22 February 2007

A week of bottle lambs

Yesterday marked one full week of the bottle lambs living here, and I must say that The Boy has done a wonderful job of fulfilling his responsibilities as shepherd. He has gotten up in the middle of the night to feed them, brought them in from outdoors after school, faithfully mixed up milk replacer and kept the fridge filled with sterilized bottles. I'm very proud of him.

The lambs spend their days outdoors now, as it is not too terribly cold and their pen has a dog crate they can go in when the wind picks up. We do give them a hot water bottle for extra warmth when the morning is chilly, and Gram and Grandpa have been coming midday to feed the lambs and ensure all is well (and refill the hot water bottle on cold days). We sure are lucky to have their help with this adventure, among others!

Just thought I'd let you know all is progressing well so far.

18 February 2007

Lamb coats

The weather has taken a turn towards spring, with temperatures up above freezing every day for the last couple of days.

We decided that as long as it's warm, the lambs might as well get some fresh air! We moved the big chain link kennel onto the temporary deck outside the patio doors, filled it with hay, and put the lambs outside for the day. They curl up together to sleep, play with the hay (and occasionally eat some of it) and munch on their lamb feed. We do bring them in at night as it's still too chilly without a mama to curl up next to.

The guardian dogs come by to visit, and sometimes McKenzie will wedge himself right up against the kennel so that he is near the lambs. He'll lie there for awhile, making sure everything is okay, I suppose.

The wind had picked up today, so The Boy helped me sew some lamb coats to keep the chill off. Very fashionable, don't you think?

14 February 2007

Cupid and Cherub, the Valentine's Day lambs

Last night I got a call from our 4H sheep leader asking if I had remembered to go buy milk replacer.

"No ... do you need some?"

"Nope, but I have bottle lambs for you!"

She had a first time mother who rejected her baby lamb completely, and a twin whose mama didn't have enough milk for both her babies. Our 4H leader knew we were looking for market lambs for this year's 4H project, so here they are!

The black lamb, Cupid, is a Suffolk/Ramboulliet wether who was born February 12; the white lamb, Cherub, is a Columbia/Hampshire ewe born yesterday evening. As they came to us on St. Valentine's Day, we thought Cupid and Cherub were appropriate names.

The two babies are doing very well so far, although bottle lambs can be challenging to raise and the first three days are the riskiest time for infection and digestive troubles. Fortunately, some of the other ewes in our leader's flock have milk to spare, so we'll be able to give these little ones regular doses of "the good stuff" in addition to their main diet of artificial milk.

Bottle lambs are a significant undertaking. For the first week or so they need multiple small feedings every day, which is a challenge when you have to be at school and work! We decided that The Boy will stay home tomorrow and look after his new charges (they are his, after all, and there must be some perks to having excellent grades). For the upcoming days, Gram and Grandpa have volunteered for lamb-sitting, being the wonderful grandparents that they are! It sure is good to have them near by, and it is an extra bonus that they actually enjoy these farm sorts of activities. Grandpa regularly heads outside to pitch hay and play with the big dogs, and Gram cuddles the bunnies and gathers eggs. I'm sure they'll enjoy the lambs, too.

These two will live indoors for the next few weeks, spending their time in the bathroom or snoozing on the nicely heated floor. In a few days we'll be able to keep them in diapers, which will simplify floor clean up greatly. When the weather warms up and they are eating some solid food on their own, they can move outdoors with the other sheep.

The Boy will be working on setting up his sheep record book tomorrow (and writing a couple of book reports he needs to hand in at school), while I head back to work after a couple of days down with a mild bout of stomach flu. My head still hurts, but I'm mostly functional, so I guess it's time to head back.

I suppose that means I should get some more rest ... I'll be up early mixing enough milk replacer to last the day!

12 February 2007

Happy Birthday, Union Guy!

Today is Union Guy's birthday.

In honour of the occasion, I thought I'd share a few of my reasons for thinking he is such a cool guy.


Union Guy is awesome because:
  • he will listen to my crazy ideas (and then proceed to make fun of them if it's warranted, or help me make them real if it's possible)
  • he is very funny (he will tell you this at every opportunity, too, being the modest and humble sort that he is...)
  • he is a very good dad to his kids and he goes out of his way to be good to mine as well
  • he is thoughtful and helpful - from little things (like bringing milk on the way home) to medium sized things (like catching sheep so they can be given injections or get their hooves trimmed) to really, really big things (like taking days off work to put insulation in my ceiling or get covered in black gucky tar while sealing vapor barrier)
  • he is an excellent cake decorator (even though he has yet to make one of them for me ... still, his skills are superior)
  • he once used a lasso to capture two escaped sheep (oh, what I would have given to have witnessed that feat!)
  • he helps me install fencing (this is a truly unpleasant job at +26 Celsius, and an even worse job at -15 Celsius, and he's done both)
  • he thinks Tombstone is one of the greatest movies ever (he finally talked me into watching it, and I was forced to agree with him)

and, last but not least ....

  • he shops for gifts at Princess Auto

Happy Birthday, Union Guy. You're the best. :)

Busy doing ... not a lot of anything, it seems.

It's somehow felt very busy lately, although I can't say that I have much to show for it.

We've come out of 4H public speaking season and are headed into school science project season. The Boy and I were discussing the scientific method tonight, and assorted possibilities for experiments. Personally, I favour a scientific study of which stain remover product actually works best: this is information that I could really use!

Natalie the Icelandic ewe is still looking remarkably huge, she just seems to get bigger and bigger and her belly seems to keep dropping, but no lambs yet. We've had another patch of seriously cold weather, so I'm hoping she holds off until it passes, at least. My current guess, which is still a totally wild guess based on hints, suggestions, and pulling dates from the air, is that she's probably a couple of weeks out yet, but it's so hard to tell. The other ewes are not as obviously pregnant, but I think we'll see a few more lambs come spring time.

We did lose one of the sheep to a mysterious failure to thrive. Baby was never the healthiest lamb, she always seemed a little skinny and runtish. We dewormed her and fed her extra rations, but she just seemed to get thinner and thinner. One day last week, she stumbled on the way to the hay feeder and didn't get back up. The Boy put her on the sled and towed her to the isolation pen where nobody would bother her, and tried to feed her grain and hay. She ate a few mouthfuls, but before long it was clear that she was on her way to greener pastures. She died in the night, so she didn't have to suffer long.

As our 4H sheep leader says, when you have animals, you have death. You do have to be prepared for it, and although some losses are still very hard, others are easier to see as just part of the circle of life. This one wasn't too bad, as we had known for awhile that she probably wasn't going to thrive - if she had by some miracle made it until spring, she would've had to be culled anyway. Still, it's never nice to have a loss. Here's hoping we have some new lambs to take her place before too much longer!