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Ymogen’s Story


I’m Ymogen. I was born in April last year to Sparkle, along with my sister Yndia. Life here at Auchenstroan has been good. We have plenty to eat, there are lots of handy drinking spots and a nice wee shelter for when the weather gets grim. And it does get pretty grim sometimes.

So life has been great, only about two weeks ago, I had a bad accident. I can’t remember much about it really, all a bit of a blur. But I do know that I really hurt my jaw. In fact, the front bottom bit went all flappy so I couldn’t even eat anything.

I did try, but I couldn’t get hold of hay, even the long bits. And nibbling grass, well that was nigh on impossible.

The humans, bless them, spotted that I was in trouble very quickly. I was given some nuts to eat and I managed to lick those from the she-human’s hand. They were very welcome, let me tell you as I was getting pretty hungry. But she only gave me a few, I couldn’t figure out why.

Then the humans disappeared and I lay down in the shelter. It’s hard when things hurt.

Then the humans re-appeared and had a stranger with them. I kind of recognised her, I think she had been around before, but I wasn’t sure. Turns out she was what the humans call a vet. We’re a bit wary of vets, they have a habit of sticking sharp, prickly things into us. Sure enough, this vet looked all round my mouth (ouch) and then stuck a prickly thing into me. Twice!!

Ymogen and pen 9 days
Me in my pen

I watched the humans, a bit warily now. The vet had a funny look on her face, it didn’t look very good. She kept looking at me like I was in real danger. Well, I suppose if I can’t eat, I am in in trouble I thought to myself. I had heard that some humans thought that sheep just spent their time looking for ways to die. Not me, I thought, but what am I going to do?

The humans wandered off but then my two re-appeared soon after with a green bucket. Hmm, I thought, green buckets can mean nuts. The she-woman tried to lure me into a pen. I wasn’t too sure about that, I hadn’t forgotten the prickly pains. But the lure of sheep nuts was strong and so in I went. Then the she woman presented me with a handful of something I’d never seen before. I didn’t know what to make of it at all. The human was muttering words like “turnip” and “finely chopped hay” as if us sheep could speak human. What was she on about?

But she sprinkled some nuts on top and I did my best to lick them off. Some of the strange stuff got into my mouth, it was all shredded and felt a bit odd. Tasted all right though. But I wasn’t sure about it, what I wanted was hay and grass.

Anyway, the humans came over lots of times and each time they offered me the same mix. And I licked a tiny bit but I wasn’t really too sure about it.

After a couple of days I was really quite hungry. The humans had given me more prickly things and the the funny thing is, my mouth didn’t seem to hurt so much. The she-woman had vanished, not sure where she had gone, but the he-human came up into the field (we were out and about now) and tried to lure me into the pen. Well, I wasn’t too sure about him, but when I was half in half out, he offered me the same strange mix with some nuts on top.

I was really hungry, so I started to lick it up. It was pretty good actually. It helped that my mouth was not so sore. My back teeth were OK, but I couldn’t seem to get my nibbly teeth at the front to work.

Anyway, I kept licking and the he-man kept adding more in his hand, then he left. I looked at him, how can you leave – I’m starving, I want more. But off he went. These humans, I thought to myself, I wish they spoke sheep.

But, amazingly, he was back soon after and had more food. I licked it all up and he seemed really pleased.

Over the next couple of days, the he-human brought me lots of food and I ate every scrap. I soon realised that the pen was not to imprison me, but to keep my pesky brothers and sisters out of the way. Not to mention some of the wrinklies – they could dive right in, and my mouth was still a bit sensitive. But the he-human kept me safe. I started waiting by the pen.

A couple of days later, the she-human re-appeared and she brought me new food. I heard her say “carrot” and “sprout”. It was an odd colour, the mix, kind of orangy, but it was yummy.

In-between the visits from the humans, I kept trying to grab hay from the feeders and to nibble grass, but I just couldn’t seem to do it. It was so frustrating. I wasn’t hungry though, the humans brought me as much food as I could eat. And I could chew the cud.

Ymogen and her bucket Friday 8 days
Me eating out of my bucket

And we had some adventures. I hate being left behind by the others, but I also hate not being able to finish my meals. But sometimes, the human would take the bucket away (I was eating straight out of the bucket now) and call me. And I’d realise the other sheep had gone and would panic. But the human kept saying something like “Ymogen”, or “thisway”, or something like that. So, I’d follow and the human would lead me to the others.

