Sunday, January 22, 2017

Sunday Walkabout 1-22-17

You got milk?
(Scooter-the bottle baby)
It’s been a crazy time here on the hill. Lots of trips to the barn, lots of babies and very little sleep. It’s been one of those weeks where I seriously considered googling “how to main-line caffeine” at more than one point. But, that sounds slightly illegal and more than a little dangerous. And, I can only imagine my cardiologist’s reaction. So…I tried to take a couple of naps and drag myself through to the end.
the weather looked like this almost all week

I’m happy to say…I made it! The big push is done and the continual barn checks are over. (for now)

 In stark comparison to last week, we’re putting this week solidly in the WIN category. (not that it was not without its disappointments and trials, but all in all…we can claim success)

Monday started with the biggest twins I think I've ever seen
15# each
and NO human intervention

We finished out the week with 21 live lambs. There are still a half dozen ewes that will lamb out sometime in February, so it’s still a little early to tally up our statistics. But, I’ll be optimistic and say we did all right. There were three sets of triplets! Although just one set remains intact. At some point I really need to tell you about the troubles of triplets. Sadly, we did incur some  other losses and that’s always frustrating. However, all the current flock looks hale and hearty. And, we only have one bottle baby!
"Charlie Brown" is one of triplets
born in the rain
he got chilled and had some breathing issues
He's doing great and will shed his sweater soon

The week was made a little more challenging when the Boss did indeed succumb to “the crud”. He was one sick puppy. But, he got through the Annual Farmers’ Market meeting. (that was his major concern) And, everyone is ready to go for the 2017 season. Hopefully, he did not infect anybody.  (if so, consider this his apology) If you had any doubt as to how sick he was...he let ME take him to Urgent Care where they told him “the crud” had turned to a sinus infection and they prescribed some super-duper antibiotics. Fortunately, he is feeling better. But, wow, does this thing sap your energy. One job and it’s back to the chair to rest for a while. So, needless to say...not a whole lot happened around here this week.

misty sunrise
on one of my countless trips to the barn

My attention was focused on the barn.  I lost count of how many trips I made, how many shots I gave, and how many bottles I filled. At one point, I was doing good to remember my name…as sleep deprivation got the better of me. A four hour stretch of sleep sound adequate until you realize what is entailed during the interim. The bottle baby was on a four-hour schedule most of the week, so a bottle had to be mixed and heated (and fed), there were head-counts and the whole off-and-on with the barn clothes routine. ...and then there was always the unexpected...

On one of my middle of the night checks, I found a newborn lamb…with two ewes fighting over his care. Both of them had claimed him and it took my sleep-deprived mind a minute or two to be able to make the King Solomon-like decision as to which one was the true mama. And, then, it took a good five minutes to get the ewe-lamb pair to a jug where the mama could continue to labor in relative peace. (yes, indeed-y there was another baby coming) Every time I would make some progress, the not-mama would jostle me and my headlamp would slide into an awkward position and I couldn’t see anything in the dark barn. When it slid precariously over my nose, or my ear, the light would bounce oddly off the barn ceiling and walls, causing the young ewes to panic and everyone would flip out and gallop around in fear. Pandemonium was not what I needed.  So, then we would have to start the backward trip to the stall all over again, being sure that mama-sheep could see her baby (that I was carrying) at all times. Shortly after getting to the jug, she dropped another lamb. Everyone looked good. A little attention for the lambs and a bucket of water for the ewe...and, it was a great relief to shut the jug gate and head back to the house. If her mothering-on was any indication, it wouldn’t be long until the second ewe lambed as well. But, nothing was imminent, so I headed to the house for a quick nap and some supplies before the “blessed event”.

However, when I got back and hour or so later...nothing was happening. I fed “Scooter” the bottle baby and still…nothing.

Even after chores nothing was happening.

No, wait. I take that back. Another ewe was lambing. But, it looked like it might be problematic.

