Lambing and calving is a strange time of year. It’s unsettling. I still have masses of routine things to do. But I avoid them. I can’t concentrate on computer work, I shun the phone – where are you? the messages demand; I wander listlessly through the house and wander back again.
Happier outside. I put on my boots, hat and coat; check the sheep, ewes and lambs, check the cattle, cows and calves. Carry hay, carry straw, muck out pens, scrub and disinfect, ready for the next occupant. I’m hungry; I’m yearning for something delectably delicious, though nothing tempts me. I pick at proper food and end up eating a whole packet of shortbread, cashew nuts and maltesers which make me feel sick.
Oh it’s time! On with the boots, on with the hat, coat, pockets heavy with knife, castrating tool, homeopathic remedies, iodine, surgical gloves, notebooks and pen, twine and hanky; out again to check sheep, check cows, check lambs and calves.
Each year I think I’ll manage to avoid my slip into no-man’s-land. Cook good food, rest after lunch, keep to some normal routine if at all possible and prevent the slide. Never works.
I’m in a lull. The first snow-sprinkling of lambs born and I’m experiencing a hiatus. Surely, you’d think, a welcome break before the intensity to come; time to recoup and recover? But it doesn’t work like that. Giving birth isn’t an exact science it’s unpredictable. So every few hours it’s out to check. Waiting, I’m out of kilter; jumpy, wondering when the bubble will burst.
In the nursery field I keep an eagle eye out for any problems that may develop with baby lambs and their mums. Post-partum mastitis, scours in either ewe or lamb, orf, inter-digital abscesses, pneumonia, clostridia, failing-to-thrive and, less serious, but very uncomfortable, scraping glutinous-glue-sticky colostrum-ochre stools which gum tails hard and fast to ballooning rumps (dogs’ delight!). The first few days can be critical. Energy required by a post-partum lactating ewe is huge and demanding, stress triggering all manner of nasty surprises. Baby lambs are tiny and vulnerable, dependant on the ability of their mothers and diligence of their shepherd. But I’m lucky; my sheep are motherly and vigilant.
Oh it’s time! On with the boots, the hat, the coat, pockets heavy…