Sunday, February 7, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 2-7

Now, this looks like trouble with a capital "T"!
Last week, I told you that things were about to change...

that the waiting mode had just about come to an end...

Well, boy, was I right!

After waiting for what seemed like forever, lambing time hit full-force this week. Just like we expected. Well, no, I can’t really say that. There was more than one unexpected turn of events.

I left out part of the story when I told you about the painting party over at the kids’ new house last week. There was more to my part in the job than just thinking existential thoughts while slopping on a coat of paint. Somehow, either because of my general klutziness or perhaps my complete lack of balance and poise, this painting grandma found herself doing a little free-falling. I don’t know if I fell off the bench I was standing on, or simply tripped...all I know is I was suddenly airborne! No real problem. I landed rather awkwardly in a box of toys. Nothing was broken, not even the toys! And while my hand and my pride were both fairly bruised, no real harm was done. The kids were startled and had something new to tease me about. Thankfully, no babies were playing in the toys and even though Mr. B’s lunch was disrupted, no real harm was done.

and, my hand turned such a pretty shade of purple

Or, that’s what I thought.

Sunday evening, my muscles decided to revolt and protest the rough handling. I spent most of Monday re-establishing my relationship with the heating pad. Recovery has been somewhat restricted by the required, repeated trips to the barn...but, that’s just how it goes sometimes.  The Boss has taken over feed and hay delivery, but ovine obstetrics are still my area of expertise.

Just as I was thinking that the week was going to be another one of endless waiting, the action began.

 A couple of uneventful births...

And, we moved the pullets. 

Once the Boss starts finding eggs in the brooder house, it's time for the pullets to move in with the hens. That's always "fun". This year's move went without a hitch.  And, just in time, too. The hatchery emailed that the first of the broiler chicks will arrive in 3 weeks!
with no nestboxes
eggs in the brooder are just a little gross
time to move

each flock gets a different color legband
this year it's PINK

after acclimating for a couple weeks
the pullets will be turned in with the hens

Then, the weather changed. They say that a weather change (or a full moon) will bring on those close up births.  ...and it looks like THEY are right.

When I did the last check of the evening, just before bed, something didn’t look quite right. “not quite right” is an understatement. Things were wrong…very wrong. One of the first-time ewes had a lamb coming head-first.  ...a serious mis-presentation. And, it looked it had been that way for a while. The lamb’s face was dry...and while it was hard to tell in the dim barn light, it looked a little swollen, too. That couldn’t be good. (actually, my first thought was that the lamb was dead) Back to the house to catch the Boss before he got tucked in for the night.

When we got to the barn, my assessment of the situation revealed that the lamb was NOT dead, (YAY) but, it was really, really stuck. The ewe was in pain, and didn’t seem to understand that we were trying to help. (that’s always a challenge) After some manipulating, swearing and praying (I know, my faith is an eclectic mix to say the least) I pulled the baby out. She gasped and flailed about. Hooray! I put my hand back in. Yep, another one. This one was backwards, meaning it was coming tail first. Mama sheep was really stressed, contracting heavily on my arm, so I didn’t try to re-position this baby, I just pulled it out as fast as I could. (when the lamb is backwards, the umbilical cord can break prior to delivery, or the lamb can attempt to breathe on its way through the birth canal...neither option being at all desirable) But, whoosh! Out she came. She gasped, she flailed. We rejoiced.

Mama sheep? Nothing.

Honestly, she looked like she was in some sort of shock. (rightly so, I guess) Her eyes were big and sort of glazed. She showed no interest in the lambs. When the Boss let go of her head, she bolted for the far side of the barn. *sigh*

I worked on drying off the lambs. They were big, beautiful ewe lambs, who despite their rather dramatic entrance into the world, were already trying to stand and looking for something to eat. We showed them to their mama. Nothing.

Somehow, we managed to get the whole family in a jug. But, mama-sheep was still completely uninterested. She stood in the corner of the pen, fairly unresponsive. The Boss and I exchanged worried glances as he headed off to the house for more towels. Since mama-sheep wasn’t interested, we had some lambs to clean. (we were both hoping we wouldn’t have lambs to FEED as well)
While he was gone, I tried a couple more times to get the ewe to respond. Still, nothing.

Finally, it was like a lightbulb went on. She sniffed the lamb. She started making those little sheep-y noises that the ewes make to their newborns. (this is some sort of imprinting so the lambs know their mother’s call later) She began licking...and licking. She was even licking me! The babies started nuzzling up under her, looking for a sip of the all-important colostrum.

The Boss was back by this point and we both heaved a huge sigh of relief. The best possible outcome for a potentially disastrous situation. That first lamb would not have been born without human intervention. If that one couldn’t have been born, the whole family might have died. Instead, there is a healthy sheep family wandering around the barn.

We headed off to bed.

this is what active labor looks like
A couple hours later, I went to check on the new family. They were fine, but, another ewe looked close. Really close.

Not much sleep happening on the hill tonight.

This birth was fairly non-eventful. The first lamb came without any problems, but the second one needed a little re-positioning. That was easily done. I didn’t even have to get the Boss.

