LONDON GROVE -- If Rambo the Ram had hands, he would probably giving out cigars.
The sole male among the sheep at the Avon Grove Charter School has fathered offspring with the three ewes with whom he lives, and they were all born within the past week.
In February, animal caretaker Bill Aff said he was pretty sure at least one of the ewes that lives in the back field of the school -- Nuala -- was pregnant, but he was not sure the other two, Aiofe and Lollipop, were ready to start a family with Rambo.
But last week, in the midst of what is traditionally considered lambing season, all three of the females delivered babies.
Nuala, was first. She had a stillborn male and a female they have named Willa.
Next, Aiofe had a daughter that has been named Lia.
Finally, on Thursday, Lollipop gave birth to a male they have named Patty -- short for Patrick, which is the middle name of Head of School Kevin Brady.
Aff said they are all Shetland sheep, that usually do well in the wild and can attend to their own birthings. But on Thursday, he realized that Lollipop was in labor and in distress. “I called Dr. Freeman (veterinarian) and she walked me through to hand deliver the lamb,” he said.
Although all the parent sheep are off-white in color, the lambs are black. Aff said they will remain black throughout their lives, and he is not quite sure how the genes configured to create children that looked so unlike their parents.
Even at a day old, the lambs are alert, walking around and nursing. Their mothers are staying close and protecting them. Father Rambo is in an adjacent pen strutting around with a bell hanging from his collar.
The charter school curriculum is heavily based around the environment and nature. In addition to the sheep, there are two goats, geese, ducks, rabbits and fish, which the students care for and study.
Aff said he hopes to expand the sheep population. “We will probably have another lambing season next spring. They all stay here and are used for teaching,” he said.
The students at the school have taken an interest in the welfare of the animals, and they often ask Aff how they are doing. Some students work directly at the pen to clean and feed the animals. Student Max Shaffer is using the opportunity to care for them as a school community service project. “It’s pretty fun. I love helping around,” he said.
Aff said that in addition to the sheep and goats on the back field, he oversees the greenhouse, which holds plant projects and a hydroponic setup in which tilapia nourish lettuce with their waste projects and are fed fish food. The lettuce grows in a totally liquid, high nutrition environment.
Recently, Aff said, the tilapia population was growing fast, so he send out the word that they were selling some. He was pleased at the response. Twenty-seven people came and purchased fish at the cost of $5 each.
The school administration is constantly expanding its farm and environmental activities.
They are considering getting a bee hive and also setting up a farm stand to well wool from the sheep, eggs from the ducks,goat cheese and produce from the greenhouse.