The sound is faint at first then annoying enough to force me to I open my eyes…yep it’s my alarm. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a morning person beyond morning people. I normally get up at around 3:30, but right now the alarm goes off at 3. Slowly I convince myself that I better get going before the alarm wakes the house. Down the stairs I go to find my muck boots. As I slip them on, my little Scottie is talking to me already by the door as she is ready to go out, and our healer Jack is jumping up and down ready to go as well. Out the door I slip to the smell of the winter air, and I think of a statement made many years ago to me, “A watched pot never boils!” I chuckle as I think of my current nine “pots” waiting for me.
The sound of boots on the snow and the greeting of Blue, our Maremma sheep guard dog, makes this morning walk a bit brighter. Through a fence gate I go toward the old farrowing house. It has long been converted to a lambing barn and as I reach for the handle on the split barn door I start to hear the “chatter” from the ewes on the other side. Not wanting to disturb them, I click my headlamp on and start to peak in each jug and as I figured on my walk out those “pots” haven’t boiled yet. Oh well maybe they are waiting for a blizzard or something. I toss a bit of hay to the ewes, have some morning conversations with them, and back to the house I head to get ready for my busy day at the radio station.
So WHY, you may wonder, am I getting out of bed so early? I mean any sane person would like that extra half hour under the covers. When my husband and I were first dating, I would go to the farm on the weekends and my future father-in-law would ask me to take that overnight lamb check. I did, but asked why me? He said he saw a nurturing nature in me and ewes that have just lambed are protective and sometimes need that extra bit of help either with lambing or helping a lamb get nursing well. I took that as a compliment but at the same time thought he was seeing if I would work out!
We lamb out our registered Columbia sheep two times a year. Fall into early winter and then again around the 15th of April on pasture. It’s those ewes right now that need the extra checking. In preparation for lambing, Dr. Stava comes out to the farm and we ultrasound ewes. Since implementing this practice we have seen less stress on ewes (and us). The ewes that are bred are separated from the rest of the flock and those that are looking close are sheared. By that I mean the development of the udder and the look of dropping in the hip area. Many folks ask why we take that warm wool off them when it’s cold and windy in Nebraska. I always say for the lambs. When a ewe doesn’t have that wool on them and they want to lamb, if they are not already inside they will seek an area that is dry, out of the wind and the elements. This gives the lamb a better welcome into the world then out on a snow pile cause Mom is comfortable with the weather. Both Mike and Bryan are professional sheep shearers, so we shear as we get ready to lamb a few here and there vs. shearing every one in one day.