Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sheep names

We bought two new ewes before Christmas. One, Mouse, was already named, but the second lamb needed a name. It has been our custom for years, to allow young friends to name new animals added to our flock. We give the child a topic based on the lamb’s mother’s name and they usually do quite well. For example, Brownie’s first baby was named “Chocolate chip” by a young friend. Fair’s first baby was named Cloudy. Polar Bear had a lamb named Teddy Bear. I thought I had a good technique, but when I asked a child to name Brownie’s second baby after his favorite food. He called her “Chicken”.

Even with that variation, our naming technique helped us remember who is related to whom and gives some help when we ask people to name lambs.

This fall, our grandson Jasper named a small brown wether that we added to the flock to be a friend for Winthrop the ram. The wether’s mother only had a number, so we let Jasper give him whatever name he wanted. Turned out he wanted “Shéngifr”, with a silent “r”. Now our grandson Kieran has named Mouse’s companion “Ervatungum” (pronounced air-va-tun-jum with an accent on the tun). At least we know that our grandkids are creative. Who knows what Ervatungum’s baby will be named.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dog sense

In the last few weeks with the thermometer dropping as low as 20° below zero, Newton has behaved on our walks on the driveway like the perfectly behaved dog that we trained him to be. He sticks with us, checks back often when we lag behind, and in general seems to take great joy in walking and running with us.

Then, the temperature rose. I knew we might be in for a hard time when Newton persisted in wandering off the driveway into the deep snow in the west woods. I’d call him back, and he would meander back to me, but he was definitely more interested in the woods than he was in me. Rabbit tracks crossed and recrossed the driveway. Mouse trails led under the snow. Deer bedded down in the shelter of the woods. It was a wonderful area for wildlife.

Finally, when the thermometer reached 4°, the scents of the animals in the woods overcame Newton’s common sense. He was off and exploring, nose searching through snow drifts. He ran from site to site, buried his nose in the snow, snuffled loudly and then dashed off to another scent.

I stamped through the snow after him, calling uselessly. Fortunately, whatever scents Newton was following had gone to ground in our woods. I did not have to chase him across the entire west forty acres. I caught up with him, grabbed his collar and encouraged him back to the road. The next time we go for a walk, I will use my own common sense and put the leash on the dog before we leave the house.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Awesome beauty

photo by Dave Ellison

When I walked Newton this morning, the temperature had settled at two degrees below zero. The wind cut through my wool mittens, fierce out of the west. Fresh snow stretched unbroken across the fields. It was a beautiful day, although a spare, harsh kind of beauty.

An hour later, while washing the dishes at the sink, Dave and I watched real beauty unfold. The rising sun burned through the clouds of snow still in the air and sun dogs appeared. Bright cousins of rainbows, sun dogs are even more magical than their rainstorm equivalents. The sundogs are due to sunlight refracting through hexagonal plate shaped ice crystals, usually found in high, cold cirrus clouds. In the winter, these ice crystals are called diamond dust and they float in the air at low elevations. Many winter mornings we see flat plates of diamond dust settled out on snow banks and grasses, glittering in the rising sun.

This morning the diamond dust refracted the light of the rising sun into a solar halo that circled the sun and two sun dogs, awesome in their beauty. Who could ask for a better reason to do the dishes than a glimpse of awesome beauty.