May 7, 2012
Tilly, the last of the ewes, finally lambed on Friday morning. She is flighty and a first-time mom, so we fretted ahead of time about the state of her mothering skills. She gave birth out in the field, in a shaded, grassy area beneath a tree. Under no circumstance did we want to leave the lambs exposed to predators. But we knew we would be running a risk of alienating Tilly if we just picked up the lambs and jogged back to the shed. So we rigged up a Lambmobile. We placed a towel at the bottom of a laundry basket and tied some rope onto one side of the basket, near the bottom so we would not accidently tip the vehicle over. Then we slowly pulled the basket back to the shed. Tilly could see her lambs at all times. Whenever it looked as if her interest might flag, one of the lambs would obligingly bleat, reinvoking her maternal instinct. The 75-yard trip took a few minutes. But once she and the lambs were installed in the jug, she was a champ, paying close attention to her twins and nurturing them through their first few days.
The births came one month and one day after the first of this year’s class of lambs. Here is a summary of what transpired between April 3 and May 4:
The number of lambs born on Sun and Wind Farm in 2012.
The number of ewes who gave birth. This means there were 7 sets of twins and 3 singletons.
The number of Shetland purebreds sired by Zorro.
11 + 6
The number of females and males in this year’s class.
The number of bottle babies. (Go, Lucky!)
Estimated number of hours of sleep lost by humans staying up for late-night births.
But seriously, with the notable exception of Willow — the Icelandic ewe who rejected little Lucky — the rest of the ewes turned out to be great moms. No one has tried to poach another’s lamb. Only Notchie (a Shetland whose name is testimony to the dangers of mis-aimed ear-tagging guns) has given Lucky any trouble, but even her nasty nudges have diminished over time.
The lambs are all exhibiting a healthy sense of independence and many of them have displayed intriguing personality quirks. Effie is sweet and demure, while the coltish males, Salt and Pepper, are active and rogue-y. Siblings Cow and Thunder, the first ones born on April 3, are the loudest of the bunch and not afraid to emit a piercing “Aaaah” anytime they are displeased.
For now, we are not planning to breed the sheep next year. We have 28, and they provide more than enough fleeces to fuel Frances’ wool store on eBay (http://stores.ebay.com/Sun-and-Wind-Farm). We sold Zorro mid-month since we could foresee trouble trying to keep him away from the alluring siren calls of close to two dozen ewes. If and when we’re ready to go through this all over again, we’ll seek another ram. But we’ll have a hard time finding a ram as sweet and quietly effective as Zorro has been. Happy trails, Bud, and may all your pastures be green.