Sunday, March 23, 2008

Lambs

The small mountain kingdom of Trelystan should be alive with lambs by now but the weekend's uncertain weather has meant that all bar the strongest are confined to quarters. Sheds and barns are bursting at the seams with the little critters. Over at Fir House a temporary ovine maternity ward has been established.
















At first sight it is a chaotic enterprise - but no, impressive order emerges out of apparent confusion.
















The human work force is in perpetual motion, strawing down, watering, watching, assisting, ever on the move.

Pregnant ewes, bleating raucously and a tad confused, have been drawn in from off the hill and are gathered in a large strawed yard awaiting their fate. Postpartum, and depending on the number of lambs they produce, they will be penned into neat sections - singles here, twins there and the triplets to the right. A slightly sinister arrangement holds ewes who need persuasion to feed their lambs - there must be a technical term for a thing which holds a sheep so it can't turn around and butt a feeding lamb but I don't know what it is. 'Cade' lambs have a corner too. These chunky lambs born earlier in the year are motherless for one reason or another and look to any passing human with expectation. A slightly grim pile of corpses in the yard reminds us that life is not an easy passage - if birth doesn't kill you then maybe the tongue-pecking ravens will.

In this barn I scent the visceral tang of bloody birth, the sweetness of shaken straw, the earthiness of dung and, amongst all this, the sourness of life-giving milk. Here is a pleasant sanctuary, giving shelter from a biting northerly wind, offering protection to fragile new lives. Here is as good a start to a lamb's life as might be found.

I take my photographs and leave - complimenting Heather on the shed's organisation as I go. She brushes off the compliment with a laugh before rushing back into what she perceives as chaos. This is the way it is. This is what they do. I am full of admiration.

15 comments:

Exam Crisis said...

That lamb looks so sweet, glad I am not there to witness the chaos of lots of sheep and their lambs. Hope when we come they will still be in the barn. After all these years I still don't tire of looking at cute little lambs Sad I know.
See you soon xx

WesterWitch/Headmistress said...

Wow life in the raw . . .brilliant insight into lambing . . thank you Mountaineer.

My accordion teacher is also a farmer (I am not playing at the moment) . . . I went for accordion lessons seven years ago and came home with two lambs abandoned by their mothers - they are of course Pebbles and Bam Bam.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Another excellent post Mountainear.

Have you noticed how lambing starts and the snow arrives?

Frances said...

Mountainear, Once again you have let me into a world so very far away from my own. Thank you for allowing me to see what it is like as lamb after lamb enters the world. Beautiful words, and pictures, too.

Pondside said...

Beautiful photos - and great commentary. I pass by fields of lambs these days when I go to work - never thought about the nitty-gritty before. Now I'll be looking at them with a different lens.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Great photos M. We have ours outside all day, braving the weather. They're all in one field now which comfortably houses them all. We don't have a proper sheep shed, just made up pens for when the ewes give birth. However, they do all come in at night, quickly!!

Great description of a very difficult lambing season.

Crystal xx

lampworkbeader said...

How very topical. Lambs are lovely to see in the fields and it's all too easy to forget the reality. Thankyou.

bodran... said...

Nell's been helping with the lambing at a local farm, she's not as squeamish as me. xx

snailbeachshepherdess said...

When you want to get your hands dirty ...just pop over after 19th April....more mealtimes than meals, chapped hands, waking up to find yesterays clothes still on...etc etc

Wooly Works said...

This is the first year that we didn't breed any goats at all, or we'd be knee deep in kids now. I loved your description of the reality of birth, life and death. It's reality at it's most basic.

I remember pulling my first kid several years ago, knowing full well that it couldn't be alive. It was terrifying, and yet more terrifying to know that if I didn't succeed, the mother would die as well. Your piece brought the whole scene back to me in a very graphic way. You have an amazing way with words.

Cait O'Connor said...

I love the lamb photo.
My daughter and SIL are busy lambing at present.

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Just popped by for the first time via Mopsa's blog. You girls don't half work hard on your farms. A lovely read and you writing style is so easy to go with. Good luck with the lambing and getting some sleep.

kissa said...

Once in the Yorkshire Dales when my children were very small we were walking along a lane and heard bleating and peeped over the wall to witness a lamb entering the world. It was so beautiful.
Lovely photographs.

Mopsa said...

Super photos and what an interesting mix of sheep.

Exmoorjane said...

That top photo is truly fabulous.....absolutely love it.