This past weekend we traveled to Pennsylvania to visit family (and so Kirk could run another triathlon). Kirk's sister's family lives in Lancaster County (which you should really learn to pronounce correctly if you are not a PA native) on an old Mennonite farm. It's hard not to be jealous of something like 30 acres of farmland and woods that even has a small creek. They have a vegetable garden, a flock of chickens, and have also started keeping bees. And sheep.

And the kids sure loved the sheep. Above, Jonas is feeding grain to Apple, a Dorset ewe. You can see that he is kind of crouched, bracing himself against her head. This was so he could keep his feet — the sheep are all over their new best friends with food!

Here Jonas is (literally) taking a sheep by the horn to keep from getting knocked over. If you are familiar with Jonas at all, you know that this is an absolutely enormous step into being confident around animals. He jumped right into feeding the sheep, and was determined to help catch a lamb (not at all easily done, as the babies are pretty skittish still). He came this close, cornering one by the fence and getting both hands on it before it leapt away. The lamb in question probably weighs more than he does, and he would have had to get it in a bear hug pretty quickly to have caught it. Still, a proud moment for him!

This black and white ewe above is a Jacob, which is an heirloom breed. They chose Jacobs because they are good for both meat and fiber, and because they can take pretty good care of themselves without too terribly much human intervention, especially during lambing. They had three lambs born this spring, all without any late night vigils or assistance.

Here you can see that Jacobs (even the ladies!) have horns. Some have two; some have four.

You can also see here that Apple, like all the sheep, has been recently shorn. They have literally bags of wool to card and spin into yarn, something that I'm sure Tiegan would love to do if we had enough room to keep sheep here in Massachusetts. Kirk was more impressed with their grass mowing capabilities.

Finally, here is Kirk with Binky, who is Apple's lamb. Binky is a mutt — a cross between a Dorset and a Jacob. Because of this, and because he is a boy, he is likely to be dinner by the fall. Kirk is holding him to prep him for castration, which is a (thankfully) bloodless operation. It is actually done with a very tough version of a rubber band, which stops blood flow to the area, causing his testicles to eventually just fall off. Binky didn't seem any worse for wear after getting the band, and he was running around a minute after it was done.

Too bad we're not zoned for sheep!


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