update on joseph

We are relieved to share that Joseph the lamb is doing very well after the coyote attack Tuesday afternoon.


He is recovering amazingly quickly–physically at least. The vet stitched him up and he has five days of penicillin, pain meds, and this anti-fly spray stuff once per day. He’s now on day #4 of treatment.

Joseph had a definite hobble the first day, but each day his limp has gotten better and better. It was hard watching him trying to run the first day or two because he was so gimpy (and slow), but now he’s a lot better. I don’t think most people would even notice that he has a little hobble when he walks now.

In terms of personality, though, he’s still not entirely himself. It’s actually pretty funny. The first morning or two after the Awful Coyote Attack, Ron let the sheep out of Fort Knox around 6 in the morning. Several of the sheep tend to wander by, pause, greet Ron, and get a few pets before moving on to graze.

[OK, think about this for a minute. Sheep greeting their shepherd and wanting pets!?!?]

The first few mornings, Joseph wandered by and stopped for pets. After a pet or two, he suddenly stopped and then dashed off. It was like the cartoon bubble over his head said, “Good morning, Ron! Ahh, pets… Wait!?! I’m not supposed to like you right now because you held me for over an hour while the vet stitched me up and now you are giving me a shot, pain meds, and spraying that strange stuff on me…”

That said, we’ve been able to nab Joseph pretty easily to give him his daily treatment. He’s a pretty resilient and sweet lamb. Ron grabs him, flips him over on his butt, I’m the nurse’s aide and hand Ron the syringe and pain pills, while trying to help keep Joseph from wiggling too much. I’ve been getting a handful of corn and putting it my pocket for after his little medical regime. Joseph seems to really like the corn treat. He often doesn’t get much, if any, because the adult sheep are much bigger and more motivated.

Two more days of post-attack treatment and then hopefully he’ll keep recovering without any issues.

And hopefully we won’t have any more coyote attacks thanks to Tio Diego who is now integrated with the flock.

More on that tomorrow.

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despite diego

We believe sweet Joseph the lamb was attacked by a coyote between 4 and 6 yesterday afternoon. Full daylight (!!).

The coyote conundrum intensifies.

The subject heading is actually misleading because the sheep and Diego the llama are not yet integrated.

Undoubtedly that was part of the problem.

We’ve been getting Diego’s vaccinations up to snuff so that we could then have the poor guy castrated. We’re in the waiting period between shots #1 and #2.

Then this.

Diego was in the upper northwestern pasture (his usual territory for the moment). The sheep had the run of most of the meadow. We’re not sure about timing, but I was doing wage work, Ron went for a walk, I left for yoga, Ron came back to do farm chores around 4, he started making dinner around 5:30, I got home at 6:10, and we were eating dinner around 6:30 when Ron noticed that Joseph was limping.

Limping is often–usually–nothing. The sheep seem to twist their feet and ankles semi-regularly, but it sorts itself out after a day or two. He was grazing so we figured it wasn’t that bad. We finished dinner and immediately went out to check on Joseph.

I got there first and tried to look at his back left leg. I noticed a strange wet substance on his leg like he had walked through grass with a lot of rain. Not a good sign. Ron got there, and because Joseph is so calm and trusts us so much, Ron was able to walk up to him, pick him up, and flip him on his sheepie butt. This is how you check out sheep.

Poor Joseph immediately flashed a puncture wound about the size of a quarter on the inside of his back left leg.

Not. A. Good. Sign.

Ron gently felt his leg and we saw some more scraping wounds on the inside of the same leg. More. Not. Good.

I came inside, called Cornell vet (meaning their after hours answering service), and waited for the return call. The vet called back within 15 minutes and we asked him to come out. Unfortunately, after hours = extra $$.

The vet was at the farm within 30 minutes. While we were waiting for him, we struggled to catch Joseph. Initially, Ron had taken Joseph into the greenhouse after we discovered his wounds without any struggle. But both Joseph and the rest of the sheep were upset. They really don’t like when one of them is missing (see: poor sweet Spot).

