Category Archives: General

All posts concerning animals and life in general

Lambing Time – Life and Death on the Farm

Motherly Concern!

 

Displacement activities are a problem for any writer. In my case they are a real challenge and the annual 5 or 6 weeks my sheep spend lambing are a particular problem and many things are truly ‘displaced’ particularly sleep – it is extremely hard to write when you sit down… open up the laptop… and immediately fall asleep…

But then to write you need to experience life.. and death… and the lambing season is all about that!

When I tell people I have Cotswold sheep often people (some of whom should know better as they are farmers) say to me is – ‘But why? Surely all sheep want to do is die.’ And it is true that often when you find a sheep ill in the field, it is very ill indeed and will often die. But people shouldn’t forget a sheep is a ‘prey animal’ and this means their instinct to keep up with the flock, and look fine, and therefore not a target for any passing predator is immensely strong – so when you find a sick sheep, it is past caring and probably indeed near death.

The Cotswold lamb on the left of the photo was the final of the triplets to arrive. She was unexpected as mum had been scanned for twins. She arrived in a birth sack of fluid and possibly took a breath of birth fluid before the ewe could get to her to lick her free. She developed pneumonia over the next day or so from the fluid on her lungs – and in spite of my efforts to save her with a hefty dose of antibiotics and feeding her milk through a tuTriplet lambsbe into her stomach (not as horrid as it sounds) she lay under the lamp for a day, between her brother and sister, without moving. I was waiting for her to die. I made sure she was comfortable, but there was nothing else to be done. I kept checking her to see if she had breathed her last…

But she kept on going… one laboured breath after another… then in the evening I thought she had gone at last, and gently picked her up. At that moment she lifted her head and stared at me. She was fighting so hard to live; I gave her another feed, some more antibiotics and a painkiller. Half an hour later she was on her feet. And a day later she is feeding from her mum, and jumping round the pen like nothing was ever wrong with her. She might be small, but she really did fight for her life! She wanted to live – she is definitely a sheep, which has no intention of dying!

And so with lambing over, and a good night’s sleep beckoning, there are no excuses left and tomorrow it’s back to writing…

Cotswold Lambs 2015

Snoozing in the afternoon sun
Snoozing in the afternoon sun

With just four Cotswold ewes still to lamb the last few weeks have been pretty busy. Lambing is always a time of late nights and little sleep. There are always life and death dramas and every year some new challenge arises. This year has been no exception.

Mum makes the best bed!
‘Mum makes the best bed!’

But when it all goes well it is just the best time in the world at Queenford. Seeing a well-fed contented lamb curled up beside its mother is so satisfying. Seeing healthy lambs racing and leaping round the field is fantastic and makes those late nights all worthwhile.

The bond between a ewe and her lambs is incredibly strong and each year I find myself amazed by it afresh. That is not to say that there aren’t some scatty ewes out there who seem to forget they have ever had a lamb – but in Cotswolds that is rare! They are generally excellent milky mums which keep their lambs safe!

'I'm the king of the castle!!'
‘I’m the king of the castle!!’

 

I thought any visitors to this site might like to see a few photos of this year’s new arrivals….

Multi-Tasking

I realise how remiss I’ve been with this Blog – it’s like nothing has happened for months – which isn’t true. Lambing is long since over and some of the lambs are looking pretty huge already – like the ewe lamb below. As for Mum – it appears she might not be able to see where she’s going – however – weather permitting the shearer will be here tomorrow, and so that particular problem will be solved! Not that the shearer will remove her forelock – that is not allowed – a Cotswold must keep their fringes at all times – even if it does mean that after shearing they look like goats with mops on their heads! But shearing is a good time for me to give her forelock a tidying trim!

IMG_0230

I have at last managed to get The Nile Cat to a state where I feel I can start looking for a publisher. This is quite daunting  and only time will tell how it all goes – however I am at last getting better at writing a synopsis – at least I hope so.

The real challenge is now to switch off from The Nile Cat for a while and focus on Billy – it is such a different project, and the deadline while self-imposed is tight – but not impossible – so it is back to WWI for me!

Sheep Thoughts

'Mum says this tastes okay - what do you think?'
‘Mum says this tastes okay – what do you think?’

Lambing means not much sleep and  a good deal of stress. It’s all that responsibility I guess. Anyway I thought I’d put up some photos of some of those cute moments that make it all worthwhile!

I never planned on being a midwife! Or a nurse. So finding myself in both roles, even if my patients are sheep, is pretty strange.

