Monday, March 3, 2008

Spring Cleaning

It was a gorgeous warm day today (70 degrees!), so I took advantage of the pleasant weather to spend some time cleaning up the mess in the barn, in preparation for lambing season.

Some time a few months ago, my wobbly set of shelves in the barn finally gave in and fell over, scattering their contents all through the loose hay on the floor and mixing them in with the pile of hay strings next to the door. I was in a rush at the time that it happened, so I just shoved the fallen shelves out of the way and continued with the chores.

You know how it is when you let something like that go: Soon the shelf contents were scattered and lost beneath the hay, more hay strings piled up, and the whole place became a big mess. Since we don't really use that part of the barn for anything but storage in the winter, it didn't matter all that much at the time.

But that's where my lambing pens go in the spring, so now---with just 3 weeks left to go before my first possible lambs could be arriving---it's time to finally get organized again. Knowing how much I hate cold weather, I waited until this gorgeous day to tackle the job, and it turned out not to be as hard as I'd thought. It only took about an hour to do the bulk of the organizing. Ken will take a load of stuff to the dump for me later, and then some other afternoon, I'll finish the real cleanup: sweeping, scrubbing, organizing, and setting up the lambing pens.

I have a new plan for how I'm going to make the lambing pens this year, which I think will be more compact and efficient. Once those are ready, I'll scrub everything in my lambing kit, restock any supplies that are old or have run out, and set up my bed in the barn.

Icelandic sheep really do very well lambing on their own, and don't usually need any help lambing. But I like to be there for all the births anyway, if possible, partly for my own education to learn as much about all aspects of the sheep that I can, and partly to help out on those few occasions when a ewe does have a hard time.

Plus, I admit, waiting for the lambs to arrive is kind of like waiting for Christmas morning as a child. Why would I want to sleep in my own bed and not see the new arrivals until the next day, when I could be there and see them at once?

So for the bulk of lambing season (late March through May), if I have any ewes that are due soon, I'll sleep out in the barn with them. I lay 4 hay bales side-by-side to make a bed, spread a blanket over them to ward off prickles, and then put my camping mattress, pillow, and sleeping bag on top. It's surprisingly comfortable.

Still, I don't get much sleep out there some nights, because some of the ewes make a lot of noise. Even if they are not giving birth, it's amazing how much chewing, sighing, stomping, banging, and groaning a vastly pregnant sheep can do all night long!

I also spent some time in the late afternoon just sitting with the ewes in their paddock. I can tell that lambing time is approaching by their behavior. Some of the ewes (Persia, Salem, and Tansy, for instance), are always friendly. But as lambing time approaches, several of the other, non-tame sheep start getting really cuddly too.

For the other 11 months of the year, Poppy is nearly impossible to catch. She is wary and when it's time for shots or worming, she knows better than to be coaxed with grain. She's always the last one we manage to catch.

But when she's getting close to lambing, she gets really calm, cuddly, and friendly. Today, for the first time this year, she approached me and asked to be petted. As I scratched her under her chin, she wagged her tail like a happy lamb. In a few more days, she'll be so relaxed that if I sit down in the ewe paddock, she'll lie down next to me and fall asleep with her head in my lap.

This, the sheep I can't catch any other time of year!

1 comment:

markmc03 said...

All those sheep to count and you have trouble sleeping? Are you exploding another urban myth?