I had a tender shepherding moment in the barn late last night.
No, it wasn’t a wonderful new birth. Two births have happened so far- Peggy on the 30th and Shirley on the 1st. Peggy’s girls are big, fat and bouncy. The barn is their oyster, and they seem quite comfortable and happy.
Shirley’s ram and ewe are not as strong. Shirley is a bit too lean, and consequently her lambs are a little underweight and underpowered, too. The ewe, Meadowlark, is losing out to her brother in nursing their mother. I decided to take action.
I reached into our huge chest freezer, where I’ve kept the remaining Lamb Milk Replacer since May 2013 when I last fed Ralph and Agnes. The scent of it, like vanilla cake mix crossed with polystyrene (trust me on this) sent me straight back to lying on the couch with Agnes snoozing on my belly, trying to keep her quiet so she wouldn’t wake Paul and Mary. I fed her at 11pm, at 2am, at 6 am – like a real parent, except that feeding frequency decreases by the week, not by the month.
Using piping hot water from the faucet, I mixed a small, warm bottle of milk which I jacketed in more hot water, and then hopped into the truck. I bumped and squelched down our incredibly muddy road, feeling grateful for having bought our 4WD truck.
In the barn, the sheep were lying down and Ida and Esther were snoozing to some degree. Opening the door woke them, and Ida baahed boorishly at me, blinking. Shirley’s lambs were trying to nurse again and again, but still looked lean and seemed hungry. I picked up Meadowlark, the ewe, and set to bottlefeeding her. Being used to the “real thing,” she was none too keen but persistence paid off.
About three ounces in, Meadowlark didn’t want any more, so I held her for a moment with the remaining milk in the bottle nearby. It was then that Agnes came over. It isn’t unusual for Agnes to come to me, but she took a particular interest in the bottle beside me, which she sniffed and examined carefully. I looked at her, “Agnes, do you remember drinking from a bottle? Having a big bottle of milk replacer two or three times a day? Agnes eyed me, so I said “I love you, sheepy, and I’ll always be your mommy.” Then I scratched under her chin and by her brisket, two spots that make her relax and close her eyes a little. Meadowlark got antsy, so I put her back in with Shirley, who was glad to see her. I turned to Agnes again. She watched me solemnly, and I petted her some more.
Who knows if the bottle made Agnes remember being a little lamb, or if she just was investigating a new object. Either way, as exciting as this lambing season will be, the first one will be indelible in my memory.