Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Life-Changing Event

Today I am thankful…

           …for the new gate latch.

Lest you think I am being silly, making light of “thankful Thursday”, or have just plain lost my mind---hear me out.  This is a big deal!

For years and Years and YEARS we secured the barn gate by hooking a piece of chain on a little nail. It worked great.  Well….when everyone remembered to put the little chain on the nail, that is.  I cannot tell you how many times I have gotten in bed at the end of a hard day only to wonder if I actually hooked the gate chain.  There was no sleeping if I couldn’t remember…so, get up…get dressed…walk to the barn…check the gate.  Invariably, it was indeed latched. It was those times that I was certain that there were problems…

Over the years, we have chased cows and sheep and lambs countless times.  We’ve chased pigs and a pony, too…but, I don’t really think those adventures had anything to do with closing the gate.  But, then again…

One of the cows learned that if she rubbed on the gate just so…or stuck her tongue through the gate and licked the chain…it would fall off the little nail and she was free!  She let herself out multiple times, only to be confronted by an angry MAMA who would demand, “KUH…what are YOU doing?”  and she (the cow) would tiptoe backwards into the barn, guilt written all over her cow face. Her escapes were thwarted by putting a staple in the post.  If the latch was hooked on the staple, she couldn’t wiggle it free.  Ha, take THAT, Kuh!

But, there were times when for various reasons, it was easier not to latch the gate.  Hay delivery was one of those times.  Usually, I worked quickly enough to get finished before someone discovered the open gate.

escapees in the snow Feb. 2012

I suppose everything came to a climax last week when the entire flock escaped into the barn (thankfully I had closed the big barn doors) prior to our attendance of the annual Farmers’ Market meeting.  I spent precious minutes screaming, cussing and flailing about with my shepherd’s crook in an attempt to herd them all back where they belonged so we could leave at the appointed hour.  It was not a pretty sight and ultimately I failed…and we were late.

We agreed that the current system needed some revision.

The Boss told me to go by the farm store and buy a new latch for the gate.  I have NO idea why this never occurred to either of us in the past.  For the record, HE has no idea why this never occurred to us in the past, either.  I reckon we are just a little slow on the uptake.

Unfortunately, his directions for finding said latch were rather sketchy.  I hunted and wandered and looked high and low. Not a store employee in sight.  I finally gave up and called home.  He started talking me through the store as I searched.  It was one of “those phonecalls”…and the other lady customer I encountered in the same area of the store got a good chuckle hearing my end of the call.  After I hung up, we commiserated over being sent to town on an errand for “the man” only to find we had NO idea what he wanted us to get.   She was still chuckling when she left the store. J

Once he finished the installation, we tried the new latch.  Again…and again….and again…. Open…close….open…close….open…

It was so simple!  We got just a little silly with the ease of operation and the absolute security of knowing that the gate was indeed latched.

Easy open…secure close…open…close…easy…secure…open...close...simply open...close....

Okay…enough already!

This is truly awesome.

While it seems somewhat pathetic that it took us well over 15 years to discover THE answer to the barn gate---I am SO very thankful that we did!  …and a special  thank-you to the Boss for the installation.

Easy open…secure close….easy open…secure close….

        My life has been forever changed!

(now, if I can just stop reaching for the gate chain)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Half Hour Job

"This will only take a half hour."

Can you say famous last words?

The boss is known for his supposedly quick jobs. He is notoriously overly optimistic. Our grown daughters still roll their eyes when they hear him utter the phrase. It has become an ongoing family joke.

So, when we were facing a greenhouse repair job, I just laughed and rolled my eyes when he uttered the infamous phrase. Oh, he wasn’t bothered.  He thinks it’s funny.  As a matter of fact, I think he says it just for effect sometimes.

Despite the fact that the Boss noticed the need for greenhouse repair sometime in December and I
did a little freaking out about it New Years, (Read this)we could do nothing to rectify the situation until the weather began to cooperate a little. We needed a warm(ish), calm(ish), precipitation-free day. 

Since the project was only going to take a half an hour…we planned to do the job after lunch when the temperature had risen and the grass was dry.

As the Boss got everything set up, I began to remove the “wiggle-wire”.  This wire fits in a little track that holds the plastic to the frame. It makes application fairly simple AND provides some tension to the plastic skin.  The tension keeps the plastic from flapping in the breeze that causes undue wear and tear.

