I suppose I should know by now that, if we are in a hurry, something unexpected will likely upset a typical morning routine like feeding. This particular morning Annie was getting ready for a vet school interview and we had left time to go over hypothetical questions and practice answers. Wishing to get started, Annie offered to help me feed the sheep and horses.
I ran up to the hayloft to throw down bales of hay. Annie proceeded to the back of the barn for a overview of the loafing shed. I heard her call from down below and stuck my head over the drop chute.
“What did you say?”
“Lambs,” she said.
“What do you mean by ‘lambs’?” I said.
“We have lambs!”
No, I must have heard her wrong. The rams had not been placed in with the ewes until October and, with a five month gestation, we weren’t expecting lambs until the end of March. It was mid-February. Only the shepherds in the valley had lambs this early in the season. It was still cold, snowy, and rainy and not a good time to be having lambs in the Coast Range.
I trotted back downstairs and walked to the back of the barn. I followed Annie’s gaze over to the two small brown lambs lying next to their mother. They looked healthy, but our protocol for new lambs was to bring them into the barn for several days with their mom just to give everyone a positive start on life.
I looked at our lambing stall and realized it needed a clean bed of hay. We needed water for the mom and a working heat lamp for the babies. We were definitely not ready with tags and shots and all the other tools of our trade. Damn. Surprised again and all on a day when there was a pressing vet school interview to deal with!
Although she had just showered in anticipation of her interview, Annie jumped down and grabbed a lamb as I grabbed the second one. We walked them into the barn with the mom close behind. Installed in the stall, mom and babies looked healthy enough.
This was one of our older, experienced ewes, and apparently a hussy at that! When could the tryst have happened? Annie reminded me of the gate knockdown in September that allowed the rams access to the ewes for about two hours. Two hours?! That was all it took for this ewe to get knocked up?
I could hear Annie sighing as once again her records were going to be incomplete for the year. “Who’s your daddy?” was starting to be a familiar tune at Leaping Lamb Farm! Their brown coloring probably meant Red’s babies, but long ears were a give away for Duke. We would have to see how they grew.
Back in the house we practiced mind-numbing questions like, “Why do you want to be a vet?” and “Why should we pick you over anyone else?” Annie dressed and left for her interview. She had already been accepted to another school so she should have been calm, but nerves were in the air and the lambs had been a distraction.
I understand the interview started with the story of the wayward ewe. Imagine vets all around, nodding their heads, remembering other lambing stories with surprised owners, surprised lambs, surprised ewes. “That’s sheep for you,” said one. And the interview went downhill from there.
Photos: (top) twins; (bottom) mother looking over her babies
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2011 Scottie Jones