So Did I Actually Hear It?

I startled awake out of a sound sleep, listening intently. The roosters were engaged in a raucous cacophony of crowing, each trying to outdo the other in greeting the approaching (in about two hours!) dawn. I could swear I heard a frantic lamb’s cry in all that noise. I went to the door and opened it….nothing. I settled back down into sleep, heard a frantic “BAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAA AAAAAA” in my dreaming state and my eyes flew open again. No baaaaaa sounds that I could hear.

Back to the door. No sound but roosters. No calling of a ewe with a lost lamb. No calling of a lamb with a lost mommy. Puppy grabbed his new toy and brought it to the door hoping to entice me into a game of “throw the toy”. The mare’s outline was just visible in the porch light stretched out sleeping beyond the fence. The ducks were lifting their heads and looking at me questioningly, wondering whether it would be worth their time to waddle toward the house demanding breakfast.

Well, crap. No getting back to sleep until I checked the sheep, so might as well put on the jacket, find the flashlight, and head out to the barn, waking up all the animals in the process, and tossing Puppy’s new stuffed toy for him a couple times.

At the barn, the sheep were all lying down peacefully sleeping until I arrived and disturbed them. I got a lot of “WTF?” looks and sheep grumbling as they stood up and shifted around as I walked through the previously slumbering flock. All the lambs were lying quietly with their mom except for the little black lamb who is celebrating his 1-week birthday today. He was lying quietly with his neck and head jammed behind a post. Apparently he had his head and neck behind the post when he laid down. The gap between the fence and the barn post was about 4 inches when he was standing up, and narrowed to about 2 inches when he was lying down. His head was on the other side of the post but held quite securely, as if in a stanchion. He was not struggling or crying out, however, just peacefully resting. Hunh. I lifted him and freed him.

The mare walked me to the gate, shoving me with her nose occasionally to remind me that since I was up anyway and woke her up, I might as well bring the food. Now. HER food, not anybody else’s. Yeah, might as well. At dawn, she’s going to be standing at the gate demanding breakfast hoping that I will have forgotten that I fed her earlier.

Now I’m wondering whether I actually heard that trapped lamb crying through the racket of the roosters while I was asleep, or whether I just imagined it.

When we (daughter and I) first started keeping sheep, I had a dream that two lambs died because the ewe was in difficulty and I wasn’t there to assist. It disturbed me so much that I wasn’t able to sleep through the night and ran outside every couple hours to check. No lambs or lambing. Next night, same thing. Every night for a week, I checked ewes and lambs throughout the night and then throughout the day because at that time we had our own business, and I was financially able to take lambing time off. After a week of checking throughout the day and night and without more than two hours of sleep at a time, exhausted, I slept through the night. I woke up in the morning and raced to the barn, finding two dead lambs and an exhausted ewe, just as I had dreamed. Even “knowing” something is going to happen doesn’t prevent it!

The ewe that lost her lamb Friday night is still guarding the spot in the barn where her lamb’s body had been. She is, however, now leaving the barn with the rest of the flock to eat.

I have never had a Tunis ewe reject its lamb(s). Even if the mother does not have enough (or any!) milk and I end up bottle feeding the lamb, I do so through the fence because mom sheep still loves it, cares for it, and watches over the lamb while it is gamboling through the pasture. The lambs quickly learn to recognize their milk mom’s voice and race to the fence when I call.

So, if you ever drive down a rural road in Florida and happen to catch a glimpse of a woman in PJs with a baby bottle or two in hand yelling “baaaaaaaaa, damnit, I have to get ready for work!” to a pasture full of sheep, don’t be alarmed. It’s just me.


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