tagine

More weeks have passed. More stuff has happened on the farm. As usual, little time to write about any of it.

Ron sold the riding lawnmower, he moved the sheep from the east to west side of the property, the garlic is coming up, there was a small flock of a new bird in the honeysuckle bushes early in the week, there are a zillion robins this spring, and we are now in a return of winter after an early spring.

We had planned to get the sheep sheared tomorrow, but given winter’s mini-return, we postponed it for a week. It will be fun to see and I will take photos.

After my latest trip (which one? don’t ask? I’m really not sure these days…), I went out and visited the sheep. As usual, they were cute and friendly, especially the buddy triumvirate of Spot, Cinnamon, and Tagine.

I took a little break Thursday and visited the sheep again. Most said hello, but they were in grazing mode so they really wanted to eat. Only Tagine stuck around for pets and scritches. And boy did he stick around for pets and scritches.

It still cracks me up that the big, handsome male that would undoubtedly be the alpha male of the flock if he weren’t a wether is so friendly and snuggly. He likes his face petted, his muzzle and chin scratched, and he seems to love big scratches on the chest and back. Even better when we get down to near his skin because sometimes one leg will shake like a dog’s. Guess all that wool is itchy. I squatted down to pet his face and chest and he started nibbling at my fingers, down jacket, and sleeves. But mostly, he wants pets. He’s also a leaner; he’ll lean on my leg. If my arms are hanging down, he’ll often stick his face in my hands for more pets. Some times, if I’m squatted down, he’ll stick his face so it’s mostly over my shoulder.

And remember: he’s a sheep.

While I was gone, Ron said Tagine was getting a bit rougher with his head butting routine. He likes to head butt us as well. The meaning varies significantly based on individual and context. Heat butting can be classic male dominance behavior. It is also a form of greeting and affection. And it can be a combination of the two–a type of rough play. All the sheep do it–boys and girls, castrated boys and rams, both across and within gender lines. Spot has been most intense about head butting at times. Tagine has done a lot of head butting with me, 99% of which is the affectionate variety. The best is when he starts walking slowly toward me, from about 10 feet away, with his head down, all ready to head butt my legs. But he walks and butts so  gently, it’s hard to even call it head butting.

But while I was gone, Tagine was doing the head butting routine with Ron and he was a bit more insistent about it. We definitely want to make sure all the sheep know we’re boss, so Ron looked up how to control (?) that behavior.

Ahh, the miracle of the internet!

Turns out, one of the best–and easiest–things to do is simply walk toward a head butting sheep. Ron told me about this before I saw it myself and it is absolutely hilarious to watch.

The butting sheep is completely baffled. The cartoon bubble above their wooly heads clearly states:

Why are you walking toward me??? I’m supposed to be head butting you. Or we’re supposed to meet in the middle. Why are you walking toward me–and now what do I do???

Tagine was a bit head butty with me Thursday after many pets and scritches. He took a few steps back and was about to walk gently toward me. So I decided to try what Ron told me. I walked toward him and it was clear he was baffled once again. He tried again; same deal. At that point, I squatted down and gave him some more pets. He happily stood there for several more minutes.

In other words, Tagine, our big male (albeit castrated) sheep, is a big baby. And needless to say, Tagine has gotten a pass so he won’t become tagine, as intended.

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