Dandelion heaven

Over the weekend, we took a couple of our ewes and their lambs to the Amana Woolen Mill at the Amana Colonies to participate in their Maifest celebration. We set up our pen in front of the Woolen Mill and spent two days talking about all things sheep: wool, care and management, the lamb industry in general, and anything remotely related to our sheep and flock. We talked to many friendly people, and as always, it was a lot of fun.

The sheep we bring for the display are always carefully selected. We want to make sure each of our two breeds is well represented in both body and fiber. That means no small sheep or yearlings (because people will assume they are full-grown examples) and no ewes with ram lambs (since lots of attention to any of our ram lambs can make them mean as adults). We also look to represent the colors for each breed, so for the Romeldales, we like to bring a white, a brown, and a black, and for the Romneys, a white and a black or gray. This year, the closest we could get to this ideal was two of our oldest girls and their ewe lambs: Gabby with her daughter Olive (our bottle lamb), and Fern with her daughter Oyster (since Oleander was weaned on Friday, he could stay behind).

Because we know that many children come to our pen wanting to touch and feed our sheep, we brought some graham crackers β€” a sheep favorite. In the end, we found that this was unnecessary because our pen was centered in a lawn full of dandelions β€” and all of our sheep love dandelions! And as it turns out, no sheep loves these flowers more than Olive, Gabby’s daughter!

Almost as soon as we arrived, I noticed that Olive was making quick work of cleaning up all of the dandelion flowers within the pen. Moments later, the first child arrived and I suggested they might be able to feed at least one of the lambs if they picked some of the yellow flowers from outside the pen. In minutes, the dandelion hunt was on and word spread from one child to the next, each wandering off to hunt for flowers farther and farther from our display.

Olive found that bright colors at the side of the pen meant children with dandelions for a snack.

Olive found that bright colors at the side of the pen meant children with dandelions for a snack.

Over the two days we spent there, Olive quickly learned that children at the pen meant dandelions in their hands. Whenever a child wandered near, Olive ran quickly to the edge of the pen, lips extended, looking for her treats. This, of course, made everyone laugh and smile, encouraging the kids and Olive even more. If it so happened that Olive’s head was in the feed bag when a child appeared with flowers, all I had to do was call her name and she would quickly come to see where the next dandelion bouquet was stationed. Just the recollection of her enthusiasm still brings a smile to my lips!

When we arrived home yesterday afternoon, Olive, Oyster, and Gabby joined the lambs and the six adult ewes still with them in the Sheep Barn. Fern was moved into the Storage Barn with the ewes who are drying off because their lambs have been weaned. Due to the storm that moved through last night, the lambs and the seven nursing ewes spent the night in theΒ  barn. I moved them into the Timber Pasture this morning once the weather cleared.

As if Olive didn’t get enough dandelion flowers over the weekend at Maifest, as soon as I turned the group into their new field this morning, she ran gleefully into the part of the pasture heavy with yet more dandelions! I had to smile as I stood there, watching her move from one flower to the next, tearing the stems and gobbling them down as quickly as she could. For the time being, Olive is in obvious dandelion heaven, surrounded by countless delicious yellow flowers. Even now as I look through our windows towards the west, I can pick out Olive, still enjoying this newfound treat β€” and it makes me happy to share in her joy, even from afar.

Olive is in the bright white coat in the center of this photo - enjoying the many dandelions now blooming in the field.

Olive is in the bright white coat just to the left of center in this photo, enjoying the many dandelions now blooming in the field.

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  • Bev says:

    this post just made me smile all over! Is Olive alone in her love for dandelion flowers? I wouldn’t mind having Olive over for a day…goodness know I have more dandelion than I want :D)

    • Dee says:

      All of our sheep love dandelions, but most of them are attracted to the leaves more than the flowers. Once the flowers fade and begin to go to seed, few of my sheep will eat those – but Olive will. I think because she is a bottle lamb, she was willing to try anything humans handed her this past weekend – and the kids didn’t differentiate between fresh and going-to-seed, so neither did Olive. Now that she picks her own in our pasture, she will eat any part of the plant and even eats the heads just before they open to seed. I will admit that when I come into the pasture and call her name, she still comes running to me in hopes that I have brought her a dandelion bouquet – which, of course, I always do! πŸ™‚

  • Jane says:

    Lovely story! We had a sermon on bringing dandelions to your mother and my students have brought me dandelions all week, though I am not their mother… But I love it. My own mother always encouraged us to bring her dandelions; she might have had an ulterior motive!

    • Dee says:

      Oh, Olive would love to hang out in your classroom! Just walking with a handful of dandelions gets her so excited she leaps for joy and gambols her way over, never doubting that they are for her!

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