Thursday, March 13, 2008


And waiting.

Torie is taking her time. I am writing to try to keep my eyelids propped open.

An hour ago I went out and saw just the tiniest glimpse of a black hoof-tip protruding, rimmed in white. The white is the gelatin-like "cap" on the hoof that helps ease the lamb'sjourney through the birth canal. This time there were two hoofs, up to the top of hoof. Next I should see a nose...if not, it's time to step in. A lamb is not likely to be born if its head is turned back along its body.

It is so much easier to see what's going on with the ewes now that they're sheared. This afternoon, we noted that Torie seemed much more gaunt than she had in the shearing pen. This is often a sign of early labor--as the lambs "drop"and engage in the birth canal, the ewe's flanks hollow out in front of her hips, so that her frame looks like a dairy cow--hips sticking out like a skeleton. Often there will be a pronounced groove along each side of the tailbone, as well, when viewed from the rear

Some sheep do not like to lamb with an audience. Thus my habit of forcing myself to walk away from a ewe in labor for half an hour or an hour at a time.

Then there are the ewes like Bitten who act like they're in early labor for days. She seems to be in early labor now, too. When I went out to check Torie, Bitten was on the far end of the pen from all the others. Ewes often go off by themselves to lamb.

How do my sheep get their strange names? Each name has a story as unique as the ewe herself.

--"Tailor" has a long tail.

--"Eider" was born my first year of shepherding. I named each set of lambs with names starting with the letter indicating their birth order, and all the names were food-related. Thus the first lamb born on Pinwheel Farm was Apple. The fifth batch was triplets. "E" was not an easy letter to find food names for. cohorts were Elderberry (ewe) and Extra (market lamb).

--"Footer" had a badly infected foot last year due to being tangled in baling twine. She's recovered so well I can't tell which foot.

--"Torie" has a torn ear. "Bitten" looks like something bit half an ear off. Both of these are most likely consequences of an ear tag catching in a fence.

--"Perfle" was the last born in a set of triplets, i.e. superflous.

--One year a neighbor kid named all the lambs after Beanie Babie sheep.

Guess I'll go check Torie. If I stay here any longer I'll fall asleep and there will be a lot of misspelled words.

When I went out, there was Torie with a HUGE black ram lamb next to the big round bale of brome hay--a nice warm, dry, sheltered spot to lamb--a common choice. She had been laboring in one of the sheds. I popped him into the lamb taxi and headed towards the barn. Torie followed with her nose in the taxi, good as gold, all the way to the barn and right into her jug. This guy weighed in at a whopping 14+ lbs.! That's not quite twice my normal birth weights! Easily big enough for two lambs.

I topped up everyone's hay and water and did a last check on Bitten. When I walked out to the pen, she was still laying off at the end. But then suddenly she jumped up and came running (waddling) towards me, thinking shewas missing out on some treat. She was, because I'd bedded the sheds down with fresh hay when I checked Torie earlier, and all the ewes were rummaging for choice tidbits. So maybe she was just enjoying a bit of solitude after a chaotic day.

I know the feeling. It was a hard choice between locking myself in my room early this evening, and hanging out in a friend's hot tub for awhile. The hot tub won...I kept thinking about how stiff I might be in the morning without it.

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