Archive for January, 2012

Lamb #12 Arrived at Oh Dark Thirty

I had to wait until dawn to find lamb #12 this morning. Again, sheep that are the color of dried grass aren’t easy to find in the dark (and not that easy at dawn, either, by the way)! I couldn’t spot ’em until baby let out a little high pitched “baaaaaaa” of hunger, then the momma jumped to her feet and called back from behind a pile of brush.

Then I raced to work at 80 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. zone, and arrived only a few minutes late. Why’d I risk a very expensive speeding ticket to race to a low-paying job where people complain (behind my back, of course) that I’m (a) being too hard on a kid or (b) not being hard enough on a kid and coddling him or her, I dunno.

*sigh* I had meant to be gone by December at the very latest. How’d I somehow end up by stayin’ until the end of the school year? Oh, yeah. Bad mammograms. Never mind. I’m better now.

Maybe I’m just kinda tired out because I don’t get a whole lotta time for crap like “taking showers” and “sleeping” during lambing and chick and duck hatching season. Maybe I’m just a little grumpy. Maybe I’m just freakin’ tired of watching the infrastructure crumble around us and there ain’t a damn thing I can do about it.

Or maybe I just need some sleep.

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Lambs #10 and #11 Are Now Here!

Ewe that I couldn’t find last night and was calling babies this morning (and I spent about an hour searching in case she really DID have lambs and they wandered off or were born dead) is now drying off lambs #10 and #11. I also had to rescue a twin born earlier this morning who got trapped behind a gate and decided to go through the woven wire fencing.

I’m going to be a nervous wreck at work tomorrow worrying about my babies at the barn!

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Lambs #6,7,8,& 9 Have Arrived

Zoe cried ALL NIGHT LONG. She did not take much of a nap yesterday. Mommy was SO proud that she was on a good schedule last week with long naps and sleeping all night. I think Zoe was just recharging her batteries. However, Mommy had to be at work at 7 a.m. and is going to be pretty miserable today. Her coworkers will probably be even more miserable. I made her some scrambled eggs with onions and cheese and slices of bacon to take with her, and a cold drink because I knew she would not have time to stop for breakfast.

I did my sheep check last night and a ewe was missing. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy finding a dirt-colored sheep in the dark that has found a quiet, secluded spot to claim as her birthing spot! What worries me, though, is that perhaps she lay down in a depression and was not able to get back up. Or perhaps she overbalanced and fell in a ditch. My mind jumps immediately to the worst case scenario, particularly since it was soooo cold last night. As soon as the boys finish (first) breakfast, perhaps I can persuade them to keep a close enough eye on their sister that she won’t dive head first off a table, and I can do my morning feeding chores and locate the missing ewe.

Morning Update: There were actually four ewes who had kinda separated themselves off from the flock yesterday. I located three of them last night, and they quickly rejoined the flock. I figured they were just doing some late night grazing. This morning, two of those had twin lambs each, one is with the flock, but the one I was trying to find has *nothing*. She is, however, calling for lambs. I’d be worried, but she’s in no distress, eating and walking around, so I’m not *too* concerned about the prospect of a malpositioned lamb. This morning, with two little boys accompanying me on my rounds, she wouldn’t let me get close to her, but I was able to get her in the pasture with the other new mothers and their lambs. This afternoon, with Zoe in arms as Papa and the boys are off doing Man Things at Home Depot, well, the GYN exam ain’t gonna happen either.

Maybe the videos will kinda show why finding my Tunis ewes at night out on my brown, dead grass pastures is a little…challenging. The lambs are boinging a little but not tearing around the pasture yet. Give ’em another day or two and they will be.

Oh, and a mother duck decided that this morning, with temperatures in the 30s, was a wonderful time to go off and take a swim. A wet, newly hatched duck was peeping weakly on the nest, near death. An egg which was was partially open had a duckling moving inside and protesting. I hadn’t had time to refill the incubator, but I’d left it on just in case I wanted to put some eggs in once the kids left today. Good thing I did. Now I have little newly hatched ducklings, too.

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The Sheep Stork Just Brought Lambs #4 and #5

So far, I’m likin’ this lambing season. Lambs #4 and 5, twin ewes, just arrived. The mother is the twin sister to the ewe that delivered the single yesterday. She came up to eat this morning when I put out the feed but, when we got back from picking up the grandkids, she was missing. I found her in the stable, content beneath the manger. She wasn’t in any distress as evidenced by the fact that she eagerly ate the treats that I’d carried out in my pocket. Nope, she’d just picked out her place. The other sheep lounged around in the shade outside the chickenhouse as though providing moral support. I checked her again when she was in active labor and pushing, then left her alone as she appeared in no distress and leapt to her feet as soon as I appeared. I brought Zoe in and put her down for her nap, which took about half an hour, then went back out. In that short amount of time, both lambs had been born! Her crew of girlfriends, babydaddy and momma had moved and were lounging around in the shade in the pasture this time, near enough to provide vocal and visual support when she called out.

