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Meet Our Sheep: Madame

Updated: Mar 20

Madame is the other half of our first pair of Icelandic sheep. She is named for Madame du Farge in A Tale of Two Cities, as a continuation of our Dickensian naming scheme. As our flock has grown, she is the calming factor, the mother ewe. Now that she is aging and has some arthritis, she takes a little longer to get up in the stall in the morning, and at least one sheep waits for her to make sure she's up and walking (usually Lavender or Dodger).

She has always garnered an interesting reaction from herding dogs. They tend to give her a wide berth, or at least decline to pester her much. She has never butted one. Ever. But they seem to know that she'll get there, at her own pace, and no one will rush her.

As mentioned in Pocket's post, she and Pocket had a lovely little black lamb named Sophie. She was an excellent mother and gave birth the day before we came back from a vacation (despite our best calculation and planning). Once she started the weaning process, I did try milking her, but I learned that Icelandic ewes can withhold their milk. At the end of a week, I had enough for a very sheepy coffee. Respect to the Icelandic dairy farmers!

The first time we were getting ready to take Pocket and Madame to a Renaissance Faire, we discovered that I had not done enough halter training, or she had failed out of halter training as a lamb. As soon as we had the trailer ready, had Pocket loaded, and I put the halter on Madame, she turned into a 150-lb. lead balloon. She laid down, with all of her feet tucked under herself, and refused to budge. So we got the wheelbarrow under her backside, wheeled her down the driveway (we were too flustered at the time to get a picture of how pleased she was by this arrangement), and tipped her into the back of the trailer while holding Pocket back.

Since that first experience, she has gotten better. She enjoys some of the attention at events, and she definitely has a calming influence at night on whoever else is in the pen with her (which means we also get to sleep).

Lately, due to her arthritis, I have started giving her a small dose of Bute-less pellets in the evening. This is a pelleted, over-the-counter anti-inflammatory meant primarily for horses. It uses natural ingredients like Devil's Claw, yucca, and vitamin B12 and is easy on the stomach. It appears to be helping her, and because she is usually one of the last ones out of the gate to the barn, and she does enjoy treats from our hands when the other sheep aren't crowding her away, we thought it would be easy to get her to take it.

We had no idea how easy it would be.

By the third evening, she got up and made eye contact with me. "You got the stuff?"

"Yes, Madame, I have your medicine."

She was in the way of the other sheep and backed up. "You guys go ahead. I need to talk to Mum about something."

When she came around the corner of the gate, she immediately sought out my hand with the pellets.

So now the challenge is keeping her moving after she's had her pellets, since she keeps turning around and inspecting my hand to make sure that she really got all of the pellets.

Sheep are absolutely not stupid. They just have different priorities, and sometimes their curiosity gets the better of them.

Madame's fleece is not quite as luxuriously long as Pocket's is, but it is still quite soft, and varies in color from shearing to shearing. I often use her fleece to make dryer balls.

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