FLB's four-day-old twins on January 30th.
It's lambing season! Still. We bred just 15 ewes this year, and the first set of twins arrived January 26th. But after 22 days of round the clock visits to the barn (I started my nightly checks a few days earlier than the first lambs showed up), we're only halfway through. In other years we've had as many as eight lambs born in 24 hours, so I was really hoping we'd be all done by now.
More photos and the rest of the story below. . .
Since I'm not one of those people who can easily fall right back into dreamland after waking up from a sound sleep at two o'clock in the morning, piling on 12 articles of clothing (it's been bitterly cold here for weeks), treading carefully across the 100+ yards of treacherous ice to the barn, checking on everybody under blinding fluorescent lights, feeding hay, busting ice, filling up water buckets (and, occasionally, actually dealing with the newborn lambs I went down there looking for in the first place, usually when it's -5F), then crawling under a pile of quilts and blankets (after taking back off those 12 articles of clothing, which still left me fully clothed) in my little shepherd's hut parked next to the barn so I can do another lamb check in a couple of hours, I'm whupped.
We also just spent 10 days treating 3-year-old Helga for mastitis, only to have 8-year-old Lucky Cherry come down with it last night after giving birth to a big beautiful girl. One minute she was fine, and an hour and a half later both sides of her bag were hard and she was out of milk.
So I now have a big bottle baby to feed for the next two months, and a mother who keeps pawing roughly at her lamb every few minutes trying to get her to stand up and nurse. The vet told me sometimes mastitis comes on quickly like that. He also told me that unfortunately I know way too much about mastitis. I was thinking this morning that I would probably rather lose a lamb than deal with another case of mastitis, which is rough on everyone involved.
We thankfully haven't lost any lambs or mamas so far, but this year has been a real struggle, partly because of the sub-zero weather, partly because things are dragging on, and partly because, although I love my sheep and can't really imagine life without at least some of them, I think I'm just burned out.
This is my 16th lambing season, and it might be my last, at least for a while. You can do a lot of soul searching while you're shivering for hours under what feels like 40 pounds of covers in a narrow little bunk, trying to fall asleep while ignoring your half-frozen toes.
Some of you know that we've tried for years to make a profit raising sheep here in rural Missouri on what is essentially a very small scale (though it doesn't always feel like it). Who knows; maybe it's just 22 days of sleep deprivation talking. And as my hunky farmguy Joe pointed out, at least as far as next year is concerned, I have several months to decide.
These photos were taken back on January 30th, when the first two sets of twins were three and four days old. It's mostly been too cold to take my camera outside, but we're on a warming trend, so I'll see what I can do in the bouncing baby picture department. In the meantime, trust me when I say the barn is filled with lots of cuddly cute—and seven more ewes to go.
Between the time I wrote this earlier today and finally posted it tonight, Clarissa, one of our two 8-year-old Katahdin ewes, had twins. After giving her a little assistance getting her big ram lamb out (that's what makes these round the clock barn checks so worthwhile), mom and babies are so far doing fine.
Current lamb count:
14 16. Number of mothers: 8 9. Sets of twins: 7. Ewe lambs: 10. Ram lambs: 6. First time mothers (so far): 2. Number ofbaby chocolate chip and toffee shortbread cookies I've munched on in the middle of the night: [insert censor bleep].
© FarmgirlFare.com, where I need to quickly get some sleep so I can go back to the barn and count some sheep.