Ode to Pasture Lambing Needle Felted

If you recall from a couple posts back I was working on a piece of felting.  Even though lambing time is busy I still steal time in the early hours of the morning for artwork and journaling; it’s just less time than can be had during winter.  Given that I don’t know what the day will bring out on pasture this morning spell is fast becoming my favourite part of the day (provided I don’t get sucked into face booking). 

Ode to Pasture Lambing

I wanted to do this piece as a sentiment for all those who pasture lamb (they’re aren’t many of us who do in our province as intensive operations and jug lambing become the norm). 

It’s roughly 10 x 12 inches. I like that you see what it is but are drawn in to looking further and your eye travels the piece to take it in.  It's showing a tad darker here than it is for real. I'll be sharing more progress photos on Facebook - but that will have to wait for tomorrow.  Sleep is needed. 

Triplet Quandary

The first set of triplets arrived a few days ago. Triplets are a bit of a quandary when pasture lambing as we feel the excitement of seeing triplets and yet we know the odds and what triplets mean.  We don’t get many sets, usually just a few each year; this isn’t a prolific flock and we don’t manage for it to be so. 

If there is another ewe lambing I’ll risk stealing a triplet and pawning it off but I have to be sure the second ewe only has a single and that she has lambed recently enough the two babes are equally fresh to her so that she can be convinced both are hers. 

This early in lambing the odds are slim, and indeed when these three were born there was no alternative.  I left all three with the ewe.  I came across them today and they’re doing alright.  There is always one lamb that is smaller and that’s the case here but mom is great with knowing she has three lambs and keeping them near and keeping them fed.  A small success thus far and that's what we build on.

Lambing Outtakes

At just a couple days old they can sure get around.  Amazing little gaffers really.  I don't think I ever do lambing time justice in the blog; there is so much to share but the days are so full it all runs together by the evening and my mind struggles to sort it out after a long day out doors.

When pasture lambing you learn pretty quick when to catch lambs and when to leave well enough alone and try later.  Too young and you'll put mom off the lambs, too old and you'll be sprinting to catch and scare half the flock.  You want a nice, calm catch and you want mom to know where her lambs are.  Today was a full day of new lambs.  A few ewes snorted and pressed my arms/hands while I held their lambs which sounds kind enough knowing they want their lambs, but momma ewes aren't being sweet about it, so I'm wary of them.  

I thought I could take my iPod shuffle and listen to music while I checked lambs but that only lasted one try.  Turns out I rely a good deal on listening to the ewes while I work, their sounds tell me where they are and what they might be up to and how panicked they're getting.  I am surprised by how much I rely on and know about the sounds of sheep.  I suppose it's a habit born of experience but never given thought to.  It's a skill I'm pleased to have honed.

Art and Writing As Downtime

I’m working on turning this scene into a piece of felted art. It is suited to lambing time and to Mother’s day today.  

I still make time for artwork and for writing, even if just for a stitch here and there. Those two activities are my down time and take me off my feet for a bit which is a good thing because I tend to go steady otherwise.  They also pull my mind away from the useless nitpicking it wants to do at this time. 

We're in the midst of ugly weather for lambing but are hopeful we're on the tail end of it.  Warmth and sunshine will be stellar.  The pace of lambing is still slow, and we've only lost one lamb though, a testament to the good mothering of the ewes.

Lambing Commences

…. and we’re underway.  Ten lambs born on this first day of lambing.  If I wasn’t ready for lambing before I need to be now.   

The ewes have moved to the lambing pasture (one quarter section, divided into two halves). Two portable water stations are being readied to move out.  The leg crook lies in the back of the ranger where it will be for the next six weeks (I use a leg crook to catch lambs).  I have tags for the female lambs, and paint spray for the males.  My lambing backpack contains the needed supplies (tags, tagger, castrating rings, elastrator tool, one can of paint marker, notebook, gloves (in case), rubber lamb puller, and dissection kit. 

This year I’ll be doing set stock lambing. I’m not doing drift lambing because I’m so done with handling electranetting and we can’t keep a good charge on it to make it useful.  So set stocking it is. With two paddocks plus pasture space, I’ll be able to shift groups out and hopefully keep the overflow to a minimum.  

