Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Has your blood ever run cold as you realise what could have happened? Although you turn it over and over in your horrified mind, it really doesn’t bear too much analysis, as the logic reduces to—and I apologise to Her Royal Highness, Her Majesty the Queen for this irreverent metaphor—“if the Queen had bollocks, she’d be the King.” What I mean to say is that, on this occasion, it didn’t happen, so don’t beat yourself up too much … just don’t ever let it happen again.

So this is what happened—and what almost happened this morning. With spring approaching, we’re feverishly busy here and today was no exception. The pregnant ewes have been moved to the paddock with their super new shelter, which is next to the just-completed paddock with the best grass we currently have but no shelter. Thus, they’ve been spending their days munching on that scrummy grass and their nights in the paddock with the shelter necessitating two moves a day. No trained collie dog for us, they move between the two adjacent enclosures following a shaken bucket with the promise of some sheepy snacks.

As I was saying, I was busy this morning and, while making the morning rounds of our animals, three of the ewes did as required, leaving one obstinate girl strangely stuck by the shelter. I succeeded in shooing her out of that paddock but, before I could entice her into the other, she’d gone back. You might imagine my frustration as I was in a rush to get on. I shooed her out again and closed the gate behind her and got her in with the others. I did the rabbits and saw that she was apart from the other ewes and had her nose to the shelter, the other side of the fence.

It was then that I became suspicious. Something was up. I walked into the now vacant paddock and looked into the shelter to see a newborn lamb, about the size of a kitten (the Ouessant breed are amongst the smallest sheep in the world). I quickly opened the two gates, whistled, and all four ewes returned tout-de-suite. I called Gabrielle and we caught mum, unceremoniously upending her and squeezing her teats to ensure she had milk; then upending her lamb to see … it’s a boy.

My happiness at seeing this year’s first lamb safely born was somewhat tempered by the “what-if” thoughts of me leaving mum and son separated as I rushed off to do other things. Thank goodness I realised something was up.