And, there was definitely a problem with “Girlfriend” (the second ewe from the night drama) She was making little moaning noises, and it looked like her back legs were giving out…

Time to get the Boss.

Now, remember, he felt like death warmed over. (this is before his trip to the doc) …and I was still not one hundred percent. So, when I did my internal exam I was more than a little distraught to find, instead of two little feet…a ribcage. No, wait, was that a neck? I wasn’t real sure what I was feeling, but there was no doubt the lamb was mis-presented and it was going to require a good deal of human intervention. I really didn’t think we had it in us to do anything major. But, we had to do something.

Doing an internal exam on a sheep is a weird experience. It would probably disgust many people and gross out even more. The thought of putting one’s hand inside a sheep’s behind isn’t really the most appealing thing, I must say. But, I know that if I don’t do something, it is a sure thing that the animal(s) will die.  I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. CJ for taking the time years ago to explain to me what I am “looking” for and how to identify it by feel alone. ‘Cause you can’t take an actual look up in there. Nope. Not even a little bit. You can only use one hand, so you need to learn what it all feels like. Because, this animal is depending on you and vet calls are expensive and time is often of the utmost essence.

Anyway, I’m feeling around in the dark, warm, gooey sheep…trying to figure out how the lamb is lying and how to position it correctly to get it out. Out alive is definitely the preference (although sometimes that just doesn’t happen) All the while, mama sheep is contracting on my hand/arm. And, moaning. (fun times…not exactly)  All I can feel is something other than feet. It was obviously woolly and muscular…did it even have feet? Where was its face? (I talk to myself when I do this job and I think it kind of freaks the Boss out a little. Particularly when I cuss…and pray…sometimes at the same time…yeah, I can see how that would be disturbing…) I moved my hand around a little and found some feet. But not from the lamb I first encountered. Well, maybe by getting #2 out I could reposition #1…wiggle, pull, wiggle, pull.  Wooosh…out comes the baby! He flopped around a little and coughed, so we knew he was okay. Go back for the other one. I finally figured out that the lamb’s head was tucked around behind and under his leg (imagine he was trying to scratch his tummy with his teeth) Labor was heating up now, so my arm was getting mangled. Mama-sheep was getting really tired and laid down. Not great. I had to get down on the floor. The Boss was in a fairly awkward position as well and it was obvious he was getting tired.  Finally, after some intense work, I re-positioned the lamb and he slid out. Two nice ram lambs! And, they were both vigorous. YAY Mama-sheep seems to be laboring still. And, the rule is…if you have to go inside, make sure you get them ALL out. Lo and behold, there was a third baby. He was breech. Completely breech. (meaning he was coming butt first…in a ball) And, like it or not, mama-sheep was pushing again. It cost me a big bruise on the back of my hand, but I got him turned around and straightened out and with another WOOSH…we were done! THREE ram lambs! However, mama-sheep could not stand. Not even a little bit. But, she was cleaning her babies and talking lamb-talk to them, so we hoped for the best and moved on to the next laboring ewe.

Another exam and yep…another problem. This one was not as difficult. #2 lamb’s leg was turned back. By popping it up over the mom’s pelvic bone, his way was clear and he slid right out. A quick check revealed that yes, there was another little lamb…and he was ALIVE! Honestly, I went into the situation expecting the worst. I figured we would lose at least one, if not all, of the tangled up triplets. But, we got them all out alive...and the mama-sheep were okay...

…and it wasn’t even 9am.
"Girlfriend" and the newly arrived triplets

Talk about an adrenaline rush. I felt like Super-Shepherd. A very sweaty, bloody, soggy, but triumphant Super-Shepherd. The feeling didn’t last long as exhaustion set in...delivering mis-presented lambs is perhaps the most intense job on the requires a great deal of strength, both physical and mental. My goodness, I was tired. But, the success was sweet, particularly after last week’s disastrous experiences.

