Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Falling & More Island Memories

Falling by megan_n_smith_99
Falling, a photo by megan_n_smith_99 on Flickr.

Now that I've started thinking about the farm - and more particularly writing about the farm - I've remembered more. Sometimes when you write things down your mind moves so fast --and your fingers fly to catch up --and your fingers end up typing things before your "rational" mind points out to you that you don't remember those things. And then you discovered you do remember. Your senses remember.

I mentioned we had 4 ewes to start with but I could not remember the name of the 4th. Well, it's come to me. Her name was Phyllis, after Phyllis Diller. She had flyaway grey hair and a wild look in her eye.

One of those 4 ewes was the mother of the 1st lamb born on our farm. The first lamb was born under a pine tree, during a snow flurry, and her name was Shadow, as she was almost mistaken for one. I believe the 2nd lamb was Dilly. And Dilly was probably Phyllis' offspring -- that would make sense-- But she was also named after an advertising slogan that Dairy Queen was using at the time - “scrumpdillyicious”. Dairy Queen was the only fast food place that was on Vashon Island during the years that I lived there. It's funny - I would never remember that slogan if we had not named a sheep after it. I think another of our 1st year lambs was called Dierdre. She was Gabby's daughter. Gabby was our white ewe, and all of our best sheep were her descendants, though only a few of them were white.

When lambs are first born their mother gently licks away the afterbirth and bits of grass and hay that have gotten to stuck to it. The mother nudges the lamb to stand up, which it eventually does on thin shaky legs. If the lamb has been born in the field we would take the lamb and the mother into a pen in the barn. If you picked up the lamb and carried it to the barn the mother would follow worriedly after, and her reaction towards you would depend on her temperament. Some ewes can be quite nasty if you pick up their child.

After a few days in the little warm pen with its mother the lamb would be ready to join the others during the day, in the pasture. While the mother grazed the lamb would follow her about, occasionally bleating in a thin plaintiff voice, and if there were other lambs they would play together, having little races and running around as fast as their wobbly legs could carry them. Lambs fall down a lot, and have little dirty knees, which is most obvious on the white ones. (Most of our lambs were black or brown at birth.) The young lambs have tiny short pin curls, and their skin feels slightly too big for their tiny bodies. If their mothers are used to humans then the lambs won't mind being handled a bit, but they really do not like to be away from their mothers for long -- and their mothers certainly like being separated even less!

During lambing time there was always a little bowl of water on our kitchen counter holding what looked like green rubber Cheerios. They were actually little rubber bands -- and I am sorry if this sounds awful -- it seemed normal to a child growing up on a farm -- the water softened the rubber bands, which would be stretched out on a little metal device and put at the base of a newborn lamb's tail. After a few days the tail would fall off. Someone, an adult I suppose, would hang the tails along a fence. (That seems quite gruesome to me now.) I don't think this process hurt the lambs much, and it was done to help keep the wool clean and prevent infections because frankly sheep don't have very good hygiene. I am not really sure sheep have ANY hygiene to tell you the truth. Though being vegetarians their filth is really not as filthy as it could be. Perhaps sheep just do the best that they can, given that their brains are approximately the size (and one assumes the texture) of a soft boiled egg. Also the lack of opposable thumbs, or digits of any kind, probably also cause difficulties.

Today's painting is:
5 x 5"
Watercolor and ink on paper
Available on Etsy.

No comments: