Overall, I’m pretty confident and comfortable with my animals. I’m pretty good about spending time and keeping an eye on them, checking their eyelids for a good FAMACHA score and worming when necessary, swapping out their suits as they outgrow them, keeping them in good hay and water and mineral–it’s all really basic stuff. But my Achilles heel (ahem) is hoof trimming. I’m lousy at it, timid and nervous. I’m not confident handling them and tend to give in immediately when they put up a fight. In short, I am a weak parent.
But I’m feeling just a little more confident today. I just got some very patient and much needed help trimming hooves from my friend Jenny. We trimmed Uncle Honeybunch and Mister Shivers (easy), Ronnie (a little weird–hers are more fleshy in spots–more like calluses than nails–but I was able to manage with guidance), and Agnes, who Jenny trimmed–her hooves were such a mess that I was at a loss.
In fact, that’s the whole reason I finally quit being such a procrastinator and finally called her up and begged for help. Yesterday, Agnes didn’t immediately hop up when I went down to let them out. Her hooves had been looking too long for a while, but she was running and jumping and so frisky, and it was so cold and wet for so long that I kept letting myself off the hook. But when I saw she was a little reluctant to get up and seemed to be limping a bit when she did, I realized I’d better nut up and address this before I had a crisis on my hands. She was still alert and bright-eyed and willing to go out and graze once she did get up, so I wasn’t panicked, but definitely concerned.
I tried to tackle it myself, with Ron helping me hold Agnes, but after a few ham-fisted, cringing, uncertain attempts, and a lot of kicking and thrashing from Agnes, had to accept that this just wasn’t something I could learn from reading about it and guessing. And though I had wanted to ask the vet or the shearer to slow down to a snail’s pace and let me try last year, I just didn’t have the confidence to really ask them to drag it out the way I’d need to to actually learn.
I hate going all Green Acres and pestering my critter-literate friends, but this time, I just had to. Luckily, Jenny was both willing and available. She’s not only a vet, but she also raised sheep for 4H as a girl, and she sponsors 4H now, so she’s very relaxed and patient with ninnies like me.
She got each sheep on its butt and held it while I carefully, nervously trimmed each hoof, then held it up and awaited her inspection and instruction about where to trim more. She was really fantastic, completely patient, and went back and trimmed a little more enthusiastically on the spots that were giving me problems. The Shetlands were relaxed, and their hooves were in pretty good shape, so I got started with Uncle Honeybunch and Mister Shivers and built a little confidence with them. Agnes was a mess–hers seem to grow at least twice as fast as the others, and were overgrown and damaged, exposing the pads, which had built up a sort of protective callus that was getting pressed and was tender, like a hangnail or an ingrown toenail. On top of that, Agnes DOES NOT care for having her hooves trimmed–even when they were in good shape and not tender and overgrown, she would put up a mad fight (part of why I’m such a bad sheep mommy about hooves), so it was a godsend having someone who wasn’t the cover girl for Nervous Shepherd Magazine (i.e., me) handling her. She was completely unphased by the struggling and kicking. Jenny gave Aggie’s feet a good going over and pronounced them fine (no infection or suspect areas), but she said I do need to keep an eye on her to see that they heal properly, and that Agnes & I are going to need to become dear friends with the clippers. I’ll need to trim her hooves regularly, more frequently for a while than I probably will in the future, just to get everything grown back nice and even. In the end, she’s probably going to need a trim 4X a year, vs. the twice a year the others require. She’s the only one with white hooves–they just seem to grow a lot faster, and maybe they’re not as sturdy, either.
Post-pedicure, Agnes was trotting around pretty normally, and by dinner-time, she was stotting! (Man, I need to get a picture of that sometime. It’s only the Merinos. When I come out with the grain, they’ll often leap 2 or 3 feet straight up into the air–they truly jump with joy! Even Agnes, who is twice the size of the twins, does it regularly, and I was happy to see her leap especially high today.)