When the plastic was removed, another repair job became evident.  Those screws are supposed to be attached to the frame of the greenhouse.  Hmmm, maybe that is how mice get into the greenhouse.

With the minor repair job completed, the big roll of plastic was measured and cut.  The entire farm team…farmers, cats and dogs were somehow involved in this project.  …and they say it’s hard to find good help…

The application portion of the task went off without a hitch.  Well, the wind did start to blow just as we raised the big sheet of plastic to the top of the greenhouse.  That’s just Murphy’s Law. 

There was this big piece of “scrap” plastic.  “…and what do I do with this?” 

I held up one end, wondering how I was supposed to get it in the trashcan.

Oh, hey…

…and just like that it happened.  

We were re-skinning the other greenhouse.  Last winter’s icicles had put a little unexpected ventilation in that one, and gorilla tape wasn’t going to work forever.

Some measuring, a little cutting and pulling and the shop-greenhouse is done, too!

While it took longer than a half an hour (but, then it always does) we are set for another season in the greenhouses. 

                                      Let the seed starting commence!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Crisis Averted

A couple of weeks ago, over 2 inches of rain fell in a 24 hour period.  Since we were already dealing with the mess and muck from a small snowstorm and the whole cycle of freezing and thawing, things got pretty interesting in the barnlot.

sticky, stinky mud past my ankles

It didn’t take long for us to realize that MUD season (read this) had arrived with a vengeance.   

In the winter, the paddock out behind the barn usually gets a little swampy.  However, the runoff from the big storm caused a “lake” to form and it looked like the sheep might need to take swimming lessons to get out to the feeders. I was beginning to think I would need a kayak myself.

even when the water receded, we were left with a "pond"
At the height of the rain and runoff, the water was flowing OVER the little bridges the sheep use to get over the swampiest part.
I tried clearing under the "the bridge to nowhere" with a shovel. That worked for a while, but the mud kept backing up and making the mess bigger than it was before.  I was afraid that the smallest lambs would get stuck in the muck…and I honestly thought it would be possible for them to drown.

Since the shovel deal wasn’t working, the Boss broke out the tractor and the scraper blade with the intention of scooping out the glop and getting down to a more solid layer of soil.

He scraped and scraped…the pile kept oozing back down; it seemed like an exercise in futility. Mud was flying through the air, as the tractor spun a little in the muck. By the time he finished, he even had mud on his glasses!

Finally, he made some real headway.  We put the planks back in place. We keep saying that we will fix this eventually. But, I think we should just face facts…the “bridge to nowhere” is just part of the landscape and we’re never going to get around to changing it.  There are too many other projects that push it down near the bottom of the priority list.

looks are deceiving...this mound of mud is HUGE
The frigid weather last week caused the muck pile to freeze and dry out quite a bit. Even the freezing rain/ice overnight failed to make a big mess out back.

Thanks to the Boss, we won’t have to buy waterwings  or floaties for all the lambs.  Looks like the water issue is under control! 

I hope I am not being overly optimistic…

...the weather forecast for the rest of the week shows another big rain is heading this way.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Sometimes You Just Don't Know

I was planning on telling you a success story this morning.

A story where I saved a lamb from certain death and how he was thriving and all was right with the world. 

But…when I went to the barn to feed him early this morning…he was dead.

I don’t know what happened.  I don’t know why.

But, that’s one of the cold, hard realities of life.  Sometimes you just don’t know.

While it’s kinda sad…it’s more frustrating than anything.  If you don’t know what happened, you can’t prevent it from happening again.  ..and that thought niggles at the back of my mind, making me slightly worried over my other little charges.

Still, life goes on.  There are animals to feed and seeds to start and books to balance. The weather is going to offer some challenges today as well. The business and busy-ness of the farm doesn’t take any breaks.

So we continue…doing the best we can…learning a little from each situation…focusing on the positives…refusing to allow ourselves to blame or question…

                                    …because sometimes you just don’t know…

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Surprise, Surprise, SURPRISE!

a very pregnant ewe
Lambing season is a bit like Christmas…you know there is something there…but, you’re not quite sure what…or how many.  Twins are generally the rule, but sometimes there are more…sometimes fewer.  A shepherd-friend even had a ewe give birth to quadruplets! So, you just have to wait and see.

