When Magnolia lambed early, I realized Geranium (by the calendar, due first) might lamb at any minute. Thus I’d pulled her out of the flock and put her in the jug next to Magnolia so that she would be sure to give birth out of the scrum.
Geranium has been limping on her back right leg for the past six weeks. I caught and examined her several times and found no visible injury. I trimmed her hooves just in case, but she continued to limp. I assumed she had sprained the leg slipping on ice. As she grew heavy with lambs she moved more slowly, with a sway and a nod. Now, in the jug, she startled me by resting like a dog on her haunches. She definitely had the look of a lady ready to put down her burden.
I checked Geranium repeatedly Friday, from 4:30 AM until 10 PM, sure I would find lambs. Not yet.
She tantalized me by occasionally swaying to her feet and pawing the ground. Any minute, surely. Nope. Saturday morning at 5 AM: nada.
The week had been so busy with two late nights teaching that I had not had a moment to set up for lambing. Now I figured that between my job and the farm I had 22 hours of work to accomplish over the weekend. It all seemed do-able if I just stayed on track. Yesterday I mapped out my time hour by hour. First muck the barn. Then move the sheep. Then muck the sheep stall. Then set up the lamb creep. Then build a stall divider. Then assemble clean old towels, lamb scale, tools.
First, the three hours of mucking. It is hard to see in this photo due to the mantle of snow, but the manure pile in the barn driveway is seven feet high in the back, and about twenty-five feet long. The fresh stuff is yesterday’s addition of dirty bedding.
In the past, to keep the manure pile from slowly spreading all the way to the barn, I used a muck bucket in winter time. I dragged each bucket with a rope across the ice, up the pile, and dumped it at the top. This was a lot of sweat. A blessing of recent years since I bought my tractor is that at odd moments Allen or Damon shows up and pushes the pile high, containing it. This means that for mucking I can use my wheelbarrow, which is a lot faster.
Meanwhile, yesterday was supposed to be a clear day before a three-day snowstorm moving in at night. Instead it snowed all day. Every five minutes as I trundled in and out of the barn I glanced in at Geranium. She was chewing her cud, not a care in the world.
I had just finished mucking when Damon kindly appeared to consolidate the pile before the big storm.
While he worked I set up the lamb creep in the corner, and a gate across the stall. This would allow me to divide the flock into two groups: mothers with lambs, and ewes still waiting to lamb along with the carefree teen girls. I devised the simple system out of pieces stored in the hayloft and am pleased with it. The design means that the space allotted to each group can be easily changed as the groups grow and shrink respectively.
For now the teens and the moms due later have the larger space.
Damon left. It kept snowing.
I was tired and cold by the time I got it all done at 4:30, the sheep back in the clean stall bedded with straw, the cattle fed and watered. My sweaty clothes were clammy and I’d forgotten to stop for lunch. However it was very satisfying to feel prepared.
Now I’m just waiting for Geranium.