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lambing begins

Lot's of action under EllenG...everyone is making a run for the milk bar!

Yesterday evening our oldest ewe, EllenG, had triplets and made it look easy.  It never occurred to me that she was carrying three…she looked like a “normal” twinning ewe. But here they are…2 ewes and a ram…and all nice sizes right around 9.5 – 10.5 pounds. And very spunky, too!  Great job, EllenG!!!

It’s beyond me how people can think sheep are stupid. EllenG can count!  Take one of those lambs away to weight it and she knows…she looks for it…calls it…and isn’t happy until it appears and is counted.  At eight years old, she’s been a mother many times and she’s also had three a couple of times so I guess this is her normal.

On this lovely Spring day, the little family is doing really well.  The babes are well fed and warm and snuggling with Mom.

The other ewes…still waiting…

 

 

wide body

still at least a week to go

getting some D after breakfast

No Bugs!

I realized the other day why I was having so much fun outside…aside from the warm sunshine…NO BUGS!  When we’re in full swing with lambs coming along at any time day or night along with all the added chores and I’m also getting ready for Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, I can’t spend alot of time playing around in the garden beds.  I usually end up getting to it after I get back from Maryland.  By that time, the black flies are in your face…literally!  They may not be biting yet but they’re awfully annoying — getting into your eyes, nose, ears…well, just about everywhere…even into your clothes!  At that point, you have a very tiny window of opportunity to get everything done before they really do start to bite.  One year a friend from NJ came to visit in May and ended up in the hospital…bad reaction to the little buggers.  So…there’s another good thing about not having lambs this year!

Island Holiday

I’ve been to an island!  OK — not the warm, tropical kind.  North Haven is just an hour and a bit out by ferry, and Becky & Bill live there year round. Of course its population grows by leaps and bounds in the summer but at this time of year it’s fairly quiet.  Becky met me and as we drove from the ferry to the house, I drooled over the wide expanses of open land. North Haven used to be an agricultural island and sheep were kept in great numbers. At one time, North Haven lamb was prized in the markets in Boston. Today, there are only a handful of people keeping sheep and there’s a feral flock of mouflon that’s sighted from time to time. Sadly, most of the pasture land is privately owned by people who aren’t full time residents and it’s just mowed annually to keep it from closing in…aka keeping the views open. It’d be beneficial in so many ways to put that land into production…just dreaming. 

I’d heard from Becky that the day before I arrived, three sets of twins had been born to her Coopworth ewes so I was very excited to see them and their Moms. She and Bill started their flock with Coopworths from us and then a year later they bought our Border Leicester ewe, Imogene, too.

The view from Cider Hill Farm on North Haven Island.

The view from Cider Hill Farm on North Haven Island.

 I think the girls may have remembered me just a little…at least they weren’t too concerned with me hanging around in the lambing shed and handling their babies.  Imogene let me scratch her forehead and rub her back a bit…she always liked that.  And the lambs — very sweet. The three sets of twins were made up of one natural colored & one white.  I’m not sure whether that’s significant but it’s certainly interesting and very cute.  Becky offered that it is in honor of our new administration. 

When we weren’t playing with the sheep, we picked away at fleeces.  All were beautiful and really very clean considering they’d not been covered for a good part of the year. She was a little worried about their condition but I’d be very happy to have any of the ones I saw!  Last year she had some yarn made from her fleeces and sold it at a shop on the island. It disappeared…knitters know exceptionally nice yarn when they see it!!  It sounds like this year there may be some roving available, too.

This ancient apple tree couldn't be identified by the experts during a recent census.  It produces apples that weight about a pound each!  Becky & Bill have been asked to name it.

This ancient apple tree couldn't be identified by the experts during a recent census. It produces apples that weigh about a pound each! Becky & Bill have been asked to name it.

Becky's white Coopworth wether, Oatie, and his replacement ewe friends.

Becky's white Coopworth wether, Oatie, and his replacement ewe friends.

Its always takes a few minutes for everyone to adjust on their first day out!

Its always takes a few minutes for everyone to adjust on their first day out!

Marion's lambs sticking by her while she picks at every little green thing she can find.

Marion's lambs sticking by her while she picks at every little green thing she can find.

This little one has found a warm spot to wait while mom snacks on hay.

This little one has found a warm spot to wait while mom snacks on hay.

Back to reality and my own fleeces to sort through for the CSA. We have just a few roving shares left but there are still a number of yarn shares available. 

Home Again

We did the remaining CDT’s this morning and sent the girls packing.  They — and we — are happy to have them out of the barn. The longer they stay in there, the more poop and straw there is to take out!  Now the ewe flock is back together.

The last group of ewes on their way back to the winter paddock.

The last group of ewes on their way back to the winter paddock. Jim keeps them going in the right direction -- the hint of green on the lawn is very tempting!

