Of Barns and Backsides

Yup.  You read that right.  Barns AND backsides. Stay with me, folks...I haven't totally gone off the deep end...yet!

This summer I had some big plans for the barns, including the possibility of renovating our largest - it's a big metal structure down the hill from the house and would nicely hold the entire Fellowsheep (you can see it in the above picture). Upon further inspection (and running the idea past my husband), I realized that not only would the amount of work be more than just a summer fixer-upper, but it would also be incredibly cold in the winter time. All of the heat would rise to the rafters, and the metal would make it very chilly, even for woolly-coated sheep. So I crossed that off of the list and instead focused on the two small barns that we've been using. You may remember from my last blog post that the Prancing Pony got a new floor - paving stones and stall mats. The same needed to be done to the floor in Bag End - but this one was MUCH worse to clean. There was about a foot of piled up straw that needed to be mucked out - I'll spare you the gory details, but suffice it to say this was stinky, dirty, back-injuring work...if it hadn't been for my husband and son, I wouldn't have been able to finish. Because it took much longer to clean, we ended up not being able to get more paving stones from Walmart - instead my son hauled basalt rocks out of our yard and up the hill to Bag End, while my husband placed them to level out the floor. Then the two of them hauled about 10 wheelbarrows full of gravel up to the barn to fill in the gaps and make the floor level before putting down the stall mats (which are HEAVY...oh my stars...they are super durable, but good gravy...this life is NOT for the weak, I'm telling you!!)!

Unfortunately, the floor wasn't the only thing that needed to be done at Bag End...because of two VERY large, VERY pushy sheep who spent the winter in there, muscling their way to the feeder that really was too small for all of them, there were places where the walls had pulled away from the posts! Big gaps had formed, boards had warped, and my husband the engineer would NOT let that stand. He wasn't about to pound a few nails and call it good - no, he took the walls out and REALLY fixed everything! Fortunately for him, he had excellent supervisors:

So thanks to my awesome family and woolly helpers, the barn was fixed, put back together, and a new floor finished!

I haven't given up totally on the idea of using the big metal barn someday...it definitely does have advantages over the little ones. But it would require getting everything out first - tractor, parts, old bales of straw that have been there for probably close to 20 years...THEN we would have to put in a low ceiling in places to help keep the warm air down...oh my. I'm getting tired just thinking about it! Maybe someday we'll tackle that behemoth!!

In addition to cleaning and fixing, we also moved a bunch of stuff around - I didn't want to use the tiny hay storage room that I've been using anymore because it only holds about 15 bales. With nine sheep, that won't last very long, so it was time to clean out the larger room across from Bag End and store enough for a month or so at least! That got done, and I was able to buy a trailer load of hay from Lee (whose hay is MAGNIFICENT!!)!

So, enough about barns...now let's talk about backsides! I can't help it...I find everything to do with my sheep to be amazing and adorable! And over the last couple of years, I have taken LOTS of pictures - I mean, really, it's kind of ridiculous - and yes, there are a lot of butt pictures! As I was scrolling through some, and also observing the tails on each of my sheep, it occurred to me how different they all are, and I thought it might be interesting to explain why that is. First off, let's talk about Daisy - her tail is the saddest of the lot, in my opinion. She barely has a tail at all!

See that horizontal shadow across her rump, above the bare spot?  Just below that is her tail - you can barely see it when you're looking at her, and that is TOO short. Her tail was docked when she was a baby, but she wasn't born at Lee's place, so we have no idea who did the docking - but they did not leave her a long enough tail. Not only does the tail help keep flies away (think of a horse, flicking its tail at the bugs), but it is an important component of her vertebrae! They need at least three of their coccygeal vertebrae to prevent things like rectal and uterine prolapses...so it is a testament to Daisy's strength and good genetics that she didn't suffer either of these when she gave birth! Why her buns are bare like that, I have no clue...but despite that and her sad tail, I still think her bottom is adorable!

Cupcake's tail is perfect - in fact, if you mention it to Lee, she admits to being quite proud of the job she did with her docking!

It's just so round and perfect - kind of bouncy and silly, just like her!

The Finns have very interesting tails - I don't think they were docked at all, but they are part of the short-tailed group of sheep (which includes Icelandics), so really, it isn't totally necessary. In areas where fly strike is common (I'll let you google that one if you want - it's pretty gross), it is a good idea to dock the tails to prevent a build-up of urine and feces. We are very lucky here, and in central Idaho where Ruby and Garnet are from, that we don't have to deal with maggots - of course, it's still very important to keep an eye on those tails and all parts of the sheep because cuts and open sores will attract bugs. When we got the Finns, we were so surprised to see their longer tails (longer than the Icelandics!), and we are continually amused by their antics - the tails' antics! Ruby will stick hers out to the left, and Garnet wags his, sometimes in circles! They are just adorable!

Finally, the Icelandics - all 5 of them! They were all born at Lee's, so their little bums have lovely tails of a proper length. Yes, they could have probably gone without being docked, but even with the low odds of fly strike, helping them to stay clean back there is really a good thing. Probably due to the incredibly wet late winter/early spring we had, we saw an increase in biting flies and horse flies this summer, so leaving them plenty of tail to flick while not leaving so much that it's covered in excrement really helps keep them healthy and happy! If you would like to read more about tail docking - and learn why it is not only humane but incredibly important - check out this article!


Well, if you made it this far, well done and thank you!! I appreciate everyone who is willing to read about my sheep, their care, their accommodations, and their backsides! See you next time!



Cynthia Falk

I love learning new sheepie facts!

Jennifer Bogut

I'm so glad - I appreciate your reading the blog so much!! :)

Amy Matilda

Hi Jennifer, I think sheep bums are adorable, too!
My friend keeps Gulf Coast Natives here in Florida and she leaves the tail long.
The lambs are so cute when nursing: one would stick his tail straight out, and another would swing it in big circles.
I love "meeting" your sheep.
Amy Matilda

Jennifer Bogut

Thank you so much for commenting! Aren't lambs just the best? They are so happy when they're eating, when they're playing...they are just full of joy and fun!! :)

Thank you, too, for reading!!!

Jennifer :)

Carolyn Daly

I feel like I can be a sheep herder vicariously through you


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