Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I'm glad I'm not a sheep!

Sitting out on a hillside in the sun is a lovely thing to do. Lambs cavort, leap, circle and race each other. Swans fly overhead; their great white wings whuffle the air. Sparrows fight in the hay mow, high voices shrill on the morning air. The sheep lie in the sun much of the day; and yet I don’t envy them.

There are many reasons why I'm glad I'm not a sheep. They eat mostly hay and grass. They have a very small vocabulary. They can’t read. There are lots of other reasons, but mostly I’m glad I’m not a sheep because of lambing.

Dave helped a ewe deliver tangled triplets. The lamb whose nose was at the opening of the uterus was actually the lamb whose body was furthest away from the opening. There were four legs presenting all ready to be born at once. Dave fished around, his arm up to his elbow in ewe, until he was able to rearrange the lambs and pull them out. What human mother would put up with that?

Once we got the lambs all breathing (one we rubbed with a towel, the second we swung around by its hind legs, the third breathed on it’s own as soon as we cleared the mucus from its face); we set all three in front of their mother so she could lick the slimy, mucusy secretions from them.

Then we forced the mom to her feet and she staggered across the barn to a small pen where we locked her in with her babies. We stripped the milk out of her nipples and all three babies immediately climbed to their feet and began butting their mother’s udder. My breasts hurt at the thought.

But the main reason I’m glad I’m not a sheep is that those three babies were over 100 centimeters long cumulatively, and they weighed a total of forty pounds.