Thursday, January 31, 2008

Fun With Buckets

One of my sheep, a young black ewe named Simone, had some health problems in the Fall that left her very thin. She has been gradually climbing back to health, but it's taking her a long time to regain all the weight she lost, so I have taken to sneaking her extra food when the other sheep aren't looking.

As a consequence, Simone has become fixated on me, and convinced that I serve no other purpose than to be her feed dispenser. When I'm in the yard, she follows me everywhere, so close on my heels that she often steps on the back of my shoes. When I'm inside the house, she wanders around mournfully outside, searching all the nooks and corners of the yard, hoping to find some hidden stash of food I may have left for her. Sometimes she comes up onto the back porch, stares into the kitchen through the glass door, and bleats for me to come out.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to the sound of the wind roaring across our hill. I also heard the distinctive, hollow, bump-bump-bump sound of one of our plastic buckets being blown across the back yard.

Raising myself up from my bed, I looked out the window in time to see the bright yellow bucket go tumbling at high speed down the driveway. Startled by this unexpected apparition, several of the other sheep scattered in panic.

Then I had to laugh because, running along behind the flying bucket as fast as she could go, was Simone---completely convinced that the bucket must be full of food for her!

This afternoon, the sheep had another bucket adventure.

A few days ago, when my filly Libby got sick with colic, I made up a bucket of warm molasses water to try to encourage her to drink. She didn't want it at the time, and eventually recovered without drinking any of it.

Rather than dumping it out, I left it in the back yard for the sheep to find. For a few days, the water remained frozen but lately, with milder temperatures, I've noticed the level of the molasses water dropping each day as more and more of the sheep discovered the tasty treat.

Today, the bucket was empty except for a sweet film of molasses in the bottom. I looked out the back door to see a mob of sheep descend upon the bucket, fighting to see who would be the lucky one who would get to lick up the last of the "candy."

Through size and sheer determination, after a lot of scuffling, that honor fell to my senior ewe, Moriah (who, coincidentally, happens to be Simone's mother). Victorious, she shoved her face into the bucket, forcing her nose to the sweet stuff at the bottom, even though her wide horns would barely wedge into the bucket.

Unfortunately for her, they wedged a little too well! Suddenly, she lifted her head up, with the heavy-duty 5-gallon bucket still attached to her face. Blinded, she started careening around the yard, crashing into all the other sheep that were crowded around. Finally the bucket shifted so that it was dangling from one of her horns by the handle. A moment later, she managed to flip it off onto the ground.

So much for the dignity of the flock's matriarch!

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