Most of the guests at the dinner party have livestock so there was still plenty of commiseration to go around: a couple of sick chickens, my lamb, stories of smaller egg harvests and unproductive vegetable gardens, even a tale of donkey training which, so far, has been neither easy nor successful!
We had to leave early as we're still on lambing duties, and I was already falling asleep in my creme brulee. The alarm went off at 4 a.m., and I pulled on enough clothes to be warm and decent, and walked across the road to check the ewes. I could see one separate from the others already, a common behaviour in a ewe about to lamb. A lamb would be a mixed blessing in this warm but drizzly weather, born in the dark to a tired and disheartened shepherdess. On the other hand, lambs are like burps: better out than in.
I startled a fox in the paddock and it shot across my path like the devil was hanging onto its tail.
In my sleep-addled condition, my pessimistic nature combined with a bad start to lambing caused me to panic and assumed it had killed a lamb, that I was too late, oh woe is me. But, my timing was pretty good, and ewe 2844 was just starting to lamb. An orange dot on her neck reassured me that we were expecting a single lamb, and even a hungry fox is no match for 90kg of maternal howling fury defending one lamb.
I wandered back indoors to make a cup of tea. I returned only minutes later to find her licking a little ewe lamb dry, nickering to the lamb, its wobbly head just visible over the long grass. It must have shot out of her like it was on greased tracks.
Everyone's still tired
Only eight hours old - how can you not worry about something so tiny?
She will probably be fine. She's a strong, single lamb on an experienced ewe with lots of milk. It's my inexperience that's the biggest problem. And that damned fox hasn't helped my humour any; twins or triplets would be vulnerable.
I couldn't find a foster lamb for my grumpy ewe. All the other shepherds are having runs of single lambs this year, even the big commercial farms. Much to Grumpy's disgust, I have put her in a pen next to the rest of the flock, and I'm milking her once a day. As she's loathe to cooperate, I have to tie her head to the fence and get one of the boys to hold her by a bag leg so she can't kick me in the face, which is the only part of the whole process that she enjoys.
Ready for labelling and freezing
Tomorrow is a shoot day, so I will quickly milk Grumpy at the lunch break. I'm willing the remaining five ewes to keep their legs crossed for me until Tuesday afternoon, but I predict a set of twins and a set of triplets before the start of next week. When Eunice - my only first-timer and expectant mother of twins - is laid on her side, you can see the lambs kicking and twisting about in there. She looks at that spot, then at me as if to say "It's been doing that a lot lately. I'm as surprised as you are."
Let's hope any more surprises are good ones.