The boys will stay behind for a few days…they’re getting used to each other again.  Well, you know, they look different so they must be different sheep, right?!  Coats will go back on soon but first I have some mending to do. 

This afternoon, I’m heading to North Haven Island to visit with friends, Becky & Bill.  I’m so excited to be going to this amazingly beautiful place. They’re in the middle of lambing so I’ll get to see some little woolies and help out a bit.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

It’s been a little weird around here lately…not bad weird, just different weird.  It’s the “no lambs” thing.  It all started with no pregnant ewes (by choice) and that meant I didn’t spend endless hours staring at the ewes’ butts nor did we have long conversations about so-in-so’s vulva over our evening meal. (Our sons used to love this!)  I wasn’t trying to sneak a hand in behind the ewes to feel their udders while they were busy at the feeders.  And chores were done in much less time because I wasn’t standing around staring at those wide bodies in the hope of seeing a lamb butt or foot moving around.  I can’t say I’ve missed those “last check before bedtime” trips to the lambing shed/paddock, especially when it’s the kind of night when getting dressed to go out takes 10 minutes and then when you get out there the ewes are snoring, cudding, “heavy with lambs” grunting.  They look at you — you know they’re laughing because you look so ridiculous and they know that nothing is going to happen until 6AM.  You know it, too, but you can’t sleep unless you check…

Not long ago, I found myself heading out to check the hens just before midnight.  I couldn’t remember whether I’d powered up their fence after I’d collected the eggs that day and the dogs were barking to beat the band.  I didn’t need a headlamp because there was a big moon.  It was cold but dry and the sky was full of bright stars. Somebody’s dog was barking far away and a coyote was singing back…or maybe it was the other way around.  No peepers yet…still too cold. As I passed by the sheep paddock, pausing — I could see shadowy sheep “bumps” spotted around.  That was a nice walk out…like at lambing time.  Maybe I am missing it just a bit.

I’ve been visiting friends with lambs, but also I’ve been getting my “lamb fix” by going through photos of lambings past.  Talk about a trip down memory lane!  I’ve gotta share some of these.

Here are a couple of those wide bodies (aka the aircraft carriers) waiting for the big moment —

Cassie is more comfortable standing these days.

Cassie is more comfortable standing these days.

Kate will have her lambs soon...she hopes!

Kate will have her lambs soon...she hopes! In the meantime, she enjoys the warmth of the early Spring sun.

When a ewe decides its time, she picks a spot where she feels comfortable.  Each ewe has her own idea of the best place to bring her lambs into this world. Some like to be in the middle of everything.  Others like privacy.  Some lie down, labor quietly and produce lambs in a nice little space all neat and tidy.  Others tear up the bedding all over the barn and make an awful mess.  And, our favorite, there are ewes who will find the muckiest spot in the paddock and do it there.

Most of the time, lambs are born without incident…front hooves appear first,  followed by a nose and before too long, the whole body arrives.  The lamb comes in a bag along with its amniotic fluids. The bag is most often broken during the process or when the ewe stands to deliver the last bit of lamb. At that time, the umbilical cord is broken and the lamb begins to breathe on its own.  It’s a neat arrangement that Mother Nature has come up with.

This lamb will be "on the ground" in just a minute.

This lamb will be "on the ground" in just a minute.

In just a moment or two (which seems like wa-a-ay too long when you’re watching this process), the lamb is shaking its head and starting to wriggle around a bit.  Mom is already talking to her newbie and the lamb is responding.  She’s chortling and humming (singing the mama song), licking the lamb to clean and dry it. There is nothing more efficient than a ewe’s tongue for drying a lamb. And boy! are they ever wet!  You could easily soak a couple of plush bath towels trying to dry a lamb and get nowhere near the results that a licking ewe will get. Ewes will often nudge their lambs or paw at them to get up and before you know it, the lamb is getting its legs in gear. Once mobile, the lamb will seek out the udder and tank up on precious colostrum…the original energy drink!  The lamb is good to go once its well fed.  Ewes are the ultimate multi-taskers so if another lamb arrives, she’ll get everyone organized. Amazing!

As the lambs dry, they become the most darling little bundles of wooliness.  And around here, they come is all sorts of colors.  That’s the wonder of owning natural colored sheep!  And the best thing about the white lambs is that we can really see their expressive little faces.  Of course, we think that Coopworth lambs are especially cute!  So here are a bunch of photos of the little darlings…

Great markings on this little one!

Great markings on this little one!

Looking for a little tickle under the chin.

Looking for a little tickle under the chin.

Siblings snuggle together.

Siblings snuggle together.

That Spring sun feels so good!

That Spring sun feels so good!

the lamb equivalent of a trampoline!

The lamb equivalent of a trampoline!

Cassie enjoys nap time with the lambs.

Cassie enjoys nap time with the lambs.

A bundle of black lambs.

A bundle of black lambs.

OK — that’s enough for now!