ORIENTAL - Twelve -year-old Tessa Bard's life has changed in the last year after entering a simple essay contest.
She became the winner of a rare breed of sheep, a Shetland she named Kozette in May, 2012. Today she has 10 sheep, six of whom are lambs.
All of this occurred to a girl who never owned a sheep before she wrote an essay for the Youth Conservationist Program through the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.
Sentinel photo by TABITHA GOODLING
Tessa Bard holds the lamb of her prize winning sheep, Kozette. The lamb's name is Penelope.
Bard lives near Oriental and is finishing the sixth grade at Monroe Elementary School.
"It's not bad," she said of her new responsibility of caring for the animals, "They just need food and water, and we spend a lot of time just being with them," said Bard, who says she has always loved animals.
Bard got involved with the festival when her mom, a knitter who used primarily wool, took her to the show in April, 2012. Bard had never been interested in knitting or anything with wool. She came across a table with applications to win a Shetland ewe. Bard liked to write and figured it was worth a shot.
She was among 15 students from across Maryland and Pennsylvania to win a sheep.
The Bards brought Kozette home in May and were told they needed to purchase other sheep to make the 3-year-old ewe feel at home. Tessa's older sister, Sydney, pulled her funds together and bought a female Shetland, whom she named Phannie. Tessa also purchased a sheep, whom she named November, and the girls' parents provided a male - a ram -whom they named Rameses after an Egyptian ruler in the Bible.
Part of the process of being a Youth Conservationist Program winner is to show the sheep as well as keep in touch with the donators who gave the ewe to the program. Kozette was given by Bill and Sandy Truckner, of Twin Springs Farm in Avonmore. Tessa has made a full scrapbook of her first year with Kozette, including pictures of her first shearing and the new baby lamb born May 1, named Penelope.
Tessa was able to show Kozette last summer at the Juniata County Youth Fair where she placed first at various levels in her class of sheep.
The winter came and spring welcomed the six new lambs to the Bard pasture.
Phannie delivered two baby rams, Bandit and Pickle, while the Bard girls were at school. Bandit was born breech and Tessa said her dad had to take the sheep to the vet to finish delivery.
Tessa's other sheep, November, delivered triplet girls in the wee hours of one April night around 12:30 a.m. Sister Sydney had the privilege of delivering sheep for the first time because the babies' "legs were messed up inside and she had to straighten them out," Tessa recalled.
At last on May, 1 the prize sheep - Kozette - delivered one lamb, Penelope.
"I like being around them," Tessa said, "The babies make me laugh. I like to watch Rameses try to eat from the tree by standing up against it like he is going to climb it."
Each sheep has a personality all his or her own.
Tessa said Kozette's maternal instinct is to run after Penelope, even though the lamb's intent is only to play with the others.
She describes Mae, one of the triplet lambs, as the friendly sheep. Bandit, a young ram, is the loner. Another triplet, Natalie, who is white and black spotted, will be shown at this year's 4-H fair.
The Bards will sell one of the baby rams, and the remaining sheep will stay in the pasture.
For more information on the festival or the conservation program, visit www.sheepandwool.org.