Who knew that lambing was like this?  Ok, well, someone did.  In fact, thousands of sheep farmers knew, and even put it online and in books like “Raising Sheep For Fun And Profit”  and “Lambing Problems Solved”.   But among the things I’ve learned today is this:  you can’t learn about lambing from a book.   Oh, you can look at the pictures.  You can read about the many awful, horrible things that can go wrong, and all the shepherdly ways to prevent catastrophe, and about those gazillions of supplies you need to have ready to dispatch the moment Sheep 911 is dialled.   But actually standing there, listening to your ewe grunt her little contraction grunt and watch the amniotic sac appear under her tail, is quite different altogether.

Say, what?

It was easy to be nonchalant during the pregnancies of Horse Drawn Farms’  five ewes.   All were experienced mothers, and my ram, Ramien, an experienced father.   (I had to take his libido on faith–not once in the five months he was with the girls did I see him mount anyone.)   But as the calendar pages kept turning, nonchalance turned into consternation, and then, by degrees, into hysteria as I watched the ewes grow and grow…and grow.   I counted days on my fingers, back from when I turned the ram out.  I stared at udders.  I stared at vulvas.  At the correct time, to his offended resentment, I separated Ramien and put him with the goats (more resentment there.)   The ewes, now locked up in the sheep barn until parturition, became used to seeing my head, rising like a frightened moon over the stall door twenty times a day as I stood on tip toe to peep in.

And then,  there it was.  The grunt.  The sac.  The thwip-thwip of my heart in my throat, realizing that I was about to be initiated into farming in a way I hadn’t before.  And as I envisioned all those malpresentations and bottle-feeding techniques while I rummaged in the house for clean towels, I wondered if I was ready.  In five minutes flat, I had the towels ready, the hot water in a bucket, a glass bottle and nipple cleaned and sterilised, an oxytocin injection prepared for Pete (he’s a veterinarian), three text messages sent to said veterinarian to get HOME, NOW, and was striding back to the sheep barn feeling like I’d just run the Vancouver Marathon. Run it, but not placed, apparently, for in those five minutes, Daisy the ewe had quietly dropped a lamb on the straw, cleaned it, watched it stand weeble-wobbling on its long stick-legs, and was now remaining quite still, murmering softly while the lamb snuffled its way along her side and grasped a teat that was bulging with colostrum.  Daisy had things quite firmly under control.

It wasn’t a let-down.  How could such a moment be anything be lovely?   I brought in the lamb rail, separated Daisy and her baby and made sure everyone was comfy and well-bedded.  “Well, Daze”, I said to her backside (her head was stuffed rather unconcerningly into the feed trough), “good thing you didn’t have twins or triplets, it could have been a real tangle in there!”  I glanced, perhaps a tad wistfully, at the unused bucket of steaming water and fresh towels.  Ah well, good thing I was prepared anyway.   I  thought it best to let things settle down.  After all, the next lambing was not likely to go so smoothly. I stepped out of the barn, and heard a little voice ring out.  A distinctly wet little voice.  I shot my head up over the door again, and there, indeed, was Daisy’s second lamb, as quickly and quietly deposited as the first.  And Daisy, again beginning her low murmering chuckle, licking away, looked up at me with a “What?” expression.

By morning, two more lambs were magically deposited beside Spotty Legs, my youngest ewe.   Two more warm, dry lambs, crammed with colostrum and needing me about as much as they needed a hole in their heads.

Lambing.  Thus far, a restful season of  relaxing, watching and appreciating, here at Horse Drawn Farms.

But I left the stack of towels next to the door.

It had nothing to do with me.

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