Sunday 30 March 2014

Mothers' Day Thank Ewe.... 1st lamb


I've been negligent at my blogging. It's not from lack of material; tons of that here at The Larches, it's just time. I wish I was Samantha from Bewitched, or at the very least, could borrow her nose.

The chicks we grew are growing well and have moved from incubator, to brooder, to warmed coop, to outside al-fresco living in the outdoor pens. I expect we'll take them to market in another 10 weeks. They are an impressive bunch; 2 pure bred Salmon Faverolles and 3 mixed breed Salmon Faverolle and Black Rock. These are seriously cute looking.

In view of the fact that we were lambing this year I offered my services i.e. forced myself on, our gorgeous hill farmer friends again. I was their YTS girl several years ago and, looking back, realise I was a nervous, chatty, rose-coloured spectacles type of a girl who had not a clue what was going on in their sheds, all I could see were the lovely likkle lambs. If you're interested here's the post - sorry about the rude bits, oh and the weird formatting.... Can't fix it!! So annoying.

This year, again on their farm, I was still as much use as a chocolate tea pot but I absorbed, sponge-like the seriousness of lambing. I realised that it was a life or death situation where the shepherd is the key to success. I asked much more pertinent questions and felt, funnily, far less competent to deal with my up and coming lambing than I had felt (thanks to utter ignorance and insane enthusiasm) two years ago. In fact, on leaving their farm, with my three ewes approximately a month away from lambing, I felt like shouting out,

'I've changed my mind - no lambing please!'

Watching Lambing Live has reminded me of things I forgot to ask and of countless pieces of equipment that I have omitted to buy like lubricant gel and replacement milk. Here's hoping I won't need either before Countrywide opens tomorrow.

As I write to you now, it is 3am on Mothering Sunday and I have just started my shift after going to bed at 10am last night. I am sat in our American barn on a park bench covered in a picnic blanket, wearing most of my wardrobe, waterproof trousers, warm hat (but not a bobble hat like Ms Humble) and two coats. To be honest it's not cold, I suspect the temperature is probably a balmy 7* and there is, thankfully, no wind. It is a stunning night and the clouds have just cleared to reveal a starry sky, perfectly visible in our dark rural setting.

Here in the barn, makeshift lighting is pointing into a large birthing stable where Snowy, Pink and Moon are resident on fresh, golden barley straw. Hubby took the first shift tonight and has kept lovely warm fire going in the brazier outside the barn door.

Last evening was momentous: The girl and I gently assisted Moon, (the girl's 1st ever Cade lamb - the lamb she reared by bottle,) to birth her first lamb.

At dinner time, approximately 6pm, the 11yo excused herself from dishwasher emptying on the pretext of checking the barn for signs of maternity. A few moments later Hubby called out to say he'd seen the girl run back towards the house. It was happening.

After eating in shifts, we watched, fascinated, as over the course of an hour various fluids were deposited. The boy was transfixed one minute, revolted the next as Moon paced and strained and licked her lips. Eventually something, possibly a foot, was visible. I braved a long plastic glove to check. To my eye it seemed that the presentation was normal (thank Gawd) and we waited again, not interfering. Within moments with family Archer watching, a huge lamb appeared. It was fully encased in its sack so I got the girl to clear the mouth and nose ( which she loved.) I decided not to pull the lamb around to mum as the umbilical cord looked large and I'd been warned that you could cause a bleed. In the end Moon stood and turned to lick her baby and the cord was severed naturally. Phew! We left the mum and baby to bond. Amazing.

More than 20 minutes later and after Moon had licked and licked her baby clean, the lamb managed to get to its feet, searching for the teat. Moon couldn't quite understand this and every time the baby got close she moved off. Eventually The girl and I entered the pen we made for this new family group from sturdy hurdles and, while I gently held mum, the 11yo latched on the baby to Moon's udder.

I'm so proud of my girl; she finds this kind of adventure so natural and she seems to have a very special, instinctive way with the animals and they really respond to her. Thanks to her, baby is now regularly suckling loudly.

It's now almost 6am and there doesn't seem to be a sign of another lamb from Moon, just one huge boy. He's really leggy, with black socks and has really long ears, if I was asked what breed he was I'd say Blue Faced Leicester, though I'm sure the father is a Texel!

There's lots of indication that the next two ewes are on their way to labour but as yet there has been no evidence of a fluid sack from either. At least we have almost reached morning, in fact it will be light in a few minutes and so, if I have any real birthing issues today I will hope to be able to call our farming friends locally for assistance, though I must remember it us Mother's Day. Actually I've already had my present from the family: a brand new green wheelbarrow. I've already test-driven it when poo-picking the alpaca, it's a hottie, top sped of at least 5mph... (Top Gear presenters are quaking in their boots lest I take their jobs thank to that motoring review...)

Anyhow, here's hoping all our girls are safe and their babies delivered without complications. Lambing Live is a wonderful programme but, as one farmer told me yesterday as I purchased some straw.

'It doesn't go as smooth as that in real life.'

Apparently he has birthed many dead and rotting lambs this year and he puts this down to the bad weather. Very worrying, especially if this is your livelihood.

Still, on this lovely morning, coffee pot on in the barn, a wood fire for company and one healthy lamb delivered, I'm feeling rather content. Fingers crossed that it continues to go smoothly.

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The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon