It’s so confusing

Being born must be really confusing. This morning, I was all dressed for work and headed down the driveway. I habitually look over the animals on my way out, and this morning I found something that made me stomp on the brakes. We had a new lamb in the orchard. We were kind of expecting this, since at least one of the little ewes we had put into isolation with the ram turned out to be old enough for him to be interested. But, we were about a week off in our timing. This normally wouldn’t be too much of a problem, but the lamb was not snuggling up next to momma. No, the lamb was attempting to snuggle up next the the (male) alpaca.

Momma kept calling and trying to get the lamb to come to her, but the alpaca was unhelpfully friendly and attentive. I called Steve and told him he needed to come home and help me isolate the pair. Then I backed the car up so I could go change out of town clothes and into work clothes.

Now the sheep are in the orchard with the two trouble-maker alpaca, and all our gates, panels, and sheep isolation paraphernalia is in the barn. So out to the barn I go. On the way out, I devise a plan that involves the two brown gates we had purchased this winter placed in a corner of the orchard to make a pen. We would have to arrange for water, but the ewe would have plenty of feed, and we could choose a corner with a tree for shelter.

Once I got into the bar, it became clear that my plan has a flaw. Unbeknownst to me, Steve had used one of the brown gates in the new fence, so only one of those was available. I wrestled that one out of Steve’s storage place under the stairs, and packed it over to the orchard anyway. I figured Steve would be home soon, and he’d want to “discuss” my plan anyway, so we could figure out how to improvise the missing gate.

As I was wrestling the gate into the orchard, I realize I was quiet. I noticed the alpaca had moved off away from the sheep, and the little black ewe appeared to be laying down. I went out to the road so as not to disturb anyone, and walked down to Mom’s so I could get a better look. Sure enough. I found the ewe laying down, and could just make out the lamb’s head on the far side of her. Apparently the alpaca had lost interest, and momma was able to convince baby that she/he was a sheep. Steve arrived just in time for me to tell him that all was well.

All I wanted was a nap

I’ve been fighting the holiday plague this year and so stayed home on Christmas Day. Really, all I wanted was to go back to sleep in the hopes that I could finally and completely kick this bug. The big dogs were outside and had asked to come in, so I opened the door, and heard the dreaded cry of a lamb. I am physically unable to ignore that cry. Yes, I know that nine times out of ten, it is just a temporary separation between mamma and baby, or the first cry of a newborn, but that one time out of ten when there is a problem keeps me going out to check. So, I came back in and drug my sick carcass back to the laundry room where the cold weather gear lives. I suited up and trudged by way out. Sure enough, there was a brand new little single. The ewe was attentive but jumpy and every time I tried to move the main horde out, she tried to follow, with that little newborn in tow. Since it was clear that she was attentive, and the lamb was doing well, I opted to just lock everyone in so she didn’t drag the poor little thing out into the falling snow.
Newborn lamb surrounded by ewes.

Mika was standing at the entry to her dry area looking pretty miserable. I think her healing foot gets a little achy when it gets cold, so I let her in and brushed the snow off her foot while I was out there. By this time I had exhausted my energy reserves, so I went back inside for my postponed nap.

A few hours later, it was approaching an early feeding time, and the ewes likely needed a chance to get some water, so I once again donned my cold weather apparel and waded through the snow out to the barn. The single was fine and had been joined by yet another new arrival. No, not a twin, although I thought that was the case for a minute, but one of our yearling ewes was paying attention to the newest arrival. She, however, was just as jumpy as the first mamma, and I just wasn’t up to the rodeo. Everyone was doing there jobs so I once again opted to leave them alone. I did open the doors and let everyone go to water if they wished. They apparently were no worse for the wear, as there was not a rush to go out in the snow. It was late afternoon by this time, so I went ahead and fed, mostly to keep the new mothers inside and calm as they adjusted to their new additions. I really do enjoy hanging out watching the babies bounce after I have fed, and I’ve missed this as the ram had made it impossible unsafe to just hang out in the barn. I find I’m not missing him very much.

I texted Steve (he and Sarah had gone to his mother’s house in town for Christmas dinner) that there were two new singles in the barn, and that everyone had been fed. He would just need to make sure everyone was in their designated nighttime locations and close gates and doors when he got home. He must have been enjoying his conversation as he did not respond, but I was ready for another nap. When he got home he delivered my gifts and plate from dinner (thank you Robbie) and went out to settle everyone. He found a total of three singles, all from first time mothers, but all doing well. But really, two trips out to the barn were not in my plans for the day.

Punched his ticket

Well, the ram has punched his ticket.  I went out Friday morning to open the barn door and let the sheep out.  Part of this ritual is a walk through the sheep to see if any lambs have arrived over night.  None have as of yet, but that doesn’t negate the importance of the process.  The ram has been giving me the evil eye and thinking about challenging me, so I always have my handy dissuader (an axe handle we found at Grandma Lane’s house that we think was Grandpa’s interruder deterrent) with me.  Prior to Friday, simply taking a ready stance and reminding the ram that I was prepared had been sufficient.  Friday, he decided to test me.  Here’s the problem.    My bluff is exactly that – a bluff.  If hitting him with an axe handle broadside across his nose, ears and head is insufficient to deter him, he will win.  He won.