You can see by all the mud on Agnes’ jacket that she was thrashing around like a maniac. In contrast, Ronnie and Mr. Shivers (3rd & 4th at the trough) are pretty clean. They pretty much gave in the minute they were on their butts, which makes it a lot more quick and comfortable for everyone involved.
Jayne’s little piggies–a little long, but not gnarly. We’re going to do Hokey Pokey, Jayne and Fudgy next week. I’ll try to get some before and after pictures of the undersides next week so you can see how they look. From casual observation, they seem fairly sound–I remember Hokey Pokey’s were a little fleshy, like Ronnie’s, and Jayne’s may have been too–maybe a lamb thing? Luckily, my fabulous shearer will trim hooves for me again in a month or so, so I don’t have to trim as aggressively as I normally might, which is confidence-building. I can strive for a nice even job and no nicks and not fret too much about going shorter. I might even try to manage Hokey Pokey on my own! (Fudgy’s out of the question, and Jayne may be too big for me to take alone.)
What’s really cool is that Jenny and Sherri are going to loan me their old 4H grooming stanchion. My plan is to condition the sheep to actually like having their hooves trimmed, using a little grain-and-restrain routine. I’m hoping it will be much the way that milk goats will happily march up the stanchion to be milked once they know they get goodies for it. I need to tidy up the hay shed to make a nice, sheltered home for it, so it’s in good shape when Sherri’s girls are ready for 4H. That’s still a ways off–they’re the little girls here–but time does fly).
Speaking of time, I’m running out of time to finish my stupid WIP and start my potholders for the swap! Last week, my desire to get cracking on the potholders persuaded me to frog 4 items–3 single slippers and a tank that looked terrible on me–and finish 2 more (that red tank and the Noro sweater I showed off last week).
Right now, I’m working on a bulky sweater that’s going quickly, now that I’ve frogged and reknit a section I screwed up. I started this so long ago that I can’t remember my intentions for it. On ravelry, I called it “Leafy Cardi,” but it’s way too heavy to be a regular cardigan, so I’m calling it Leafy Jacket and planning on making it nice and loose. I’ll finish the body and sleeves with little or no (probably no, actually) shaping, adding a repeat of the leaf pattern at bottoms of each. Then I’ll finish the front and collar with several rows of either seed or ribbing, and if there’s any extra yarn, there will be pockets.
This yarn is quick to knit because it’s so thick, but it’s going to be a giant ass-pain to weave in the many ends (I should use all 12 100g balls). It’s bulky superwash 50/50 wool/acrylic with a zillion plies, a weaving nightmare.
I made great progress emptying and sorting my first Fibber MaGee and Molly closet last week, but I lost a little organizing momentum agonizing over how to repair it. But I believe I’ve found the correct product for the job (Presto Patch–Ron’s getting me some on the way home), so I’m back on track to repair, prime, and paint the thing, so I can put back all the stuff I removed and sorted last week. I’ve decided to take a pragmatic approach. I want the plaster repaired and painted to seal it, but I’m not trying to win a beauty contest, so I don’t care if the surface is like a lunar landscape. Letting go of that means that I can leave the shelves in place and just reinforce the joints instead of taking them down and properly scraping and patching the wall. I just want to keep out the cold and keep my shoes relatively plaster-free. It will be nice to take advantage of all the lovely storage space.
The better part of its former contents (most of the big bags and hampers on the right) will move up to the craft room. Three bags went to Goodwill, and if I were smart, I’d be ditching all the heels I never wear anymore. But I’m not smart. I’m not yet willing to abandon my cute shoes. After all, I do go on vacation now and again. Once all this stuff is back where it belongs, I’ll tackle Door #2, which is also crammed-chest high with teetering boxes–but it’s even more daunting than the first closet because the plaster is in worse shape, and since there are no shelves, it’s twice as full.
But I’ll think about that tomorrow.