Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Last night, thinking about last night...

Hope no one minds if I borrow a phrase from the Traveling Wilburys' song. After a long day of the usual, plus digging thistles and putting our old dog down, I noticed one of the last ewes to lamb was showing signs of impending birth. But she, Ursula, is a rather small 2-year old, and this was her first lamb, so I knew nothing would happen soon.

I checked on her hourly, and not much was going on, but she sure was getting noisy. I moved dogs around so they wouldn't annoy her, and tried to get her into the catch pen, but to no avail. She wanted to stay with the flock, so I got a warm jacket and a hat and went down to sit in the enclosure. Eventually the whole group moved into the pen area, and I rushed up to close the gate. I let out all but a few, and then sat on the hill with a flashlight to keep an eye on her progress: 8 o'clock, nothing, 9 o'clock, nothing,10 o'clock went in for a cup of tea and came back to finally see a nose poking out. A really BIG nose, with no little toes. Damn.

Poor Ursula was restless and annoyed and in great distress, and it eventually became clear that she was going to need some help, and she was going to have to be caught.
Both of these activities were impossible in the dark, so I pulled my car up to overlook the pen and left the lights on. Worked great - for about 2 minutes. Then the lights politely went off. Back up the hill, start the car, back down the hill and try to catch the ewe. Back up the hill, start the car, back down the hill to the ewes. This game went on for a while. Ever try to catch one of three black sheep ... in the dark? Good luck with that!

By now she was in NO mood to be messed with AT all, and all I could do was hope that she would give out before I did. I finally went up to the house get a pail of warm water, iodine soap, towels, etc., all the while muttering, "I hate this, I hate this, I hate this!" Reaching into a laboring ewe is no fun for anyone, especially the ewe, and especially when it is cold and dark and late. I tried to cheer myself up by repeating "You've done this before, you know how to do it, you can do it and you will do it. Besides, look on the bright side: it's not raining ... yet."

When I returned with my paraphernalia, I set it on the ground while I fiddled with the gate latch. That was when I heard a little bleat. YAY - a lamb! She was a BIG, monster lamb, with legs like a colt, and she was wet, covered in membranes and mud, and totally ignored by her mother. It was as if the ewe had said, "Well, whew! That's over with, now let's get out of here!" She and her two cohorts were standing at the gate, ready to rejoin the flock. That white blob was no problem for them to worry about!

In another half hour or so I had dried the lamb off, set up a maze of panels to catch the ewe, let the other two out, and confined mom and lamb to a stall with water and peace. I staggered back to the car, drove back to the house, and collapsed into bed. I knew that I had at least 12 hours before the lamb went south, and hoped to spend at least half of them sleeping.

This morning I crept down to the pen to check on the night's outcome, to find a lovely little lamb bouncing quite happily around her little mum, who seemed none the worse for wear. Wish I could say the same!

Look at those legs!

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