Sheep, Eat, Sleep

Sheep.

            Since April 8 it has been lambing time here. And we were watching for them for a week before then.

            Twenty-one ewes have lambed and we have 34 lambs on the ground. Early on it was all twins, but we have had quite a few giant singles lately. One, I think, was about 20 pounds.

            So it’s sheep, eat, sleep and nothing much else. And I’m thinking sheep when I’m eating and sleeping—especially during the troubled-tossing mental twilight between three and four in the morning.

We had two cases of very expectant mothers pinching lambs from the ones that delivered. It creates a big mess. We depend on the mothers nursing and tending to their lambs and it is a major headache when the wrong mother licks a lamb and masks the proper scent and the right mother rejects that lamb. So I got in the habit of going to the barn and feedlot at all hours—including at 3 and 4 in the morning to check. And at other times my sleep is disrupted by worries about pinching mothers. Too anxious.

            Two sets of twins came during a late evening spring snow storm. Lambs like to come before breakfast and at dinner time. I try to be stealthy at night to check without rousing everyone, but just walking to the barn or barely touching the doorknob wakes them and then there is a pathetic chorus of bellows.

            We feed our sheep twice a day and with seven lambing pens full it takes an hour or so for a two feeding passes to six feeders for ewes and seven ewes in pens—once for grain and another time for hay. Then the water for the stock tank and the buckets in the pens. Then make sure the pens are dry and tidy with fresh straw. Then bottle feed three lambs who wound up being rejected by their moms after being licked by pinching ewes—rejected even after several days in head gates.

            Then, number-tag and band the tails of the lambs after their two days in the lambing pens, trimming mom’s feet and replacing her tag if it has been lost, and releasing the little family. Then clean up the muck in their pens to make room for new lambs. (It’s nice to have Connie or young farm-hand Blain help out for these chores.)

            Then exercise the dogs – in two units since we have had our three bitches in heat—serially, for several weeks.

            Finally sit for a moment and eat and take a much needed nap.

            Sheep, eat, sleep.

            That’s life at Heatherhope this lambing season.

About John

John is a retired pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America who has served congregations for over 40 years, including in rural, suburban, campus ministry and urban settings. His love of Border Collie sheepdogs has been fortified by his many friendships with shepherds all around the world. Nothing he has ever or will ever accomplish is as significant as the patience God, his wife and his friends have shown in putting up with his deficiencies.
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