We had about ten inches of fresh powder when I brought the animals in, early, at evening chores. The cattle and Birch had prudently stayed under the run-in shelter but the sheep sat out chewing cud in the thick of it.
The sheep rushed into the barn, scattering fat wads of snow. They did not appear bothered by it, but my nerves couldn’t take the strain any more, trying to keep my eye on the three older ewes still to lamb (presumably this week). I’ve been driving down to the farm during the day every two hours to scan the snow anxiously.
In the past at this time I have separated my young ewes from my heavily pregnant ewes with a gate down the middle of the stall. When I went to pull it out, I discovered that the gate, stored against the side of the barn, was buried under a five-foot wall of ice. The deep thaw and refreeze last week had solidified the snow-slide from the roof into a block that I would have to chip out with a pickaxe for hours. Instead I spent $13 and bought three 2x4s for a temporary barrier.
This made a very small enclosure on the left side of the stall. Sheep are suspicious of anything new but with the horse and cattle stampeding into the barn on their heels they bounded in. Once all the stall doors were shut it only took me a few minutes to sort the three older ewes out of the jammed group. It is still a tight squeeze for five but it should only be for a few nights.
Now I can open a gate and let all the teenaged ewes out for the long day outside without worrying that my pregnant girls will accompany them and drop babies in the snow.
Speaking of babies, my first three lambs are all strong and vigorous now. Bottles stopped days ago. Lamb 02, my dopey slow learner, did suddenly wake up and get with the program. All the lambs have been eartagged, had their tails banded, and the boys are castrated.
I love to lean on the stall gate and watch them jumping and leaping, playing tag and running in and out of the protective lamb creep.
I think my ewe Blackberry will be next to give birth. Her beautiful black udder looks like a balloon. Though I am always stricken to lose a lamb, I would be devastated to lose one of Blackberry’s. She is one of my three purebred Clun Forest ewes (and the mother of the other two). Just to be safe, I jugged Blackberry tonight, so that if she lambs in the wee hours she will be able to care for her lamb(s) in peace without the flock crowding around.
Clun Forest sheep are a hill breed, very smart and very flighty. I was only able to get Blackberry into the jug with a significant sweet feed bribe and some wily maneuvering. To keep her calm I then repeated the maneuvers to put her daughter, Lily, beside her. Lily is enormously pregnant, too, but her maiden udder is tucked high under her fleece and I can’t judge how close she is to lambing.
Of course “judging” anything under all the wool is really just guessing and hoping. It may be God’s little joke and I will open the barn doors at 4 AM to find that Bean, the ewe I left with the flock, has been the one to lamb.