There are three ewes ready to drop. Or so it would seem. I got up early this morning (2:30 am) to see if they were going to lamb. I don’t know who was more expectant, me or them. Me, I guess, because there were no lambs. The expectant leaving me expecting. I am glad, but there is no certainty that they would not lamb in the next thirty minutes. This seems to be the year of the sheep with precipitous births.
An outrageous combination of 14-inch powder snow, rain/sleet/more snow, and temps above freezing has left a heavy, cloying fog everywhere. I could easily lose the ewes in this milky mess if I didn’t make a head count. Six in the barn. Eight in the field. I guess that makes me the pitcher to round out a baseball squad of sheep.
Yesterday was exhausting. The barn flooded as all the rain and melting snow gushed downhill and straight into it, sliding over our filled and frozen drains installed to prevent that very thing from happening. My wife and I spent the better part of the morning digging trenches in the frozen ground to divert the torrents. The barn still became a manure pond. We moved the ewes and their babies into a barn space that we usually reserve for hay. More work.
A mama of triplets is deciding whether or not she wants to accept her third baby. Our experience says no. That means we will raise this big healthy ram lamb as a “bummer”. Milk replacer is expensive and the time needed to bottle feed three times a day is even more dear. Thank God school has been cancelled all week. I couldn’t get out our half-mile farm lane if I wanted to. I tried to pack down a path to drive out yesterday, but it was just too risky to try. More cold weather coming. Refreezing might actually help. Please no more rain.
I don’t want to make it sound like I am doing all of this by myself. My wife is the real lioness here. She patrols the barn during the day, tending to them all as if they were her own children. I am beyond lucky to have her as my friend. Sheep farming is one of the shared loves that has kept us working together for so long. Over 30 years with lambs and life. Lucky me.
The thick fog of thirty minutes previous seems to lift like a white proscenium fire curtain. Gone, revealing a starry sky and Nature’s night stage. I walk it with a torch for a prop and a role to play. I am mostly a reluctant actor, shy and so full of stage fright I act just to survive. Stage left. Stage right. Prologue. Epilogue. Comedy. Tragedy. In the amphitheater, standing in for an indisposed actor, reading my lines “from the book” as the theater folk say. Eyed by my sheepish audience. So I end.