I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I was washing up after assisting Martha one of our Southdowns birth the hugest baby girl. My tired face, dried lips, slightly sun and wind burned face and my once neat cropped hair, now shoulder length and wavy held back with force by a dark blue bandana. I looked hard at myself. It’s hard to believe I’m looking at the same person that moved here six and a half years ago. The eyes that look back at me seem full of fear when I take deep notice of the wrinkles around the corners of my eyes. The eyes that say, “what happened?” I look closer making out the details, then my eyes softened and I see myself, the shepherd, the farmer, the cook, happy, joyful and full of gratitude.
It takes a while to wash the ‘J-lube’ off my arm past where the latex gloves were. A friend recommended it for assisting with birthing and I must say she was spot on. A huge difference it made. It’s funny how things like the right kind of lube can just make your night. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, the days tend to blend together during this time, it’s all about lambing and taking care of the animals, getting ready for planting and pulling the farm together at a time when it seems more natural to be cuddled up next to a roaring fire with a good book. But instead I negotiate the elements, make my way through the mud and try to keep my chin up.
As of this morning we have twelve lambs. More on the way. Most are female. The wooly sheep generally are easy but their lambs are so large. They turn out to be good mothers but they are not interested in cleaning the lamb off after it plops down behind them. It’s the strangest thing. The lambs are large and strong and hungry so they are loud, loud enough to wake the dead or wake Kasey who lives right next to the barn. This time I had my alarm set for 1 am. So at 12:30am when I found myself wide awake, I went ahead out to the barn to give a check on Martha, she had told me earlier it would be soon. Sure enough she was in labor and having quite a time of it.
First it’s the inventory. Nose, hoof, hoof. Check. This is a correct birth, so what’s the problem? It’s stuck. I pulled gently, Martha was happy for the help, I pulled harder. I made sure there was nothing in the way like an elbow, more lube, pulled again this time she grunted and pushed, a leg came through this is all I would need to make more room and the rest came out with one slow even pull. At first I thought I had a dead lamb, tongue out to the side lifeless. I cleared its mouth and nose and it sprang to life with such force I almost fell over. Up on her feet looking for milk covered in a thick slim. Martha was not impressed. She licked a little on the top of the head, and walked away, came back licked a little more and then just looked at me. They made cooing noises at each other so I took the little one and we headed into the house for the wooly spa treatment.
I’ve only had to do this to the Southdown lambs, and I only do it because I honestly feel I have to. The moms will not clean them off and when its 20 degrees out, it’s too much to ask this lamb to clean and dry itself, so I choose to help rather than find a frozen lamb in the morning. So, off for a hot shower and a blow dry. When baby is all dry I take it back out to mom and the eating begins, mom seems content and ready to nurse the thing now and I can get cleaned up and go back to bed. I dream of goats breaking into the milk parlor and chasing them out. What a life.