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Agriculture Fences Lambing Merino Sheep Shetland Sheep Uncategorized Vermont Weaning

“Finish each day before you begin the next, and interpose a solid wall of sleep between the two.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Every year I write about weaning the lambs.  I thought maybe I would not this year.

But I am.

There were 11 Shetland & Merino lambs born on the farm this spring and now it is time for certain babies to go to new homes, for certain babies to become wethers, for certain mamas to rebuild before the coming winter.  Being pregnant for 5 months and nursing for 3.5 – 4 months gives the ewes just 3 months to graze and revamp their stores before the shorter days change the nutrition of their forage and winter weather changes everyone’s diet.

Laurel & Manny, the Merinos, win the prize for saddest and most plaintive baa-ing.  Argyle wins the prize for most persistent and insistent baahing, followed by his mama Aisling.  Angus wins the prize for indifference.  The rest are somewhere in the middle of it all.

Sarah Jane & Char & I moved the ewes in with the rest of the flock of non-breeders out to longer and lusher pasture today, which was an excellent distraction during the daylight.

But now, tonight, no one is peacefully distracted anymore and they are playing a calling game.  One mama(Laurel, likely), baahs from one side of our property, our house being in the middle.  Another baby(Manny, likely) baahs from another side of our property, our house being in the middle.  Back and forth they are calling.  All through the night.

Ear plugs make my ears hurt, so I listen.  I don’t play music or the radio or consider white noise because there’s always the chance a coyote or pack of coyotes might join in.  I sleep with one ear open.  But, in this case, I don’t sleep.

After the crying, which might be two days or might be 4 or 5, a new routine will have been established for the flocks and there ought to be a return to quiet.  The goal will have been met and everyone, lambs & ewes, will continue to grow and thrive.

Once when my niece was ill in the hospital, I took care of my sister’s other children.  Her youngest was still nursing and I’ll never forget the stamina and plaintiveness of that little one.  All night long we rocked and walked and cuddled but she cried and sometimes was so angry.  It broke my heart.  She didn’t understand why I couldn’t nurse her(it’d been a few years since my own had weaned) and it was too pathetic.  We made it to the morning and the main purpose of allowing my sister & brother-in-law the ability to take the best care of their child that was hospitalized was achieved.   My little neice is now a very well adjusted young woman, who’d likely blanch if I told her this story, but I found myself out in the pasture tonight cuddling & consoling the lambs in the same manner as every year at this time.

Nessa & Ninian
Nessa & Ninian
Manny the Merino lamb gives Rupert, the Shetland lamb, some TLC.
Manny the Merino lamb gives Rupert, the Shetland lamb, some TLC.

Today there were distractions aplenty.  In particular, the moving of the pasture fence is fun to tell about:

When I first purchased the moveable fencing, I watched a short installation-video promotion on the company website of which I’d shopped.  It looked like any lightweight, blonde, pony-tailed, gingham-bloused country gal could do the job (yes, that was the model chosen for the video.) You pick up the posts which simply stick into the ground, lay the posts down all ’round the perimeter, and with it the moveable mesh fencing.  Then you reinstall the fence posts in their new places and boom!  15 minutes and you’re done!

It sort of goes that way here, except we are none of us lightweight blonde pony-tailed nor gingham bloused.  We are sturdily and strongly built and the video is an oversimplified selling tool.

Starting at the far end, we walk along and pick the fence posts up at the ground along with the 30-40 pounds of fence that collect as a drape along the way, only tripping within the netting a few times while hauling to the new location.  Additionally, we watch the flock that was prior corraled now head on out into the fields and the lawn and all surrounds with their new freedom.

We repeat with all of the sections of fencing that we own in order to make the largest possible pasture for the flock.  After moving from the old, tired location to a new, lush location, we install the posts in and around the pasture, under and over trees and bushes to allow for shade, adjusting at least twice because we’d started the posts into the ground and ran out of fence on the other end from miscalculations.

Meanwhile, all of the sheep had found new grazing to their satisfaction and needed to be regrouped and redirected.  Back at the barn I get a bucket with grain and a scoop.  As soon as Sarah Jane & Char are in their places to block off escapes, I shake the bucket and start running.

Our Sheep will come out of the woodwork to find and follow you, running you over if you are not fast enough.

Running fast, shaking the bucket.  Two sheep will become 5, will become 7, til you’ve got 18 sheep running behind.

Char was ready with the gate when I arrived.  Deep into the new pasture I led and then reward the trusting flock with a snack, though they were happy enough simply grazing.

Next year, I hope to have a Border Collie dog herding for me, but that story for another day.

Hark?! It’s quiet right now.  I’m going to give this sleep-thing another try.

“There is no snooze button on a cat who wants breakfast.” ~Author Unknown


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