The Kelpies have been doing a fair bit of work of late with vaccinating the flock, sorting the cull group, tucking the ewes up at night, sorting wethers from the rams so we have sheep to dog during the summer and so on. With all these tasks accomplished the work throughout lambing will mostly be comprised of training time and helping me when I’m in a bind with a ewe.  

And so we adjust; me, the sheep, the lgd's, the stock dogs.  My days are no longer my own but will cater to the ebb and flow of life and death that happens in a birthing season.  Emotionally, I'll go up and down right along with it, for how can I not, when I have this front row seat.

When You're Very Pregnant

It's good to get off your feet when you can.

The morning check of the ewes is very peaceful right now although this will change any day now.  I'm no more ready for lambing than last time I posted about it.  What will be, will be.

Rising or Not

"A ranch is a massive mix of possibility, potential and purpose and the rancher sits at the intersection of the three and by way of her choices rises up with it, or destroys it. ... "

After the length of winter but before the busy pace of summer, is when I feel deep connection to the land, most in awe of this place and its creatures, and aware of the impacts that will happen because we live here, because we put livestock on it.   

I am aware of the way the land and livestock are linked, the way the ecosystem thrives or shrinks because of what we do. The interplay between the choices we make, what the sheep do, what the dogs do, what the land gives and takes, boggles the mind.  This blog, continued attempts at writing a book, even my artwork stem from this interplay.  The whole of it leaves me feeling very big and very small at the same time. 

The more I witness humanity without nature the more I feel like I’m sitting on a gold mine.  A ranch is a massive mix of possibility, potential and purpose and the rancher sits at the intersection of the three and by way of her choices rises up with it, or destroys it.  Lately I’ve been asking myself if I am indeed rising with it or not. 

LGD artwork

The Babysitter 

Such a typical scene around here lately with two guardians dogs under a year of age.  I couldn't decide on the background, so have left it black for now.  As with all the pieces I share here, it is also for sale.  As for the price, that's always a tough thing to figure so I haven't decided on that either.
11 x 14

We Are About to Burst Into Spring

The tinge of green is emerging and will soon set the season off in all its glory as only the green of new growth can. Every day on our walks at least one of the kelpies stop for a roll in the dry grasses. These are not the rolIs in indescribable yuck (they do those too) but just rolls for the joy of rolling. I always wonder what draws them into it.

For us, this time means lambing is near. Funny thing about that this year, I’ve hardly given it a thought. I have what is needed for the start of lambing and am comfortable with that. I think I’ve crossed a threshold of years with birthing sheep to begin to get comfortable with the knowledge that lambing time is full of uncertainty. Or maybe it’s just the way the year is playing out. Either way beautiful things will happen and ugly things will happen and I will handle both.

A couple ewes have aborted already which is not uncommon given the number of sheep and thus higher chances of that happening. This weekend Allen and I will be vaccinating the ewes. We’re a titch late for any ewes who lamb early but vaccinations are important enough to get done regardless. Vaccinations are the one treatment protocol we do for the whole flock.

Lily in Recovery

Lily was in to the vet last Friday and we return again later this week.  The shoelaces have been replaced with stitches and staples to repair some internal tissue and close the wound.  There is a drain in her leg to allow it to seep.  With the amount of muscle missing there was no hope of repair, that cavity will heal with scar tissue now.    She will not have full potential of that leg but she’ll do just fine with what she does have.  

The healing of the wound is moving in the right direction and we’re keeping infection at bay so far.  She remains at the house with us for further recovery.  

When I took her for a walk this afternoon she headed toward the sheep paddock and prepared to jump the fence.  She’s not able to but in her mind she doesn’t know it yet.   

With Lily off duty we’re trying to convince the other dogs that they can stay on pasture with Oakley, Whiskey and the flock.  We think it’s Lily who drove them away before but are not sure if Whiskey was backing her up.  We have the opportunity to try and find out now. 

Ticks have begun to crawl about so from now on it will be a regular occurrence to check the dogs over.  We will treat them with repellent product if the ticks prove too much to keep up with by hand.

We completed a half mile of new pasture fence this weekend which limits the ewes to grazing on one quarter section.  This will aid in grass management and will ease the work of the guardian dogs.

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