Wednesday, April 2, 2008

For My Benefit, Not Theirs

Icelandic sheep are well-known for lambing easily, having vigorous lambs, and not requiring much assistance.

So why, you may ask, do I go through all the trouble of putting my ewes in lambing pens and sleeping in the barn so I can be present for the births?

I'll tell you. It's completely for my benefit, not theirs.

I could argue that since each of these ewes is carrying more than $1,000 worth of lambs, it just makes good sense to protect my investment by making sure those lambs get the best possible start and being ready to help at a moment's notice in case anything did go wrong. And while that's true, it's not really my main motivation.

First, there's the convenience. When each lamb is born, I want to check its gender, weigh it, dip its umbilical cord in iodine to prevent infections, put an ear tag on it so I can tell which one it is later, after I have a dozen other similar ones running around. It's much easier for me to do all those things in a dry, sheltered, well-lit environment where I don't have to chase the sheep all over a muddy pasture in the rain.

But I don't have to sleep in the barn to accomplish those tasks. I could easily wait until morning to check the lambing pens. So, why do I set up a bed out there?

Because lambing time is the most exciting part of the year for me. That's the honest answer. I sleep in the barn because lambing time is exciting and happy, and I want to experience it fully.

Put it this way: When you were a kid, if you were given a choice between going to bed on Christmas eve and waking up the next morning to collect your presents, or staying in the living room and actually SEEING Santa Claus come down the chimney with his sack full of goodies, which would you pick?

If you had some favorite house guests whose visit you'd been anticipating for a year, and their travel times forced them to arrive in the wee hours of the morning, would you just leave your door key under the mat with a note for them to make themselves at home until you got up the next morning?

Of course not! Even if the guests told you, "Don't wait up," you'd still stay up, eagerly waiting for them to pull into the driveway, so you could run out and be the first to give them a hug, ask them how they've been, offer them something to eat or drink, and make them comfortable after their long trip. You're excited to see them---you don't want to wait until morning!

Those are the very same reasons why I sleep in the barn during lambing time.


Rhea said...

I'm with ya! I'd be out there sleeping in the barn also. As it is, I wish I was there with you now! I'm eagerly awaiting the excitement...

Gooo, Phoebe!!

Ness said...

That's awesome...makes me want to be out there too!!

Nancy Chase said...

Hi Vanessa. So, come on out! Aren't you supposed to be coming to see me sometime soon, anyway? I miss you!

Anonymous said...

I love the analogy of welcoming a long-awaited guest. It's perfect! -- Kris

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with you. What a special time of year for you and the sheep. How exciting! I can't wait to read your accounts of your experiences and all those brand new lambs.