Could the second day of the month, be any worse than the first….?
After yesterday’s nightmares, I fervently hoped not. Tony had arrived home at around 2am, after his gruelling marathon ’round trip’ to Cairo. Exhausted, he stumbled into the cottage & went straight to bed; & was unsurprisingly asleep within seconds. Thankfully I gather his company are looking to change the pattern of the Cairo route, as it really is stretching the limits of legality: so long as there are no technical hitches & everything goes to plan with favourable weather en route etc, the Cairo ‘hop’ can just about be achieved within the limits of the crew duty day. But more often than not the crews go into ‘discretion’….which means having to fly for technically longer than they should; but not quite warranting the hassle of an unplanned nightstop. As this is an all-too-frequent occurrence however it would appear the airline is having to bow to pressure & allow crews the luxury of a programmed nightstop. And there have been growing frustrations where short-haul routes have been allocated with medium-haul aircraft, & vice versa; so the pre-positioned pack-ups on board the medium-haul aircraft are lacking vital information for their allocated flights, plus the passengers (many of whom in Business Class have paid up to £3000 for a seat) will be subjected to cramped short-haul seating with no in-flight entertainment provided on a flight of many hours’ duration. No wonder there are some disgruntled crews – & passengers – out there….
Anyway; back to the Ffarm:
Before turning out the ewes this morning I went up at first light to pull any irritating wether lambs out of the hedgerow. Thankfully none were stuck for a change (& in fact generously gave me a full days’ break); but a rather bemused-looking, diminutive silver-&-chocolate Shetland Sheep named Allia, was standing on the little patch of raised ground behind the caravan beside a summer-white cloud of fluffy little ewe lamb, who was joyfully already up & suckling – a sight to make the hardest heart leap with joy. Approaching the little family however, I realised to my dismay that a short distance away there was another little patch of silent, snow-coloured fluff: but this one was prone, not moving; stretched out in pathetic, all-too-late to-help agony; & whilst the lifeless little body had been carefully cleaned by his dam, she’d already abandoned him in favour of his more robust twin; thus left to me, to prepare his sad little shroud…..
With a heart-heavy, belaboured sigh I checked the live lamb & her mother; after which I went to remove the tiny corpse. Yet on closer inspection I realised there were still the smallest perceptible vital signs – the little chest was rising & falling, shallow but ever-so-slightly nonetheless….& there was the lightest twitch of tiny nose & leaf-fragile, woolly ear. Very, very gently I gathered up the painfully cold little body & tucked him into the snug warmth of my fleece jacket although I had little hope of reviving him, convinced he would expire in my arms. I carefully carried him back to the house & quietly placed him on a vetbed in front of the fire in the bedroom, explaining softly the situation to Tony & apologising for disturbing his sleep, as I’d intended to leave him to recover his rest until lunchtime. But needs must…..
Meanwhile after doing the milking, finishing the other chores & turning out the ewes I had to hastily muck out the main pen before also cleaning out, scrubbing & disinfecting more of the lambing pens in order to bring Allia & her lamb into the fold; & hopefully, later, persuade our remaining unlambed ewe – big, broad woolly-faced Allspice – that she should spend a few comfortable days indoors in the protection of the pen until giving birth & letting her babies spend a few days in the warmth where they could grow strong.
Tony helped me bring Allia & her lamb, into the shed; after which it was time to give the four goat kids resident in the house a good feed of milk before taking them to join their lively pals in the ‘playpen’ stable. Whilst they (& we!) were initially a little nervous – with Bechan, who’d never lived outside before being a little ‘clingy’ – they were soon leaping around in joyful dance, playing the caprine version of ‘tag’ (which is fascinating to watch) which they’re all so fond of. Although it was a lovely warm day & full of the promise of Spring we still exercised caution, shutting the top stable door – as there was a brisk North-Westerly breeze blowing across the valley & we didn’t want the new arrivals to become chilled, used as they were to the warmth of the house.
Meanwhile the sickly lamb born earlier in the day & by now recuperating in a box by the Rayburn, was thankfully doing far better; & as he was able to stand & had taken several feeds including a goodly dose of colostrum provided by his remarkably obliging dam, I decided it might be a good idea to attempt to repatriate him with Allia. To my relief she seemed to recall who he was & although a little puzzled by his absence she did at least not reject him outright. However by nightfall he was again getting cold & distressed, & clearly hadn’t managed to suckle; so we reluctantly brought him back into the house & placed him in a warm box by the Rayburn – although with Phase Two kidding about to start & now having to clean out the Lambing Shed as well every day once the ewes have vacated it, the last thing I need is to be caring for a cade lamb on top of everything else – rather than getting shorter, the list of daily tasks seems to be forever increasing. But as he’s doing his darndest to be such a little survivor, it really is the very least I can do….
By evening it was still warm & balmy with the promise of a mild night; but the ewes still had to come in, we couldn’t take the risk of losing any more lambs. We first went up to Caravan Corner & with a bit of persuasion managed to force Allspice through the gate & in with the other ewes; after which I rattled a feed bucket in what I hoped was an encouraging manner & the sheep came hurtling down the hill, followed by their skittering, leaping lambs. As ever Jelly – flock matriarch – trotted along with her nose nudging the backs of my legs; & we were soon all in the safety of the Lambing Shed, although Allspice wasn’t exactly willing to go into the confines of a small pen when she could’ve been in the larger, communal area with her chums. But she still had Allia on one side, & Artemisia on the other; & as the pens have sturdy mesh dividers it’s actually quite sociable.
As the sun went down & I started cooking supper, I put on a tranquil CD to start relaxing after the rigours of the day. It was ‘Renaissance: Music for Inner Peace’ which contains one of my favourites, a haunting, plaintive melody composed by Sir John Tavener called ‘Little Lamb’. As the shadows lengthened in the orchard & the sun slipped behind the hills, our little lamb looked so fragile & small, tucked up quietly in his warm basket; I could almost imagine the shadow of Sir John at my shoulder, observing, writing the sweet notes that hung soft on the evening air.
This tender little creature really is the merest scrap of a thing; in fact, to call him a scrap, is almost grandiose….I do hope he survives.