Saturday, March 19, 2011

we still wait

Today is the official, on-calendar, unequivocal due date for 06-04. She's round, has a huge bag, and a red rear end. It could happen any minute now and like the midwife I have turned into: I am getting prepared for a midnight delivery. They want it 16 degrees tonight, so I already ran a heat lamp up to the lambing jug. 100 bright-orange feet of extension cord are carrying warmth to that little brown shack on the hill. It is loaded with hay, a water bucket, and a safe gate to keep mother and young together. I bought a small oral injector of LambSaver: a nutritional supplement for the first 24 hours of life. I'm ready, at least as far as physical preparedness goes. I have no idea what will happen emotionally once those little ones are in my arms. I'm pretty sure I'll cry more than I have in a long time.

I think everyone who has Barnheart, who seriously pines for an agricultural life, has these fantasies of being under the stars after a long day of work. Some time of year when everything is green and lush. Of reclining back after the birds have been processed, the salad greens swaying in the wind, and that first hay field cut down and relclining (just as you are ) after all your labor and strife. You want to be on the back bed of your pickup truck, tanned and thin, tired and happy. Perhaps with your dog, partner. or a cold beer (all three please).

But that is a fantasy. It happens, sure, every June night somewhere in America, but the longer I am a part of this farm the more I realize those greeting-card scenes are not what I had wanted all those nights paging through Hobby Farm Magazine in Borders. It is moments like this.

This farm is a mess of mud and melting snow. There are jars of honey glowing in the afternoon light on the window sill and I know another hive is on the way. Right now the chicks in the brooder are on clean shavings, fed and watered. The eggs are collected from outside and in the fridge. Production is good. The lambing basket of gear and supplies by the back door are like a hospital suitcase for a mother-in-waiting. The dogs are asleep. The chores are all done and now there is nothing but anticipation. Sweet, writhing, anticipation. This farmhouse is humming with it. Any minute, hour, or day (even this minute as I type!) a ewe will start hunching with contractions and start going into labor. I'm hoping I am able to be there to watch and assist (if necessary) as the first ever Cold Antler lambs come into the light. If one arrives today by morning it will be tagged and docked, given a booster and a head scratch. I will have completed the shepherd's year, and started a new one.

I'm here writing you because I'm not sure of what else to do? I suppose I could try to take a nap, but even on such little sleep I feel wired and restless. I keep checking for water bags, listening to what might be a contraction. Windows are open. Wood is piled by the stove. I was invited to a solstice bonfire tonight at a friend's farm and I doubt I'll stay an hour. I just want to be here. I want to know what it feels like to be there when this happens to me.

I hope my next post is a photo of a healthy lamb.

42 Comments:

Blogger Rebecca Simpson said...

We are waiting with you! Happy lambing tonight!

March 19, 2011 at 3:02 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

Waiting is hard. One thing I've noticed over the years is that my ewes will start making quite a bit of noise bellering once they are in the throws of labor. A friend of mine puts a baby monitor in the barn so when he hears the racket he can get up and check on things.

March 19, 2011 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger Kitchen Mama said...

Beautiful picture of your honey!

I can't think of a better way to say good-bye to the last year and usher in new life than to have a good, cleansing cry. Think of it as the winter thaw.

We'll be thinking of you and your sheep tonight and wishing good health and safe deliveries.

March 19, 2011 at 3:40 PM  
OpenID peihome said...

Can't wait to see your beautiful lambs - I hope they are all fat and sassy!

Out of our three ewes this year, we've had one pair of twins, one single, and one still-born pair of twins. We grieve the dead ones and wonder why, and celebrate the live ones with stupid grins and phone calls to folks who probably aren't THAT interested, ha ha.

Our sheep are just 'mutts' but we'd love to get some fancy bloods like yours - they are truly handsome.

March 19, 2011 at 3:43 PM  
Blogger Carol said...

I've been checking back every couple of hours hoping to see pictures of new baby lambs. I have a feeling that tonight, with the big full moon your little shed will be a very busy place. Bet of luck!

March 19, 2011 at 3:52 PM  
Blogger Ruth @ Hope, Joy and Faith Farm said...

Fingers crossed that you have healthy, happy babies who's birth you get to witness. Reading what you've written, I am there with you...

March 19, 2011 at 4:01 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

However it turns out you will have this memory for the rest of your life.

March 19, 2011 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger Maggie said...

crossing my fingers. i don't know you but I am so excited for you!

March 19, 2011 at 4:26 PM  
Blogger Flartus said...

Whatever emotional rollercoaster you end up riding--tonight, next week, whenever--you know you've got a built in audience to share it with! You will not be entirely alone out there in the dark.

