The new life in front of our eyes

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Farm life exposes you relentlessly to the ups and downs of existence.

But after the recent and still very raw experience of losing Holly, my beloved spaniel, new life is springing up quite literally (they can bounce along those little lambs) in front of our very eyes. Lambing has started.

The first lamb to arrive however was not such a joyful occasion. Its mum must have started to give birth in the night, a few days before we anticipated lambing to commence.

A big single, the lamb had got stuck and its head had swollen so that the ewe could not deliver it properly. By the time John checked on the sheep in the morning the lamb was dead.

Since then John has been waiting for a set of triplets so that he could set one of them onto the ewe.

He had stripped off the ewe’s milk whenever he brought her in with the rest of the flock to keep her milk there. The sheep are out during the day in an adjoining field, and under the barn opposite the farmhouse at night.

This night she is tied up in a pen with a hungry triplet making on and not believing his luck to have all that milk to himself. The ewe is a little ambivalent about her adopted offspring. So that she is not tempted to butt it to death, John has the ewe secured so that she can stand and lie down, the lamb can get under her, but she cannot reject the lamb forcibly.

In a day or two hopefully she will accept the lamb and all will be well. The triplets’ real mum is more than happy with two lambs to feed. Three? Too much trouble.

Lambs are now being born on a regular basis. John is pretty much full on during the day checking on the ewes. He brings home ewes he thinks are ready to lamb, watches out for the shearlings with their first lambs to deliver and makes sure that all the lambs are getting enough to drink.

I have quite a few cartons of ewe milk in the freezer from that first ewe, so in an emergency we could top up a lamb who needed an extra boost.

I help out with the night time rota by getting up at three, and John does the midnight check.

Last night he had to stay out for nearly an hour as there were several ewes lambing at the same time and he needed to make sure which lambs went with which ewes so that none of them were rejected.

Millie, sleeping as she does under the desk in the utility room, has to go out with him. John does not particularly want her around the ewes, however, so last night he popped her back in the house as he went out.

She decided to come and visit me. The first I knew was my eyelids being enthusiastically licked and a very bouncy Jack Russell letting me know how pleased she was to find me.

You get more peace in the lambing shed.

Mrs Downs