Wednesday, March 24, 2010

New born Icelandic lambs

The first of the 2010 lambs were born yesterday afternoon to our beautiful Polly. A tall, white ram lamb and a tall, long bodied black spotted ewe lamb. Vanessa was in attendance to supervise and assist in delivery. Polly did a great job and is a wonderful, milky mother. She speaks in a guttural rasp to them and the sound of her calling, stimulates the newborn lambs to struggle to their tiny feet in search of their first bellyful of milk: the all important colostrum with it's critical nutrients, vitamins and antibodies to help them survive in the world.

Momma Polly cleans them up. Vanessa cleans their naval and we weigh them. Large lambs. With their hunger satiated, the begin to explore their surroundings. An occasional astonishing hop into the air belays the fact that these little ones are barely an hour old.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Teenage is a Condition of Sheep Too

As we’re getting ready for lambing here at Stark Hollow Farm, the sheep flock has been divided into 2 groups. The pregnant ewes have been placed near the barn where all pens and equipment is ready for the upcoming lambs. The ram and two yearlings (i.e. 1 year old ewe lambs) have been left at the top of the pasture with access to the round house where the flock has spent the winter.

Already late last summer, the 2 Icelandic lambs, now yearlings, started proving to have quite a personality! After fixing and re-fixing tear after tear in the shade tents, I caught the two of them running, leaping into the air, and landing right on top of the tents eventually touching ground as the tear they caused during the jump reached the edge of the tent resulting in the whole thing to collapse. It seemed they found joy in this. I recall their look when I caught them in action… it was almost a smirk… almost defiance. As I was screaming half in disbelief and half in despair, they looked at me and it was like they were telling me: “whatever”. I thought I felt what teenagers parents feel like when they yell at their children who seem to have lost the ability to listen as they grow taller.

As fall progressed and winter weather began, the jumping and tearing ended, the mended shade tents went away, and I forgot all about my growing lambs behaviors. In the winter, we had a couple of surprises here and there -- a spilled water tank, broken hay feeder part, some rocks from the small wall surrounding the round house moved over, etc. -- but nothing serious. In addition, the frequency of these occurrences was low enough to assume they are due to normal management and/or wear & tear of equipment/structures. But now that the yearlings make up the 2/3 majority of the group at the top of the pasture, my feelings toward empathy for parents of teenagers seem to be resurfacing. Suddenly, I find the sheeting that makes up the temporary walls of the round house taken down (i.e. note that the sheeting has been in place for at least the past 5 months through snow, ice, blowing winds, etc. and 10 sheep), I discover poop in the water tank, I walk up to a bucked down feeder with all salt & mineral spilled onto the pasture, and the list goes on daily. Then as I discover these nice little gifts of entertainment -- since I have nothing better to do all day -- and express my astonishment, I have to listen to my yearlings going baa-baa, baa, baa-baa while they look me straight in the eye. As my shock begins to morph into distress that borderlines outrage, but of the peaceful kind, I am interrupted by two even more closely approaching yearlings yelping out baa-baa, baa-baa, baa. At this point, they actually manage to shut me up.

As I look at them, while they turn around and walk away stomping their little hooves, that fiery feeling that bordered outrage is gone. Absolute bewilderment sets in as I stand there with my mouth opened and my jaw dropping down slowly. I am not sure whether I should focus on the damage those two have caused for the day or on their demanding yet defiant behavior. But I force myself to step back, remember my morning meditation, take a deep breath, and move on to fix whatever they managed to destroy/buck/etc. I feed them, water them, and clean up their bedding. When everything is finally back in order and my two yearlings and ram have been well taken care of, I look around and pat myself on the back. Walking away with the optimistic view that I have everything under control again, I also don’t pay too much attention to the baa-baa, baa, baa-baa of my two yearlings… but I swear I know that if I did turn around to look back, I would see my dear yearlings smirking and chuckling away as they plan a new prank for tomorrow!