But, before we could celebrate we really had to consider what to do with a sheep that couldn’t stand up with triplet lambs dependent upon her. If she couldn’t stand, she couldn’t feed the babies. If she didn’t feed the babies, they would die…or I would have to become a surrogate again. Ugh.  And, if she couldn’t stand, she would eventually die…and what do you do with a 200 pound dying sheep in the middle of the barn?

As I dealt with the other sheep, she continued to clean her babies from a downed position. When I returned to check on her, guess who was standing up, feeding ALL her babies (somehow they already learned to take turns) and munching out on hay like nothing ever happened? You guessed it. "Girlfriend"!

A couple of years ago, she very nearly earned herself a trip out of here, but I relented for reasons I just don’t recall. Now, I’m kinda glad I did. She’s managing to raise her triplets without any human intervention. And, they are some really nice ram lambs.

With most of the lambs delivered safely, the bottle baby on a 6-hour schedule, and the Boss on the road to recovery, maybe we can get back to “normal” around here.

hoophouse on a January day
inspires me
It’s time to clean out the greenhouses so we can get busy starting seeds for the 2017 season, the pullets need to move to the henhouse and then there’s all the paperwork for tax time that needs some sort of attention. And, I’m certain I’ve overlooked a fair number of other tasks that will need our attention. So, there will be no cause to say we're bored or there's nothing to do.
pretty pullets

Now, it’s time to head out to check on our charges and get started with another day on the hill.

Hope you’re having a  Happy Sunday! 

Ellie at sunrise

Thanks for stopping by! And, a big THANK YOU to all those who offered prayers and kind words this past week. You made a big difference in our outlook and we truly appreciate you.

I hope you'll come “visit” us again real soon.


  1. This made me exhausted just read it Barbara. You really deserve a medal but i expect the pleasure of seeing all three of those lambs in such good shape and mother back on her feet is reward enough.

    1. Thanks, Pat!
      Yes, it's been a rewarding week.

  2. Congrats on getting your lambs out and that the momma is going well.. pleased for you.. enjoyed reading your post today!

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting! Hope you'll come back to "visit" again soon.

  3. Well bravo to you and the Boss for all your efforts in caring for your sheep and delivering those complicated lambies. I'm worn out just reading about the week you have had. I hope you feel much better and get caught up with your sleep. Your have my sincere admiration.

    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Cheryl!
      I truly appreciate your kind words.
      Hope you have a good week.

  4. Loved reading this post, so glad things got better for you guys. We had twin rams this past Saturday we were supposed to have triplets but unfortunately the third one was not developed all the way. But we have two so that is better than none. Hope you have a good week, always enjoy reading your blog.

    1. Thanks so much for reading, Susan!
      I'm sorry to hear that your lambs didn't turn out quite like you expected. But, I am glad that you got the twins. They will probably grow better that way, if it's any consolation.
      You have a good week, too!

  5. WOW Barb - great work! Being a shepherd is truly hard work. I am thankful when my girls have their babies with no issues. I have never gone inside a momma sheep - yet - but I have helped deliver a stuck lamb by grabbing the feet! I have three lambs on the ground now - the rest due around mid-March. God Bless!

    1. Thanks, Tracy!
      I, too, am thankful when there are no issues. But, it is cool to be able to say you were successful in the face of adversity.
      Congrats on the lambs and best wishes on the future ones.

  6. applause. clapclapclap. standing O. for your super-shepherd efforts AND your retelling of them. so glad that you're all on the up-side of the curve again. and more applause to the vet who took the time to school you years ago. --suz in ohio

    1. Thank you, thank you! (I feel like I should take a bow or something)
      I appreciate your kind words, Suz!
      I am deeply beholden to many folks who have taught me things along the way. We have been greatly blessed with kind and generous folks in the community, neighbors, and a superb veterinary clinic, all of whom have helped us tremendously.
      Have a wonderful week and come "visit" again soon.