Oh my sheep...what beauties you are!

You can probably tell from the title of this post that I am going to spend a great deal of time talking about how wonderful my sheep are...how lovely they are...how cute they are...what beautiful creatures they are! But I'm not just referring to their looks (although they are awfully good-looking ovines!)...I'm also referring to their demeanor.

Panda Bear, Mikey, and my son, Iain

Our day begins with letting them out of their barn. If the weather is nice, I just slip on my Birks and head out the back door, calling to them as I walk up the hill. From inside the barn, I hear shuffling as they get up, and sometimes a few knocks on the door...but then I hear, BAAAH. I admit that I do not yet know their different voices, so I'm never sure who is doing the calling, but regardless - it makes my heart sing to hear it! I open their door and there are those sweet, sheepy faces, looking at me. They then shuffle out the door and get to work grazing - usually. Sometimes they stand and look at me as if to say, "Well, what are we doing today? Did you bring any bread?" Let me explain - these sheep LOVE bread. I mean, LOVE it like I love peanut butter (and seriously, I love peanut butter so very much). So when we come outside to visit them, they come running down the hill, and I have to say that I see disappointment in their eyes when we come empty-handed! Well, they seem to know that the routine first thing in the morning does not include bread, so after checking out my face, they head out to their job - grazing. They are little mowing machines, and I am continually in awe of how their bodies work - all of that grazing to produce beautiful fleece, creamy, rich milk, and delicious meat (Icelandics are truly a triple-threat breed, although my sheepies will only be fleece critters)!

After letting them out for the day, I make sure that their feeders haven't been knocked onto the ground (they sometimes use them as scratching posts, so I have found them laying in the straw in the morning), and that they still have plenty of salt, mineral mix, and kelp. Then I go back inside and have my coffee, but the kids and I spend quite a bit of time outside, visiting the sheep throughout the day. Of course, we have to take offerings of bread to them, and it is quite the dance to make sure that Mikey doesn't hog it all! That sheep is definitely bigger than his sisters, and he uses that body mass and height to move them out of the way and reach for the bread! By the way, for those of you old enough to remember the old Life cereal commercials with Mikey, who LOVED Life cereal - that is why Mikey was given this name! When he was a lamb, he ate anything and everything, and clearly, things haven't changed much since then!



At Lee's place, prior to shearing - Mikey LOVES his bread and LOVES Iain!
Sometimes I take sliced apples to them...Lee gives apples to her sheep quite often, and they love it! Apparently my three didn't get that memo - sometimes they will eat them, and sometimes they have no interest. And Panda Bear has yet to eat an apple since she's been here! Black Velvet will maybe have a slice or two, and if Mikey realizes that there is no bread to be had, he'll start munching on the apples. But today I ended up eating more than any of them...and that was fine, too. Just standing out in their field, sharing apples and spending time with them? Perfect!
After several visits and much grazing on their part, they can oftentimes be found under their favorite tree:
Panda Bear and Black Velvet, chewing their cud and chillaxin'
This is such an awesome tree - it provides shade all day long, and even gives them a place to scratch their heads (I saw Mikey doing this today and it was adorable)! However, if one of us walks down the driveway to check the mail or bring up the garbage can, you can bet that they will stop what they're doing - even relaxing under their tree - and run down the hill to see what's going on! And the BAAHing that happens then! I checked the mail today and once I walked past the corner of the fence where they could no longer see me, the BAAHing began and didn't stop until they could see me again! Talk about making a person feel loved!
After much grazing, many visits, and about a loaf of bread throughout the course of the day, it's time for them to go to bed. Once the sun goes down, but while we can still see to walk outside, one of my kids will come out with me to help get them back in their barn. It takes two people - one to tempt them into the barn with bread, through this little window:
and one to quietly walk around through their gate to shut that bottom portion of their Dutch door. I have been incredibly impressed by my children's abilities to sneak either over the gate or through it without alerting them that somebody is out there - of course, my job is to keep them VERY occupied with snarfing down the last of their bread for the day! Mikey makes that a challenge as he does his best to muscle Panda Bear out of the way - and she is the one most likely to make a run out the door and not get locked in at night (that has only happened twice, and when it does, all 3 of them stay out - they still have access to their barn, like they do all day, but I don't keep two locked in when the other won't cooperate)! But as long as I make sure she gets lots of attention and bread, she stays put until my helper can lock the door. In fact, Elise and I just got done putting them to bed for the night - and what did we hear as we walked back to the house? BAAAH - a very sheepy Good Night!
What gets me about them are their unique personalities and their total trust in us. They are truly happy to see us (and the bread), and they want us to spend time with them - when we leave the pasture and head back to the house, what do we hear? BAAAH. It's not a scared, desperate sound - it's more of a, "Can't you stay for a bit longer?" It lets us know that they have a connection to us and want us to be there. It tells us that they think of us as part of their flock - and they are most definitely part of our family! Although Panda Bear doesn't like the pets that Mikey does, and Black Velvet wants to be very close to us without necessarily getting pets (sometimes she just likes to smell our hands), they have all adopted us into their flock, and they have all made warm, wooly spots in our hearts as well!


Joanne Dunlap

I give my sheep grain every night(a little in plastic bins) which they adore. They come right in, even call to ask when I am planning to come up and feed them! While they are snarfing down every bit, I shut the door and lock them in.I like using grain because it makes a noise they recognize when I shake the bin and they come to me. Helps if they have managed an escape over the fence(most of which is in woods so trees and moose damage it, then they find the damage and hop out!) or out the unlocked door(they can open doors with noses if not latched!)

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