Since we used a ram marker this past breeding season, I had a pretty good idea when the babies would start arriving. My calculations were right on, too, I might add.  Once the first lambs arrived, there was a short lull in the activity and then there were lambs popping everywhere.

As the time grew close, a couple of the ewes started to have some “issues”.  Every time they would lie down, they would prolapse.  …and yes, that means exactly what you think.  Some of what should only be INSIDE would pop OUTSIDE.  It’s okay to say, “EWWW, Gross!”   I know I did, repeatedly. ugh

One of the sheep with this problem was a former show lamb named Trisha.  She’s a big, wide girl with hams worthy of a show hog.  As she packed on the late pregnancy pounds, she looked more and more like a pig in very dirty fleece pajamas. Honestly, it was not a pretty sight. She was eating continually.  In the past, during multiple pregnancies, she had always singled.  So, I wasn’t expecting much from her this year. A single lamb is completely acceptable.  Particularly if the ewe requires no assistance and the lamb grows out well.

Imagine my surprise as we walked in the barn to see her giving birth to the second of twins.  No, wait….

“HEY!” the Boss exclaimed. “I think she’s having triplets!” Before I could respond, Baby #3 had been born.



Usually triplets mean that at least one of the babies will need some sort of supplementation.  Not so in this case.  Trisha has proven to be an exemplary mother, keeping her young daughters close and feeding them well.  One of them is quite nice and worth keeping an eye on as a future breeder. Since they are all little ewe lambs (girl sheep) I have been referring to them as “the Supremes”. No, we really don’t give all the lambs names…

During this entire time, one of my favorite sheep, Tillie, had been having all sorts of “issues”. As the daughter of one of the first Suffolks that we raised here on the hill, she is sort of special.  She’s a very nice animal, rather affectionate and a good producer.  She even has a pleasant yet distinctive voice, unlike some of the others that just yell raucously without end when they perceive they need something. 

But, her prolapses were disturbing, almost horrifying.  She was huge…and seemed to get bigger every time we went to the barn.  She was constantly eating and eating and eating.  When she would lie down, her stomach would protrude weirdly, the prolapse would grow larger and larger and she would begin to writhe and scream.  It was unsettling to say the least. However, when she would stand up, everything would go back where it belonged…most of the time. This went on for the better part of a week.

Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore.  We corralled her and pushed the prolapsing tissue back where it belonged.  I couldn’t feel anything amiss, but worried that something horrible was going on inside her.  The Boss advised a “wait and see” attitude. 

We waited…and waited. She would eat and eat…then lie down…scream…eat and eat…on so on.

Finally, she began to labor. We went into delivery mode.

Oops!  Just a head popped out. Not a good presentation. Blast! Where were the feet?  Okay, found ‘em.  Baby is born!  It’s alive…yippee!  Wow…it’s big, really big.

We thought we would give her some time to have the second one.

Then he popped out, rather gushed out, bringing all the watery birth sacs with him. Yuck, I was drenched.   

Wow…he’s big, too!

Good Job, Tillie!

Wait a minute… some more hooves are presenting… oh my!

Ooop…a little re-positioning is necessary this time… and baby #3 is born!


All in all, nearly 30 pounds of lambs!  WOW! Well, now…that explains all the pre-delivery issues.

Tillie's triplets have to get a little creative at meal-time...taking turns
Despite the stress of late pregnancy and the assistance needed in delivery, Tillie is raising her lambs without human assistance. They are thriving as well. All pre-delivery issues have been resolved.

the pep boys

Prior to the birth, I had the odd thought that if Tillie had triplet ram lambs (guy sheep, as one of my nephews called them long ago), we could name them Manny,  Moe and Jack.  You know…the Pep Boys? (auto parts stores)    Unbeknownst to me, the Boss had the exact same thought.

However, one is a ewe lamb.  I guess that makes them the Pep “Boyz”…Manny, Moe and Jacqueline.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

Even When Things Go Dreadfully Wrong

                 **this post contains a photo some may find disturbing**

I realize today’s title seems inappropriate for THANKFUL THURSDAY. But, read on...

