Dinner and a show.

One week ago today I was working away from home and I suddenly got the notion to call my neighbor to check on a ewe that I knew would be lambing soon. Not five minutes later he called back to let me know the lamb had literally just hit the ground. I had a moment of excitement about the lamb.  Then it struck me. Have I gone mad? Gone absolutely mad? I knew exactly when the lamb was being born. I must have ESP! I must have a special connection with my ewes!

And they say only crazy people milk sheep…

I rushed home to find a little ram (boy) lamb. I turned the heat lamp on, and he was good to go. I was thrilled because our friends were coming over that evening for dinner and having a newborn lamb would be so much fun for them all to see.

While feeding later that afternoon, to our surprise, we saw a ewe about to give birth. {So much for my “special connection”/ESP theory — I had NO IDEA she was about to lamb. I really wanted to have that special connection…but maybe this means I’m not so crazy after all? Maybe….?}.

Her waterbag was already showing so we knew she was close. Wade put her in a “jug” (jug = smaller, safer pens to give birth) in the barn. We watched her for a couple hours and still no signs of anything other than the waterbag.

Our friends came over and we enjoyed cheese, wine and BBQ. We showed them around the dairy, they got to see the big ewes and the little lambs. Still no lamb from the ewe in labor. We went to the house for dessert.

After awhile we headed back up to the barn and found the ewe struggling. Something was wrong. The lamb stuck in the canal. We quickly “assessed” the situation (aka: we don’t know what on Earth we’re doing but we better figure this out quick). I began to pull the lamb. We quickly figured out why the lamb was stuck, it was breech. This is when the lamb is coming out backwards, rear-end first. It was too late to push the lamb back into the canal and turn it around (which I have read you’re supposed to do with breech lambs) so I just kept pulling. And pulling. And pulling. As I pulled I repeatedly apologized to the ewe. I’m sorry, I really am. I’m sorry. (she would let out a horrible noise) I’m sorry! Poor mama. I’m sorry. I really think she understood me. Maybe I do have ESP…

Once I had pulled the lamb completely out, I heard a gurgle. There was fluid in the airway. So what did I do? I did what any logical, panicked, lamb-pulling person would do: took the lamb by its back legs and swung it around in circles.

Note: I had seen this trick done by old-time sheep people and figured I could do the same.

While spinning circles Wade was looking at me in a way I can’t even describe. It was a mix of sheer horror and complete amusement. As I was spinning, he calmly asked me “what ARE you doing?” Although he was calm, he was probably thinking: how did I end up married to someone swinging circles with a newborn lamb?

(explanation: the gravity of being swung around forces any fluids stuck in the air tubes out).

It was another ram lamb. He was weak from being stuck in the birth canal, so we dried him off and helped him nurse.

Our friends watched as he took his first steps.

He is up!

They got to experience the miracle of life. The bloody, breech, wet, crazy-lady-spinning-circles miracle of life.

Lindsay & I. Don’t mind the towel covered in afterbirth. Come over and shower any time!

We all began to laugh about our farm life. A nice relaxing dinner followed by pulling a lamb ass-backwards (literally) out of a ewe. Some people watch movies. We watch lambs being born.

It really was dinner and a show.

The crazy circle-spinning-sheep-lady,

Alexis

Lucy.

This is the story of how little Lucy came to our farm. It all started back in December…

Wade and I had a total of 41 animals that beautiful Sunday morning. We had fed our 16 chickens, given alfalfa to our 20 ewes, watched our 2 cats play in the tree outside our house, and pet our 3 dogs.

My sister, Jessica, was in town so after our feed routine we decided to meet up with some friends and take her to Hoovers Beef Palace. Only the best for Jessica. Hoovers (as locals call it) it the place to be on any given morning in our small town of Templeton. Hoovers is home to the best biscuits & gravy and linguica & eggs you will find. If you are ever in the town of Templeton, go there. You will not, and I repeat, will not walk away hungry.

We enjoyed breakfast with our friends. After the stick-to-your-ribs meal we all decided to go out back and check out the small animal sale. Behind Hoovers is a livestock auction yard and on the first Sunday of each month they host a small animal sale (chickens, goats, pigs…pigeons – seriously). We just so happened to be there on the first Sunday of the month (it wasn’t planned, I swear). The boys were not impressed by the sale so they left to go split wood on the ranch. As he was walking away, Wade looked over his shoulder, looked me in the eye and said don’t bring home a puppy.Of course I pretended not to hear this. Off the boys went. Naturally, Jessica, our friend Courtney and I made a bee-line for the puppies. We snuggled the puppies. Who doesn’t love puppies? It was a litter of five Border Collie x Kelpie x Queensland crosses. I was holding the only female. And I had fallen in love. Jessica and Courtney told me I had to get her. I was reluctant. Do we need another dog? Another animal? Do we need a number #42? And above all, WWWD? (what will Wade do?). So against my better judgement I asked the rancher how much the puppies were. He said $20.00 – just enough to cover the cost of their shots. In typical Alexis fashion I had no cash. I told the girls I couldn’t get her. Faster than I could finish my sentence Courtney whipped out a crisp $20 dollar bill and handed it to the man. I was coming home with a puppy.

Don’t you know that’s what good friends are for? To convince you to get a puppy, then proceed to buy the puppy for you, all without asking your husband. What good friends I have.

Now we have Lucy. We are training her to herd sheep…that is after she is done snoozing on the couch. And Wade is in love with her.

Here’s to animal #42.

Minor Details.

Some people spend Tuesday morning meeting with friends for coffee. Others may spend the morning at the gym or watching the news. I spent last Tuesday morning pulling twin lambs out of the birth canal of one our milking ewes.

You see, Wade (my handsome, sarcastic, Wrangler-wearing husband) and I started a sheep dairy in 2011. We literally had no idea what we were getting into. Here’s how it went down: In December of 2010 I had found a way to marry my love of animals and my passion for food. How? Start a sheep dairy of course! One evening I came home from my desk job and explained to Wade I was going to start milking sheep. He looked at me like I was crazy. He started asking absurd questions like, how? where do you get dairy sheep? or better yet, are there dairy sheep? where? have you ever milked anything in your life!? I replied to all of the above questions with two simple words: MINOR DETAILS. My mind was made up and a month later he and I took an eighteen-hour drive to pick up our first three ewes that had been shipped from the East Coast. Our ewes lambed in March and we started milking in April. Here we are a little over a year later as the 7th licensed sheep dairy in California, with a flock of over 25 and product on the shelves.

Every day we learn something new. Had we ever milked a sheep before? Nope. Worked on a dairy? Check no. Pulled out animals that were stuck in the birth canal? Uh, no. Every day is a new adventure. Follow us as we experience life on our sheep dairy and work out the minor details.

And by the way we have sheep. Not goats. Minor detail.