It is all things sheep in this little farmstead of ours for the last few months. It all began when Jamie decided we needed to raise our own food. We only eat our own eggs, we’re growing our own veggies – with interesting results – so it makes perfect sense to move onward and upward to meat.
So we became the proud owners of 10 ewes and a ram. They are insanely flighty and pretty stupid. It took us forever the first time we moved them to get them to go where we wanted. With the cows, Jamie mostly calls them like dogs and they merrily follow him into the new field. Sheep are a whole new pain in the arse. They all want to go in the same direction, even if that direction is through a fence, and they seem to take great pleasure in getting almost to a gate before charging in the other direction. The first attempt ended when it got dark and the kids gave up running about in the dark and went inside to eat ice creams. I silently applauded them! I’m doing this child raising thing right.
But after a few more trial and errors we are getting into the rhythm of things. We watched our sheep start to get fat, and invested in a couple of alpacas. Then we woke up one morning to see 2 new little additions. Unfortunately part of the downsides of farming would be the losses, and we didn’t have much luck with twins this year. One of the little twins didn’t make it past the first night. But once they started to drop, little lambs popped up every few mornings. Zachary was desperate to pet one but though they start wobbly within 24 hours they are bounding about the fields like pin balls. He was most disappointed.
The alpacas took a little while to find their feet, we lost one lamb out of another set of twins to a fox. There one evening, gone by morning. The foxes work in pairs, one will distract the mother and she can only protect one lamb so the second fox takes the unprotected lamb. Efficient but depressing. The alpacas natural protection instinct slowly kicked in after that and we didn’t lose any more to foxes (well not that we noticed, although since most of them popped out at night there is a chance we lost more without realising). But all of you who know Jamie will know he only does things at 150%. So after the first lamb was taken by a fox he went into overdrive. Stomping about the fields all through the night, gun and torch in hand. There were even a few occasions where he went from deep sleep to launching himself out of bed and to the gun cupboard at the first baaa in the middle of the night. When he asked me to go parking, I did not expect to be sitting in a cold dark car eating dinner while attempting to hold a spotlight (spotty if I’m being Australian!) so I could flick it on the moment he thought he heard a different tone from his sheep.
Note the car positioning!!
It didn’t end there, after a week of intense research he is now the owner of a scope mounted light to go with his gun, which can apparently see out to 420metres. Good for me since this means I no longer have to hang out in parked cars with him. But a light was not enough, hell no, this was a war and Jamie wasn’t letting the foxes win. So we are now the proud owners of 2 night cameras. Every morning he leaps out of bed, pulls on his wellies and checks his sheep, then makes me download his camera files so he can check for foxes. My laptop is full of images of sheep wondering about at night. He is planning to install the camera in the chicken coop for the upcoming fox season!
The last sheep had or rather attempted to have her lambs at the beginning of August. The morning of Emma’s little girl’s baptism we noticed the ewe was in labour but it didn’t seem to be going well. It looked like the lamb had got stuck. But she was too freaked out to let us get too close, luckily our lovely new neighbours have sheep experience and promised to check on her while we at the church. So off to the baptism we went, a lovely service and got some pictures of all the cousins together although there isn’t one with everyone looking in the right direction or smiling!
After the baptism we headed back home to check her out. Not much change and so we called over Steve and the 3 of us attempted to corral the sheep so we could get a look at her. At this point please reread the start of this blog, flipping disaster. Instead as she attempted to crash through a fence Steve threw himself on her and wrestled her to the floor. It was quickly clear the lamb inside was dead. Turns out she was having twins and both of them had tried to come out together and gotten stuck so both had died. Now they were stuck and we needed to remove them. I pretty much just watched and felt horrified at the sounds of pain coming out the ewe as Steve attempted to pull one lamb out at the same time as pushing the other one back in. It was very long 5 minutes but eventually they were out. Poor girl was exhausted and we knew we needed to find her a replacement lamb as soon as possible if she was going to accept it. We put out some feelers and went to the pub to celebrate the baptism. That afternoon we get a phonecall and Jamie and Zachary head off to collect our new baby lamb. For Zachary it was a dream come true. They arrived at a home with about a dozen bottle feed baby lambs. When they came through the gate he was surrounded by little baby lambs all wanting attention and petting. He still asks to go back a month later!
So they got back that evening after dark and we managed to get the ewe into a little shed with her lamb. Jamie and Daryl smeared the lamb in the afterbirth and after a first feed we left them to get acquainted. The next few days Jamie was out 4 times a day and last thing at night making sure the lamb got a feed and check on how they were bonding. On day 5 we let them out and off they ran, happily bonded.
We ended up with 7 ram lambs and 4 ewe lambs. Happily frolicking in the fields, playing chase and curiously coming to the fence to see what is going on but just as quickly running away as fast their little legs will carry them.
The weekend just gone they were now big enough for the next step, and unfortunately it was not a nice one. Jamie, Liam and Zachary spent Sunday marking the lambs, it sounds pretty pain free but it is not. It’s just another word for castrating. Those poor little boys lost their bits, and spent most of Sunday lying on the grass wondering what the hell just happened. Jamie also had the joyful job of clipping nails, made worse by the fact they had apparently never been done. Wrestling sheep to the floor and then clipping the nails, he crawled into bed that night an old man. I meanwhile went to see BFG with the kids (it was brilliant). Thank goodness for brother in laws who moved in down the road!
So there we are, made it through the first lambing season and now we just need to fatten them in time for Christmas. But whatever you do don’t tell Zachary. I mentioned it briefly in passing and the look of horror on his face means we might have to wait a bit longer until explaining where Christmas lunch comes from.