Phew, I would say to myself. One day, my meal was spread right over the hill as the others were on a right long walk. The human didn’t seem to mind, he just let me eat a bit, called me, we’d catch up, eat a bit and so on.

Anyway, after a few days of this, maybe about 11, I found I could grab hay from the feeders. That was great. In fact I was so excited I hardly ate anything the humans brought that day. The humans looked a bit non-plussed so I ate the evening meal to keep them happy. My jaw was a bit achy now, though. It occured to me I hadn’t had a prickly experience for a few days. Ha! That didn’t last. Next morning, head in the bucket and ouch, pin-prick. Still, my jaw started to hurt less.

Ymogen in the snow 10 days
Me! Look at the weather

Anyway, the she-human brought some hay into the pen. After I’d scoffed the shreddy stuff, I tucked into the hay. The human seemed very excited by this, can’t think why. But it was a lot easier eating it like this than at the feeders where there was always a bit of argy bargy going. We sheep, we’re always arguing about the same piece of hay.

Next day, I tried nibbling some grass again and you know what, I could do it. The she-woman was so excited that I think she filmed me doing it. Can’t think why, it’s what we sheep do, all day, every day. But it was nice to taste real grass again.

The elders tell me I’m lucky, that there was no grass around this time last year, Apparently, the weather was dodgy last year. Dodgy? The last two weeks have been nothing but snow, hail, torrential rain and high winds.

Anyway, the humans don’t come out with shreddy meals quite so often now. Probably just as well or I could turn into a right porky like my mum. I know I shouldn’t say that, but really, have you ever watched her walking downhill?

Anyway, I just hope my humans have told the vet-stranger that I am still here. I’ll bet she will be well surprised, init.

Me starring in my first film


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Ymogen – a lamb with a broken jaw

Ymogen Monday

Last Friday morning, Nicole noticed that Ymogen, one of last years lambs, had a problem with her jaw. The lower palette seemed to be all askew. We called out the vet and she confirmed it was a bad break. When an animal is in mortal peril, vets kind of have this look on their face, and our vet had that look. The prognosis was not good.

Ymogen - Sunday
Ymogen – Sunday

We are not sure how it happened, but we suspect she had put her head into a gap in the hurdles and then been hit from behind by another sheep. We had been doing routine vaccinations the day before and sometimes had been using sheep nuts to lure them into a pen. She may have been trying to reach the sheep nuts through the hurdles. Sheep nuts are both a blessing and a curse. You can use them to train sheep (like dogs and dog treats). But the possibility of getting sheep nuts can cause a little but too excitement. And for some of the sheep, their way of saying “give us a bit of space” is to jump onto the rear end of the poor sheep that’s in the way.

Ymogen Tuesday - at hay rack
Ymogen Tuesday – at hay rack

Anyway, the vet gave her a painkiller and some antibiotics and we retired to ponder what to do.

Inspiration came via one of our neighbours. She keeps guinea pigs and offered us some chopped hay. Well, we have a shed full of the stuff and plenty pairs of scissors, so we got to work. I say “we”, but in reality, Nicole created a masterpiece of a meal for injured lambs, a mix of chopped hay, grass, brussel sprouts, a bit of liquid life aid and the key ingredient, shredded turnip (swedes to non Scots). Luckily for us, we have grown loads more turnips than we can eat.

For the first couple of days, Ymogen licked some of it up. However, she kept trying to eat grass or hay from the feeders and when she couldn’t, she would just go and stand somewhere with her head down. It’s kind of heartbreaking to watch.

Ymogen Thursday head in bucket
Ymogen Thursday head in bucket (no pen!)

Anyway, come Monday, Nicole was off to work. Mid morning, I set off with a few handfuls of “magic mix”. Ymogen was still a bit wary of coming into a pen, so it was not that easy. She needed to be in a pen to keep the other sheep out more than anything. In order to tempt her to eat the mix, we sprinkle some ground sheep nuts on the top. The smell attracts a lot of unwanted attention from the others.

I couldn’t quite get her into the pen, so I started feeding her with her standing half in, half out. I was able to keep the others at bay and they soon lost interest. Amazingly, she scoffed the lot and then looked at me, like Dickens’ Oliver, and asked for more.