Quite honestly, I really struggle with the whole “in everything give thanks” concept sometimes. My first reaction when things go wrong is not to say a real loud, heartfelt “THANK YOU”…no, it’s generally to say a few choice words, scream, and maybe, just maybe, throw something.  Steady Eddy I am NOT!

However, it is the moments of awful-ness that make us truly appreciate the wonderful moments that otherwise we would take for granted.

It is oh, so very easy to be thankful for my life, the farm, the animals, our work…and so forth when the sky is blue and beautiful and everything on the farm is thriving.

But…that is too often not the case. Gloomy days, sick animals or garden failures have the potential to ruin a day almost before it begins.

Case in point…

Little ewe #135 hadn’t looked real good for a while.  I couldn’t put my finger on it…she just seemed “off”.  Without a real diagnosis, she got no treatment.  I mean she was eating, drinking, and doing all the normal sheep stuff, so maybe I was making a mountain out of a molehill.

When it became obvious that she was in labor, I still had that nagging feeling.  Hours passed and nothing happened.  It was time to do an internal check.  While I love birthing lambs, I really do NOT like this part.  The “internal check” is painful and invasive to the ewe, painful and stressful to me (my arm has to go inside while contractions are taking place and I'm feeling around for the lamb…and means I have my face in the sheep’s rear), and just plain painful to the Boss (who has to hold the frightened, hurting ewe still so I can do what I have to do). He also cannot see what I am doing or how things are progressing and has to listen as I mutter to myself, lost in the throes of obstetrical diagnosis.

The exam indicated that the lamb was quite large and mis-presented, mother’s pelvis was quite small….oh, and the lamb was not moving. When I removed my hand, a whiff of “not-so-nice” hit me in the face.  Not good…not good at all.

It was pretty much a given that the lamb was dead.  If it was not removed, mother would become toxic and die as well. 

This ewe didn't make it.  I share this pic so you will
get an idea of the reality of death and its aftermath.
Despite my best efforts, I could not re-position the lamb and get labor to proceed. There was just no way I was getting this lamb out. The lamb was so large and the mother’s pelvis so small. There was no way around it…this would be a total loss.  The lamb(s) was already lost, and the ewe would follow suit shortly. We made the decision to put her out of her misery.

While that kind of decision really makes me sad, bothers me, frustrates me (and the Boss as well), that’s just the way it goes sometimes.  I will admit, we were both more than a little bummed when we went to bed at the end of that day.  Kinda makes ya wonder why you even bother.

But, morning brought a new miracle.  Life was beginning all over the barn as we arrived.  Twin ram lambs were born without any sort of human aid.  As we cared for the twins, triplet ewe lambs were arriving on the other side of the barn, again without human aid.

I really don’t think we would appreciate the mountaintop experiences if it wasn’t for the time we spend in the valley of despair and discouragement sometimes.  The bad times grant some texture to our lives.

So, while my first thought is not to say…

Gee, I’m thankful that this went so terribly wrong

I suppose it should be.

Because the not-so good, bad, awful experiences made me (us) much more appreciative of the good, great, amazing days, weeks and years of this special life we are blessed with living.

                                   ...and for that I am thankful!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

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.                              


Monday, January 21, 2013

How I Became a Sheep Mother

Few things bother me more than when any mother mistreats, neglects or abuses her offspring. That kind of behavior is truly reprehensible.

Something should be done about bad mothers.

While my “issues” with the subject stem from human relations, on occasion we have to deal with the concerns caused by bad mothers here on the hill.

When raising livestock, many qualities are considered when keeping back breeding animals. You look for vigorous, productive animals that will breed easily and produce young that will grow out well.  Female animals should have a good “mothering on” instinct in order to guarantee the health of the next generation.

“Mothering on” begins with a relatively easy birth process, followed by the instinctive response to care for the young.  The mother should immediately begin to bond with the young, cleaning it and getting it to eat for the first time. As the baby (in this case, a lamb) grows, the mother should provide some sort of protection for it…leading it to safe eating and sleeping areas, and on occasion defending it from larger animals.

Despite our best efforts…sometimes this goes all wrong.

When we held back the ewe lambs from the 2011 crop, I was so excited. You can read this. They looked great.  When we bred them, they all appeared to “take” we waited.