Ron decided to put him back in Fort Knox with the rest of the flock. But while we were waiting for the vet, we had to nab Joseph again. Not so easy this time given his suspicion and 10 other suspicious sheep. Too much running around and avoiding us–even Joseph with his wounded leg and serious limp. One of Cinnamon’s twin boys somehow ran up my back and leaped over my head, knocking off my baseball hat, in an attempt to escape as I was bent over trying to grab Joseph.

Finally, a tray of corn did the trick. I walked into the sheep shack with the corn. Most of the usual suspects followed me–Cinnamon (of course, aka Corn Girl), Tagine, Half Moon, one of Cinnamon’s boys, and Joseph. Ron shut the door behind me, then we juggled the door to allow him in, and Ron was able to nab Joseph pretty easily in the confined space with only 5 sheep (and Cinnamon happily munching the entire tray of corn despite the strange behavior and events going on–again, see Corn Girl).

Ron carried poor Joseph back into the greenhouse and I stayed with him. He was a bit wound up at first, standing up at the window/walls, but I grabbed him, gave him a big bear (sheep??) hug, and he calmed down. I plopped down on the (dirty) hay, held him, and kept petting him. He just stood there letting me pet him until Ron and the vet got there.

The vet inspected poor Joseph, started shaving the wool off his leg, and ended up finding 6 wounds, the worst of which was a large, 3″ wound in his back thigh. Exposed muscle in the wounds needing stitches. Small amount of muscle damage in two spots. The vet stitched up the larger wounds, gave him penicillin, pain meds, and some anti-toxin something, and gave us directions on how to take care of him the next 5 days. It took about 90 minutes from start to finish.

Joseph was pretty calm through the whole thing. Ron had him on his back or side on his lap. Joseph kicked his back legs a bit now and again, and sometimes wiggled, but we were able to keep him calm and quiet for the most part. I’m sure the fact that we spent much of 12 hours in the greenhouse with him the first day he and his twin sister were born helped.

We heard coyotes howling at one another around 10:30 when we tried to go to bed. Ron spent the night in his sleeping bag near the sheep. I tossed and turned in bed, not sleeping much. We haven’t let the sheep out of Fort Knox yet this morning. They are confused. Cinnamon is mostly guarding the door and baaing at us when we go outside. But the sheep are fairly calm and have less room to run around, which is good for Joseph’s recovery.

Joseph is putting some weight on his back leg, which is a very good sign. He even did this immediately after surgery last night. Joseph was standing up, nursing, and bright eyed this morning (but still hobbling), which makes us feel much better. The vet expressed a lot of optimism that Joseph will eventually make a full recovery. Of course, for the next week, he will have severe limitations and is therefore quite vulnerable. I assume he won’t be at 100% for some time after that.

So, given that what we hoped wouldn’t happen occurred last night (although not as bad as we feared–KNOCK ON WOOD), we have decided Diego’s integration needs to be accelerated. To today. The risk of him mating with a ewe is less than the (known) risk of coyote attack so we plan a gradual and supervised introduction to the sheep today.

A lot rests on poor Diego the llama’s shoulders.


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coyote conundrum

Here is another guest post from Ron.

All my life I have thrilled at the sound of coyotes howling and I’ve had the rare privilege of hearing wolves in the wild in Montana. I hold great admiration for these intelligent and adaptable creatures and have donated to many causes and signed many a petition to protect their right to live and hunt in our wild places.

We hear the howl of the Eastern Coyote frequently at White Pine Farm, and thrill to it as always. However, since our sheep have been here this thrill is mixed with a deep trepidation. Coyotes eat sheep! We have never had a problem and the most serious steps I have taken include improving and monitoring the perimeter fence, and on occasion walking into our dark pastures at night and responding to nearby howling with a hearty “NO COYOTES ALLOWED HERE!”

But, alas, there has been an upswing in sheep predation this summer. Our cohorts in sheep raising up the hill lost a lamb, and had two more injured badly. One of the injured may not survive. Other shepherds have lost sheep on Snyder Hill and only a mile or two away down near the village of Brooktondale. So despite my admiration for these creatures, something must be done. The immediate solution was the quick construction of a 50 by 50 foot safe pen (now known as Fort Knox) with a 7-foot fence and 2-foot wire skirt around the perimeter. The sheep have contentedly spent the night there the last week or so, and love bouncing around in the sheep shack. This is not something I really want to do long term though.