I still haven’t changed my clothes that are covered in rotting garbage stench that the pups rubbed all over me. That’s a good thing, since they’re now also covered with lamb amniotic fluid. Momma didn’t need any help, mind you, but one was stuck underneath a stable wall, and I needed to extricate her so she could stand and make her way to momma for her first meal.

Oh, yeah. I reek.

I’m going to leave her out there for awhile with the lambs before I move her in with the other new mommas and lambs.

Zoe has had about a half hour nap, then woke up yelling “No no no no NO!” I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that means that naptime is DONE.

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If You Leave Town, You Might Find Puppies When You Get Home

I called SwampSon today.

“Ma, I was just about to call you! We finished the job, and we’re going to be home today!”

“Well, that’s good. Say, when you left, you said you wanted me to take care of the chickens.”

“Yeah.”

“And you wanted me to take care of the newt and bird.”

“Yeah?”

“You did not mention any white pit bull puppies.”

“Because we do not have any puppies!”

“Well, I fed your chickens Thursday.”

“Yeah, I know. You called after you got home.”

“I did not feed your chickens Friday because I’d fed them enough Thursday.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“So I was quite surprised when I drove out to your place this morning and was met at the gate by two white pit bull puppies that came off your porch.”

“WHAT?”

“A male and a female. One has a brown spot on its butt. One has two blue eyes, and one has one brown eye and one blue eye. They’re very friendly. And they REALLY enjoyed tearing up all the trash in your garbage can looking for food. They spread it all over the yard. My clothes still smell like rotting garbage.”

“Great.”

“So, which one of your friends decided that you needed some dogs?”

“NOBODY! They must have gotten through the chain link fence.”

Yep. I think somebody dropped them OVER the fence, considering that they were ravenous with hunger. I just happened to have a can of dog food in the van that I use for emergency feeding situations for strays when I’m out and about, so I retrieved that, dumped it on a piece of ripped up cardboard so that I could get back out the gate, and they had devoured it before I could get into the door of my ol’ vehicle.

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Another Day Older and Still No Wiser

I got to work ten minutes late yesterday after checking on the well being of the lambs and ewe throughout the night. Then I spent the entire day at school with a screaming, kicking, temper-tantruming child. She was screaming in that high-pitched register that would send dogs into a howling frenzy and my head felt about ready to split. I went out of the way to treat myself to a giant Starbucks pumpkin spice latte. Have you ever had a day that has so kicked your butt that you just need some liquid energy to replace the life that the little vampires have sucked right outta your body? I kinda figured I deserved it even if it was pretty pricy on account of I hadn’t killed anybody yet today. I was really looking forward to getting home to the relative quiet of dog, cats, horse, pregnant ewes, chickens, ducks, and newly hatched chicks, all neighing and barking and meowing and squawking and baaing for attention and food.

When I got home, Puppy was waiting at the gate, crying. I looked down at him in alarm. His head had a deep gouge in it, and his eyelid was raw. His front leg was all swollen. I immediately started checking him over for more wounds, wondering if the pit bulls had been back. After ascertaining that he had nothing life threatening wrong with him, I doctored his wounds, then checked the other livestock. They seemed okay. The new lambs were okay. The chickens and ducks were okay. I checked the yard for a dead possum or raccoon or fox. Nothin’.

When SwampMan got home, I rushed to his truck door. “Something tore up Puppy! I could swear he was okay when I fed him this morning, but it is still dark when I leave. Did you notice anything?”

“Yeah, I know what happened to him. I ran over him this morning.”

“WHAT!?” I think my voice, too, might have reached that high register only audible to dogs. Maybe it’s catching, like a virus. An incredibly annoying virus. “HOW?”

“I don’t want to talk about it. I was late and….”

“Did you even LOOK for him?”

“Well, the answer would appear to be no, wouldn’t it? I feel like dog crap. I couldn’t possibly feel worse. I thought I’d killed him.”

“Why didn’t you call? Why didn’t you email?”

“I knew you’d freak out and get all upset.” Well, he got that right!

“You backed up over him, didn’t you?” This was not a stab in the dark on my part. SwampMan has backed up into the gate. He had backed up into my vehicle because I was parked behind him, and he didn’t bother to look. Since nothing was supposed to be there, he didn’t bother to check. I don’t really know how he missed the gate being there on account of it has ALWAYS been there. It didn’t just materialize on its own one morning. Nobody sneaky installed it while he was sleeping. It must be nice to live in his world where everything is right where it is supposed to be and nothing ever gets moved or falls asleep behind his truck. My world is more disorderly.

