One night last week, the temperature was predicted to dip nearly to freezing with high winds and lashing rain. My little flock is about halfway through lambing, so this wasn’t good news. The man of the ranch went out on a four-wheeler, rounded up most of the ewes and lambs, and herded them into the big barn; but there were two shetland ewes who had just had babies an hour or so before, and didn’t want to move.
Rain was falling fast by then, and it was less than an hour until sunset, so I left kids and husband at the house, and went out on foot. The two recalcitrant mamas were at the far end of the pasture, making the low, anxious grunts of new mothers who haven’t quite adjusted to the sudden status change. They fled as I approached.
One of the ewes had twins, the second, a single baby. I got the mother and single moving in the right direction, but my coaxing only made the other mother more frantic, and she ran in panicked circles if I even glanced in her direction.
By this point, my coveralls and flannel coat were soaked through, and gray twilight was overtaking us, so I scooped up one of the twins, and eventually the cries of the poor baby (who was not at all impressed by my ministrations) convinced the mother and remaining lamb to follow me across the pasture, through a few gates, and into the barn. It was actually pretty harrowing, but I concluded--all’s well, that ends well--and headed inside. I figured, at least everyone would be warm and dry, if a little discombobulated.
Keeping them overnight in the barn, however, turned out to be a solution to one problem, and the creation of another. Somehow, in all the mayhem, the twin I had carried across the pasture ended up latching on to a different mother (who also happened to have twins) and the adopted mother was who she followed out to the pasture the next morning.
We tried to get them sorted back correctly, but it was no use, and the adopted mother couldn’t raise triplets. The result? Another bottle lamb to care for--our fifth this season.
If you are a regular reader of this column, you may remember the other four came from a neighboring ranch that lambs early, so those babies are already half-grown, and spend much of their day grazing in the yard. They are hampshires, a breed that are born big, and grow bigger fast. Because the newest baby is a shetland, fully grown she’ll still only be half the size of a hampshire, and right now, she’s barely bigger than a house cat.
Since she is too little to run with the others, I’ve been keeping her close, and both she and the kids are happy to be their own flock. Gardening season is upon us, so while I weed and prep beds, our little lamb snoozes and Emmy Rose and the Bean play nearby. Recently, the man of the ranch built them a rough, three-sided house out of pallets, and already it is bustling with chores and activity. Sometimes a barn cat floats by to sun herself in the warm soil as we work and play, and the sheep and milk cows graze in the long, green pasture to the north.
Meanwhile, we’ve named the baby Star. I was thinking “Stardust,” so we could call her Dusty, but the Bean assured me, no, it’s just Star. It suits her. She is our little Star to wish upon, even if the wish is simply the splendor of another day just like the last.
**If you’d like to see pictures of Star, you can visit my blog: www.littlepastureontheprairie.com**