New Doors, First Lamb

Months after they were ordered, yesterday the new garage doors were finally installed.

Choosing the doors had been a difficult decision for me. I looked at many different doors, evaluating R-values and window combinations, worrying about the look vs. practicality vs. price.

It was my brother-in-law, Don, who helped me make my choice. Don is an artist but also pragmatic. He pointed out that while windows made garage doors more aesthetically pleasing, they cut the insulating factor of any option almost in half, so if energy conservation was important to me I should forget the windows, go for the warmest door I could afford, and not bother about the look.

“You won’t be living in the garage, and once everything else is done, whether or not the garage doors have windows will be insignificant. You will have a beautiful environment and animals to look at. Who stares at garage doors? (Actually there are probably some wackos out there with garage door festishes, but I doubt they’ll show up at your place.)”

His advice was a tremendous help, cutting through the fog of anxiety that I tend to get lost in when faced with decisions. These doors have an R-value of 17.5, the highest in a standard door that I could find. The white panels are embossed with a wainscoting design, chosen by Lucy. They are simple and plain and I like them. Then, too, after a couple of winters with ripped plastic stapled over the doorways, merely having doors that open, close, and don’t flap in the breeze seems almost miraculous.

After the the door installer packed up his truck and left, I slogged down the hill to the barn for chores. We had a tremendous thaw yesterday and the driveway was a quivering chocolate pudding. I didn’t want to drive through the mud and leave axle-deep ruts to refreeze.

I had let all the animals into the barn and was filling the hay racks when I suddenly noticed one of the ewes still outside. She had her head down, whickering to a lump on the ice. Yes, while all the other sheep stampeded into the barn, one girl gave birth instead.

I rushed out to help and glanced at her eartag. 003. It was Smoky. Animals quite often make you feel like a fool. I had not even been watching Smoky.

Smoky is less than two years old and this is her second lamb. She gave birth to a ram lamb last year later in the season, on April 2, when she was not yet a yearling. By all my theories, she should have lambed later again this year because she’d had less time to recuperate, rebuild her reserves, and start cycling. But obviously Smoky didn’t read my playbook.

The new lamb was another ram, still soaked with warm birth fluids. I carried him into the barn and put him in one of the lambing jugs. Smoky followed at my heels, whickering anxiously.

I often forget at birthing season and bed stalls with the usual dry pine shavings. This is a problem for wet newborns, as they are instantly turned into sprinkle-dipped cones. While Smoky tried to lick her boy between the wood chips, I got an old bath towel from the tack room. I toweled him dry, dipped his navel in iodine, and weighed him on the digital fish scale that hangs from the ceiling during lambing season. 8 pounds, 10 ounces.  An average lamb.

Smoky has tiny teats but blessedly also the Clun wool-free udder. I stripped the mucus plugs with two fingers and within minutes the little ram was nursing on unsteady legs. Smoky was so excited she kept turning around to lick him, knocking him down. In her excitement she also licked my hands and arms and chewed distractedly on my vest.

Freddie and Flossie, the barn kittens, were fascinated by this new development in their territory. There was a bit of a circus as I was toweling the lamb, when one kitten jumped in my lap and the other ran up my shoulder for a better view. Smoky had been fine having me in the jug but she drew the line at kittens, stamping her foot and trying to ram them away from her baby, rushing at them (and incidentally me) with her head lowered. In a very tight space this was a bit too much activity.

I lifted the kittens outside the jug. They stayed pressed to the wire panel, watching intently.

Cute little thing, I could see them thinking. Wonder what it is?

Woo-hoo! Lambing season is officially underway!


5 Responses to New Doors, First Lamb

  1. Elaine Murphy says:

    Now your work really begins! Congratulations on the new baby,he is a real cutie….

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Thanks, Elaine! I have decided a watched ewe never lambs! I am waiting impatiently for everyone to start dropping babies!

  2. Missy says:

    Happy day! You told that story beautifully. What a lovely mum Smokey is and what a sweet baby and such curious kittens. I hope each of your little lambs arrives as uneventfully as this little guy.

  3. Bonnie Morgan says:

    Yahoo! I was thinking of you, as an article in our paper told a story of a local woman’s first lamb–a huge 18 pounder, obviously stuck and needing lots of assistance. I love the 8-9 lb lambs-big enough to be strong and small enough to slip right out. Have many more healthy ones.

    • adkmilkmaid says:

      Bonnie, I think of you all the time. Cluns are a lot like Cheviots, a hill breed and more flighty. I love them. I hope next summer if you and John come east I will see you! I think of John so often because I have the same pull to old ways but no ability to make it happen on my own. I look at the antique hay rakes in your old pasture and the hay loader in Harry’s pasture (there is a tree growing up through it; I hope to take a photo next summer) and I always wish I’d had land when you two were still here!

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