Saturday, March 5, 2016

Sometimes when you least expect it...

Thursday I told a friend that we only had two ewes left to lamb and that it would be a couple of weeks before they did.

Friday began like an ordinary morning. I mixed up four bottles of lamb milk replacer and walked out to the barn. Eight lambs met me at the barn door, tripping over each other and tripping me as they vied for first chance at a bottle. I select the two biggest and strongest lambs to nurse first. When they are done, they'll wander off and the smaller, weaker lambs will get their chances to nurse.

Two at a time, they suck vigorously, completely intent on eating. The other bottle lambs try to steal the nipple away, climb onto the backs of the nursing lambs, wedge their bodies between me and the nursing lambs. They try, but if the nursing lambs and I concentrate on what we're doing, each lamb eventually gets his or her full seven ounces of milk.

Just as I finished feeding the last lamb, I heard the flutter of bird wings against a window. The sparrows sometimes get trapped in the barn when we close the big doors, but those doors hadn't been closed in several days. I turned to see a large bird desperately beating the window with its wings. Usually it's easy to brush a bird out of the window and give it a chance to reorient. I started across the barn to help the bird when I saw a little black lamb with a tail nursing on a white ewe.

Okay, which is the most immediate need, I asked myself, to free the bird or to catch and pen the new lamb and it's mom? Another flutter of wings decided me. The bird was frantic and I was afraid it would hurt itself. When I got to the window, I recognized the hooked beak of a hawk. I was not going to try to brush a hawk out of the window with my hand, even a gloved hand. I grabbed my crook and moved it across the window. The bird cowered in the bottom corner, the light brown speckles on its  breast trembling as it panted. The crook scared the bird even more than I did. Next I grabbed the step stool from it's hanger near the ceiling and set it up in front of the window. I unfastened two of the three toggles that held the window in place and pulled the plastic away from the opening. I stepped back and the bird slipped out to freedom.

Then I turned to find the new lamb and it's mom. They had left the barn. I followed them out into the barn yard, but the lamb was easily keeping up with its mother and they both easily kept ahead of me. We'll have to wait until both Dave and I can go out to the barn to corral the new family and dip the lamb's umbilical cord in iodine. We won't jug them, they are obvious doing fine, but the iodine is really important to keep the bacteria of the barnyard from entering the lamb's navel and causing all kinds of problems.

Yesterday, I declared that we had two ewes left to lamb. We still have two ewes left to lamb. This lamb was a surprise. I can't believe that we miscounted pregnant ewes, but somehow, we did. It's always nice to have more lambs than you expect.

I've never needed a bird identification guide in the barn before, but this morning I did. I was so focused on rescuing the bird that I didn't look at it closely. What color were its eyes? Did the speckles cover its entire body or just the belly and shoulders? This was the closest I've ever been to a hawk and I almost didn't  pay enough attention to identify it. I never in my wildest dreams expected to find a a sharp shinned hawk in the barn.

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