Growing by leaps and bounds!

As of yesterday morning, just a little over one week into our lambing time, our humble flock at Morning Star Meadows officially doubled its number! Lambs number 13 and 14 were born to one of our tan ewes, Faith! We have had our share of ups and downs, learned many new things, and have been rewarded so far by many healthy lambs that, as you can see in the video, are truly enjoying life here!

We can’t say much for full nights of sleep, but the effort has been very worthwhile. The week started off with all of the ewes in a pasture adjacent to the barn and just beside the house so we could easily survey them day and night to watch for signs of ewes nearing labor.

We would get up every 2 hours or so to walk down with a flashlight to see the status of each ewe, hoping not to miss signs of an impending birth.

Our first birth was from Prudence (sire, Cyrano.) She is a big ewe, so we were surprised that she gave birth to a single ram, but not surprised that he was huge at 11 lbs! We all loved his beautiful coloration, and he was very soon christened “Bucky.”

Twins followed later that day from Filia (sire, Romeo) – a white ram and a white ewe lamb.

We got a little breather the following day, but the day after brought another set of twins, this time black, boy and girl, from Hope and Cyrano.

In the very early hours of the next morning, we awoke for our 3am check to a surprise! Sophia was standing in the middle of the pasture with 2 lambs near her. We went to check her to bring her to the barn, carrying the two lambs. One was very small and doing poorly, the other was strong and standing. As we were luring her to the barn with these two ram lambs, she was calling to them and faintly nearby we heard another lamb calling out! We were shocked that a third lamb had wandered away from her – actually ending up outside of the electric wire protection! Somehow this little guy – strong as anything, had made it past top security to explore the nearby strip of woods near our driveway! Sophia had had triplet boys, but sadly the smallest didn’t make it. The other two, one all black and one white with a black cap/cape, are doing great. Crazy enough the one who “escaped” – the white one – was the 7th lamb born at the farm and thereby earned the number “007.” The kids have named him “Bond” for his amazing pursuits! Cyrano is the proud father.

The following day brought another set of twins – this time both ewe lambs! Nina did a tremendous job bring them into the world, and Cyrano is their father. The smaller brown ewe lamb is a gorgeous and somewhat unusual color, and she has been named Mocha.

Another day off before a double hitter. That day we again had two sets of twins. Fay (sire, Cyrano) gave birth to a large ram lamb – a very beautiful burnt orange color, followed by a white ewe lamb. Sadly, despite all we could do, including mouth to snout respiration, we could not revive her. She never took her first breath. The ram is thriving, though!

Later, Bessie (sire, Romeo) birthed ram/ewe twins. Her ram lamb is black, and the ewe, white. All went well!

And yesterday, just a little over a week before this all began, Faith (sire, Romeo) gave birth to boy/girl twins. The ewe lamb is white, and the ram lamb has gorgeous markings, including brown ears like a bunny, and what looks almost like eyeliner!

And today we await the last of the ewes (Joy, Felicity, Charity and Grace) to reach their hour! Things have gotten a little easier for us shepherds. When we began this process, our barn camera was directed at the lambing jugs so we could watch the new moms and lambs. About midway through we had some nasty cold, wet weather and decided to bring the remaining moms-to-be into the barn. We didn’t want new babies born on the pasture, exposed to harsh weather. We turned the camera around so that we could now watch the ewes 24/7 from the house. Last night was the first night we actually stayed in bed the whole night!

I guess you could ALMOST say we go to sleep counting sheep, as this is commonly the view on our phone or Ipads (below is actually a current screen shot of the camera view of the ewes who are still expectant.) We promise to update you as soon as all the ewes are delivered, and as soon as we are back in a higher state of conciousness after a few full nights of sleep!

Amidst a pandemic, the world seems to stop, except on the farm

As much of the world hunkers down in fear, isolation and quarantine in the midst of a global pandemic, we feel so blessed to be (mostly) together as a family on our 35 acres.

