Monday, February 4, 2013

Missing Church Again

Yesterday morning, despite a slight meltdown (on my part, can I blame hormones?) about laundry and not having any clean clothes that fit me anymore, Joey and I were determined to make to church on time.  Since our church is about 20 minutes away, we never quite seem to get the timing right.  But here's the thing about timing: it's a mysterious thing.

The night before, we put Margaret the ewe into a makeshift pen in the barn because she was looking like she was ready to lamb and we didn't want her to lamb outside.  The next morning, we checked on the January lamb and Margaret to see if she was still doing ok.  The January lamb was lively and warm and there was still no progress from Margaret.  So we went inside to get cleaned up for church.  And after scrambling around in a ridiculous search for something to wear (seriously, I literally had no clean pants, no tights without runs, and I almost had to wear sweatpants to church), I finally found a long skirt that covered my runny tights and was just putting some shoes on when Joey decided to check the sheep one more time.

He came back in and said, "either you're going to church without me, or we're not going to make it, because Margaret just had twins."  Talk about timing.  The two lambs were born minutes before and were still soaking wet.  So I went back inside and put those sweatpants on.  We definitely weren't going to make it to church.

Because it was so cold, and Margaret would have two lambs to keep warm and fed, we decided to make a pen in our garage where we store our hay since it is warmer than the barn.  We moved around the bins of feed and covered the cement floor with straw and then picked up the lambs and hoped mom would follow her babies across the yard and into the garage.  With each of us carrying a wet lamb close to the ground, Margaret followed right along into the new pen.  Usually we like to wait 20 minutes or so after birth and watch the ewe and lambs and make sure they are finding milk and drinking.  Unfortunately, Margaret is a very grumpy ewe and likes to stomp her foot and shy away from anyone in the presence of her babies, even if it means actually ignoring her babies.  Two years ago, she had twins and one died about a week after birth.   Despite our attempts to bottle feed, the lamb refused a bottle so we assumed she was getting milk from mom but it seems like Margaret just doesn't produce enough milk for twins.

Neither lamb seemed to be finding the milk and one wasn't even showing interest.  Joey got in with Margaret and tried to strip her teats of any waxy plugs that would prevent the milk and couldn't clear one of the teats.  We tried to get the one that seemed interested into the right place, but Margaret is so skittish we couldn't hold her in place.  The other twin just curled up on the straw and didn't move.  I went inside and got towels to dry the lambs off more since Margaret was not cleaning them off anymore.  We figured we would have to bottle feed at least one of the lambs, so I decided to go into town to the Farm King to pick up powdered colostrum, milk replacer, a new bottle, and another heat lamp.  Joey stayed home and monitored the lambs and mama, going in the house every once in a while, hoping Margaret was being neglectful because he was there in her space.

At the store, I decided to pick up a space heater as well.  When I got home, I could see that one lamb was not doing as well as it's twin.  Two hours after birth, this one was still pretty wet and was looking very chilled and lethargic.  I told Joey that we needed to bring that one inside if it was going to get warm.  I brought the space heater inside and set it up in the living room.  Joey held the lamb on his lap and I used the hair dryer on a low heat setting to gently dry the lamb some more.  Then we put her in a laundry basket lined with a towel in front of the space heater.

Of course, the dogs were very interested in this little creature, but were very gentle with their sniffing and sticking their heads in the laundry basket.  Jip soon became the lamb's watchdog and wouldn't leave the lamb's side.  After warming up, we made the lamb a bottle of colostrum.  She was reluctant to drink from the bottle, but she got a little.  And then she was transformed from the listless, frozen lamb into the loudest thing on four legs.  We let her walk around the living room and in the kitchen while I cooked, knocking around on wobbly knees and little hooves, bawling at the top of her lungs.  We kept trying with the bottle and she got a little bit here and there, but mostly she was loud.  Then Joey had his meltdown of the day, declared he wasn't ready for parenthood and went outside to escape the loud din of the house.

After I got the food I was preparing into the oven, I sat down on the kitchen floor, scooped up the lamb and held it close in my lap.  Almost immediately, it quieted down and then fell asleep.  When Joey came back in, we had been on the floor for about 15 minutes.  When I was sure she was asleep, I put her back into her basket and then tiptoed away.  We spent the next hour whispering and trying the keep the dog from sticking her face in the basket and waking the lamb.  We got another glimpse at parenthood called "don't wake the baby."  By the time we were ready to sit down and eat (and watch the superbowl) the lamb was waking up again.  I decided she could spend a little time with her real mother now that she was warm and had a little food in her.  So back to the garage she went.

And she did fine.  Joey went out later and discovered her drinking from her mother.  And we were exhausted for the rest of the evening.  After making sure they were warm before going to bed, we decided that we would supplement bottle feedings to both twins twice a day to add to the milk they are getting from Margaret because it seems that she probably doesn't produce enough for the both of them to thrive.  And we'll just see how it goes.  It is best for all parties for the lambs to stay with their mother and each other, even if we have to help out a little.  And now we'll have to evaluate whether we are going to keep Margaret for another lambing season since her disposition seems to hinder her mothering skills. 

So we didn't make it to church yesterday, but I think God understands.  

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.

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