I think Foster (and family) used several lives before they even got into the rescue! And what a shock for those poor sheep who had not seen people or been touched by people.
The sheep joined our flock in November- cold in WI! They stayed inside the sheep barn to stay warm AND to let them learn to trust us. Since we have sheepie break outs every once in a while, they also needed to be ‘bucket trained.’ All of our sheep will come back if you have a bucket in your hand. In an emergency just a few rocks rattling around in the bucket will work. But you better move it when they hear it. Otherwise you are toast! And you better run faster when they realize you tricked them with ROCKS!
Now we can move forward to Foster sheep at the Ryans and count up another life used. Two years ago it was 50 below zero, the coldest January we’ve seen in years. It was windy, bitter and just AWFUL. Even if you are a sheep. We feed big round or square bales of hay to accommodate a larger flock. We are VERY careful to make sure we get all the strings cut off the bales so nobody gets caught up in them. Well, we missed a string and Foster got his horn caught up in it. Luckily Jim and my friend Sara found him. I thought I would lose that sheep. He was so cold. We put bedding and blankets in the milk house and settled Foster in. We run a heater in the milk house all winter to keep the water hydrant from freezing. It was a warm place for him but I was so upset that he was so cold- even though Farmer Sandy knows it only takes a minute in that weather.
It took a few days of warm and I went out, there was Foster on his feet, looking at me like, hey, let me the heck out of here! I thought I would be the one to die! That is a moment like no other. So Foster went out and went on with life number whatever…
Then THIS winter, Farmer Sandy who adores her sheep was out on her daily visit/walk with the sheep. Someone was missing. Foster did not come up for his vanilla wafer? Of course, panic set in. That’s always my first reaction. I found Foster laying on his side and he could not get himself rolled just right to get up again. He was not cold but he was upset. How embarrassing. I picked him up to set him on his feet. Instead of leaning on me for a few minute so his legs could wake back up, he tried to leap up and run away. Down he went.
What did I do? I became Farmer Sandy with a mission. And a new black sled. Lucky for me our neighbor showed me how to haul a heavy animal to the barn by myself. I carefully tipped Foster onto the sled and hobbled his legs so he wouldn’t jump out. Then, albeit slowly, Farmer Sandy with a mission hauled that sled full of 200+ pound Foster sheep all the way to the barn, inside AND got him set up so he was laying propped up. I feel the need for a cape with Farmer Sandy on it? Could it match my Princess of Poop Scooping tiara?
In the mean time, Bobbi the Great Pyrenees took our little old stinker Shetland sheep Becan out for a romp in the front yard. Sigh. Happily skipped out and got them back inside. Bobbi does take an occasional jaunt around the yard and she comes back when she knows we are ready to feed her supper. Becan usually comes back to the wiggle of a bucket but he was not so ready to comply. Old Farmer Sandy (who was by then out of energy) had to literally drag Becan, who probably only weighs 100 pounds, out of the chicken coop. He knows they always have corn in their feeder. It is just too tempting and Becan is just a smarty pants anyway. I got them back in the barn just in time to see Foster on his feet? He was a little wobbly but standing up. I left so he would stay inside if he fell over again. He is an old fellow after all. I checked on Foster in the night and he was fine. I had to pick him up again the next morning but after that, he was done needing help. Huzzah!
Foster is back to living his sheep’s life with all his friends. Specially his best buddy Jonte the Jacob sheep. They are good friends and spend their time chasing the other sheep around in their version of tag. Knock on wood, Foster is fine and I hope he has no more troubles. We have no idea how old he is but he sure has lived a full life- with a few scares built in. Farmer Sandy could happily live with out another incident- I’m talking directly to you Foster!
Besides Foster we only have two of the sheep from his family left in the flock. Heidi (left) is so old and we have her inside for winter in the warmest condo in the barn with her friends Violet and Gabriella. Bettis (right) is also who knows how old. A few years ago he completely lost his vision so he lives with the tiny group of special needs sheep. They have a smaller pasture and that way he doesn’t get lost.
We miss the rest of Foster’s family so much. We are glad we could help them have a happy, safe place to live out their lives-how many they may have led.
PS- Big Kitty, where are you? I love you so very much. Please come home.
Sandy & Jim Ryan