“Well, he’s never been there before!”

When I finished feeding, I was tired, grumpy, emotionally drained, relieved that Puppy was alive, but I really did not feel like cooking. SwampMan took me out for fajitas. Well. THEY certainly hit the spot! When I walked in the door, the message light was blinking on the phone. I punched the button, and Newt’s campaign wanted to let me know that Mitt was a lying bastard, and Mitt’s campaign wanted me to know that Newt was a slimy sumbitch, then my son’s voice said “Hey, Ma! You still workin’ on the other side of the county? Gimme a call!” Wuh oh. Son has never called me asking about my job situation before. Sumpin’s up.

I called. “Hey, Ma! I gotta go down south for a few days and won’t get back until Monday or so. Could you feed the chickens while I’m gone?” I allowed as how I could, considering that two days ago they had been my chickens, and wondering what this had to do with where I worked. “Oh, and the SwampGirlfriend has been hired for this job, and we need you to take care of her dog and her cockatoo. It’s on your way to and from work.”

“Is that the cockatoo that tried to bite the shit outta me when it was at your house?” The bird stood on top of his cage and LUNGED his whole body at me. I tried to teach bird to call “Here, kitty kitty kitty!” Bird was not tricked.

“Possibly.”

“If that bird bites me, I ain’t feedin’ it.”

“C’mon, Ma, he’s SLOW. You lure him to one side of the cage with your left hand, and with your right hand, you take out his birdseed holder, and put in some seeds. Then you distract him again.”

“Unh hunh.”

“Really. He’s pretty slow.”

“Unh hunh. Um, is that dog gonna be able to cross its legs and not potty on the carpet for 12 hours?”

“Probably not.”

“Oh, well, that’s good, because I probably won’t be able to walk the dog until after work every day. There’s no way I can get there before work. That will be, let me count it up in my head, about 24 hours between walks. If it’s going to make a few accidents on the carpet if I can’t be there for 12 hours, well, I suppose 12 more won’t hurt.”

“That’s okay. It’s not MY carpet.”

Oh, well. It wasn’t my carpet, either. “So, where does she live?”

“I’ll tell you when I bring over the key.”

So, he came on over and I met him at the gate.

“So, what’s the address?”

“Well, she lives down a road next to the convenience store, then you turn right onto a road called something Lake road, then you go around a couple turns, then her place is on the right. It might be the third one. Or maybe the fourth. You can’t miss it. It has a motorcycle and a truck up on blocks in the yard.”

“That describes 3/4 of the houses around that neck of the woods. What’s the address?”

“I don’t remember. You’ll know it when you see it.”

Those directions would drive my husband and daughter crazy. They would want the GPS location as well as the address. For me and the son, those directions make perfect sense.

I spent another day at work today, the high point of which was running screaming out the door at the end of it. Well, maybe I walked in a dignified adult manner out the door, nodding pleasantly to people and saying things like “Isn’t this beautiful weather! I love it!” Inside, make no mistake, I was screaming and running. And possibly mentally stabbing people through the heart with a wooden stake that were impeding my egress. “You’re always so happy and smiling!” remarked a coworker. “What are you up to, really?”

“I’m mentally burying people in the playground!” I replied cordially. She thought I was kidding. Ha! Little does she know.

I found the SwampGirlfriend’s house without much difficulty. Yes, those really were the directions. He wrote them down for me. I could hear talking inside, but the key fit the door. I went in. He said that everything would be where I could find it. I found the bird food. I found the bird which wasn’t difficult, as he was talking back to the television from his cage. As soon as he saw me, he climbed on top of his cage and started lunging for me, clearly out for blood. I distracted him with my school I.D. While he was viciously biting it, I gave him some sunflower seeds, then changed his water. While he was hurriedly climbing the cage to bite the hand that was putting in the water, I retrieved my I.D.

That done, I called the dog. I did not know the dog’s name, so I just stood in the middle of the house and yelled “Dog! Are you here, dog?” No dog barked at me or bit my ankles. I didn’t see his leash to walk him. There was no dogfood bag. Dang. I started wondering if I was in the wrong damn house feeding the wrong damn bird, and how would I explain THAT to the police? I know a person that’s been in jail for two years now waiting for his trial. Oh, well. I’m pretty sure SwampSon would bail me out. Eventually. I checked to see if maybe it was locked in the bathroom. Nope. Shrug. Maybe they took it with them.

