Mother's Day began with warm and lively phone conversations with all three kids (shown here at Alyssa's wedding, already 3 years ago!).
The bonus was spending the afternoon in the sheep shed with Nara, who had shown signs of labor early in the day. I got lots of spindling done.
And I watched the other new mothers with their babies.
Even some of last year's lambs still hang out with their moms. This is Shiva, resting on his mom, Shyla.
And Onslo, Nara's ram lamb from last year, came in to check on his mom.
When at last Nara started actually pushing at 2:30, I knew we would have Mother's Day lambs (I thought there must be 2 in there...).
Nara has had lambs four times before this, so I didn't worry until an hour had gone by with no progress. Had to help her deliver; thankfully the lamb, though big (8lb 6oz), was in the right position.
At first sight, the wool was so long on this lamb I thought I saw a scrotum and sighed, "Another ram." But when I cut and iodined the umbilical cord, to my amazement I saw it was a GIRL! Yay, Nara had a ewe lamb for Mother's Day! Six lambs this year: 5 rams, one ewe. We have previously sold all of Nara's ewe offspring, so I am ecstatic to be keeping Oona.
Oona is a strong one; up in 20 minutes, nursing right away.
Many of us here at the farm are grateful for being mothers!
What an adventure raising sheep is! There's the joy of watching new lambs have their first venture outside.
Then, the anxious moments watching them encounter the rest of the flock, and trying to keep track of their moms. As shepherdess, I especially worried about Lindyhop, as a new mom, being able to keep Reggae and Disco with her.
Meanwhile, the older lambs (by a mere 3 days), Tucker and Twain are already kicked back with Tehya, like old hands at the sheep thing.
Shearing day is always a stressful day and a blur: the preparation of syringes (for vaccinations) and labeling of fleece bags, and listening to all the sheep hollering because I don't let them out and feed them that morning, and the rams bloodying each other in nervous anticipation, and the shearing seeming to take forever and then suddenly being done.
Yahtzee, the last in the ram group and last of the day to get shorn didn't fare so well. In trying to escape being caught and taken to the shearing tarp, somehow he broke his foot. This was a first for us. The vet came the next day, and under Valium Yahtzee got his foot repositioned and splinted. He's got his own suite in the lambing shed, which he didn't fully appreciate until Gene put up some extra two-by-fours to hold him in...
Gene and I got to monitor both Yahtzee and Chenoa this morning. Chenoa presented us with a hefty ram lamb, probably born about 2 a.m. When I came in from checking and feeding sheep this morning and told Gene we had another ram lamb, he said, "Pop the champagne cork!" in jest. But thus, Champagne earned his name. Nine pounds, two ounces!
What next? One more ewe left to lamb...
It has been a formidable twenty-four hours...
At five-days-old, it was time to bring Tucker and Twain down from the lambing shed to meet the rest of the flock. I try to hold my anxiety in check, but I always worry about sheep with horns greeting small lambs. However, comic curiosity instead of aggressiveness was the tone.
The sheep flock was mildly interested, but Freya was astonished and wanted a closer look.
Freya was encountering all sorts of surprises; I took a spindle out while I was supervising and she had to sniff it, just like the sheep do.
Tehya's lambs did fine in the sheep shed during the night. I expected to need to protect them this morning so they wouldn't get trampled as I let out the flock, but instead I was greeted by the familiar sound of a ewe nickering and a wee lambie cry.
Lindyhop, a first-time mom, had a ram lamb she was cleaning up that looked about 20-minutes old. I could tell she was about to have another. I waited patiently as Lindyhop pushed and pushed. The second lamb was born rump-first, but she did it on her own!
It's amazing how quickly they are up and nursing!
Lindyhop wasn't too sure about the move up to the lambing shed; Gene and I had to really coax her (read "force") her to get into the jug with her babies. Now she is settling in for a few days' bonding and rest with her ram lambs, Reggae and Disco--had to be dance names! ;->
Tehya looked like this for days. She (and I) spent a lot of time in the sheep shed, waiting.
Note the outstretched leg, which ewes do when they are close to and in labor. I kept waiting for the telltale signs of her pushing.
A few lip curls, but mostly she just was exhausted from carrying around the lambs and her huge udder.
Friday morning, just at dawn, I went out to the sheep shed and heard lamb cries. HOORAY! It was a little confusing at first because Nara, who isn't due for at least 3 weeks, had claimed one of the lambs for her own, and was distraught when I wouldn't let her keep him. Shooing the others out to pasture, I got Tehya moved up to the lambing shed with her adorable ram lambs.
Both lilac, the 4-horned little guy on the right is Tucker, and the 2-horned one on the left is Twain.
Look at the horn buds on Tucker!
We had a scary, frenzied day of Tehya not able to let her milk down. Lamb milk replacer, goat colostrum, and frozen sheep milk got us through the hours, and after massaging Tehya's udder with warm water and peppermint oil (on advice from my dear friend, Rosanna), the milk was finally in and both lambs' tails were waggling as they nursed. Whew! It's always something...
But always worth it!
I went out to the pasture today, hoping to get some action shots with the lambs, who have been so very entertaining with their 180s and paddock-racing these past few weeks. Instead, I found drowsy sheep in siesta mode.
Savoring the precious scenes of lambs and moms sleeping, and thinking about the long process of processing fleeces by hand, I got musing about how this all fits in with the "slow movements" -- the
cultural shifts toward slowing down life's pace. Wool is a "slow" fiber; its qualities are well worth the wait, and handspinning the wool is a "slow" activity, nurturing the spirit with meditative calm and the mindfulness one engages in while transforming the fibers into yarn.
Check out this extraordinary concept, which expands much of my personal philosophy to a wide community. Unfortunately, our farm is outside the 150-mile radius of the fibershed. Perhaps we can grow this idea here in Plumas County...
This was a particularly tough lambing season, with three first-time moms, five of the six lambs born needing some assistance from me, one three and a half pound lamb (Whisper, at left) who needed help finding the udder, and a lost twin. We have, however, six new, lively, beautiful lambs who are so very entertaining to watch leap and gambol, and get lost from their moms, and learn how to be sheep.
I was thinking during each ewe's labor, "Why do I do this?" Watching the lambs now, I remember...
All the lambs are out of the lambing jugs and down with the rest of the flock now, getting acquainted with Nella (our new guardian llama), trying to dodge horns ("You're not my mother..."), and leaping onto and off of rocks. The lambing shed has been cleaned for next time, thankfully many months away!