After 3 weeks of being on 24/7 ovine obstetric duty, I was SO glad to see those last lambs arrive and tucked safely into a jug pen with their mother. For three weeks, I had been going to the barn every four hours...sometimes even more often. To finally sleep for five hours straight was a big treat!
I realize there are those who wonder WHY in the world I check the sheep so often. I mean, aren’t they just farm animals who instinctively know what to do? Isn’t it a completely natural process? What in the world could possibly go wrong? Am I just nuts? These are all reasonable questions, but the simple answer is…ya just never know what might go wrong…or when…or how. …and something will invariably go wrong.
This year the weather was great for lambing, for the most part. Ordinarily, there is a great concern about chilled lambs in sub-freezing temperatures, but not this year. There was one day that the sheep were fairly miserable with the unseasonable warmth, but I must admit that it felt nice to work in a t-shirt and jeans instead of the usual layers and layers of winter clothing.
There is always the possibility for some sort of disaster during lambing. Mis-presentation of the lambs is the most common problem. Sometimes the lambs can be delivered despite the problem, but most times human intervention is necessary. If a ewe goes into labor in the middle of the night and encounters difficulties, there is the distinct possibility that all the animals involved will be lost without assistance. For an operation as small as ours, any loss is more loss than we can really afford. So, I check…and check…and check. While this doesn't eliminate all losses, it does keep them to a relative minimum.
My nocturnal obstetrical checks were further complicated when I became a sheep mother. Not only did I have to put on all those layers, trundle out in the dark and cold with my trusty flashlight---now I was carrying baby bottles as well. A trip to the barn for a quick check runs about 20 minutes. For the first few days, the bottle babies had to be fed every four hours. That cut the possibility of any extended sleep to a matter of an hour or so at a time.
The hazards of the lack of sleep became evident when I attempted to answer the phone and couldn’t really remember what to say after “hello?” Definitely time for a nap!
Oddly enough, the first time I got a chance to sleep, I had this weird dream where Ellie Mae had 14 puppies and they all went wandering off. I was running around trying to find them, getting myself into some sort of tizzy, crying with worry and frustration. Perhaps even odder than the fact it would be impossible for Ellie to have ANY puppies…this all occurred in the house where I grew up back in Fauquier County (haven't been there in nearly 20 years) and the Boss’ solution was to get on the phone to the Market Committee Chairperson. I woke up before I could find out if anyone solved the puppy problem or figure out if there was significance to any of my dream elements.
Now that things have returned to their “normal abnormality” around here, I can hope for some real sleep and some restful dreams.