March 19, 2011 at 4:27 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Jenna, the suspense is awful. I can't wait to see pictures of some new little lambs soon. And that is so strange to hear that you still have snow and it's supposed to be 16 tonight. It's 79 here today in N. Ga. with highs in the 50's at night. I got my garden turned yesterday evening. Apple trees are budding. Sorry. Just had to say all that. It will happen there soon for you. I am so excited for you.

These ewes have all lambed before, right? And have some molasses handy for the ewes for right after they lamb. I give my animals a big bucket of warm molasses water. They love it. Just a thought.

March 19, 2011 at 4:30 PM  
Blogger Odie Langley said...

I am sure this will be an emotional 24 hours with lambs coming. Good luck my friend.

March 19, 2011 at 4:32 PM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Why are you vaccinating at less than a day old? I assume the ewes had their cd&t vax before lambing? Banding and docking can wait a day... The poor thing just got plopped into this world- give it time to bond with momma and metabolize some cololstrum.

March 19, 2011 at 4:42 PM  
Blogger Mama Kelly said...

a longtime reader and I am awaiting your lambs with baited breath!

May it go well!

Mama Kelly aka Jia
bladeandcauldron.com

March 19, 2011 at 4:45 PM  
Blogger Carolyn West said...

I like to wait at least 24hrs to band and usually do it just before I let them out of the jug. That way they're curious about everything and forget quickly about the bands. I'm also wondering what vaccine you're giving them just after being born? I don't know of any that you give newborn lambs and the last thing I'd want to do is overwhelm their immune systems when they're so young. I'm not sure what lamb saver is but I've used something called Nutri-drench and been happy with it. It will give lambs a nice boost to get them going.

March 19, 2011 at 4:51 PM  
Blogger MilkMaid09 said...

Hope this Full Moon (which is 14% bigger than normal full moons)works it's magic on your ewe, my doe, and about 40 cows. Ok, maybe not ALL 40 cows at once!
I think I'm more nervous/anticipating about this doe than I was with my own boys!
Hope everything goes well!

March 19, 2011 at 4:54 PM  
Blogger MilkMaid09 said...

P.S. This post should be published in every farm magazine! Not everything on the farm is romantic or picturesque, but once you get over the daydreams and realize that there's no place you'd rather be than a muddy, messy, smelly farm - you know you're not crazy anymore and farming really is what you're meant to do.

March 19, 2011 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger DebH said...

good luck and Happy lambing...its sure to happen. Moon is full tonight and the south wind blows. I can hardly stand the wait myself!! I have used the baby monitor myself and it gives me another viewpoint(listen) of what goes on in the barn without me. Also it adds lots of interesting sounds that lead to imagination of "What in the world is going on out there!" Found out one of my girls snores incredibly loud when lying down and it gets louder and louder as she gets closer and closer. I can almost predict it by her snores!!
Good Luck!!

March 19, 2011 at 5:05 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

CW- I got the book, thank you! I haven't emailed because I haven't emailed anyone much this week!

It's an oral syringe for the first 24 hours of birth, or for weaker chargers. I read about it in Living with Sheep and got a tube.

March 19, 2011 at 5:27 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

We had one doe that hollered like crazy (LOUDLY) and the other one barely makes a sound when she kids, so you never know! Have LOTS of towels handy - things get goopy in a hurry. I too hope your next post is an adorable lamb photo. Like others, I keep checking back often. Can't wait!

March 19, 2011 at 5:41 PM  
OpenID sissyjane said...

I keep coming back to check in...I feel like the expectant father!

March 19, 2011 at 5:57 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

It seems like this full moon will bring those lambs out. I can't believe how excited I am to see the pictures of them, what is happening to me?

March 19, 2011 at 6:14 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

I am so excited for you! I, too, keep checking back every few hours to see if there are any updates. Good luck!

March 19, 2011 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger Carolyn West said...

Just wanted to make sure you got it! Hopefully it'll be a good resource.

We have 1 ewe that we're waiting on to lamb and we're hoping that the full moon tonight will help her along. Every day for the last 2 weeks I've gone expecting lambs from her but so far nothing. Frustrating!

Have you seen this online book? http://hem.bredband.net/ronpar/tsb.html

March 19, 2011 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Rois said...

The moon will be full tonight.Maybe that will get things moving towards lambing. Full moon nights are baby nights.

March 19, 2011 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger rabbit said...

Green and lush.... Epic.

March 19, 2011 at 8:47 PM  
Blogger Charles said...

Minor point, don't buy and use light gauge extension cords for long runs. Too much resistance.

March 19, 2011 at 10:04 PM  
Blogger Jenny Glen said...

Jenna, less is more. Let mom do everything and unless she has a problem don't get involved. I remember my first Scottie lambs. I came home from work and there they were! I couldn't have been prouder if I had had them myself. It was all I could do to wait and let them find the teat themselves and not hug their cute little necks. Give the babies a little time to get oriented and let them bond with mom before you start cuddling.

March 19, 2011 at 10:32 PM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I'm so excited for you Jenna!!! I think we should have some of 'lamb-cam' set up so we can watch them too!!! Good luck hoping the moons gets things moving over there so we can see a lambing post tomorrow!!

March 19, 2011 at 11:45 PM  
Blogger jamberry_song said...

Here's hoping everything will go smoothly and swiftly! Really, I can't imagine anything in the world more appropriate for the spring equinox than birthing baby lambs. :)

March 20, 2011 at 12:01 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

no lambs yet.

I have an appoitment in the city of Rutland VT to get my taxes done this afternoon. How much you want to bet the first lambs come while I'm dealing with the IRS....

March 20, 2011 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger karental said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 20, 2011 at 8:12 AM  
Blogger Chance said...

We are all on lamb-watch with you...I keep checking back as well. Fingers crossed.

March 20, 2011 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger karental said...

Of course the lamb will come while you are filling out a schedule A. What could be more 21st century farm life than that?

March 20, 2011 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

A great opportunity for names, let's see... Earny (wages earned), Cred (credits), Ira (well, sort of, IRS). Then, of course you could go with all the money names... Cash, Flo (flow), show me the money (dollar). Well, I could go on, but then, I am probably the only one enjoying this ;) Good luck!

March 20, 2011 at 8:34 AM  
Blogger Holly said...

Jenna, when my horse had her foal, I waited and waited with her. I knew the night she was to foal that was the night. All she wanted me to do was scratch her back. Around 9pm, I went into the house to grab a bite to eat and was only gone for 3 minutes tops. When I got back to the barn there she was, a beautiful healthy foal. Both mom and foal were wonderful. So there you have it. And my vet also told me that I would step out for coffee and it would happen. Good luck to you and I hope you get to see it.

March 20, 2011 at 9:26 AM  
Blogger Diane said...

Too bad you can't claim them as dependents on your taxes - we should change the law on that!

March 20, 2011 at 10:27 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Ah shucks. I was hoping to see a picture of some cute little lambs this morning.

Jenna, yep, that will more than likely happen. I have run to the house to grab coffee or a camera and come back and there'd be a cute little goat kid. And the doe would just look at me like I'm crazy. But hopefully you will not be needed and that's what she's waiting for. No one looking at her! These animals are pretty smart anyway. Like my cow. Had her 1st calf early last Sat. Had him all dried off and nursing like a pro when I went out to feed. That's just the way they are.

March 20, 2011 at 10:34 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

I just wrote out a long comment and it got deleted, so I'll keep it short this time. :-)

I always wait to dock...I like to do it at around a week old. It's hard on the lambs, and I like to make sure they're strong and thriving before I put them through that stress. If you band tails when they're just born I doubt they'd get up to nurse because it hurts.

And I love the waiting part....the anticipation is my favorite part, as impatient as I am! Once lambing season is over for me I always feel a slight let down, even though I love having the lambs.

March 20, 2011 at 10:39 AM  
Blogger Chance said...

I have to agree with Katiegirl -- wait a week or two before docking, let their little immune systems build up and thrive. Reduce the risk of infection.

March 20, 2011 at 1:50 PM  
Blogger Reason's Whore said...

You know it's not the solstice, right?

It's the vernal equinox.

March 20, 2011 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Stargazer 2 said...

JENNA,
Milk Maid 09 really hit the nail on the head because this "Post
is a paimting in words of what a
farm is really like without any ands, ifs or buts about it!!!
GREAT POST, & yes I still want to have a small farm!!!
Chickens only first!!!
Cheers with a health drink!!!
Looking forward to continue reading the rest of the GREAT story on COLD ANTLER FARM BLOG!!!
Ronnie A Very Happy EX Seat Weaver!!!
http://www.chaircaningdirectory.com

March 20, 2011 at 5:45 PM  
Blogger Sherry Sutherby http://russ-stickacres.blogspot.com/ said...

Glad to see so many readers on this post agree with the "less is more" approach to the Mama and baby. Wait a day (or more) before you slap that band on, ear tag, and inject it with CD & T. Those little ones need to stabilize. That is a horrendous shock to any system - sturdy lamb or weak. Just dip the idodine (you don't need to clip the cord) and let Mama take care of the rest. It's also more damaging to the Mama and the baby to fuss about, removing the lamb for this and that, as it could break the bond and disrupt the relationship. We've never had to bottle feed ~ the Mama's have always come through. Just let nature take it's course and you'll be fine.

March 24, 2011 at 12:56 PM  

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