But, it was obvious another ewe was ready. (see what I said about the change in weather?)

Twins were birthed out with little difficulty (meaning I basically sat there and watched). I helped clean the lambs, clipped and treated their umbilicals and put the whole family in a jug.

I helped the Boss with morning chores and we headed off to breakfast.


When I returned to the barn, I thought I was seeing things. There, milling about under the newest mama-sheep, looking for a meal, were THREE little lambs. THREE! There had been no sign of another lamb when I penned them, so I was totally surprised. They were all healthy and other than seeming a bit bewildered, the ewe was doing a fine job mothering on.


Because, another ewe was in active labor.

I hung around to see if anything would require my assistance. One baby…two babies…everything looked fine…

Suddenly there was a bunch of commotion behind the barn. I went out to check, only to find that two lambs had somehow squeezed through the fence and were in the winter paddock. One of the ewes was completely freaked out by this occurrence and was screaming relentlessly.

After chasing the lambs around and around (and around), I finally got them back with their mother and made sure the gate was latched tightly so we wouldn’t have a repeat performance.

Walking back to check on the new family, I noticed something strange…one baby…two babies…had suddenly become THREE babies!
look close
she's cleaning baby #3

everyone gets a good licking


This was wild. I don’t think we have ever had two sets of triplets within hours of each other.

Everyone seemed fine. Off to the next thing.

Later in the day another ewe went into labor. The Boss laughingly said, “wouldn’t it be funny if it was another set of triplets?”

Apparently, he’s a prophet…or maybe the son of a prophet…

Yep, you guessed it. ANOTHER set of triplets!


I couldn’t believe my eyes and phoned him from the barn. “…you won’t believe this…” Baffled silence on the other end.  “NO”…he said…”you’ve got to be joking me!”

Nope. Not a joke. And, we’re months from April Fool’s day.

THREE sets of triplets in 24 hours. I’m pretty sure that’s a farm record.

Again, everyone was fine.

Oddly enough, all three sets of triplets are made up of 2 girls and a boy. So far, only one set is needing any sort of supplementation. The whole triplet phenomenon should be a blog post…

Saturday night, as I did my last check of the evening, I found the last ewe had just given birth to a set of real nice twins.

…and so ends the lambing of 2016. 

(except for that one old girl who I’m not sure about…if she is bred, she won’t lamb until near the end of next month)

There are 26 healthy lambs down at the barn!

 All in all, an amazingly successful outcome to what I fully expected to be our worst year ever as shepherds. I guess we should reward Angus with some extra hay or something.

I’ll get you all the lambing stats later this week...with lots of baby pictures. Right now, I think I’m going to rest my back and try to catch up on my sleep. (and the laundry)

sorting seeds...
one of the seed orders included a special discount on wine
either gardening is very stressful
or quite celebratory

Tomorrow starts a new week that calls for LOTS and LOTS of seed starting. 

It’s time to gear up for Market season! Hooray!

                                     Here’s to a Happy Sunday! 

Thanks for stopping by.  Come “visit” again real soon.

This ewe and her lamb make me laugh.
He sleeps like this ALL the time.
Her poor back...he weighs 39#!


  1. Mothers will put up with anything for their babies won't they. I shall put this post up for the farmer when he returns from his evening walk round the farm. He will enjoy it, as I just have Barbara.

  2. I'm a first time reader and I really enjoyed the lambing journey..much easier then the attendant's role!

    1. Hi Mary!
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
      I hope you'll come back often.

  3. Oh wow! I LOVED today's post- it makes me miss your farm, although I have never visited in person. As a wanna-be farmer/shepherd, I have a few questions! Do you prefer to have male or female lambs? And how do you know when to step in to help a ewe?

    And I also loved your tribute to your friend. He sounds like a wonderful man. I will be praying for his family and friends.

    1. Hi Emily!
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.I am so glad you stopped by!
      Since we raise lambs for meat, we want them to grow quickly and develop good muscling. Ram lambs grow a little quicker and get slightly larger, so most folks desire them. However, you take what you get...and ewe lambs will finish out nicely, too. (plus you can keep some back for next year's breeders) Generally you get about a 50/50 split of the sexes.
      I will step in and help a ewe when she is in obvious distress. A prolonged labor, a mis-presentation or when something just "looks wrong" will prompt me to action. We've been doing this a long time (more than 15 years) so, I've seen a lot of births and know what to look for. And, back in the day, one of the local vets came out to assist in a birth and gave me a quick hands-on tutorial in ovine obstetrics. Most times, we just check and help clean the babies. (particularly if it is cold)
      Thank you for your kind words about our friend, Ken. He was a great guy and will be sorely missed. Your prayers are greatly appreciated.
      I hope you will "visit" us here on the hill often as we keep plugging along.
      Have a great week!

  4. Such an eventful lambing time for you. Glad that all turned out well. They are just so cute...

  5. 3 sets of triplets?! What a blessing! I hope your hand heals quickly. You will need both hands for the next round of births!!