Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Countin' Sheep and Counting Blessings

1....2....3....4....5........6.....7......8,9.... wait a minute, did I see another one?...

Let me start over.  1....2,3,4......5...6....no, hold still....7...8...

I think it's.....19....20....

Wait! Where are the rest of you?


I can assure you that whoever decided counting sheep was restful and pleasant, suggesting it as a good way to relax and fall asleep was NOT a shepherd. Doing a headcount, or attempting to do a headcount can be an exercise in total frustration. And, when the counting reveals that one (or more) is missing, it can be indicative of a potential tragedy.

Just like the shepherd in the biblical parable (Luke 15), I have been known to head out looking for that one missing animal. However, very much unlike that shepherd, I have done this clad in my pajamas and rubber boots and armed only with a flashlight.  More than once. I do repeated headcounts prior to closing the barn doors on winter nights. And, yes, I count them again in the morning.

All that to say, I get hung up on the little things.

The Boss, not so much. He was ready to paint this year’s lambing as “the best ever” before it ever ended. 

I just can’t say that.

I’m stuck on the fact that I found a dead lamb the other afternoon during chores. Yep. Dead as a doornail. And, everyone had been fine when I left…

I know. I know. These things happen.

But, on an operation our size, every single life counts. Not to say that is not the case on larger farms. But, our margin for error is minuscule at best.

I’m pretty sure it was one of those freak things that no one can predict...or for that matter, prevent. 
You just revise your count and go on.

That’s where I often get stuck.

But, counting sheep is not unlike counting blessings.  Actually, I guess the fact that there are any sheep to count is a blessing in and of itself.

But, sometimes you have to stop and go and look for the blessings. Just like those missing sheep.

So, while I cannot in all honesty say this was THE BEST lambing season…it has been good. (for the record, I don’t even know what THE BEST season would entail)

Here are just a few of the blessings from this season…

There are lambs. A good number of lambs.

lots of lambs

Now, don’t laugh. Of course there are lambs. We’re shepherds. There have to be lambs to become sheep. Well, right. But, back in August, when we were in the midst of the “Waylon incident”, lambs for 2016 were not at all a given. We were both resigned to the fact that without some sort of divine intervention, we wouldn’t have any type of lambchop crop…at all.

(that’s why finding Angus---and the fact he did his job so well was such a very big deal!)

Again, big shout-out to Suffangus Farm.

more lambs sunbathing
we call this the "lamb beach"

For the most part, the lambs arrived without incident. While I must admit, there is a certain thrill and a rush of adrenaline when we successfully complete a difficult delivery…I would be perfectly content to never do one again. It’s not a good start for the lamb, it’s an invasive procedure for the ewe…and quite honestly, it isn’t fun for me. It’s hard work and it hurts my hand and arm.

just moments old

The glitch in lambing dates meant that we missed lambing in winter storm Jonas. Believe me, that is definitely a blessing!

But, the lambing dates weren’t TOO late and spread out. Again, a blessing. Barn checks for months on end are no fun. (done that one)

The lambs were born during relatively warm weather. Not like this weekend when the low temperature was 2 degrees.  2 degrees!

No lambs were born during snow or ice storms. That’s a first. (a very welcome first)

The lambs are hale and hearty. As testament to good genetics, they hit the ground and started growing like weeds.
lamb racing in the snow

The hospital pen in the shop is empty. It was never even set up this season! I’m sure I don’t have to explain how this is a blessing.

There are no lambs in the livingroom! In the past, the cold, sick ones ended up next to the woodstove. Not this year!
The only lamb in the living room is a toy!

I am only supplementing a couple of lambs. (they’re still with their moms...we are “co-parenting”) That means we do NOT have seven bottle babies like last year. The memory of that experience still makes me tired. …and we’re not spending hundreds of dollars on milk replacer!

mama with triplets

Speaking of hundreds of dollars…we didn’t start feeding hay until after Christmas. This means that our hay supply will probably stretch until the grass comes back. Even if it doesn’t, there’s still no way we will have to invest as much money in hay as we have in the past.

But, we did manage to get enough hay used up to open the creep pen for the lambs. The creep pen allows the lambs access to hay and warm lights without having to compete with the ewes.

warming up

All the ewes came through the birth experience with little or no difficulty. Last year we lost two.
The little ewe lamb that had the awful case of entropion (the worst I have ever seen) has made a complete recovery. And, the recovery did NOT involve any needles near her eyes!

perfect eyes

There are 17 ewe lambs to 7 ram lambs. While this is definitely unusual (ordinarily it’s more 50/50) and might mean that we don’t have the rapid growth of ram lambs…it means we have far fewer castrations to perform. That’s a somewhat gross, albeit necessary, shepherding chore that neither of us is particularly fond of.

learning to eat hay

figuring out the creep feeder

The “stuck” lamb seemed to suffer no real ill-effects from her rather unconventional entrance into the world.

The tiniest triplet has the most voracious appetite and has gained a lot of weight in the past week. She weighs over 10 pounds! (she started out at 7.2)
tiny bottle baby

The little dog sweaters work perfectly to keep those smaller lambs warm. No floppy edges to get caught on things, or stepped on by the mamas.
stylish sheep

...and that 31 insulated tote I bought on a whim keeps lambs bottles warm for the trip to the barn! (no more tucking them inside my overalls)

pretty sure this was not the intended usage!

See, I’ve come up with a great number of blessings to count.

...and I didn’t even have to go wandering out in the middle of the night to do it!


  1. Fabulous post our Barbara! The Fruit of the Spirit growing well over there on the Hill!
    xxoo, m & jb

  2. Marvellous that those lambs are all growing so quickly. Thanks to your good husbandry I am sure Barbara.
    It will now be markets again before you know it.

  3. wonderful, wonderful! Blessings abound!
    Do you ever take on 'help' for your farm? Like someone wanting to intern or something? Do you and your husband do ALL this yourselves?

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Bobbi!
      My husband and I do indeed do all this ourselves. We make a pretty good team.
      We have never taken on any help, although I suppose we may need to reconsider that as we grow older.

  4. Very nice article!!I am delighted to read this article.
    They looks so adorable.!!
    Thanks for sharing.