When #145 showed signs of labor, we thought everything would be fine. Her mother is one of our oldest, most productive, most successful ewes.   One of the other young ewes had lambed successfully. After all, this is a natural process…

 …and then nothing happened.  Labor stopped.        


Not good.

We examined, we manipulated, and we hoped and prayed…we left her alone.  Nothing.

With every passing hour, it became more urgent to get the babies inside out into the world. As the amniotic fluid drained, so did their survival chances.   If they died, she would surely die…and we were already facing that issue with another sheep.

We learned about the need for urgency in this type of situation the hard way a long time ago.  Nothing like a trip to the vet in the middle of the cold and snowy winter for a sheep cesarean that yields two dead lambs, a dying ewe and a bill for $275.00. I hate to think what it would cost today. We aren’t doing that one again!

As I did another internal examination, it became obvious that we were going to have to work incredibly hard to birth out these lambs, if we could get them out at all.  There were absolutely no useful contractions, and the entire environment was far drier than is usually the case. Time was of the essence.

But, through sheer determination on my part and a lot of muscle from the Boss…we got those babies out of there.  YES!  Healthy twins!  A boy and a girl…good sized babies!

We tried to get #145 to care for them.  Nothing. 

Thinking perhaps she was in pain (she had just been through a lot) I gave her some medication. That seemed to help and she began the cleaning, talking process that sheep do.  It seemed a little “half-hearted” but I was still feeling hopeful.

Once the family moved to the jug pen, the issues began.  I thought I saw her butt the newborn away from its meal.  Nah…couldn’t have.  Then, the Boss thought he saw her butt the newborn.  Nah, couldn’t have.

Things seemed to settle out some.  But, the lambs were doing an inordinate amount of crying.  Lambs bleat or cry, not unlike human babies when they are in need.  Generally, they just need a bit of nourishment. Find mom, get a little sip, and all’s right in the world.  #145 had milk, so that wasn’t the problem.

When the family came out to mingle with the rest of the flock, it became evident that the lambs weren’t getting enough, if anything at all, to eat from their mother.  They tried to snitch a little snack from all the other moms.  But, success was rare, and they were getting kicked and butted a lot. The crying continued.

By this time, #145 was only allowing the ewe lamb to eat.  She would butt the little ram lamb every time he got close, or kick him over when he snuck in from behind. We aren’t talking gentle butts and kicks, either.

I decided to take matters into my own hands and got him out of harm’s way, putting him in his own little pen.

One ewe had lost one of her lambs and had a huge amount of milk. Most of the time she's quite cooperative, and she really needed to be relieved of all the milk. She let this little guy nurse a couple of times, and I hoped I could graft him onto her.  But, ultimately, she wouldn’t accept him as her own.  This one was gonna be a bottle baby whether we liked it or not. The Boss headed out to the farm supply store for a bag of milk replacer.

By this time, #145 had given up caring for the ewe lamb as well.  She was running away from her, butting her and screaming all the time.  It was baffling.  She had milk…she had mothered on…and now, after 2 days, she wanted nothing to do with the lambs.To say I was getting annoyed was a bit of an understatement.

After “borrowing” a little more milk from the one-lamb ewe, I penned the siblings together and began the task of teaching them to be bottle babies.  This process can be lengthy as lambs are not known for their great mental prowess. Incredibly, it didn’t take long and now they know my voice and come running when they hear me….looking for their next meal.

“Mother sheep-145” has never once looked for them.  Generally, a ewe will call her babies constantly for the first week, making sure they are accounted for at all times.  Not this one.  Nothing.

That’s what I call a bad mother.

Soon, we will be taking several old sheep to the stockyard. There are a couple of ewes that turned up “open” (not bred) after all. This kind of animal is referred to as a "hayburner". No point in feeding them all winter.

You better know that #145 will be first on the truck, heading out to the yard.  We might as well get something out of her.  It might even pay for that bag of milk replacer. Now, that's doing something about a bad mother!

There you have it.  I am now the surrogate mother to two lambs. They seem to be thriving.  There are some who would question my sanity and reason, going to the added effort and expense of raising these two.  Maybe we shouldn’t have tried so valiantly to birth the lambs. Maybe we should have let nature take its course.  Maybe we should have left well enough alone.  But, we didn’t…and now it’s our responsibility to care for those little lives we helped bring into the world, all the while remembering the place and purpose of animals on the farm.

