Waiting for Lambs, and Other Thoughts

As the old campsong went….”Here we sit like flies on the sugarbowl, waiting for_____”

In this case, “Ewes to lamb” is the fill-in.

The ewes are huge.  HUGE.  Like so many blimps, they are just waddling around at this point.  Not to give excessive TMI, but I can see by the condition of their hind ends that lambing is imminent.  Small amounts of goo, cervical mucus – just the expected warnings of lambing coming down the pike.

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Wide loads.
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Everyone is taking it easy.

I’m ready for lambs.  I am colostrum-substitute ready, lamb-puller on hand, lambing jugs build, books reviewed and re-read, camera in pocked READY for lambs to be born.  Sadly for me, it’s Matt who will do the actual lambing work.  He probably doesn’t feel as ready.  And who really can be ready?  The unknown is always possible.  Only last year, I lost my dear Agnes to lambing mishap.  She was the first adult sheep I’ve ever lost for any reason.  I am really hoping things go better this year.   I’m also very keen to see if there are triplets and how many we can handle.

I’ve been writing and un-writing a post about political matters.   Every day feels evermore surreal, and other than donations, I haven’t managed to do as much as I’d like.  That said, sheep and lambs are culturally important to a lot of the immigrant and refugee groups in this area.   Refugees from Bhutan, evicted from their homes when all of the ethnic Nepalis were forcibly removed by the monarch of that country, traditionally eat goat and sheep meat.  So, too, the Saudi students who came to my farm a few months ago to buy a lamb for a holiday celebration feast.   Refugees are the new economic heart of previously dying communities in Burlington.  Recent policy changes and the concurrent upwelling of anti-immigration sentiment affects real people that I know and care about.   I’m angry, and I’m not going to let our government or our citizens scapegoat any minority groups for the economic situation we face.

 

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The Groaning Time

I feed the sheep at 6:15 each morning before I leave for work.  Though the dawn encroaches at that time of day, I still must turn on my truck headlights each morning to illuminate the barn.  Groggy sheep blink back at me.

Now, when I reach the barn in the smokey pre-dawn light, the first thing that catches my attention is a subtle chorus of groaning.  My sheep are groaningGroaning, I suppose, because two or three lambs are persistently poking them in the rumen, or pinching the nerves in their hips.  Groaning because getting up is almost a full-time job at the moment.  And groaning because ewes experienced in lambing are surely aware that they have a few weeks yet to go before their relieved of pregnancy and burdened with newborns, instead.  Whenter they can impart that knowledge to their first-time lambing sisters is unknown.

Dalek gets up gingerly.  Back legs hoist her rear into the air with a flourishing stretch.  A redoubling of her focus gets her two front legs under her, and one more forward lean and a little tail wag have her ready for action.  Or ready to waddle around the barn, as it happens.  She sees the hay and that prompts more whiney groaning.  “Eehhhhh”  “Mrmnnnh”

I feel guilt because I am relieved from pregnancy’s burden.  My health condition, while under control, would make getting pregnant possibly challenging and likely would increase my risk of complications to my overall health.  So I will probably never bear a child, and yet I ask these ewes to do so every year.  That said, I have to suppose that absent a greater guiding philosophy, sheep are Darwinists who believe in propagating their species and spreading their genes.  Doubtlessly, though, Tardis and Dalek are questioning right now whether having triplets is working too hard towards that goal.

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Bunnies

Something I never expected has happened.  My sheep are overrun with bunnies.

The area around our house is perfect rabbit habitat.  Large open areas punctuated by brush and tall grass provide perfect nesting and grazing areas for Eastern Cottontails.  Rabbits abound on the trails and near our house.  Our cat has actually taken up bunny-catching as a hobby, which we’ve discouraged by keeping her in more often.   I always hear them scampering through underbrush when I do chores in the dark.  They are apparently everpresent.

This winter, the rabbits upped the ante by encroaching on the sheep’s hay.  Matt and I first noticed them hanging around the rams.  A few hours after feeding the boys, we would see two sheep and one or two bunnies cautiously grazing on leftover hay.  Then we noticed that a bunny or two would emerge from the sheep shelter when we went in.  Then the bunnies got more brazen and wouldn’t flee us immediately.

Today on the lamb-cam, I saw the sheep all gather, facing one direction.  I know that to be their response to danger, so I shifted the camera around, looking for a dog.  No dog, but in the corner of the photo was…a bunny.

Does anyone else have amusing livestock-wildlife interface situations?