Thursday, February 13

Thursday Dose of Cute: Welcome to Babyland

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].

©, where I need to quickly get some sleep so I can go back to the barn and count some sheep.


  1. Halfway through, hooray! Congratulations on all healthy so far, and so many females! So sorry to hear about mastitis, but also grateful you were there to catch it so fast. Can't imagine coming through the trauma of birth, only to arrive, and have no milk available on the other side. You have built up an astonishing amount of knowledge about those critters. Very sorry this has been a tough year for you. The weather has been crazy. Thanks so much for the update. Wishing you warm days filled with bouncing baby lambs, and sleep galore. Happy Valentine's Day to you and yours!

  2. I get your comments, being in the cold, in the middle of the night and so on. We have a horse farm and at times I feel the same way. Good post!

  3. After complaining about all the snow,ice here in NY I feel quilty considering what you are going through. It's like you are Mom to All with much hard work. Hope the dogs,donkeys,cats,chickens are all fine. Wishing you a early,green Spring which I think for all of us cannot come soon enough!

  4. Ugh. Misery. Cute misery, but misery nonetheless.

    We had two healthy lambs born in January, and then . . . tragedy. Almost all the rest of the ewes had their lambs within a 48 hour period, and it was quite obvious some of them were premature. None of those lambs made it. NONE OF THEM. I think there were eight in total. We had lambs in triage all around our woodstove, and every single one of them died, despite seeming to rally. We suspect some kind of pathogen, but don't really know for sure. It was completely awful, and I think my husband might be there with you on the burned out thing. Trying to deal with livestock and a full-time job (and in my case, two small kids) is just too much. And heartbreaking.

    Anyway. I hope all those ewes finish up with their (healthy!) lambing soon so you can get some rest. Good luck.

  5. Oh, Farmgirl Susan, you must be so exhausted! Maybe a break next year is just what your body/mind/soul need. The life of a farmer is incredibly hard at best, and crushing at worst. And the body is just not invincible, no matter how noble the spirit.

    And on a personal note, I REALLY feel for Lucky Cherry--mastitis is awful! I can totally understand her pawing at her babe, frantic to have her nurse and relieve some of that congestion/pain. I had mastitis more than I can count with my own babes.

    If you feel sad for the lamb going through the trauma of birth, you've gotta feel worse for the mama going through pregnancy, labor, and then getting hit with a searing pain in your mammaries and feeling like you've been whomped by the flu. Yeesh!

    Still and all--lambs! They are so cute. Because after all that, they NEED to be! :^)


  6. So good to hear news from you. I know it has been bitter cold with lots of snow and ice in MO so knowing baby lambs were coming I had been thinking [concerned] about you. Hope the weather warms, the new lambs arrive safely, and bottle feeding goes okay. Sending wishes to Beautiful home I long for

  7. Coincidentally, I just read Pipestone Vet's email. One of the notes was about bottle lambs, and not "killing them with kindness." The vet writer was adamant about weaning (cold turkey) at 30 days, which would cut your work load on that lamb in half….

  8. Dearest Susan

    You'll know I'm feeling all kinds of emotions just seeing the pictures and reading your words as it's almost 4 years (can you believe it) since I was there with you. Everyone above echoes the empathy I feel in knowing just how tough it is on you year on year and as we soak up the best of a British wet winter over here, I've been thinking and wondering just how you've both been managing in the cold.

    As my Mum used to say "You're tired. You'll be alright in the morning"

    And if you manage to make it up to the post box, you should find a (very) little something up there waiting for you. (That bit was me, not my Mum!) XX

  9. They are awfully cute but it sure would be better for all involved if the weather wasn't so stinkin' nasty! I hope the rest of the lambing goes well and that you can finally get some much needed sleep! {{HUGS}}

  10. Sorry to hear about the mastitis. What a PITA. The lambs are super cute though. Awww...

  11. I don't know how you can resist scooping up those little lambs and giving them the biggest hugs. I can't imagine having so many babies and mommas to watch over. We talk about having a small farm if we ever win the lottery and love hearing your accounts of farm life. Hope you're able to get some sleep soon.

  12. I commend you for your work ethic! Lambing (in our case, calving) in cold weather is miserable and exhausting. We often feel like zombies and it is evident that you do, too. I hope the weather improves and that the rest of your lambing season goes well. Making a decision whether or not to continue with your sheep is a big one. Wishing you the best.

  13. Note beforehand: English isn't my first language. I read this post and then mulled it over while ironing. Both my neighbours have sheep, and a farmer I know has sheep and that made me wonder, why are you having your sheep lambing at the end of januari ? They all postpone the lambing season to milder weather, can't you ? My next door neighbour also sometimes borrows a camera system, so he doesn't have to brave all kinds of weather. And I'll brave the word verification - it's no bother ;-)

  14. Isn't it a little early for lambing season? I guess I thought it came more March time frame. I do love your lambing season though....all those cute little faces!

  15. Oh my goodness! They are so cute!
    Good luck with the rest of the lambing. I know it's hard and tireless work but it will be worth it all when those babies are all born!

  16. Hi Everybody,
    Thanks so much for all your nice comments. I wanted to reply to them individually but haven't had a chance. The day after I wrote this post we had another three sets of twins born in just over 24 hours (yay!) and then I managed to throw my neck out (two days after going to the chiropractor!). Thankfully I'm on the mend and am hoping to be up and around and back on lamb duty soon, which I'm sure is what my hunky farmguy Joe is hoping for too! :)

  17. Hey girl, been on vacation for a couple weeks and see that I missed a lot! You sound so exhausted, wish we could all swoop in and take turns taking barn duty for you-the cold this year has been Siberian and your hours are just brutal and it isn't like you can say "Oh I'll just take a couple days off". You hang in there. PS man those lambs are cute.

  18. Hey there - was just able to catch up with you since we were in the middle of moving in a sudden and short time frame. Finally getting to the end (sort of) of the boxes and happy to catch a few posts from you. I sure hope you're getting caught up on some rest, poor noble thing! ;) Lots of positive juju to you, the lambs and the Hunk.

    xo, T.


December 2015 update: Hi! For some reason I can't figure out, Blogger hasn't been letting me leave comments on my own blog (!) for the last several months, so I've been unable to respond to your comments and questions. My apologies for any inconvenience! You're always welcome to email me: farmgirlfare AT gmail DOT com.

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