Last Thursday the weather was getting bitter cold. On my way out to let my new chickens out of the coop, I looked at the pastures and thought “The sheep have gotten every last blade of green grass.” Then, a ewe that doesn’t usually bleat at all started calling to me from a nearby pasture–all alone, without the others. I got my phone out and texted Jimmy “Those gals are hungry. Even the quiet ones are getting voices.” So he said that I could give them some alfalfa.
As I went down to the barn, I heard an alien sound–an incredibly high pitched “Baa-aa-aa-aa” coming from the hill behind the barn. I looked up and saw what I knew I would see–one of our ewes had had her little lamb up there just moments before. That lone voiceless ewe had come to me to get help for her sister.
Mama (who was nameless until that day) was pacing, dragging her placenta behind her, and the baby lamb was following her to and fro, on little wobbly legs. I brought the alfalfa up the hill with me to get the mama to come down to the barn, but the llamas were so hungry, they had their gigantic heads in my face the whole time. I couldn’t even climb the hill to get to the ewe and her baby. I had to get the llamas their own buckets before they would leave me alone. When I finally reached the mama, she ate a little, but she refused to follow me down the hill to get more. The baby lamb was shaking in the cold morning sunshine that wasn’t very warm yet. I was pretty panicked about that. I am not the head shepherd, and had not done my homework on lambing. This was Jimmy’s area, and he was in a meeting–he couldn’t even text me instructions.
I had just started to pick the little lamb up when the sheetrock repair guy showed up. I put her in the barn and tried chasing the mama ewe in there to where baby was bleating in her baby voice, but mama wouldn’t go in. She clearly didn’t trust me. The sheetrock repairman just watched as I chased her all over the pasture. It was hopeless, and the mama and baby were desperately calling out to each other, so I took baby back out to the cold hillside to her mom. As I got the repairman settled, I kept looking out the window to see if she was nursing yet, and she wasn’t. I was pretty worried, but the lamb was obviously strong and determined to get some milk. She nudged at the belly of any of the ewes that came near her–she clearly knew exactly what she was supposed to do.
When I saw her leaping and running up the hill with the other sheep I thought she should be called “Dasher,” since it was getting to be Christmastime. But I didn’t even know then if we would keep her for sure. We talked about keeping the first girls as breeders, since they aren’t related to our ram, but I wasn’t sure what the head shepherd wanted to do, so I was just focusing on not getting too attached.
Jimmy came home from work after a while and sent me on a mission to get lumber so that he could finish the lambing pens in the barn. By the time I returned, he had gotten mama and baby into the barn, but not without a lot of battle wounds! He got her corralled after he had closed the gate at the far end of the corral… but she didn’t want to let him get her when he stood in her way, so she rammed him right in the nose! He had blood frozen all over his face when I arrived back with the lumber, but mama and baby were safe and warm in the barn, with a heat lamp over them in the stall. He was a proud shepherd… with a broken nose.
From then on I called the ewe “Mamacita” and lamb “Babycita.” The ewe had been the most shy and withdrawn of all the seven gals we brought back from Yelm. She had never made enough eye contact with me for me to name her. But Mamacita was what I naturally started calling her as it got to be late afternoon. It fits, because the name means “hot mama” in Spanish, and she seems to have been the first among the seven to have gotten the attention of the ram up there at her old ranch in Washington.
The most hilarious moment of that first day was watching the lamb get busy nursing in the stall and watching her tail wag wildly as she did. I wish I could post a video here.
…In the middle of writing that last sentence, Jimmy called from the barn and said “get down here quick!” and look what I saw….
Twins this time! A boy and a girl.