First the bad news: my first lamb of 2013 didn’t make it. It is always sad when something like this happens. I pretty sure I know what happened, and hopefully he will be the only one. As we say, sometimes a new life looks around and figures out what they came back as (“I’m a sheep? What the heck!”) and hits the re-do button.
During lambing season I try to check on the ewes at least every 6 hours. The first few days I do this, they are very loud about my visit, sure that I am bringing some sort of snack with me. After a day or two, they settle down and mostly ignore me. Since I tend to feed in the late afternoon, I take a walk out there at about 11 pm, 4 am (so I can still get a few hours of sleep before I get up for real) and 10 am. Last night when I made my 11 pm tour through the sheep pen, Bridget was pawing the loose hay in the barn and laying down, sure signs of early labor. I sat and watched for a while, but she was making slow progress. I figured she’d get down to business about 3 am. I went back out 3 times between 11 and 3, just to make sure that she wasn’t progressing faster than that. She is my oldest ewe (13 in April), and I didn’t want to miss any problems. Sure enough, at 3:12, there are toes pointing at me, and with a quick assist there was this:
The lamb tried to stand before the umbilical cord was even broken! Mom cleaned her off (yes, a girl) and I made sure she latched on and had a good drink of milk before I went back inside. I tried to nap, but I’m not very good at that, so I went back out to make sure she could find things on her own at about 5:30 am, then off to bed for a couple of hours. My 10 am check was good. This is a much better picture of the newest addition
Lambing season is hard. I don’t get to sleep through the night, and I’m not very good at napping, so I wander around in a daze a fair amount of the time. Because the ram was in with the ewes for an extended amount of time (mid-August to mid-October), lambing will be strung out over several weeks. There will be times when I’m pretty sure that no one else is imminent and I will take advantage. If I am wrong, there may be problems. It’s not that my sheep can’t deliver unassisted; they can. But when there is a problem, you are needed right then. I have lost lambs and ewes over the years by not being there, and it breaks my heart every time. Even with vigilance, there are losses. Shepherding is not for the weak of heart.
But there is a special kind of beauty in heading out in the cold, dark night to check on my sheep. The moon was so bright last night that I carried my flashlight without turning it on, watching my shadow walk along side me on the frozen ground. It was cold and breezy, but warmer than some times. There are times when the air is so cold and crisp that it makes your nose hairs feel crisp when you breathe. I am reminded in those moments of being a child in Norway, where we spent a year. We were told not to run for the bus if we were late in the winter time, so that we wouldn’t breath through our mouths and risk freezing out lungs. It being the olden days, the girls had to wear dresses, and I would wear 5 pairs of tights to try to keep my legs warm. When it got to -30, we could wear pants. So silly, that fashion and society would dictate that girls couldn’t dress warmly unless it got to a certain temperature. Every winter now, I think of that as I bundle up and step outside my back door. When there is snow on the ground, the moonlight makes it sparkle like diamonds sometimes, and I wish there was a way to capture that on film. I do have old pictures of hoar-frost that I took several years ago (on actual film, imagine that), and they are beautiful too but the weather that brings it is not my favorite – cold and humid is not a good combo to my mind. But even the weather I don’t relish has an appeal to it, a beauty if I will only open my eyes and accept it for what it brings. I feel blessed that I am still able to do that.
Enough philosophy! I finished another prayer shawl for my mom’s church group. Hopefully I will get all the ends woven in tomorrow and get it blocked. I used up lots of leftover acrylic yarn that I’d gotten at the thrift store, alternating shades of orange with other colors. Mom thinks I should call it Joseph’s Coat, but I am leaning more towards Circus Whore. It is garish, but someone will love it. I also started playing with my felting needles again. I am working on a small bust of a slave man. The armature is leftovers from a commission spinning fleece, and I am applying moorit Romeldale for the skin. Lots of stabbing (very therapeutic), adding layer upon layer to build up the features of his face. He is a long way from done, but here he is so far: