Friday, March 3, 2017

Lambs, Cold, and Peas

Lambing season came early to the farm this year. Earlier than ever before. It was a surprise to see Brick with her sturdy little ram lamb a few days ago. (Twitter followers named him Sean Connery.) Even with the night temperatures dropping into the single digits last night, this little guy was okay. I know because I was out there at midnight, 3, and 6 checking on him. He was always in a tight round ball beside his mama's wool in the shed. When it is this cold, and you have three new mothers (gods willing) - you get out of bed. A lot.

It’s going to be a long weekend. Maybe the last real cold spell of the winter. I think my firewood will last but I have a guy I can call if it gets low. I’m trying not to spend the extra cash if I can manage to luck out. By Monday temperatures will rise back into the fifties and the wood stove and I can rest a bit. Nights that aren’t so frigid don’t require the constant field checks. But even then, bad things happen.

Last year I was out three times a night and that didn’t help the lamb born after I was back to bed and wouldn’t be discovered until three hours later. She didn’t make it, but her sibling did. Had I slept through the night both would have most likely passed.

I have learned over the past half-decade of breeding sheep here that they are the most delicate of any other livestock (except maybe rabbits). I have never lost a goat or kid. I have never had a pig die unless it was butchering day. Birds seem to feed raccoons or foxes far more than any disease. Merlin hasn’t ever so much as limped (knock on wood). But sheep aren’t those beasts.

Sheep are born to blend, to look strong and part of a flock even when they start to fall ill. I learned to read their faces over the years - look for signs of thinning or checking eyelids for color. You need to feel backs for their weight number and get your hands on them in ways you don’t with pigs or goats. Trust me, a sick goat will let you know she is miserable. A thin pig is a sad thing to see and can’t be confused with a dairy animal’s hip bones. But sheep are masters of “Really, I’m Fine.” And even the little lambs can seem somber and tough when what they need is a headlamp and a bottle.

I am not chancing anything with Split Ear’s lamb. She is a poor milk producer and her lamb will be bottle fed, if she has one. She is acting like it. Spending the day away from the flock up in the shed, rubbing her sides and breathing slow. I am prepared inside for bottle lambs - with diaper pads and bottles and milk replacer for days.

Alas, no lambs inside yet. Right now I have coffee by my side and a day of getting hay in the barn, fires roaring, design clients sated, and hopefully making more sales before quitting time. Wish this farm luck with both lambing, sales, and the coming cold! May you stay warm and prosperous as well! I promise to update soon as any more babies hit the ground.

Oh, and I planted snap peas already. Indoors and out. I am a crazy person.


Blogger Cary said...

Best to you all! Good luck with your peas too! Last weekend I couldn't stand it any longer and planted old lettuce seed along with a brassica mix; had to get hands dirty. Just watered ramp seeds that have been in the freezer for 2 years. Is it spring yet? :)

March 3, 2017 at 1:10 PM  
Blogger Angelica said...

Sending warm thoughts and rays of sunshine your way. I love them but haven't had much luck with snap peas in my garden-it may be too warm here (West Central FL on the Gulf Coast).

March 3, 2017 at 5:02 PM  

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