Sunday, March 7, 2010

11:30 p.m. barn check

I don’t understand how Dave and I can be so tired. it’s been an easy lambing so far. No bottle lambs, no nights spent in the barn or lying in bed worrying. And yet, last night, after a long, careful conversation, we decided that we should go to bed at 9 pm, just after Dave did the 8:30 barn check. Our plan was to curl up in our nice warm bed with two glasses of wine, a couple of chocolate chip cookies and a good book for each of us. We both fell asleep within 15 minutes of laying down.

Even though I wore my clothes to bed so that I’d be uncomfortable enough to stay awake for my 11:00 barn check, I found myself surfacing from a deep sleep about 11:30. My bedside light was still on, and so was the hall light. Careless, I thought. A waste of electricity. I turned off the bedside light, but the hall light was okay, so I let it be. I closed my eyes and sank gratefully back onto the bed.

Only then did I realize I was uncomfortable. I was wearing all my clothes. Stupid.
I glanced at the clock again. 11:35. Ummm.

11:35! Rats. I had almost missed my barn check. And Dave had told me that Christmas was lying under the chute from the hay mow. She was probably lambing by now and she was our oldest sheep. She’d be sure to have problems.

I slid out of bed and staggered down stairs. I pulled on my coveralls, two jackets, felted hat, boots and gloves. Grabbed the flashlight and headed out to the barn. Our worst deliveries always seem to happen in the barn, maybe because when the sheep are in trouble, they go to the place they feel the most protected. SO when I check the sheep, I do the easy part first, I walk around behind the barn shining my flashlight on every ewe to check that she isn’t lambing. There was no moon last night, so none of the sheep were eating outside. When I walked into the barn, the standing sheep moved out of my way, like water around our canoe. The reclining sheep were comfortable enough not to be threatened by my presence.

Christmas lay in the far corner of the barn, eyes closed. When I turned on the barn lights she didn’t move. I walked slowly down the length of the barn. She didn’t look like she was in difficulties. In fact, she didn’t look like she was in labor.

I leaned over her to grab the hay fork and feed the five ewes in jugs. Suddenly, Christmas was awake and alert. She clambered to her feet, head up, and followed me down the row of pens as I fed the ewes. She had been spending her days in the barn rather than out in the field, so she probably was hungry. I slipped the last forkful of hay onto the floor in the corner of the barn.

“Don’t tell anybody,” I whispered as Christmas bent her head and began nibbling tasty alfalfa bits.

Nobody was lambing; everybody looked healthy. I could just go back to bed, no worries to keep me awake. Maybe by morning, I be caught up and sleep and ready to accomplish impossible things. But then again, this was lambing. I don’t have to accomplish anything but lambing, and that’s going well.

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