Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Walkabout 1-17

This crowd is hard to please

It’s Sunday again!  Let’s head to the barn.

In January/February our weekly farm tours center around the barn. Actually, in January and February EVERYTHING centers around the barn. Once lambing season begins, we make lots (and LOTS) of trips to the barn. You just never know when human intervention may be called for. And, even if we are not needed, it is pleasant to visit the barn when all the sheep are lying around, chewing their cuds and/or sleeping. It’s so peaceful. (most of the time)

just chillin' on a chilly day

It was a chilly day when we turned the lambs out with the rest of the flock. They didn't act quite right and they seemed particularly cold, so I put little sweaters on them, hoping to reserve some of their body heat. However, that didn’t seem to perk them up too much. After watching them a little more, it seemed more like they were hungry than cold. I checked on mama-sheep.
when lambs are all "hunched up" like this
they don't feel good

they were really sleepy, too
She didn’t have any milk, or not much. She had obviously had some colostrum for the lambs (or they would have been dead by now), but when it was time for her milk to come in, apparently it did not. I headed back to the house, rooted the milk replacer out of the freezer and found a brand-new bottle and nipple. I took it back to the barn and caught the lambs. When they latched right onto that bottle, I knew I had solved the problem. I also knew that I now had a couple of “pet lambs”. (you need to click and read)  I am now "co-parenting" with Trisha-the-sheep. Not exactly what I had planned…but, that’s just how it goes sometimes.

The Boss needed a couple of additional items for his plumbing project, so he stopped by the Farm Bureau and purchased a new bag of “liquid gold” (milk replacer for lambs) for me. With their survival assured, he could focus on his project.

The sink in the utility room is one of those choices from our days of home construction that we find ourselves giving thanks for repeatedly. We use it countless times every single day for all sorts of washing up projects. It has become the Boss’ default egg-washing station, as the water in the processing shed freezes in the wintertime. The near-constant use meant it really, really needed some TLC and it was time to replace the badly leaking faucet. He actually planned to do this project LAST winter (the supplies have been sitting behind the couch all this time) but, well, you know how that goes.

Another cold and windy day, another completed indoor project! (I could get used to this)
new faucet and backsplash

The newly renovated sink project had no effect on the wind. It simply got worse as the afternoon progressed. By afternoon chores, gates were banging, loose buckets were flying and we were beginning to fear for the roof shingles as we watched the trees along the property line bend and bow. Snow flurries added to the wintry scenario.

The animals all hunkered down as best they could after eating and we headed back to the house for some respite. However, when the wind wails during the winter, the house doesn’t offer complete calm, as the attached greenhouse flutters and creaks in the wind. I can sympathize with the dogs who headed for the deepest corner UNDERNEATH the shed when the winds started whipping gravel up out of the driveway into a small whirlwind. Then the temperatures began to plummet. So much for missing winter!

a wind casualty
the broiler pen is beyond repair
and the Boss will have to build a new one before Spring
The wind and the cold don’t provide an excuse from barn chores, and during lambing, barn chores are an endless routine. A couple hours later, with lamb bottles tucked into the front of my coveralls (trying to keep them warm), I headed out into the dark to do the last check of the evening before bedtime. The wind tore the breath right out of my lungs and the cold was “bracing” to say the least. Snow was blowing sideways through the night.

I assumed there would be some relative calm in the barn, but I was wrong. The metal roof heaved and clattered in the 40 mph winds, and it seemed the entire thing would come apart when the errant 50-60 mph gust would tear through, creating a biting duststorm of small bits of hay and dirt.

Out of the darkness came a horrible sound. The wind, the moaning barn and the swirling biting snow made it hard to identify. There it was again! Someone...something...was screaming. Screaming at regular intervals. Which could only mean one thing.

More lambs.

The bottle babies would have to wait. Although, they wouldn’t. They kept tugging on the legs of my coveralls as I attempted to find the source of the screams. I pushed them away and flipped on the lights.

The wind blew harder, the snow swirled more thickly. Man, it is cold in here! The screaming was getting louder, even over the wind. Looking around, I didn’t see anything untoward at first.
...and there she was, behind a group of sheep.

The laboring ewe.

