Reading and Lambing in Advent

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Wednesday was a glorious day watching twin lambs born. These girls above left the pasture, curious to know who was having a get together and why they weren’t invited to the party. And if there was any food for poor wandering circus performers.
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It used to be daunting to be the adult-in-charge (an honorary title) during lambing season. But my Farmer Boy grandson has three seasons under his belt. Here he is checking progress.

While I was watching everything, I was also listening. Gavin patted the ewe, assuring her that she was doing a good job.  Thirteen years old, and a powerful combination of compassion and capability.

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The view to the south from the barn door.

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The maternity ward. Two more sets of twins were born yesterday.

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This is the number 1 assistant. His face lit up when he realized that the lamb born might be his first stock show lamb.

Let’s shift a moment to reading. In the fall of 2016 I started reading the first book of a young adult fantasy,  The Wingfeather Saga. I read a 2-7 chapters aloud once a week. It’s a very interactive time. When some characters listen to troll poetry, pretending to like it, I ask, “Show me pretending to like it.”

Andrew Peterson’s books have engendered meaningful conversations with each episode. This week we read a chapter called The Pain of Remembrance.  Monsters who used to be humans see something that makes them remember what life used to be like. Ouch! It hurts! is their response.

Preston (pictured above) explained: “I think it doesn’t feel like [physical] pain for them. But it hurts in a different way because they can’t go back.”

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There’s always onlookers

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Ethan (face not shown) warming up one of the barn cats.

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Gavin collects the colostrum to give to the newborn before he/she can stand up.

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One latched on and one being licked by mom.

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The smile of a successful start of lambing season.

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Between Ewe and Me

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“Nothing’s happening with the sheep right now” were the parting words from the parents. Allrighty then, just make sure the regular chores get done, I thought. We were doing a grandparent gig out at our kids’ mini-farm. Just in case, I had the Lambing Crash Course stuck to the front of the fridge. Gulp.

I’m a suburban girl–the kind who gets squeamish about picking up dog doo. The plastic bag and steaming stuff…?? No, no, no, no, no. <gag> Not in my skill set. When I told my husband about the Crash Course, he chuckled. As if anyone thinks moi will be in the pen, let alone “pulling” a lamb.  I loved all the James Herriot books from the warmth of my pillow and down comforter. I just never imagined needing to use the word pulled in conjunction with any animal.

It was inevitable: Gavin (our remarkable pre-teen farmer/grandson) busted into the house and announced that things were happening. Of course, my husband was at work. I was the lone adult on site. We called the closest neighbor: gone. We called another neighbor (who, in this small-town-world happens to be my boss): gone. But beautiful Sue and her three girls came over to help. We failed to get Mama penned. She galloped across the pasture two or three times. Funny, I never could run like that right before giving birth. Finally, we formed a human fence and coaxed Mama into the lambing pen.

Our next job was to wait. Gavin monitored Mama every thirty minutes. The third time the timer buzzed, he wondered how necessary it was to check this time. I’ll go with you, I said. Solidarity, I thought. A younger brother joined us. As we approached the pens, Gavin started yelling, There’s two lambs!

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We were unprepared. No towels on hand to *Clean mouth & nose first. Gavin hiked off his hoodie, whipped his tee shirt off, put his hoodie back on and began wiping goojies from their faces.

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Even I knew we needed to get the baby lambs nursing. This was, um, complicated. Mama must have been the winner of Miss Woolly Oregon. And little Luke and Leia (as Gavin named the babies) couldn’t locate the teats.

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Gavin reached his hand in the nether-parts trying to find the udder and help the lamb attach. You are way too far back, I said, helpfully. You need to be closer to the front legs.

No, Nana, Gavin said with a firmness that belied his age. We held eye contact for a second. Then I looked pointedly at my chest and raised my eyebrows. I shrugged. We’re both mammals, n’est ce pas?

No, Nana, Gavin repeated with conviction.

And, it turns out, that 4H boy knows his anatomy. The udder of sheep, in case you didn’t know, is close to the groin.

I got in the pen (while wondering What is the etymological connection between pen and open?) and dried one of the little darlings with a towel.

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When nature was working, we left the pen and walked back to the house. As we approached the door, Gavin threw his arm around my shoulder and said, Good job, Nana! Praise I will treasure to my last breath.

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