Hence, we introduce to you Diego the llama!


I found this handsome boy at an alpaca farm to the north where the owners have aged out of farm work. Diego and his father Reuben journeyed down here in the owner’s horse trailer last week and Reuben has joined the farm family up the hill. I have told a few people about the new member of our farm family and not surprisingly they do not see the connection between coyote attacks and our desire to have a llama.

Llamas are natural guard animals and have been used for centuries to protect sheep. They are bigger, much taller in stature, and have an instinctive hatred for all things canid. Unlike the sheep, they will confront a canid intruder with a loud alarm call and stomping. The wise coyote will quickly look elsewhere for dinner, or risk serious injury or even death. Coyote, 40 pounds, llama 200 plus. This is not good arithmetic for Wily E.

Diego is currently an intact male, so castration is a pre-requisite for integration into the flock. Intact llama males may try to mate with ewes (!). Again, ewe 100 pounds, llama 200 plus. Not good arithmetic for the sheep. This will take a few weeks as the Cornell vet wants his immunizations up to date before surgery. For now he is sadly alone, and not too happy about it. He can see the sheep and seems to want to be with them, but not just yet poor Diego!

It is my sincere hope that he bonds with the sheep as expected, and lives with and protects them for many years. I hope this is the case as not only do I want our sheep safe, but I find myself already growing quite fond of this beautiful, calm animal.

So more later on the great llama adventure!

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hop on pop: a guest post from ron

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.

Happy Summer!

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crescent’s new game

Hello diligent readers and followers.

Long time no post.

It was That kind of academic year, including That kind of spring, only to be followed by That kind of early summer.


There have been many new things, events, critters, and adventures on the farm–mostly of the good variety. I’ve been radio silent (blog silent???) due to a very busy spring and early summer. So many stories to share. And I’ve already forgotten 95% of them. Many of the most endearing parts of farm life are the mundane little things that happen spur of the moment.

Oh well.

I’m hoping to write more frequently for the rest of the summer, but I’ll start this afternoon with a story about Crescent Moon. Apparently I never posted photos of her and twin Joseph (!). And, for that matter, I never wrote about the birth of PJ, the last lamb born this spring (!!). Crescent and Joseph’s birth caused too much excitement and it took over everything for a week there. That explains the first week of May. I guess it does not explain anything since then (!).

So, back to Crescent’s new (or not-so-new now) game.

Crescent, now 2.5 months old, started doing this a few weeks ago. When we squat down to pet the sheep–usually her and Joseph–she comes over and proceeds to put her front hooves on our legs.

The first time she did this, she actually knocked Ron over on his behind because he wasn’t expecting a lamb to crawl on him. And when you are crouched and squatted down, you aren’t exactly well balanced either.

After standing on us with her front legs, Crescent hurls her head and neck over our nearest shoulder in a lamb-y hug. At that point, it’s pretty easy to put your arms around her and give her a hug or offer a full-body scritch.

And she loooooooves pets and scritches.

Obviously it’s a game–and a fun one at that, one that pleases her to no end because she keeps doing it. I have no idea where she came up with this idea. It doesn’t seem to have a close relationship with something that she does with her mom or brother or one of the other sheep. But Crescent made up the game and loves it.

I didn’t ever think we would be giving a lamb a hug on a regular basis, but apparently so.


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again, but

I wrote umpteen posts in my head yesterday, what was a Very, Very Long Day.

In short, June Bug, a first-time sheep mom, had twins (!) in the early hours of Sunday morning.

But, after cleaning them up, she rejected them (!!!!!!!).

I don’t have time to write everything that happened yesterday (more exclamation points go here…), but the situation seems stable and much better now, about 27 hours after getting up around 5 am yesterday morning to a ewe who was head-butting her newborns, twin lambs (a girl and a boy), and trying to figure out how to keep these gorgeous little critters alive.

We spent all day taking small steps, trying to keep them going, getting them cleaned up, dry, and fed, trying to get them to nurse from Junie despite her initial response, and hoping that she would/will eventually accept them.