After I got home and fed most of the chickens, I had to run to the feed store and pick up a little more feed to last until the end of the day Friday. SwampSon also wanted me to put a bigass tarp over his chicken pen so the chickens wouldn’t get rained on. SwampMan grumbled about how I probably wanted his help. Well, I could use the help. We grabbed the feed right before the store closed, then headed out to SwampSon’s place. I couldn’t find his chicken feed, so I opened up my 50 lb. bag of scratch feed and threw some in. We put the tarp over the pen which terrified the chickens. SwampMan and I had an animated conversation while putting up the tarp which consisted of things like aspersions upon my tarping ability or lack thereof, and my aspersions upon his general demeanor. I think the pertinent phrase was “grumpy bastard”.

Then we got home, I finished feeding the livestock, then came inside to call son on the job. “I don’t wish to alarm you, but the dog was not present. Is it hidden somewhere?”

“Oh, I meant to call you this morning, and forgot. She got somebody to pick up the dog this morning. Did you see the aquarium?”

“Well, yeah, I saw the aquarium.”

“Did you see the newt?”

Sometimes I feel like I’ve landed in the middle of a Monty Python movie. “No, I did not note a newt.”

“Well, he’s hard to see.”

“Yeah, especially when you are not aware that you are supposed to be looking for a newt, and you’re looking for a DOG. I did not look for the dog inside the aquarium. Am I supposed to be doing something about the newt?”

“Well, just make sure he’s okay.”

I have a confession to make. I do not know how to tell whether a newt is feeling okay or is in the midst of a suicidal depression. Nor do I care. I do not know if a newt in an aquarium is supposed to be on top of or underneath the water. I suppose I should research it. However, it is time to check the ewes again. It’s supposed to be stormy and unpleasant here tomorrow. From experience, I know that means that at least one first time momma is going to go into labor out in the middle of a field in a driving rain, and I will be out in my soaking wet, cold pajamas with a flashlight trying to find her and/or the lambs.

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First Lambs of the Season are Here!

The first lambs of the season have arrived, twins, a big boy and a little girl. Momma came up to the fence for feeding as per usual and didn’t betray that Tonight was the Night at all. I’d headed out to do a last check for the night before going to bed since I am stuffed to the eyeballs with cold medicine, enough to ensure unconsciousness through the worst cold symptoms, and what do I hear but high pitched lamb voices.

Ugh. Somebody must have been in an ant nest because I note two swollen itchy welts on my arm that I didn’t notice when I was outside transporting lambs to a more secure pasture. Fire ants *will* kill lambs in a short period of time, so I better go outside and recheck to make sure that everybody is okay.

I’m not really sure how I’m going to stay awake long enough to make sure that the lambs are able to feed properly. Note to self: Tomorrow, delay taking double dose of Benadryl until after the sheep have been checked!

I sent nine chickens (seven hens and two roosters) over to son tonight. The pullets are just beginning to lay, so he’ll have a reliable supply of eggs for the next 18 months or so. I’m falling behind, though. More chickens are coming in than are going out! I have 25 bantam chicks and 20 something standard chicks. I should have had @ 40 standard chicks, but the electricity did go out for a prolonged period on a cold evening, so the eggs got chilled in the incubator. I was afraid that we would get NO chicks, so 20 something actually makes me happy. One did not make it out of his shell; the membrane covered his poor little nostrils and smothered him. The last five or six that are still in the incubator got a lil’ hole pecked in the egg and then, due to malpositioning or being too cramped in the shell, they were unable to progress any further.

Now, if those chicks/eggs had been under a hen, they would be dead. She would have had a sufficient number of healthy chicks peeping for food and water that she would have left the nest and those unfortunate stuck or weak chicks would have been eaten by ants or died from the cold once mom left.

The chicks may be weak and die anyway even if I release them from the egg, but I’m still going to do it. The professionals are probably right about not helping them because it perpetuates weak chicks. Good for them that I’m not a professional, right?

The lambs seemed to be doing well at 11:30 p.m., and I’m having trouble focusing my eyes and staying upright. (Taking double doses of Benadryl AND a narcotic cough suppressant has that effect on me. It is SUPPOSED to knock me out.) I hadn’t noticed how wallowed out it was underneath the gate. The space underneath is definitely big enough for a cat or chicken or duck to walk underneath, so it would be no problem at all for a tiny lil’ newborn lamb to lie down next to the gate, stretch out, and roll right underneath. Then, of course, when they stood up, they couldn’t get back through and would be racing up and down the fence line with the momma racing along on the other side. Eesh. I threw a board underneath in the dark to hopefully keep ’em on the same side with their momma tonight, but I dunno. I might have missed a gap in the dark. I just can’t stay awake any longer.

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