While my heart is still very much heavy and I have one million thoughts I would love to share with you, I thought it was time to lighten things up a bit and share with you what else has been going on in our lives besides the whole, ya know, our house burned down thing.
Ladies and gentlemen may I present… the story of the winter lambs.
These cute little boogers were just what we needed to lift our spirits, remind us of why we do this, and give us something to do to fill all the new free time we have since we are living with my parents.
We took a gamble last fall and bought a small flock of sheep off of craigslist. The people selling them didn’t really know anything about them because their grandfather had raised them and recently left them with all the responsibility and they just wanted rid of them. Why on earth would we make such a large commitment when we knew nothing about these sheep? Maybe they were all sick, maybe they were all too old to lamb, or maybe the ram wasn’t fit for the job of breeding the ewes, or maybe they were all poor quality, or, well, the list goes on and on. So again you probably are asking why would you buy those? Well, to put it simply, we got one heck of a deal.
We had been doing our research for a while and knew what kind of sheep we were looking for and what to look for in the individuals to make sure they were young and healthy. So we took the risk. So far we have lost one male (who we didn’t want to keep anyway) to worms. He was pretty sick and puny when we got him so I don’t think we could have saved him anyway. We also lost one of our ewes just a few days after our house fire. I know, I know, as if we had enough to worry about. We think that the ewe was having a miscarriage and it just didn’t go well.
So we packed up the rest of the flock and drug them down to my parents house where they are happily grazing all day. We also packed up our three little piggies, fifteen chickens, and our prized farm dog Bella. My poor, poor parents. They have been overrun by the Stewart Settlement. Don’t worry. They are enjoying fresh eggs until their hearts are content and soon will be enjoying some delicious bacon and mutton (that’s sheep).
So back to the lambs! I know that’s what you are really here for. Because of our gamble we weren’t even sure if the ewes were bred or if we had wasted a bunch of time and money feeding some free loading sheep. Due to all of the chaos happening around us we hadn’t paid that close of attention to them. But during morning chores on a Saturday about three weeks ago, I noticed one of the ewes had quite a bit of, well, goo hanging out of her backside. After observing her for about thirty more minutes I started recognizing signs of labor! Oh glory hallelujah we aren’t just a couple of dumb, naive suckers!
Within an hour the first Stewart Settlement lamb was born. And my respect and amazement for the female reproductive system just keeps growing. Because of the move and the uncertainty of bred ewes we had no where to put them! So Dustin and I spent the next hour or so creating a couple of makeshift birthing stalls for the new mama and lamb to settle into.
After the excitement wore off we decided we should probably inspect the other ewes for signs of labor or pregnancy. And in fact, most of them were starting to develop a pretty stolen backside, and some milk bags.
The last three weeks have been full of standing around, staring at our sheep’s lady bits. Oh what a glamorous life. But to date we have had five ewes lamb, one will lamb any day now, and we seem to have one that didn’t get bred at all. We suspect she is infertile so Dustin and I will get our feet wet here in the next month or so learning how to butcher a sheep. She’s lived a good life. But if ya can’t do the dirty work than having animals just ain’t worth it.
As for the lambs, we have three baby ewes and three baby rams. Well, actually, they were rams. But we decided to castrate them so that they can enjoy their life with the rest of the flock and not have to be seperated.
We had one set of twins the first week and that mama acted like it was nothing! We noticed she was in labor, decided to go inside for dinner and let her do her thing. By the time we came back out to check on her an hour later there were two baby lambs just chilling in the stall with her like it was no big deal.
Our other set of twins, however, did not have such a happy ending. They were born on the coldest, windiest night we have had in a while. And I didn’t get their mama moved to the lambing stall soon enough when I noticed labor signs. So they were born up on a hill where it was the windiest. The larger of the two is doing great! But unfortunately, his little brother was just too tiny or underdeveloped or got too chilled or maybe a combination of all of those things.
We gave the mama some time to get him up and nursing, but eventually we had to intervene. Dustin brought him inside and warmed him up and tube fed him for a few days. He seemed to be getting well so we put him back with his mama. We were afraid if we waited too long that she would reject him. But she was a good ole mama and took him right back. He nursed and seemed to have quite a bit of energy. But by the next morning he didn’t make it. Dustin found him in the corner of the stall and took care of it so I wouldn’t have to see. He’s such a gentlemen. The poor little guy though. I think he was just too small to maintain his body temperature. We could have kept him inside a few more days and just made him a bottle baby. But I’m a firm believer in letting things happen as close to their natural process as possible and having him with his mama just felt right. I guess we will never know if we made the right choice.
So lots of love and heartache in animal husbandry. These little lambs are just the cutest and they bring us so much joy. But with that comes such a risk of pain. And I think that pretty much goes with anything good ya know? The risk makes the reward that much sweeter.