By chance I was reading Sheepish by Catherine Friend, the second book chronicling her life as a somewhat unwilling sheep farmer (her wife Melissa is the farmer, Catherine calls herself the 'backup farmer'). Melissa noticed a newborn lamb with a weepy eye and diagnosed entropion, a condition where the lower eyelid turns inwards and the lashes scrape against the surface of the eye causing pain and infection.
Last night, I noticed that Mary, one of my triplet ewes, had a squint. Could it be entropion? The book says it's not uncommon. On daylight, I picked her up out of the maternity pen and investigated. Yup. So I did what every good shepherdess does and googled it. 'Treatment for entropion' sends you to a helpful, if graphic, instructional video on YouTube. This morning, even before my first cup of coffee, I was watching a vet inject 1 ml of antibiotic into the lower eyelid of the lamb.
Into. The. Lower. Eyelid.
All I could think of was that scene in Bunuel's Un Chien Andalou. If you've seen it you know which one I mean.
I bottled out and made an appointment with the vet, assuring myself that if he showed me the exact technique, and I didn't subsequently faint or throw up, I would attempt it myself next time. I mean, I did manage to ring Knit Romney's testicles all by myself. I feel OK about saving eyeball injections for next year.
Here's Mary, post-treatment, riding home from the vets. Like all good shepherdesses, I let my baby animals ride in the front of the truck. We rolled the windows down going through town and she bleated at all the early Christmas shoppers.
Knit Romney, the last foster lamb, is managing to keep up, size-wise, with his sister Baarack O'lamb, but only because I give him extra bottle feeds. I smile to think that Mitt's namesake is the only member of the flock who relies on handouts. I'm up at 5a.m. every morning whizzing up a sheep's milk frappuccino for Knit.
And because, like all pregnancies, I'm already forgetting the emotional pain and sleepless nights of childbirth, I just sent two ewes to the ram this afternoon: L845 who didn't get pregnant last cycle, and Grumpy ewe who lost her lamb. With help from friends stronger than me, we wrestled them both into the back of the Land Rover and drove the truck, now swaying with 180kg of contained and angry ewe, to our neighbour's farm and dropped them in the field with their ram.
It's not like I need spring lambs but both these ewes are well-covered (that's polite talk for 'fat') and they may be difficult to get in lamb again if I wait until next May. This is also Grumpy ewe's last chance. She slipped her lamb the first year, and lost her lamb to disease this year. She's only producing singles, and if she can't keep one of them alive then I will be packing her off to Ice Camp.
So, there may be sheep babies to accompany all the pheasant babies this April. That's twice a year lambing, like a proper shepherdess, or "flock mistress" as one local shepherd has christened me. I'm hoping to get good enough at this sheep farming thing to graduate to the revered status, coined by Catherine Friend, of "Pasture Goddess".
I wonder if that comes with a tiara?