Snugglebunny and one of Rosebud's newborn twins
This photo, which I first posted back in April, is one of my favorites because it always makes me smile. I felt a slight twinge of guilt as I pulled out my camera and snapped it, telling myself that I really should have been rescuing Snugglebunny.
She wasn't in any immediate danger, though, and was actually quite calm. She just stood there, moving her head slowly from left to right, right to left, as if trying to somehow see around the bucket. There was no frantic thrashing about or racing around in a panic. Snugglebunny has been in this predicament before.
I'm glad I took the few seconds to capture this moment because apart from it being so funny, it now has a special significance. You see, when Snugglebunny wasn't looking, I did a little switcheroo. This was after I had removed the bucket from her head of course.
You never know what you're going to find during lambing season when you first walk into the barn each morning. Sometimes it's something wonderful, and sometimes it's just the opposite. And sometimes it's both. The morning of the bucket photo it was both. (The bucket came later.)
Rosebud was standing in the small fenced area attached to the barn, busily cleaning up a set of newborn twin girls. Snugglebunny was laying in the hay a few feet away with a lamb sticking halfway out of her—and it was the wrong half sticking out.
The lamb was dead. It was also stuck. I carefully pulled the lamb the rest of the way out, and made sure Snugglebunny was alright. Thankfully she was.
Next I turned my attention to the new twins. They had become tired of being licked clean by Rosebud and were getting antsy. They wanted breakfast. Rosebud wanted to clean them up some more. A little commotion ensued as the three of them scrambled around and around and around.
The bigger lamb succeeded in getting a drink, but the smaller one didn't. To make sure she had enough energy to keep trying to eat, I gave her a small starter bottle of milk. It's amazing how much of a difference a couple of sips of milk can make to a struggling newborn lamb.
Meanwhile Snugglebunny, who would have to be penned up in the barn so she could be milked and dried out, was searching for the baby she knew she'd just had. And as I stood there watching the four of them, I realized that I could take this situation and use it to my advantage.
When Snugglebunny called out to her lamb, I plunked the smaller twin down in front of her and said, "Here she is Snugglebunny. Here's your baby right here."
There are all sorts of ways the sheep books and sheep experts tell you that you can "graft" a lamb, usually an orphan, onto another mother, usually one who has just lost her lamb. Methods include everything from a complicated way of tying up the ewe in a pen so that she can't reach her head back and butt the lamb away from the milk bar, to using special sprays that mask the "wrong" scent of the new baby.
A friend who raises sheep told me that when she was growing up, sometimes they would put Vick's Vapor Rub on the nose of the ewe and the tail of the lamb. The old way of doing it was to take the skin from the dead lamb and place it over the orphan lamb like a little coat.
The longer I live on a farm, the more I come to realize that what may often be perceived by some as the "lazy way" is actually the "now you're finally getting it!" way. The secret is to stop fighting Mother Nature because you are never going to win.
When you find yourself at dusk, racing around a field and screaming madly at the sheep to GET IN THE @#$%! BARN while they munch away, calmly ignoring you, it's time to step back from the situation. Wait 10 or 15 minutes, and chances are the sheep, who know that dangerous predators come out at night and that the only truly safe place to sleep is in the barn, will eventually tuck themselves in.
Call me lazy, but at least I've saved some of my sanity—and my voice.
I skipped the rope, the spray, and the Vick's Vapor Rub and simply crowded all four of them into a bonding suite. Then I stood back and left them alone.
I didn't have high hopes, but I also had nothing to lose. I wasn't dealing with an orphan lamb, just an eager mother and a mom with a spare baby she might be willing to give up. I figured the worst that would happen would be that Snugglebunny wouldn't be interested, or Rosebud wouldn't part with one of her twins, and I'd have to move Snugglebunny into a separate pen to dry out as originally planned.
It took a couple of days. At first the twins were confused. They would each try to nurse from both mothers, but the smaller lamb didn't seem to be getting much milk. I fed her Snugglebunny's milk from a bottle, while Snugglebunny murmured secret mommy talk in her ear, because she had no doubt at all that lamb was hers. And as Snugglebunny became more and more protective of her baby, Rosebud gently pushed that baby away.
Does Snugglebunny know what really happened that morning? Does her baby? And what about Rosebud? I'll never know for sure. But it doesn't matter.
What matters is that this happy, healthy lamb has a wonderful mother who loves her very, very much. End of story.
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