There is a well-known children’s book featuring the Berenstain Bear family where the little bears run around the house hopping on things–most notably… Pop! That popped (pun intended) into my head when our little lamb Crescent decided it was fun to jump up on my shoulder when I was petting her head. Some version of Hop on Pop has been a regular game for her ever since then. While unquestionably cute, I have tried (a little) to discourage this as when she weighs 100 pounds it may be a bit less cute.
For now, however, it is our “reward” for what was a hard first couple of days of life for her and her brother Joseph (and us). Sara’s blog post from two times ago discussed the trial of the first day when their mother, June Bug, was terribly confused and butting them away. However, after a week of supervised mother/lamb time and help with nursing, the little family of three was back out on pasture. The twin lambs still see us as friendly helpers and frequently come running over for pets, head bonks, and yes… Hop on Pop!
So our wonderful and terrifying lambing season gave us a flock with five new lambs all healthy and happy, but only one girl (Crescent of the Hop on Pop game). In other lambing drama, in early May I went out in my pajamas near midnight to check on Brownie who went in to labor at dusk. I found her struggling to give birth to what we later realized is a HUGE lamb. His head, shoulders, and front legs were out, but I helped to pull the little guy out the rest of the way. Brownie and I cleaned him up and made sure all was okay. All this happened while I was in my pajamas–hence we named him PJ. Chaco and Paco, Cinnamon’s little ones, you have already heard about. Let us hope all future births are more like theirs.
All the sheep are grazing and browsing, and the pasture and woods are every shade of green one can imagine. It has been a year of abundant and regular rain and most of the garden is thriving, though some things seem to be craving heat (tomatoes, peppers). We, however, have no complaints after last year’s record setting drought. Caroline the chicken hatched six new chicks for us again this spring, and Ella (also a chicken) is sitting on nine more eggs due in several weeks. This new chicken life will replenish our laying flock and our freezer as statistically speaking half are likely to be roosters. We have a rooster, Major Tom, and one is all a flock needs.
The relative lack of sentimentality towards the chickens is noteworthy, and it has taken us a few years to get to that point. This is a farm after all, and chicken is good, healthy food. The time our chickens spend on our farm, whether old laying hen or young rooster, is as humane and sustainable as we can practically achieve. It is certainly far superior to the unspeakable cruelty inherent in the industrial production of (chicken) meat.
However, it is hard, maybe even impossible, to imagine a day when we view our sheep flock, and all the delightful individual members, in this unsentimental light (see above Hop on Pop). For now they are excellent controllers of rampant pasture growth and invasive brush species, and producers of wool and valuable fertilizer. We may well only enjoy meat from our own sheep when someone dies unexpectedly or of old age. Sweet Spot, as much as we (still) miss her, gave us many pounds of amazing lean and exceptionally tasty meat, and a lovely tanned sheep hide. She is now part of us in the most literal way.