by, 05-17-2012 at 02:10 PM (544 Views)
Nothing has happened to me lately to inspire a blog, but lambing time has been and gone so I thought I'd jot down a few things about that.
Young Stephen, a nephew, came up to help this year. He was such a sharp little lad when he was 12, but teenagerhood has hit him hard. A shrug and a grunt is now his only means of communication (apart from constantly texting persons unknown.) He manages to combine both the Aristotelean Laws of motion, in that his body remains in motion only while being pushed, and those of Newton, in that his body tends to stay at rest unless acted upon by another body (me.) Anyway after a few days a Dentist's appointment took him from us – for a week – so I had time to recover from his help.
On the sheep front things have gone extraordinarily well. I've managed to prevent all but one ewe from dying and lost only 12 lambs. The main reason for this is firstly the fine weather - more of that later - and because I got the shearlings (first timers) inside where I could keep a close watch on them. This meant 90% of the problems were under my eye day and night and I didn't have to spend so much time chasing expectant mothers over hill and dale in order to deliver them.
The good weather (apart from a couple of days) was a stroke of luck and entirely down to Daisy May our pony. Last October she was scratching her backside on a gate and opened it, releasing the tups into the ewes. By the time I realised what had happened all six tups had been working for a day and a half and lambing time was three weeks early.
Then one night it snowed. It was forcasted as sleet falling on the hills, what we got was a full on blizzard. I went out at midnight into a strong northerly wind that was thick with snow. It was beginning to drift under the walls and over the sheep that were sheltering there. This isn't always a bad thing, the snow itself provides them shelter. Visibility was very poor, but I knew roughly where the sheep would be and knew they would be bunched together so I didn't need to cover a lot of ground. The biggest problem was that I couldn't distinguish snow drifts from background snow, and kept getting the quad stuck. Anyway right at the top of the fields was a bunch of twenty or so sheep, and two sheep sized mounds of snow that had separated themselves from the others – a sign they were lambing. For once catching them was no problem (they never saw me coming) their fleeces rattled with ice as I loaded them into the trailer. Once I'd warmed my hands up enough to open the gate, I got them back to the shed and lambed them.
Next morning it was colder and the wind was stronger. The snow was mixed with tiny icy pellets that stung and froze at the same time. I had to abandon Mrs Prendrelemick at the first big drift. (That sounds bad, but we were only 10 yards from the back door.) I pressed on, I always think if there's a possibility I might be able to do something I should try. This time it was hopeless, I just couldn't see anything, I couldn't face into the wind at all. I retreated back into the kitchen.
There were about 150 week-old lambs out in the storm, but I wasn't that worried, as long as they're with their mothers and can get at the milk they can survive the odd blizzard. It was the newborns that would have no chance. As it happened only two lambs died, one abandoned in the middle of a field and one on its own under a drift. Luckily, and unusually for sheep, nothing decided to lamb that morning. By Nine O Clock the snow stopped and this being Britain the sun was out an hour later and the lambs were skipping up and down the hills again.