So I sent an update to Nicole (with freezing fingers) and trotted back to the house to make a second helping. She scoffed all of that too.

Ymogen Thursday - looking happy
Ymogen Thursday – looking happy

It has now been just under a week. Ymogen is not out of the woods by any means. The injury is to bone and cartilage so could take weeks to heal. At least Ymogen has the advantage of being young (about 10 months old). She is on 5 feeds a day now. She is often waiting by the pen and now trots happily in. She happily eats from a bucket (making a it easier on us). She is cudding which is a great sign.

She is still on her medication, antibiotics and painkiller jags (jabs to non Scots), every 2-3 days.

So, it’s fingers crossed.

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George and Ursi – A Dog and Sheep love affair

Ursi and George

Every now and then, a story pops up somewhere about dogs and sheep. It’s pretty much always bad news, sheep have been killed by someone’s pet dog. In fact, the biggest threat to sheep is the domestic dog. It happens round here sometimes too. To be honest, one of the reasons I gave up working as a dog behavioural therapist was that I got fed up with dog owners’ unshakeable belief that their pooches could do no wrong.

Anyway, our dogs have been conditioned to respect sheep. George is an Anatolian Shepherd and his breed was created to guard livestock. Haribo is a collie and should be inclined to round them up, but has never shown any inclination to do so.

George and Ursi
George and Ursi

George is actually very good with the sheep. Given the chance he will groom them, licking their faces and ears and even their backsides. He particularly likes a messy sheep’s bottom! Haribo tends to give them a bit of a wide berth. I think he got butted a while back (before the sheep had got to know him), but he’s getting a bit more confident with them now.

One of our ewes, Ursi, now seeks George out whenever he’s over there. They have developed quite a strong friendship and it’s lovely to see, It is George and Ursi shown in the picture.

So it shows, dogs and sheep can go together. If the dog owners know what they are doing.

That said, when we take our dogs for walks in other places, we always have them on leads around others’ livestock. George and Haribo may be fine with our sheep, but our sheep don’t run away from them. Dogs are hunters and if something runs, they will instinctively go after it and all the training is forgotten in an instant.

I have never forgotten a moment when I was a teenager in Edinburgh. I was heading to the bus stop and passed a huge St Bernard sitting in a driveway. It watched me walk past with rapt attention. Everything was fine until I saw my bus coming and had to break into a run. As I ran to the bus stop, I heard a noise behind me and turned to see said St Bernard hurtling after me. I stopped and swore at it (basically challenged it in dog speak) and it froze mid stride. I slunk round the corner, sprinted and just caught my bus. I looked out the window and the St Bernard was still standing there, mid stride, looking mildly puzzled.

Any dog, no matter how well trained, has a very strong chase reflex.

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Weather and Frogs

frog in the grass

Well, what can I say – February had some unusually warm weather with bright, warm sunny days. It was lovely, even if it was a sign of underlying climate change. We took full advantage including getting in some early seed sowing. We now have brassicas and turnips germinating in the greenhouse. This is helped by the fact that I laid in an electric cable and installed a small tube heater to keep the frost at bay.  And those warm February days did turn pretty chilly at night.

The next thing that happened was that suddenly, there were frogs everywhere. The frog chorus met at the pond and started singing their hearts out. Driving up the track at night suddenly became an exercise in frog spotting followed by evasive manoeuvres (or Nicole getting out of the car and helping them to safety). We think we have done quite well because there are no flat frogs on the track. That said, the herons are back. I suppose it’s an early spring feast for them.

The question is, were they a bit early? Because, after the warm spell, storm Freya hit. Torrential rain, wind and it all turned a bit chilly. I don’t think the frogs minded the rain so much. The sheep and hens are not impressed though. The area around the sheep field shelter and feeders has become something of a quagmire. Good job they have a patio! That said, one of the great things here is that they can trundle up the hill where the ground is remarkably solid. They can escape the mud and they do, happily grazing (the grass is growing already) and cudding and generally just being sheep.

Storm Freya continues to wag her tail at us as I write this, but inbetween the rain and blustery winds, we are at least getting moments of sunshine.

And after writing this, I’ll be off to plant more seeds.