We have been home here for over a week, with only the occasional venture over the ridge and through the woods to Grammy’s house to exchange food and hijack her more reliable internet. If we weren’t watching the news, we would have no idea about the pandemic affecting the world, except that our mailman is delivering packages with gloves on today!

The animals continue their daily routines, the chickens are giving us more eggs as the days lengthen, the spring flowers are opening, seeds and onion sets are waiting to be planted, the rhubarb and garlic is sprouting, and soon we’ll see asparagus break ground. We must continually remind ourselves that outside of our little haven, the stores are empty, many businesses are closed, thousands of people are laid off and struggling each day, and more people are getting sick from COVID-19.

We are trying to stay healthy and keep ourselves ready for caring for newborn lambs and their moms in about a month!

Today we rounded up the ewes for the first time since late December when we separated them from the rams after breeding season. They have survived a very mild winter. Most of the time, when they weren’t gorging on round bales of second cut hay or ruminating near their shed, they were taking themselves out to enjoy the stockpiled pasture. Sometimes it’s difficult to say what they enjoy more, but it is safe to say that grazing is a strong instinct, and they will keep grazing even when presented with an abundance of hay.

Roy has been setting up the barn with lambing jugs to contain a ewe as she approaches her time. These will be bedded with straw. There she can be separate from the flock, undisturbed as she labors and delivers and cares for her new lambs. She will remain there for a day or two after giving birth, and then another ewe will take her place.

Four lambing jugs made with recycled pallets and hog panels.

And no, I didn’t climb up in the rafters to take that picture! I took that picture as a screenshot on our IPad which now bears a program that communicates with a camera in the barn! Yes, we are going high tech with our new farm (or lazy, you might call it) and instead of wandering down to the barn many times through the night, we will be watching our sheep from the house! I know – some shepherds WE are! Imagine that Bible story retold, “While shepherds watched their sheep at night, remotely from their tent on their IPhone 11, an angel appeared to them!” Yeah – just doesn’t seem right, does it?

So our goal today was most importantly to vaccinate the ewes prior to the birth of their lambs. The ewes were due for their annual booster vaccine against clostridial diseases, including tetanus and a few others that are dangerous to sheep, and this vaccine will carry immunity into the colostrum that their lambs will drink and thereby receive what is called passive immunity for their first weeks of life. The lambs will then need a vaccination when they are ready to produce their own immunity at about 4-6 weeks of age.

Also, to prepare these girls for the big day, we trimmed hooves and gave them a dose of a vitamin/mineral paste which includes Vitamin E and selenium, which is very scarce in the soils of our area, and therefore in the food that they are eating. Deficiencies in these can cause problems for the ewe and for her newborn lamb.

Bessie was very patient for her hoof trimming. We rated her with early development for her udder.

We also weighed them all, checked their eyelid color for signs of parasite caused anemia, and checked their udders for signs of development indicating possible pregnancy.

Faith isn’t too sure about Roy’s ballottement procedure!

As you can see above, Roy also tried ballottement of their abdomens to try to feel lambs in the uterus. He holds his hand firm on the animal’s left over their rumen, and then bounces his hand over the right side in an attempt to rock the uterus in the fluid of the abdomen in hopes that a lamb in the uterus would bounce off the inner wall of the abdomen under his hand. One day I hope we will have an ultrasound machine so this all becomes a lot more definite and scientific!

The ewes have returned to their winter pastures, and in a few weeks we will move them closer to the barn. At that time we will bring the rams in for vaccinations, hoof trimming, weighing and physicals.

While we continue to quarantine and wonder what the future holds for our country and for this hidden enemy virus, we wait not with fear but with hope – and with joyous expectation for the new life that will hopefully grace our farm in a month’s time! We ask that God protect you all — that you stay safely away from ALL illnesses – and that you stay tuned for many photos and hopefully videos of the miracle of life on the farm!