She was attempting to birth out an enormous lamb. And, the enormous lamb was stuck. Each contraction would cause mama-sheep to scream and writhe. Ugh. Good thing I came out when I did.
Pushing the bottle lambs away AGAIN, I stepped in.

A little re-positioning and a fairly good tug and the birthing issues were easily solved. The big baby was born! Assuring that mama-sheep was indeed going to do her job, I turned back to feeding the bottle babies who by now were biting my coveralls and bunting my legs.

With the lambs fed, it was time to turn my attention back to the newborn. While mama-sheep was doing a great job cleaning up the baby, that didn’t change the fact that there was snow blowing though the barn and the windchill had to be far below freezing. Enormous or not, the lamb wouldn’t stand up to that for long. The lamb needed to be out of the wind. And, one of the bottle babies realized that there was more milk for the drinking and she kept going after the new mom and the seeming endless milk supply. She was becoming a nuisance. Mama-sheep was getting distracted by the little interloper and couldn’t take care of her own offspring in peace. Some human intervention was necessary all around.

A quick trip to the house for supplies and a little re-arranging in the barn, and I got mama and baby tucked into a jug for the night. But, not before I weighed the newborn. 14.6#! Not the biggest lamb ever, but, not a small one, either. (she seemed to be nearly twice the size of the smaller twin) I admit, I was a little disappointed that it was just a single...but, then, I really had my doubts as to whether mama-sheep was even bred. So...with that unexpected adventure out of the way, I headed off to bed.

But, not before I set the alarm clock for 2 am. Since I am now “surrogate mom” to the twins, I will be feeding them around the clock for another couple of weeks. I can’t say that I enjoy getting up in the middle of the night, fixing baby bottles and traipsing to the barn in the cold and dark. But, I am a shepherd. And, that’s just the way lambing season goes. (are you sensing a recurring theme?)

ewes hanging out on a winter afternoon
Over the next couple of weeks, sleep deprivation is just a part of life. But, since I’m not going anywhere, except the barn or really quick trips to town, my somewhat sleepy, disheveled appearance and my growing incoherence isn’t all that much of an issue. You can  read this about lambing season.

as you can see, the babies have completely recovered and rejoined the flock
this is the smallest one

For anyone keeping track, we are now at four lambs. The twins, the enormous lamb and another big single. Then there is a break in the action until at least Monday. And, then, another break until the following week. At that point, things should start “popping”.  If you remember, we had the whole “Waylon” incident a little more than 150 days ago (length of sheep gestation), prompting our unexpected ram purchase. The big gap in lamb births indicates we indeed made the right decision. All the rest of the lambs will be Angus’ offspring. So, we are truly looking forward to seeing how this all plays out. If we can just hang on a little longer…

the twins enjoy the sunshine ahead of the bad weather

I thought lambing seemed like a long, drawn-out ordeal this year, so I checked the calendar. Yep! I was right.  Lambing took place in just 10 days last year, with one errant ewe that finished up a couple of weeks later. This year, we’ve got lamb dates spread out over 4 WEEKS with one old girl looking to lamb in March (maybe). Not the way I would have had things work out…but…

"Violet" is doing her best to help the hay situation.
She has eaten half a bale so far!

As I know I have said before…it all works out. 

The stalls we generally use for babies are full of hay. Because, this year, we did not need to feed hay until after Christmas! Last year, we were feeding hay before Thanksgiving. If all the babies were to come at once, I honestly don’t know where we would put everyone. So, it all works out. And, I can always sleep some other time.

The upcoming week should bring some new babies, some FRIGID temperatures and the annual Farmers’ Market meeting. I just hope they don’t all happen at the same time! 

But, you know how that goes…

Thanks for stopping by!

Here’s hoping you have a Happy Sunday! 

…and you come back for a “visit” real soon.

wonder what they are "talking" about?


  1. Oh Barbara, poor you! As I was reading this I kept thinking 'thank goodness we don't have our own sheep'. We keep them for other farmers and only get mother and babies when they are a little older. I did once have to feed a lamb for three or four weeks when its mother rejected it. I really enjoyed it at first but after the fourth week, when each time I opened the back door it called for me, I was pleased to say goodbye when the chap it belonged to took it back to his farm. Keep warm whenever you can.

    1. As much as I love being a shepherd, the sleepless nights are a definite down-side. But, it won't last long. It's just 62 days until SPRING!