For the time being, we have June Bug in a halter in the sheep shack. We’re bringing in the twins every 2-4 hours to nurse from her. She’s mostly calmed down from her head butting. She seems quite conflicted and was all day yesterday. She seems to have raging new mom hormones (where are my babies? where are my babies?), but then is freaking out about them (who are you? what are you doing? [head butt]). She’s much better with them–and us–so we are hoping that we can keep the twins nursing, she will warm up to them (and us), and we’ll be able to let all of them rejoin the entire flock shortly. Meanwhile, the flock is very much confused about everything between Cinnamon, her twins, and now Junie and her twins.

On a happier note, June Bug’s twins are absolutely beautiful. No time to download some photos I took yesterday, but they are handsome, beautiful, and getting stronger (and bouncier) by the hour. We are so relieved.

And they seem to think they have three parents–one sheep and two humans.

Photos to come.

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… Chaco and Francisco (Paco), Cinnamon’s twin boys.

4.28.17 033

Here they are at just over three hours old.

Chaco is closer to the camera with more brown. He looks more like his father, Shemp. Paco is closer to Cinnamon. He’s almost all white except for a patch of taupe on the back of his neck.

We went back and forth on names for almost 24 hours. Half Moon’s name seemed more self-evident (not to mention New Age-y). I liked the idea of two boys’ names that were somehow connected–in history, fiction, film, or folklore.

Romulus and Remus? Tweedledee and Tweedledum? Tom and Ray?

Nope, nope, nope.

Ron suggested some kind of names that evoked their breed heritage–Navajo Churro. I liked that idea, but we couldn’t come up with many options at first. Ron thought of Chaco. I thought of Taos. Ron thought of Cedar and Mesa. Or Mesa and Verde. Then he thought of Koko and Pelli to evoke one of the gods.

I also liked the New Age-y option of evoking what was happening on the farm and the season when they were born. The fruit trees are in full bloom, but Blossom is a girl’s name. Rhubarb and Asparagus? Not so much.

My undergraduate RA and I worked together Friday afternoon. She suggested two tree names. I was thinking about Aspen (Southwest) and Maple (Northeast) for a while, given their colors.

But the Navajo and Southwest theme stuck with me the most. We both liked Chaco for the boy with more brown on him. For about 30 minutes, the other one was simply named Canyon (to fill out the Chaco Canyon reference). But that didn’t roll off the tongue.
Ron thought of Paco as a Spanish boy’s name. I wasn’t totally thrilled, but the rhyming is pretty cute (if not potentially challenging).

This morning I decided to look up Paco on that Great Fount of Wisdom–Wikipedia.

Turns out Paco is a nickname for Francisco, and Francisco is probably derived from St. Francis of Assisi. I’ve always liked St. Francis (and I like Francis even more given Pope Francis). Then Ron found this wonderful piece of art from Taos that shows (a very brown, Native American-looking) St. Francis with three (white) sheep. They are probably Navajo Churro sheep. We have it hanging in our kitchen. St. Francis is definitely the patron saint of the farm.

And so it was settled–Chaco and Paco. Here they are. Get your cute on.

Here’s Chaco (top), just a minute or two after being born with Cinnamon cleaning him up. Three cute close-ups. As you can see, he has a brown nose, some brown/taupe patches on his back, and brown on his feet (little booties). He’s really cute. He was born first, but he’s smaller, thinner, and not quite as strong as Paco. He’s less of an obsessive nurser and likes to lay down. He also likes pets.

And here’s Paco. Top photo shows him seconds after being born. We saw him being born close-up (and, no, Cheri, we didn’t know Cinnamon was carrying twins!). You can see Chaco standing up rather unsteadily on the right. Below are all photos of Paco. He’s more classically handsome–all white with the taupe patch on the back of his neck. He also likes pets and he seems to be a bit bolder and more adventurous. He started walking up to me within 12 hours (!?!?!?!).

Not surprisingly, the twins are buddies, hanging out together most of the time.

Like I said, get your cute on.

And (KNOCK ON WOOD), there should be (at least) two more lambs coming!

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