Summer Coats

I brushed the last of the winter hair from the horses today. All three stood quietly, as if the scratching of the curry comb was exactly what they had been waiting for all spring. By the end of the session, it looked as if I had killed a large animal and dumped it in the soft footing of the loafing shed.

I brushed our long-haired dog too (twice) and had enough hair to make another dog just like her. Why Patches needs to be brushed year round, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because she is a nervous dog; maybe because she is part German Shepherd. Her white hair mixes with the dirt she and Cisco bring inside and, while I understand now my mother-in-law vaccuuming their place every day when Patches was theirs, it doesn’t mean I do. The dog door is a dis-incentive anyway!

My shedding sheep are another case all together. You aren’t supposed to have to shear hair sheep, but I can’t seem to curry the old stuff out and our farm is starting to look as if we have a mange breakout. Red, the ram, is dragging old carpets of wool around his pasture, big blankets of ratted hair, sort of like dreadlocks, or maybe not. His mate, Piglet, is shedding from his withers down but the process is taking an awfully long time and sometimes I wonder whether he is as pure bred a Katahdin as I assumed. If he doesn’t shed out, what then? He doesn’t like the curry comb and I broke my old clippers last year on a ewe that died of fly-strike.

In the main pasture, the girls are rubbing against fence posts and trees in an attempt to ditch their itchy wool. There are clumps of it caught in the woven wire fencing and enough large patches scattered in the fields that every now and then I think I may have lost a lamb or small ewe to a predator. I usually check these out just in case and, so far, have been fooled every time.

Our newest arrival at the farm is a small burro with hair so long it covers his eyes, or at least it did, and a long shaggy coat, or at least it was. I had to stop our neighbor, Dave, from getting too wild with the hand shears. He trimmed the burro around the eyes and had started on his belly. I should have known better since I have seen Dave’s Golden Retriever walking around with a similar haircut. Grab a clump of hair and cut straight across. I didn’t stop him soon enough and now everyone comments on the trim job. Seems this burro will not be shedding his hair for summer so the bad haircut stays.

And, almost the opposite of summer coats, Fred the peacock has started to lose his gorgeous tail feathers across the mown lawn, to the delight of small children. The tom turkey also appears to be molting, although it has not improved his temperment toward me. He’s looking a little plucked at the breast and if he doesn’t start to perform better with his mate will find himself part of our Thanksgiving feast.

For the wild things that live with and around us on this farm, the plethora of wool and hair and feathers is a pack rats dream come true. For the shedding animals, the days are longer and warmer and it is time to sport a short-haired summer coat and feel the scratch of the warm dirt and grass as they roll, until the itch is gone, the dust is coated enough to ward off the stinging insects, and it is time to be brushed again in a circular motion that feels oh-so-good. Mommy, don’t stop!

Photos: top – Young Katahdin ewe shedding for the first time; bottom – Feels sooo good to scratch that itch!

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2008 Scottie Jones

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