Over the last few weeks as I filled water buckets, freshened the pens with clean straw, brought in the food buckets, hand-fed a ewe who had survived a particularly traumatic delivery of her lambs (by the vet, not me in this case!!!) and wielded syringes of pain killers and antibiotics to other ewes who had had to have some lambing assistance, I couldn’t help wondering how any ‘real’ nurses, could ever be as completely blind to their patients’ needs as has recently been reported in the press – after all my patients can’t tell me what they need,  but I work it out. Their patients could talk – but those nurses weren’t even pretending to listen!!! Of course, I know the vast majority of nurses are dedicated, caring and immensely hard-working.

'Mum makes the best bed!'
‘Mum makes the best bed!’

But I have other roles to play too – ‘adoption facilitator’ for one – this was down to a ewe called Francesca. Francesca is a rather beautiful ewe, with fantastic wool and not so fantastic ‘attitude’! This year she had two lambs, a nice largish ewe lamb and a smaller ram lamb. She fell immediately in love with both her lambs, and was a brilliant mother for at least two hours.

Then something happened – I don’t know what! But all of a sudden she decided that the ewe lamb was hers, and the ram lamb was… well, not! And there was nothing I could do to persuade her otherwise. I tried everything – spraying both lambs with delicious vanilla scented musk so they smelt the same, and even tying her up so she couldn’t sniff either lamb, on the basis she would forget which lamb she had decided wasn’t hers.

'Those are the strangest looking lambs!'
‘Those are the strangest looking lambs!’

Francesca is many things – but forgetful she is not. In the end she fed the ram lamb, but only under sufferance. I knew the moment I put her out in the field  she would turn on him. So another solution had to be found – and by this time he had a name – Milo.

I could bottle feed Milo, but a single bottle-fed lamb is a very lonely lamb, and it is SO much better if they have a mother to keep them fed, warm and away from danger, in our case the river. So the only real answer would be adoption. But for that I needed a ewe which had been scanned as carrying just a single lamb to give birth within two or three days, for the adoption to have a chance to work.

'I wonder what's out there?'
‘I wonder what’s out there?’

So one day passed, then another, and another – by the fifth day I had almost given up hope as Milo would soon be too old for adoption – he wouldn’t bond with his new mother. Currently he was surviving, his mother hadn’t actually killed him, but she ignored his bleats, and would lie nuzzling her ewe lamb, leaving Milo on his own in the corner of the pen.

Then at last an older ewe, Genevieve, scanned as carrying a single lamb,  was in the process of lambing. There was no time to waste – as timing in these matters is everything! I had to get Milo wet with Genevieve’s birth fluids and place him in front of her, before her own lamb was born. I also had to tie his legs (gently but firmly) as the fact that Milo at a week old was as agile as an olympic athlete might give the game away! Luckily Genevieve is a maternal sort of ewe, and although I could swear she gave me a knowing look when I plopped Milo in front of her, she obligingly began to lick him dry. When her own ewe lamb arrived a few seconds later she licked both, and never looked back.  Genevieve is a brilliant mother to both lambs and Milo is thriving.  Adoption is truly wonderful when it works!!!

Lamb in a basket with a difference!
Lamb in a basket with a difference!

Lambing is a time when writing creatively seems impossible – tiredness does not lead to imaginative thought – rather I sit down at my computer, open a document and… unsurprisingly, fall asleep. So not a great time for getting on with a writing project.

Yet I think this raw contact with life and death does feed the creative brain. And there is always drama in the lambing barn – whether it’s clearing a lamb’s mouth and nose so it can take its first breath,  watching an exhausted ewe licking her lamb dry, or supervising an adoption, like Milo’s. But I’m quite glad it is ten and a half months before it all starts again. Now I’m off to bed for an uninterrupted night’s sleep!

Welcome to My Blog

Welcome to my first blog from this brand new website – which I might say has given me a few headaches trying to build. I was told Word Press is easy… well it is… once you get the hang of it – but getting the hang can be quite painful!

It is great that you have taken the time and trouble to find me, and I hope you will enjoy your visit. There are the opening chapters of The Nile Cat here to give you a taste of the novel which will be published shortly as an ebook.

You will also be able to see how the biography of my grandfather develops – it is based on his letters from his very first letter written at the age of five, through to his death at the age of 28 during the first battle of the Aisne in September 1914. His story begins in a world of great wealth and privilege, and ends on the edge of a forest in France. The journey from one to the other has all the necessary ingredients of a great drama… adventure, tragedy, courage, and above all love.