Let's hope I make a good sheep-mom...these little guys are depending on me!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Miracle of Birth

***WARNING! This blog post contains graphic images and may not be suitable for some viewers. ***

                                                   I’m serious.


There is something miraculous about birth. Any birth. There is no other experience quite like it. Maybe it is because I have actually given birth, maybe I personalize this way too much…but, I just love lambing season.

This time of year, our focus centers on the barn and the new life that will soon inhabit it.  I’ve written extensively about the time I spend in the barn and about our lambing experiences.  I thought maybe it would be good if you could share this with me. Come take a little virtual trip to the sheep barn.

As a shepherd, it is my responsibility to make sure that this seeming “natural” occurrence doesn’t go disastrously wrong.  By providing a healthy environment and some fairly capable assistance, our success rate is quite good. 

I had been keeping an eye on “Flo” all day.  She had been looking like a blimp for some time and according to my calculations…this was the day. Physical signs began to indicate that my predictions were right on the mark.  However, the Boss had another project planned for the evening, so we both hoped that she would wait.  The Boss’ project involved moving the hens…but, I’ll get to that story another time.

Upon completion of the hen project, I returned to the barn to find labor in full swing.  After heading to the house for my vet box, I returned to sit in the barn and wait.  It’s always good to take the laidback approach, waiting to see how things progress naturally first.

For those of you who find this interesting, here’s a pictorial of sheep labor and delivery. For those of you who gross out easily...come back tomorrow or some other time.  But, PLEASE do come back.

Amazingly, this process took just slightly over an hour from the time I walked in the barn until I snapped the last frame.  That part of this always (ALWAYS) astounds me.  These little beings are totally dependent upon their mother for every aspect of life one moment and suddenly become separate entities completely able to survive (with some help, of course) on their own.  Lambs are able to stand within minutes of birth and are quite often looking for something to eat as they enter this world.  This is amazing!

7:51…this is the night…for sure.  The first of the water bags are presented. I warned you!  Some people think this is really, really gross.  I think it's a miracle...and for the record, this one was a piece of cake…no muss…no fuss!

Mother starts “nesting”. The ewe will scratch and dig with her forefeet, making a little clear indentation in the bedding.

Much stretching, moaning, yawning and baa-ing follow.

Oh wow!  See the little hooves? In a proper presentation, a lamb is born in a “diving position”.  The little front legs come out first, followed by the nose, the shoulders…the rest of the lamb.  Everything is in the right place. Yippee!

More pushing, nesting, wandering, crying. I must admit…this part can be a little unnerving. (I really think I personalize it a little too much sometimes)

BIG push!

Lookee!  Lookee!  See the little pink nose? Right there above the hooves? The hooves are white and soft as the baby is born so they don’t injure the delicate insides of the mama.  They harden almost immediately after birth.


After pushing long and hard, little progress was being made.  No pictures while I lend a little helping hand.  Sliding my hand gently up the nose, grasping the little legs…gentle tug…

BLOOP!  Out comes baby #1!

Instantly, mama forgets everything else and begins cleaning baby.  She is talking sweet, sheepy baby talk the whole time.  This is the only time ewes ever sound quite like this.  You can always tell when new babies are on the ground by the tone of the ewe’s voices.

Cleaning, talking, cleaning…the lamb begins to “talk” too.  Suddenly, he tries to stand.  Within five minutes he is aggressively looking for his first meal. Success!

Oops!  Baby #2 is becoming evident.  At this point, the ewe becomes distracted and acts worried.  I step in with my towels and rub the first baby while she labors to bring the second one into the world.

#2 comes considerably quicker than the first lamb.  I help a little and then back off to let the new family bond.  Once I have treated their umbilical cords with iodine (this dries the cord so germs don’t enter) and watched to make sure they get a little sip from their mom, I head back to the house, full of wonder at the miracle that I just witnessed.

It’s 9:01pm…a little more than an hour since this adventure began…

…and this is just the beginning…I’ll get to see this again and again this winter…every winter.

Wow!  What an experience!  What a life! 

                                                     Thankful?  You better know it!