Thursday, February 16, 2012

3 AM in the barn

The 3 AM barn check is the hardest part of lambing. We put off doing it until the first lamb is born and then continue with it until the last lamb is born. At 3 AM, we feed any moms in jugs, replenish their water buckets, check to make sure all the new lambs are well fed, and check for even newer lambs – moms in labor or just delivered.

All this makes sense after the lambs start coming, but for the last week we have been doing the 3 AM barn check with no new lambs, and lately, with no lambs or moms in jugs. We get up in the middle of the night and stagger bleary eyed out to the barn on the off chance that there will be new babies.

One week ago, 12 hours after our first lambs were born, I jumped out of bed when the alarm went off, slipped easily into my clothes and went striding out to the barn, awake and excited to see the babies again and hopefully find new ones. The ewe’s eyes glowed at me from the back of the barn. Everyone was calm, no new babies disturbed their rest. The next night, I didn’t wake quite as easily, I couldn’t find the sleeve hole of my sweatshirt and my feet went between my long underwear and my jeans when I tried to pull them on all together. Obviously, I needed to nap during the day if I was to be at my best at 3 AM. The next two nights, with a couple of naps under my belt, I was functional, if not really awake. But all those nights, I woke, dressed and walked to the barn for no reason.

I don’t remember waking at night when our kids were little. Dave says he got up with them. I nursed them, so I know that I did wake, but I have no memory of it. Our daughters, Amber and Laurel, have just spent the past year waking at night to the hungry voices of their sons, and not just at 3 AM, sometimes at 11 and 3 and 5. How do they do it and still function the next day?

Once Dave got home from work, he took over the 3 AM barn check because he frequently works nights and thus is theoretically better adapted to it. I don’t complain too hard, I just sleep right through the alarm at 3 AM when he is home and thank him in the morning.


  1. 3AM in the barn was a transformational experience for me! Thinking of you - thanks for the updates!

  2. We used to raise sheep and lambed this time of year. Now that experience is just "on my resume," and I enjoy every word you write. Brings back lots of wonderful, joyful, frightening and tearful memories. Thank you for sharing your life with us!