I haven't written for a while because I've had a some sad events in my life lately - one after the other and haven't found much to laugh about. I try to write only humorous stories as I prefer to look to the positives, so no stories have occurred to me. I'm sure the menagerie were up to their usual hijinks, but the humour just seemed to pass me by.
Yesterday a friend wrote and asked me to keep posting because she missed reading about my life. I wrote back to explain why there had been no posts only to find that there was humour all around me if I only took my own advice and concentrated on the positive.
Cleo is growing like a weed and is quite a character so it's more than likely that once I come out of my funk I'll see lots of things to write about. She adds joy to my day every day. She has a toy squeaky witch (well two identical witches and one new one in the cupboard in case of lost witch emergencies). The witches go everywhere with her and I am forever scouring the houseyard trying to find where she's left them this time. Cleo tries to entice Graeme outside each morning by squeaking her witch for as long and as loudly as she can. She's trained Graeme to come outside at the sound of the squeaking and play their game of who has control of the witch. This goes on for a while, usually until Cleo gets greedy and tries to grab the spare witch while holding on to the witch in play. She then seems to lose both witches and Graeme wins. I've never actually been able to watch one of these games because if I come into view Cleo stops playing to come and give me the score so far. I keep out of sight so Graeme can continue to bond with Cleo who has him wrapped around her large furry paw.
An old photo of Cleo and her witch. She's a lot bigger now - the witch remains the same size.
Cleo enjoys accompanying me around the yard, and farm if she's allowed out the gate, her biggest problem with this activity is that Cleo likes to take the lead but isn't entirely sure where we are going so she needs to keep looking back to check I'm still on track and also it seems to encourage me to keep up. She does this by furiously wagging her back end while turned in a pretzel shape. Inevitably this causes her to run into things. I'd never realised how full of hard objects my yard and larger farm contains! My progress is filled with calling out, "Watch out!!" or "Cleo! The wall (or rock, or bird bath, or fence, or on one memorable occasion, the house!). Cleo just bounces off whatever obstacle she's encountered, gives me an accusing look, like I deliberately put the house there for her to run into and continues on her way, still in the pretzel/back end wagging position.
Cleo's other peculiarity is her inability to deal with steps. She manages to dramatically trip up or down the stairs nearly ever time she leaves or comes back to the back porch. I've tried to analyse her technique to see where she goes wrong, but it just seems like she doesn't recognise the need to actually go up or come down the steps. She either falls off from the top or runs into the steps and stumbles up them. I live in dread that she's going to seriously hurt herself, but at the moment, Cleo seems to thing that face planting on steps is the accepted means of navigating them. Who knew some St Bernard pups require remedial lessons in ascending/descending steps?
We have almost finished lambing - only one ewe left to lamb. She is going for the record in being overdue. Actually she officially broke the record last night, so hopefully she'll pop today. I visit her a couple of times each day when I go up to the shed to feed the lambs. I try not to encourage her to get on with things - I remember the feeling of being overdue when pregnant and everyone commenting, "Haven't you had that baby yet?" I just sympathise with her and tell her she's still beautiful (despite the round belly I never mention). I know she's just as eager as we are for her to pop. All the other ewes are either out in the paddock with their lambs or in nearby pens showing off their new babies. Life for a way overdue ewe is no picnic.
31st March Update.
The last ewe finally popped and boy was it worth waiting for! She had the longest pregnancy on the farm ever! No wonder. The lamb is the biggest lamb we've ever produced (or as the mother insists that she's produced!). His birth was no fuss and his mum produced him without any trouble. She's amazing (as I've told her a couple of times) He has all the makings of spectacular. He is our highest ranking ram lamb in LambPlan.
Here he is - remember this lamb is less than 24 hours old.
We have a total of 9 bottle babies this year with the possibility of another two who aren't doing as well as we'd like. All the bottle babies so far are the smallest lamb in sets of triplets. We had a record number of triplets this year and decided to keep back one from each set to allow the other two to be raised by their mothers while we bottle fed one. This will allow the two out with their mums to grow a lot better and of course the little ones kept back by us will do better than they would in the paddock as well. We've found in past years that triplets are just problematic out in the paddocks. Mums have trouble keeping track of all three and often one just falls by the way and is either found starving and weak or dead. If Mum raises all three they are all a lot smaller than the rest of the lamb flock because mum's milk has had to go three ways instead of one or two. Most of the bottle babies agree with our plan and tuck into the bottle with gusto. Two little ewes (all the ones kept back bar one ended up being ewe lambs), object to being kidnapped and give us as much trouble as they can - running around the pen, hopping through the fence baaing for help and asking the other ewes to cal the police - that sort of thing. Graeme and I could try out for rugby league teams by now I think. We are expert tacklers and are getting quite fit dashing around the pen trying to corral two non co-oerative lambs. They still gobble the milk when we finally catch them, but they make sure we know they only do so because they are being forced to.
One of the bottle babies who doesn't need catching to feed.
The last set of triplets to be born are still with their mum in the lambing shed. She's a bit of a dozy ewe and managed to step on two of her three lambs at various times, leaving the little ones with a limp. No bones broken thankfully, but with the limp they may have trouble keeping up with their mum in the paddock, and as she's a bit of a vague one, I wouldn't put it past her to wander off and forget she had little ones lost somewhere in the paddock. So, she's staying in until the lambs are walking normally again. This is a problem in itself as it turns out the mum was a bottle baby. How do we know this? The hard way I assure you! I took the bottle into the pen to give the smallest one (the one targeted for later kidnapping) a top up of milk. I had her on my lap trying to convince her that a rubber teat was almost as good as mum's softer, more personal one when the mum under discussion came over to investigate. She took one look at the bottle and something clicked in her somewhat befuddled mind. After that I had to try to fend off a very determined ewe who had regressed to her days of fighting other lambs for her share of a bottle. The fact that the lamb she was now trying to dislodge from the teat was her very own didn't occur to her. She was a lamb again and getting her share of the milk was her first priority. Let me tell you, holding on to a three day old lamb who is reluctant to drink from a rubber teat while fending off a fully grown, determined, if lacking in even average sheep intelligence ewe who is just as determined to drink, is not to be recommended. There were occasions where the ewe won and managed to get the teat into her mouth. While I struggled to wrest it from her mouth and at the same time keep hold of a struggling lamb, she sucked for all she was worth and boy, could she scoop up the milk. Once I tore the teat from her mouth and restored order to the lambs who were all gathered around mum learning bad lessons in what is and isn't appropriate sheep behaviour I took the better part of valour and retreated to the other side of the fence with the lamb I still had control over. From this protected spot I once again tried to convince the lamb to have a drink from the now rather slimy rubber teat. Mum stuck her head through the bars of the pen and tried to demonstrate to her lamb,once again, just how nummy the contents of the bottle were. The lamb remained unconvinced.
The beauty of all this is I have it to do all over again three times a day. Ah, the joys of bottle feeding lambs.