Even bummer lambs grow up, sigh

I have such mixed feelings about Patterdale, our first and only bottle baby.  She seemed so vulnerable when she first arrived and then as she started to grow in our breakfast nook, yattering away to be sure we knew she was there and needed milk — all the time.   Both Steve and I had to resist the urge to smother her with attention, lest she get too attached to us.

We need not have worried.

These days, Patterdale hangs out with the friends she made in the Nursery when she first moved outdoors:  Sedgwick and his mom Yalo, and Milburn and his mom Catalaya.  We are relieved that she does not cling to us, or pay any attention to us at all, truth to tell, except when she wants milk.  Yalo and Catalaya will not let her nurse, of course, but Patterdale beds down with one or both of them nearby.  It is a surprisingly endearing family group scene for “just” sheep.

During the day, Patterdale is one of the crowd, exploring the hay feeders, running in and out of the creep feeder,


and generally learning the only skill — eating adult food — she will need until the Ancient Rituals — breeding and lambing — kick in.

But back to milk.  Notwithstanding her increasing independence, all it takes is a ring of the dinner bell hanging on a nail, or simply calling Patterdale’s name, and she comes racing over from whatever games or other mischief she’s gotten into with her lamb colleagues.

It is not very often I allow Steve to act as the official Saltmarsh Ranch photographer, mostly because he is somewhat of a perfectionist and I get impatient waiting for him to take the ideal picture.  But a few days ago he grabbed the camera as I was strolling down the gravel lane in the Maternity Ward to feed Patterdale.


Does the old Al Jolson tune, “Me and My Shadow” come to mind?

When Patterdale first moved inside with us, we used a purchased lamb nursing bottle, but once she moved out to the Maternity Ward with her buddies, we needed something a bit bigger so as not to be running back and forth to the house all the time.  Enter a no-longer-needed-for-human-consumption Schweppes Diet Tonic bottle — just the ticket.


As you can see, there is no shortage of enthusiasm for eating in this little ewe lamb. 

I have to laugh at our naivete in this whole episode, especially our unwarranted fear that we would not be able to find Patterdale amidst the throng of lambs in the Maternity Ward.  We actually put a big swath of green marking crayon, the stuff we use to tell us which of our Soay have been vaccinated when we work the ewes or rams, on Patterdale’s head. 


Oh yes, the red nipple.  For such a mundane tool, it has an awfully fancy name, “Pritchard teat,” and it is widely available in farm stores.  Unfortunately, as you can see it is way too big, as is a lot of sheep-related equipment not made especially for the little Soay, lambs or adults.  So far we have not had any luck finding a reliable smaller nipple and we welcome any advice on where to find one.  The nursing/watering equipment for rabbits and such in the pet stores never seems to include a nipple and we cannot imagine the Soay taking a liking to one of those stainless steel “straws” that little rabbits are supposed to lick on for liquid intake.

I haven’t decided whether to submit this next picture to the American Dairy Board or whoever it is that puts out the ads featuring celebrities with milk mustaches, but if life gets boring around here, I may just give it a whirl.


Meanwhile, as endearing as Patterdale is, on balance I will be relieved when her rumen is fully operational so she can live exclusively on hay and grass and we can commit the Schweppes bottle to the recycling bin.

For now …