Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Shepherdess shock at Apifera!
In which the shepherdess once again is shown that life goes on and on, even after chicken funerals. And Olive Oil will have some stories to tell.
My day was very full yesterday - I focused intently on the children's book I was hired to do, and got a lot done. Every couple hours, I tended to my chicken hospice work. Upon Jane's death, there was a release of sorts, the sky was very blue, and while the energy had shifted in the barnyard, it was a relief.
I had a good, although emotional day. I was ready to kick back, have a glass of wine, watch Muddy chase cats and such. As I went to the field to get the flock in, they were all waiting for me at the gate, as usual, taking their cue from the setting sun. But there was one ewe way down in the field, about 200 feet away.
It was one of those moments that happens fast, yet slowly. I saw the ewe, recognized it as Olive Oil. She seemed distracted. "Why is she down there?" I thought, "It's not like her." And then I saw a smallish dark object, which I first thought was a cat. Cats often hang out in the fields.
But within seconds, I realized it was a newborn lamb.
I walked quickly to it, and it leaped up and ran to me, bleating. My heart was sinking and soaring at the same time. I looked over at Olive Oil, now about 10 feet away, and I'm sure my face looked as surprised as hers, for she was not supposed to be pregnant. All our lambing was done in March. She stood over another newborn, this one a girl. Fortunately, the day was warm and sunny, and they were well dried. They were strong, and I figure they'd been born hours ago.
My mind was racing as I picked them up to get them back to the barn. Olive Oil was very confused and flustered, scattered. She was not concerned about the ram lamb, only the girl. As I made it back to the barn, I think all the other ewes were a bit confused too - "This isn't when we lamb? And why did she do it in the field, we have proper rooms and procedures for that!"
I remembered marking the date December 16th on my lambing schedule. That was the day Mr. T broke through the electric fence to get to the ewes. Martyn and I happened to be there when it happened, thankfully. The whole surprise love fest lasted about 10 minutes and consisted of Martyn running to get grain, and me dashing around yelling at Mr. T. In the confusion, I couldn't quite remember what ewes he might have mounted, but marked it on my calender, so I would watch for unexpected pregnancies from my young virgins. I remembering hoping he hadn't poked Olive Oil, who is a small triplet out of Rosie, and she was a ewe I never planned to breed. Many of you might be familiar with Olive, as she is a steady character in my stories, and also communicates via her puppet persona. She was my baby, my virgin, even though she's three years old. Every flock needs a virgin or two. The only clue I had was she immediately laid down in the field when I put the sheep out yesterday morning, but she got up, and even though she was flagging her tail a bit, I just wasn't thinking about lambing, since we were 2 months done with all our lambing.
Oops. I told her to keep her knicker bottoms on tight!
I wasn't sure if I wanted to laugh or cry. The juxtaposition of a chicken funeral hours before, with unexpected newborn lambs as the sun set, it was a gift of sorts, a shocking gift. The only problem is she is rejecting the ram lamb, and has been so aggressive against him that we had to crate him within the lamb jug all nite, going out to feed him every 3 hours. Fortunately, she is very tame, and I can let him milk off her if I hold her. But we can't leave him alone with her, so I have to haul the crate around so he can be safe in there, and still be near his sister. If you've ever watched a lamb be rejected by it's mother, it's heartbreaking. I'm hoping she will tame up to him in the week, but it seems doubtful right now.
So, there it is. Another day at Apifera. Another creature to care for, and hope for. I will name the little ewe lamb, Jane, it is only fitting. I'm sure Olive Oil will have much to talk about in stories and puppet productions. Accidents do happen, especially when there is a 300 pound love machine just on the other side of the fence.