Part 1: The First and the Last

…and what happened in between.

The first day of lambing season looks very different than the last day of lambing season. We start with zeal and excitement, and end with a shuffle and a blank stare. This year was no exception.

The first lamb that dropped this year surprised all of us. It was two weeks ahead of schedule.

“We have a lamb!” Noah announced that morning before school. All I heard from our bedroom where I was getting ready for the day was someone yelling, a door slamming, and heavy footsteps just before Andy burst into the room.

“We’ve got a lamb!” he said with a grin. He couldn’t move fast enough in getting his barn clothes on.

“What?!” I asked incredulously. It was waaaaay too early for lambs to come. Apparently that night that Earl got into the ewes pen this fall was a very productive few hours. 🙄

We all truly love this time of year. There is nothing better than seeing healthy lambs wobbling around, cuddling next to their moms, and investigating all of the new things around them. Except at 3am. I can think of at least one thing that would be better to do at 3am.

After another surprise lamb, this time for Faith, lambing season didn’t start in earnest for another couple of weeks. With our first two coming during the night without any help at all, we felt optimistic. We were also hoping that a good number of lambs would drop during spring break while the kids were home from school so they could learn and be part of the whole experience.

On the Thursday before break, the real work of lambing began.

We welcomed six lambs in the first two days. With Andy running the carpool on Friday morning, he gave me warning before he left. “Shirley’s getting ready to go, but she’ll probably be awhile.”

“Okay, I’ll check in when I’m finished getting ready,” I said.

Shirley is the daughter of our favorite ewe, Susie—named after my grandma and mother of the best ewes in our flock. Thirty minutes later when I opened the alley door leading to the ewes’ pen, the first thing I saw was two wet lambs lying on the straw, steam rising from their warm, cinnamon-colored bodies as momma licked them clean.

“Good girl, Shirley,” I cooed as I squatted down quietly and pulled out my phone to film their first few moments of life. Shirley and I had shared some panicked moments together two years earlier when I made a rookie mistake shortly after her birth (a story I’ll share another day). It was because of that learning experience that the safe arrival of these two ewe lambs—whom we named Sally and Summer—felt especially gratifying.

All this time we had been keeping a watchful eye on Margie because she was showing early signs of vaginal prolapse late in her pregnancy. We decided to fasten a special harness around her backside to keep everything in place leading up to her delivery—a prolapse is the last thing we wanted to deal with. The harness label said she could technically deliver a lamb with the fixture in place, but we were skeptical and knew we would need to watch her closely.

Andy’s diligence in checking the barn in the wee morning hours paid off in a big way in this case. When Andy made his way to the barn just before 3am, he found Margie lying down pushing and a lamb stuck in the opening of the harness. Dropping to his knees, he quickly pulled off the nylon strap and helped pull the lamb out.

Besides some minor indentations in his forehead that eventually wore off, her little ram was just fine. I stumbled out to help about a half hour later when I realized Andy hadn’t yet come back to bed. When we finished taking care of Margie and Maurice (that name’s for you, work friends 😉), we figured we might as well get morning chores done while we were out there and call it an early morning “date.” It actually turned out to be some nice quality time for the two of us.

At 5:30am, we went back to bed.

By day six, we had five ewes and three rams added to our flock. When Martha showed signs of labor on Wednesday afternoon, we gave special attention to making sure Noah and Faith were able to do much of the early lamb care under our watch. They had seen many lambs born before, but we wanted them to learn to be more hands-on and grow in confidence in being able to help.

Martha typically lambs with no complications whatsoever, but this time her second lamb was especially large and I needed to help pull him out in the last moments of delivery. I just kept talking through what I was doing so the kids had understanding of all of the different factors at play.

We had no idea how valuable this experience would be for them very soon. And I’ll share why in part two of our lambing season recap, next week. 🙂

Lamb count after Day 6
6 ewes
4 rams

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