Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Walkabout 1-18

This has been a long, tiring week.  And, depending on your perspective…either a long tiring week where bad stuff happened…or a long, tiring week with a positive outcome.

Let’s go for the latter, okay? Because despite any bad stuff, the tiredness and frustrations, it really was a good week. Although, I will warn you in advance…this post is going to be very rambly…the tiredness has affected my brain as well as my body.

Short story…the POSTIVE outcome stood at 16 at last count. (we’re about halfway)

Lambing season officially began about 10pm on Sunday. 

phone pic of first 2015 lamb

When I went to the barn for my last check of the night, there was a newborn little ewe lamb. Her mother was working to clean her up (and doing a fine job, I might add).  However, this other ewe wanted in on the action.  She was butting new mama and licking and talking to the newborn, too.  The atmosphere became quite tense as the ewes fought over the baby.  It took me a minute to realize what was going on.  The second ewe, Flo, was also in labor.  Often, when a ewe is in the early stages of labor, she will attempt to “steal” another ewe’s lambs.  She was so intent on this baby, that if I hadn’t known better, I may have attributed it to her and penned the families wrong.  It didn’t require the Wisdom of Solomon to know whose baby the newborn was, she looks very much like her mother, Habeebi.  Yes, I did say Habeebi. Like Klinger’s imaginary camel in the “Last Laugh” episode of M*A*S*H.   

I’m pretty sure I should take a minute to explain that one. (I think I have explained this before, but, I’m not sure where…and it is kind of funny…or at least lets you see just how…well, odd…we really are here on the hill.)

We have one sheep unlike the others.  She is a speck.  Speck is not a breed, per se, but a coloration variation.  By breeding a dark-faced sheep, like a Suffolk or Hampshire with a white-faced sheep, like a Dorset, you get sheep with some speckles on their faces and often a lighter color on their furry parts. Sometimes these speckles show up in later generations. It is simply one of those interesting anomalies that occurs with some regularity in the natural world.

There is a separate class in the sheep showing world for this anomaly.  Back when sheep showing was Blondie’s life, she decided she NEEDED to show a speck.  So, she bought this sheep she called Shania. (she had a whole flock of country music themed lambs… Shania, Garth and Trisha…to name a few)  Shania went to the State Fair and did quite well. But, her show days behind her, she joined the flock as a breeder.

At some point, someone pointed out her resemblance to a camel.  As a cross-breed, she lacks the dramatic black face and white wool of our Suffolk flock.  She’s more of a mousy brown. She also has a long, narrow face.   This resemblance was noticed right after we had seen the M*A*S*H episode with Klinger and his imaginary camel. I think you can check it out here. The name stuck.  And, the Boss seems to get endless pleasure from doing Klinger’s camel herding noises when we’re working sheep.  Keeping things amusing is part of his job description. (or that's what he says)

Anyway… (told you I would be rambling…)

In the tussle for mothering rights, one of the ewes got a little over zealous in her cleaning and bit the end of the baby’s tail off. As the ewes clean up the newborns, they lick them all over and nip the long, dangling umbilical cord with their teeth.  Occasionally, they mistake the tail for the cord and bite that off too! (Yee-ouch) While we do remove the tails from our sheep, this is definitely not our preferred method.  Poor baby was bleeding fairly badly, so I went ahead and banded the tail above the injury and applied blood-stop powder. Ultimately, no harm done.

By this time, Flo’s labor had become more intense and she went off to do her thing elsewhere (I was glad to see her go…she kept butting me as I tried to keep her from the new family)

Now Habeebi had two little babies, and after checking her bag (for milk) and dipping the babies’ umbilicals in iodine (dries them up so germs don’t enter), the new family went into a jug.

Off to check on Flo.  She managed to have her own, very large, lamb without any assistance. I would like twins every time, but a big single with no human intervention is good, too.  They were tucked into their own pen.

By this time it was 12:45am and I headed to the house where I promptly crashed on the couch. Choretime was going to come all too soon.
Tess has first dibs on the couch
here, she's watching a lamb in a box

yes, my kitchen IS a mess!

I’d like to say I hold it all together very well during lambing season. But, between the lambing checks, my downed sheep “patient” and the extra chores (washing lamb towels, “de-hayifying” the washer and dryer) I don’t seem to get much else accomplished. There is hay on the floor and lamb towels on the table.  And I won’t deny having to clean sheep manure off the kitchen floor. But, that’s okay. It’s all part of farm life. I will get back with the program next week. (well, sort of)

The Boss’ online friends are quite interested in our farm life and thought they wanted to see a sheep birth, so they asked him to make a video.  When the next ewe went into labor, we both went to the barn to wait and watch and make a “documentary”.   Personally, I find birth an amazing process and am truly grateful that we get to be active participants in so many miracles. 
But, it is a little gross and gooey, so be forewarned.

The rest of the week slipped by without incident.  We sent out our winter sales email, recorded the orders and responded appropriately. And, my sleep deprivation didn’t cause any errors. (yay)  I realize I’ve said it before, but…our customers are awesome!

Friday was a big lambing day. You can read about it here. 

Saturday is our town delivery day.  This went without a hitch and we headed back home.  The rest of the day was fairly uneventful.  It consisted mainly of feeding babies…and feeding babies.  With four bottle babies requiring 6 bottles a day, I am not doing much else.  Thankfully, this schedule will be reduced in a few days as they can eat more at a time.  By next week, they will have moved to the barn and will getting just four bottles a day.  …and my life will return to relative calm (ha!)

Checking the lambs in the barn, one group looked a little too thin.  Newborn baby lambs are skinny (they plump up within a week), but these looked cold and were all hunched up.  Examination revealed that their mother had a major blockage in one of her teats. This meant the babies were getting very little to eat.  A little human intervention was necessary to clear this up, and a course of antibiotics prescribed for her.  (this morning everyone seems better) Seems a shepherd's work is never really finished. 

Just before bedtime, there were a couple more arrivals.  Big, healthy ram lambs and no shepherd intervention was required. (that’s the way to do it!) 

That brings the total to 16.   9 boys to 7 girls.

And, that was the week here on the hill. I think.  I’m certain my brain fog caused me to forget more than a few things.

I think he has a new favorite!
Today will be a round of tagging and tailing, more baby bottles, turning the new families out with the flock and cleaning the jug pens.  The rest of the ewes are due to lamb within the next week, so we need to be ready.
the lambs have started their gymnastics practice

That means the upcoming week will be interesting at best.  We’ll try and fit the town run and a bunch of errands in around the edges.  It’s time to get some more seeds started…and it might be nice if we worked in the hoophouses.  Oh, I forgot to mention the Annual Farmers’ Market meeting...and…

I think I better find time for a nap!

Hope you’re having a Happy Sunday!

Thanks for stopping by!  Come see us again real soon. 

the end of a busy week

1 comment:

  1. Our friend down the road has just started lambing today - he is always the first around here as most folk have Swaledales and don't lamb until early April. Believe me, I know just how exhausting it is and how the house gets to look like a tip with everythings left undone. Then suddenly lambing is over and all healthy lambs are frolicing around and you can get back to normal. Good luck with the next week. Did enjoy reading about it from the comfort of my armchair.