Esther finally got around to going into labor. Not that it was obvious to me at all on the 11 PM check! All was peaceful and everyone was lying down and cudding about then and by 2 AM we had a problem. John came in from a middle of the night check and let me know that Esther had a head and ears hanging out and no front legs to be seen. A big white head with bulgy eyes and the tongue sticking out. It’s a shocking sight and always gives me a fright.
We got our gear together and of course I couldn’t push the head back in to get both legs out, but I was able to get one of the front legs extended and we pulled the large, white ram. Poor guy, he had had hypoxia (lack of oxygen) and he really took a long time to get up and active. (All of his mucous membranes are bloodred because of that). In the meantime his sister was all ready to go, but her elbows were locked around Esther’s pelvis, and none of the ewe’s pushing was getting anywhere, so we needed to help her out a little bit. She is a beautiful black ewe with wonderful white lightning markings on her face.
Needless to say that we are totally exhausted and ready for many nights of uninterrupted sleep! The fun doesn’t end there, however, as we were not sure that the ram lamb was actually getting much milk. His temperature was a little down, and Esther kept pushing him off her teat, so I finally remembered to check his teeth, and two of them were very sharp. I filed them down with a nail file and I think that it actually helped. They seem to be coming along, but every time I go in there Esther gives me the wild-eyed look and although she doesn’t stamp at me, I get the message. Esther just doesn’t want to let me in on what she has for those babes! She is a chip off the old Norma block in that way and I think I am just going to have to trust that she has enough milk to feed those lambies. We will weigh them tomorrow and keep our fingers crossed. The wind is really blowing today and the temperature has dropped so we want the lambs to get enough milk to stay warm.
Is still an Enigma, but we are beginning to see what is really going on.
I have been trying to figure out how Esther could still be pregnant if she got bred down in the field by the ram Reece (which she did). I am a little slow, but I finally realized that even if she had been bred the last day that Reece was in with the girls, she would have had to have had her lambs at least two weeks ago. So I began doing a little detective work in my records and calendars.
As it turns out, when we brought the ewes back from the field (they had all been marked by the ram so we knew they should be bred), we put them into the winter paddock where we had the group of sheep waiting to go to the butcher. We had a few older animals, but we also had ram lamb #107, one of Mae’s triplets, in the mix. He was the only ram in there, so I am guessing that his last few days with us were pretty happy ones!
The butcher group went off early on December 6th, so calculating that as the last date possible for Esther to have been re-bred, her new and improved possible due date is April 30th. A few days after that even, as that is the 145 day average. Of course, she may have been bred sometime between the November 22nd date when we ferried them home, and the last possible date. If this has you confused, I can’t explain how cross-eyed and crazy it has made us!
It will all turn out fine in the end. As a matter of fact I am very pleased that she will actually have lambs because our numbers are down to the minimum and it’s always nice to have a few to choose from should we want to keep any replacements. In addition to that, ram lamb #107 was a beautiful guy, son of Mae the almost 100% Coopworth and Lucky the Coopworth/Border Leicester cross. Both wonderful and productive animals that led long lives and parented many little ones. So this is really a happy accident. John and I will forget this 6 or 7 weeks of late and middle of the night checks after we get a night or two of totally awesome sleep, I am sure!
I feel like vacation is over :*( We still have the weekend, but the rain is coming, and as much as I know that we need it desperately, it is a Force to Be Reckoned With. In terms of doing chores, that is. Today was warm and breezy, but when the breeze let up the black fly babies just cruised right in and bit up my face and my ears. I can’t complain too much, but it is a pain.
This morning we had a little bit of excitement: the ewes and lambs pushed through one of the cattle panels and were wandering around up near the garden. I was running late for chores and as I headed up the driveway I realized that the sheep were out and I ran back to alert my husband to the news. I got a temporary fence up around them and then we set to grabbing lambs and putting them back into the paddock. We really did quite well except for Esther the Enigma and Zorro the Llama. I ended up leaving them in the temporary area as I did not want to chase pregnant Esther around too much, and we don’t really worry a lot about Zorro as he can hold his own even without a fence. As the morning wore on and the black flies got really busy, I went up to the paddock and invited Esther back into the “real” area and she came without batting an eyelash (her favorite spot when the bugs get bad is up in the lambing greenhouse). Zorro followed me in without a backward glance this evening when I was putting out the grain for everyone. I can always count on him to come for that!
The middle mark of April break was greatly enjoyed yesterday at friend Chris’ house in Brunswick. We had a lovely day of food and fibery things. Not much actually got physically accomplished, but Chris went through two shawl patterns with me because I was feeling a little overwhelmed by them. I have been knitting for about 51 years, but have never attempted a lace project before. So I am gearing up to make a shawl for our neighbor as well as one for myself. I know that once I get going this is not going to be too difficult, but I just need to make the start.
I am casting on for the LOVeShawlette by Anne Hanson for our neighbor and it is slow-going, over 200 stitches to cast on and count. But that shawl gets smaller as you knit, which is kind of nice!
The other shawl, the Ebbtide by Elizabeth Doherty starts small and moves toward the bottom edge, getting larger as you go. It doesn’t look quite as complicated as some of the lace patterned shawls I see and admire, so hopefully it will be a good one to get started with. Either one should be an adventure!
(And yes, I am still plowing ahead with my knit-along sweater… it, too, is slowly making progress. The weather has been so extraordinarily beautiful this past two weeks that I have not spent much time indoors, and waiting for lambs keeps me just tired enough at night that I am not making much headway).
That’s right, we still are waiting on Esther! But it’s ok, the weather is beautiful and it’s the beginning of our April break from school. I am ready!
Last night while I was out feeding our bottle girl her nighttime feed I stayed out in the sheep paddock to enjoy the stars and the balmy night. I was listening to the peepers and I began to hear a rhythmic squeak followed by a little hiccup. I couldn’t figure out what was going on and went to a spot near one of the greenhouses where we usually get wood frogs at this time of year, although it’s so dry I couldn’t imagine that any were hiding over there. But it was such a curious sound that I kept looking.
Tracking down the source proved to be quite amusing!. It was a lamb using his learner’s permit for cudding! He was all but dead to the world, then every so often a little squeak would come from his belly and a few seconds later I could see a little ball of cud shoot up into his mouth and his little jaws would chew it up… the whole time with his eyes closed. I would have thought that each little pop would have awakened him fully, but it didn’t. It was hysterical.
This lovely weather and lambs are so much fun. All the ewes were sitting in the shade wherever they could find it this afternoon. A little taste of summer in April. Nice.
(Left photo: Fuzzy Lumpkin and one of her boys are cuddled up so sweetly!)
The weekend has come and gone too quickly, but it was an enjoyable one. Passover began this past Friday night (and we definitely celebrated with a beef rib roast) and Easter Sunday was yesterday. We had a visit from the younger son and his family which was fun on Sunday afternoon. I was a total slacker and didn’t take the camera out with me when we all trooped up to see the lambs. The skies were cloudy for part of the day, but we had examples of total contentment all over the paddock.
The babies continue to grow like weeds. They are playing hard and eating up a storm. Down to the youngest they are all bellying up to the hay feeder every day. My routine for each feeding is to put out the hay in one feeder and then go and get the ewe’s grain and put it out in the second feeder. When the moms rush over to the grain, most of the babies run over to the hay feeder and get a good spot so that when the moms mosey back over, they already have their first choice chosen! They don’t stay at the hay feeder for long, however, because while the moms are seriously getting into their meal, the babies choose that time to do their lamb frolic around the paddock. They have really turned into a cohesive lamb gang and are enjoying every moment!
Not that there is anything wrong with that, but Esther the Enigma is still an enigma. She gets a little larger every day and it’s really not my imagination, she is developing a starter udder. I was beginning to wonder if I was just doing a little too much wishful thinking :*)
On the already-arrived lamb front, everyone is growing and learning how to play hard with the gang. Even Fern’s little ones were doing the lamb dance-and-rush this morning, and it was still dark! They do the hop-hop, back and flip around with their little butts in the air and then fly out of the greenhouse and race to the big rock, dodging their mamas at the feeders as they go. I am really going to have to get a snippet of video this weekend if I can. It’s something I never get tired of watching.
The only news this week is that BabyBea, the head lamb honcho, lost the bottom of her tail. She seems pleased with her new look, as you can tell from the photo!
It was an amazingly refreshing day. It gave me the opportunity to do a little relaxing. I have had a few things hanging, waiting to get accomplished and I was able to take care of one or two, which was very satisfying. Washing up Etti’s hoggett fleece took a few hours while I got about half of a baby sack knit up as well.
As for the rest of the weekend, yesterday a friend and I went to a weaving workshop down at Halcyon Yarn for the afternoon. It was a very interesting and helpful workshop on how to plan weaving projects when not using a “recipe.” It was also a really nice way to get out of Dodge and meet with some fellow fiberholics, as well as a golden opportunity to see my friend and spend some time with her, while picking up some great weaving insights.
The weather has turned colder again and Esther the ewe is still holding out on us. But the lambs are really getting into the rhythm of things and getting to know each other. This evening even the oldest, largest lamb joined in the Twilight Run!
Coopworth Fiber, LaMancha Dairy Goats and Cheese on the Coast of Maine!