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Winterizing: The Sheep Hotel

Winterizing: The Sheep Hotel
November 17, 2011 Mary Jo

We’re on the verge of another lambing season.  Our second to date, this one proves to be remarkably more frigid than the first.  Spring, you might think, is the ‘normal’ time to be expecting lambs, and for the most part, you’re dead-on.  But I was a bit disappointed with the yield of our spring lamb crop (don’t I sound like a legitimate shepherd?!) so rather than move Sam the Sham out of the girls’ living quarters, I let them commingle at their leisure, except for a brief period sandwiched between what I hoped was the successful breeding of the mature ewes and the sexual readiness of the young ones.  If you’re savvy and keeping up with the flock’s family tree, you might realize that this means Sam will be both the Father and Grandfather to the lambs born of Clarisse and Violet.  Thankfully, this is much more acceptable in sheep culture than in our own, but that’s where I draw the line; Sam the Sham is now up for sale.  (tell all your shepherd friends!) The elder girls – Garnet, Sylvia, and Gloria were bred well before the young ones were sexually mature and are now on the verge of popping.  (the young ones should lamb in the spring)  Given what you already know about sheep, namely their generous endowment of wool, you’ll understand that they really don’t need any protective structure to keep them comfy in the winter.  Lambs are a bit different – born with a light fluffy layer of wool, they’re remarkably well-adapted to the cold, but only after they get properly dried off.  They can handle the cold, but not the wet, and they’re pretty slick when first born, so that initial drying-off and warming up period is crucial.

So we knew that expecting a fall/winter crop of lambs would require something of a permanent shelter to ensure the best possible success.  For months we scratched our heads, brainstormed, tossed around various ideas and finally arrived at a solution that would fit within our tight constraints of time, skill, and money.  It was one of those solutions that seemed so obvious once it came to the surface:  we decided to add on to the back of our chicken coop, in the space already set up as a winter pasture.  Perfect.  Our family carpenter got to work and over the course of several work days, spread out over a month or more, the Sheep Hotel was born.  It appears as a seamless extension of the coop, sided with the same salvaged steel leftover from the barn demolition.  The tops of the walls are open to allow for plenty of ventilation (avoid that wet!) but the vicious North wind is completely blocked off.  The inside space is completely open, allowing for the temporary set-up of lambing jugs during those first few days of the lamb’s babymoon.

That it is lovingly referred to as The Sheep Hotel is thanks to the brilliant partnership of Isadora and Pancho and Lefty.  That line in the song that you thought was “Lefty’s living in a cheap hotel” (about 3:20 into the song) is actually, she discovered with much glee, “living in a sheep hotel.”  (because what does a then-five-year-old know about cheap hotels?!)   Imagine her amusement and ours.  Sheep hotel!  Ha!

Just to be clear:  the Sheep Hotel is absolutely not open to outlaws.  At this time.


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