Notes from Windward: #62

Discovering Lambs

Terri talks about the joys of spring lambing

When did the oak trees sprout new leaves? When did the chickens and ducks have time to sit nests and hatch their young? Spring has come and gone so quickly that we didnít even notice its passage. Roy and I were too actively involved in bringing new life into this world that we just didnít see it. Never would I have guessed that time would flow by me so quickly.

Proud mom and newborn lamb
The flock at Windward is composed of many ewes, most of whom were expecting lambs. The first deliveries were eagerly anticipated. Each day there were lambing checks, times when we would walk among the flock to see if any of them had delivered their lambs yet. It was a frustrating task at times. We would walk down the hill with a spring in our steps in anticipating of finding a lamb, and then trudge back up the hill disappointment showing in every step. And lambing checks werenít just once or twice a day, we also had to walk down during the night to check, and you could see our little flashlights bobbing in the night as we made our appointed rounds.

Arriving during the early morning hours, Pretty Eweís young lamb was the first of many. Sadly Roy and I werenít there to see the birth, but once we heard the news we raced down the hill to see the baby. He was very pretty, almost all black, with just the distinctive white on the top of his head. Pia also gave birth that day, to twin girls, Pepper and Patty. Pepper was easy to distinguish. She is very white with black speckled around her. She has an adorable face with lots more black speckled around her eyes and nose.

After that day it seemed that we were always swamped with things to do. There just didnít seem to be enough time in the world to finish what needed to be accomplished, and boy was there a lot to do. Never would I have realized just how much goes into producing a lamb. The image of sheep giving birth on the range with little interference was not something that we had here. At Windward, each lamb must be given an injection containing necessary medications to protect the lamb. The tail is docked and if itís a male, then it must be banded. The cord is cut and disinfected, and finally each of the babies is given a tiny coat to wear. Several coats might be needed if itís going to be a cold night.

With lambs being born quickly the coats became even more time consuming. At night one extra coat was always given to the lambs, and in the morning they would all go down to just one. Catching the lambs with coats was an easy task. The coats gave us something to grab as they went by. And of course it gave us an excuse to cuddle each and every one in the morning and again after dark.

Terri celebrates with a Lamb Cake
Interestingly enough, the mothers didnít escape our notice or our need to attend to them. Besides being given extra feed, we needed to check each of the mothers for milk. That meant being sure that each side of the motherís udder gave milk. Twins needed to be supplemented if the mother didnít provide enough. Of course none of us was going to protest the need to give a baby lamb a bottle. After last year getting to care for Kayla, I was eagerly anticipating getting to feed a baby.

The first lamb to need extra help was Dollyís. For some reason she left her newborn little boy in the snow. Roy found him when we were feeding, and not having a towel I stripped off my jacket to get to my soft warm sweater and wrapped him in it. Even after he was dried off Dolly just wasnít willing to accept him. He became our first bottle baby and spent the first night of his life snug and warm in our home. Of course that meant every two-hour feedings, but believe me the experience was more than worth it. Soon we had a second lamb that needed feeding due to lack of motherís milk, and we were all actively engaged in their lives. Sadly, since bottle babies are so time and resource consuming they were taken to the sale very early, but Walt shared with us how two children purchased the two babies, so we were hopeful.

After many births, I was finally privileged to watch the birth of Opalís baby. We found her in full labor and while Roy went for more expert help for her, she proceeded to deliver without a midwife. It was a life altering moment. The babyís head was out and calling out to its mother before the rest of it was born. At this point Opal stood up and with a wet splat the baby fell to the ground headfirst. Later we were able to witness LeeAnnís delivery. That one was memorable since as we moved LeeAnn and her baby to a smaller pen Roy suddenly observed a second lamb in with another sheep. She had delivered a twin without any of us noticing.

Today looking out at all the lambs I am amazed at how rapidly they are growing. They leap and jump and play and not only is it amusing, itís one of the most relaxing experiences. Just watching one of their play sessions most people would be instantly hooked. They have races and leap and jump as they run. Sometimes they will play "King of the Hill," and you can see them butting one another for possession of the highest point of ground. They grow too quickly though and now facing the sale of several of them in the coming weeks saddens me. I knew from the beginning that we would keep very few if any and tried to guard my heart by playing with Kayla and Buffy. These two kept me focused on what goes on with the lambs.

The flock has birthed its last lamb, and today we are focusing our attention on fattening them up for sale. Itís a sad moment for all of us. Anyone can tell you that the lambs always bring a smile to my face. No matter how much work or how difficult it is, the rewards are worth it to me. Lambing time might be over here at Windward, but the great thing about it is that it comes around again next year. Until then, itís off to new adventures and discoveries.