March 14th, 2020
My mornings start early. I am a Viking at 4 a.m.
Get up, get dressed
Create a screencast for my composition courses.
Get ready to feed the bottle lamb.
Mix up lamb milk replacer
- 1 cup of powder to 2 cups water
- keep it warm in a cup with hot water
- make sure the nipple is the right one
Out the door with a good flashlight
Walk in the zero dark, overcast of 4 a.m.-ish
Open the gate to the barn field
Walk down to barn with all the young tomcats outriding as sentries next to me (Tut, Bertie and Silver)
Into the barn area where the “OG” is ‘jugged’ up in a pen with her baby
- Aside: she had her lamb born on Friday, 6 p.m.
- Total surprise. OG is our oldest ewe and we were pretty sure she was not cycling last fall.
- She is probably 15 years old.
- She birthed a beautiful, normal-sized ram lamb.
- She was confused at first as to what had happened, as surprised as we were’
- Her baby had wriggled under the fence before we saw him.
- I reached under and dragged the baby back
- We knew that this was likely a bottle baby. Not expecting OG to have any serious milk in her udders.
- My wife took down the fence she was behind and, holding the lamb, she led OG down to the jug.
- Her partner in the fence is another old ewe, Fritzi. She looked distressed as if to say, “Hey, that’s my baby.” Ewes can sometimes “steal” other lambs.
I turned a bucket upside down to sit on while I fed the lamb (or as my granddaughter calls them, mimis).
- Gone are the days when I could squat or kneel down for the ten minutes needed to bottle feed a lamb.
Praise Jebuz, the lamb has a good sucking instinct. If not, we are reduced to tube feeding, a subject the less you know about the better. It is so quiet in the morning
Ewe mama chuckles to her baby.
Ewe mama jostles my arm and does a desultory stamp of disapproval as I hold and feed her baby
Bubbles rising in the bottle as the lamb sucks is a happy and welcome sight.
Lamb drinks the milk. It is so fatty. That is why folks make cheese from dairy sheep. Yummmmm.
Outside in the newly flooded wetlands delta on our farm and the neighboring farm uncountable spring peepers rise and fall in their singsong amplitude.
Above the peeper wetlands, soaring in their rookeries perhaps 100 feet up in creek sycamores live the greater blue herons, our glorious dinosaurs.
There are at least four nesting pairs and they are a raucous crew sounding every bit the dinosaurs that they are. That noise as I feed. That noise as they chatter with their hatchlings and guard until the morning when they fly down to eat god knows how many peepers. That’s why they are thriving here.
And naught else. Sometimes only a velvety black nothing of sound.
I sit, wrapped in that and maybe the soft nursing of a lamb sucking on the bottle I give him.
Feed for the mama: hay, alfalfa pellets, 15% feed
Water for the mama: our well water, so pure and so sweet.
Out of the lamb pen gate, up the hill, waning full moon shining somewhere through the overcast.
Back to the house.
Clean the bottle and nipple.
Make a cup of coffee.
Check upload to see if worked.
Work online. I now have five online courses.
Re-read email from my retired friend:
“Can’t buy time. Anything you can do to stave off bad health, do it for the sake of precious time. If work stresses you more than time away from it, the answer should be obvious. Think of days with meadows, trees, summer night sounds and sights (at 63, I am in more awe of lightning bugs than as a child!)–to the accompanying music of Pete Seeger, hot tea, Eudora Welty, Frost: “Wealth beyond dreams of avarice.” “
Re-think. Re-think. Re-think.
The blue herons. The lamb. The peepers.
The answer should be obvious.