I now know why sheep have to be sheared, even though my Dorpers don’t have wool and supposedly shed their “hair.” Tiny has been working on rubbing off last year’s hair for six months now. That was problem number one. You see, she should have shed it all two months ago.
The second problem is what she’s been using as her hair scraper. Back in the corner of the property there is an old Sycamore. It has a massive trunk and a thick branch that juts out over Oak Creek. Being a Sycamore, the trunk is very smooth. More importantly, time has encouraged it to lean toward the creek, creating the perfect place for a moderately-sized ewe (Tiny has long since outgrown her name) to use when rubbing her back.
The third problem is our summer rains. Sheep don’t mind standing out in the rain. They’re not crazy about hail, but even that doesn’t always drive them to find shelter. I expect rain must be a welcome relief, given their coats and the fact that it’s been so hot and humid lately. Just like me, standing in the rain probably leaves them feeling cool and clean.
Add these three together–damp wool-like hair being pressed repeatedly against hard wood–and you have the all the steps necessary to make felt, which Tiny has successfully done.
It has become a clash of wills. Everything in me wants to make her more comfortable while everything in her wants to avoid the weird sensation of the scissors working through her hair. It didn’t take her long to recognize the shape of scissors. I can’t get close to her with them in my hands. That leaves me no choice but to stand over her and pry at the patches, hair by tiny hair. She’ll tolerate that for thirty seconds or so. I can’t believe she’s going to make me call the shearer for two small patches of felted wool!
On a more positive, less expensive note, the pigs have happily become aquatic animals. They adore the pond. They’re like three-year-olds in a wading pool. With the water never more than shoulder- (pig shoulder, which is knee high to a human) deep, they go scooting across the bottom on their bellies with their noses held up out of the water like snorkels. Then they put their snouts into the water and just blow bubbles, something they clearly do for amusement and nothing else. They’ve also discovered that the pond is a smorgasbord. They’ve eaten most of the young cattails, or rather, eaten the tubers and left the leaves floating on the now mucky water. They’ve begun cleaning up the banks. Floating on their bellies, they graze the thick bermuda grass and even nibble on the mint. Most of the water grass that my friend gave me from her much larger pond is also gone. There are also far fewer tadpoles and frogs. I suspect pigs think frogs taste like chicken, or maybe snails, which they also enjoy. Yesterday, I sat outside next to the pond just to watch them.
Forget the dog days of August. It is a snorkeling pig’s life here on the farm!