No, I didn’t go down, and he only solidly connected once, but this was only because he insisted on backing up half the length of the barn to get a good solid running start at me.  This gave me time to make sure my swing was ready and accurate, and also gave me time to keep backing up.  Yes, experts will say I should have stood my ground and humiliated him into submission, but really, when he is just coming right through good solidly connecting full force whacks to the head with an axe handle, I don’t have a prayer of actually winning.  My main goal was to minimize bodily damage, keep my feet, and get the heck out of there.  I succeeded in all three, emerging with only a very impressive knot and accompanying bruise on my left thigh and some muscle soreness, probably from adrenaline.  Yes, I was shaking all over by the time I got through the door.

So, the ram has punched his ticket.  This will be his last season on the farm.  We are planning to keep a ram lamb from one of our gentle friendly Kahtadin cross ewes.  They have consistently mellow temperaments.  As soon as that ram lamb is about 9 months old, this ram is going to go in the freezer.  He’ll make very nice sausage.  In the meantime, I don’t go out to the barn without the dogs.  He’s still afraid of the dogs.

My Turn

I guess it’s my turn for all the….challenges during lambing time.  I found the first set of twins of the year, and called Tisha to pick up that bummer.  A couple of days later, I went out and found another set of twins.  Again, it the mother was a stupid first time mother, and I couldn’t get them into the baby area.  It was morning, and I needed to get to work, so I hoped for the best, and told the mama to stay in the barn.  Of course, she didn’t listen.  That night when Steven & I went out to feed and get them set up.  No babies.  The only thing we could figure was that the stupid mama went too far out on the hillside and the lambs couldn’t keep up.  But no one was upset and looking for babies, so now I’m not sure.  Particularly since the sheep had access to the entire barnlot as well as the back hillside that day.  And I didn’t notice the tag number on the ewe.  Just that she was wild as a march hare, and had two small brown babies.  I’m particularly wondering, given what I found when I went out tonight.

Everything was going fine.  Steve had left the sheep locked in just the back lot, right behind the barn.  They have access to water, and the feed is in the barn.  There really isn’t any feed out on the hillside right now anyway, so it’s not a big deal to keep them close, and it made us feel better given the lost twins.  It was cold, so the sheep had put themselves inside already.  Zeke, Mouse and I feed the sheep, and I went out to feed the horses.  I stepped over to put hay in the first feeder, looked down, and saw something I did not expect to see.  There was a ewe, with two little babies curled up next to the horse feeder.  I stared for a minute, re-evaluated my plan, and fed the horses on the ground outside the barn.  Then I closed a gate to keep the horses from messing with the sheep, and to keep the ewe where she was.  I went inside and called Steve to consider my plan.  I was, of course, home alone and no one was expected until well after 7:00pm.

Sheep in horse stall.  Not where they are supposed to be!

Just yesterday, I had asked Steve to get me a cow panel to hang in the barn to use for sheep control when I was alone with a wildling.  I thought about it and decided that with the two panels I had in the barn and one closed gate, I could make a fairly straight shot from the horse stalls to the temporary baby area we had set up in that end of the barn.  I waited until Sarah got home, so I had backup handy in case I needed it, and headed out with Zeke.  I made him lay down and wait while I muscled the panels into place (OK – I actually did more dragging than lifting, but still…) and secured them with a couple of handy dandy rubber strap bungie cords.  I stood back and figured as long as she didn’t hit it too hard it should hold.

I laid Zeke down outside her area so she wouldn’t try those panels and hurt herself or a baby, then I went in and decided to try the lamb lure.  I wasn’t expecting much success, because I figured this was another stupid first time mother, but to my surprise, she was actually pretty strongly bonded to those babies.  She was still pretty flighty, and pretty much ran circles around me, but she stayed in the general area of the babies, even with me holding them.  We got inside, and I watched to make sure everyone would get sorted out again.  All looks good.  But dang the year is starting out strangely.

Dang Dog

Sheep balled up and watching Zeke warily.

Today, I went down to Mom’s for a bit this morning.  When I left, the plan was to be gone for a while, so Steve naturally put Zeke on the run when he headed out to work.  Yesterday, we put the boy sheep in to mow the lawn, but with Zeke on the run, all should have been well.  They have a very large space where he can’t reach them, after all.  Mom wasn’t feeling well, so I came back home about 20 minutes after Steve left.  As I drove up to the house, I saw the sheep, all balled up on the hillside in front of the house. Now, this is Zeke’s favorite game, so I look to make sure he’s on the run.  He is.  He’s laying down at the farthest reach of his run staring the sheep down.  Apparently the fact that there is no way he can actually reach them has no bearing whatsoever on their fear of his gaze.  Dang dog.

Zeke, exerting his authority over the sheep.