The Last Lamb?

 Well on Sunday we lost a sheep. Not just any old sheep, I don’t have those sort. We lost Nesta, our first home bred badger faced ewe who has a fleece to die for, but not this year.

This year The Shepherd saw her honeymooning with our coloured ram lamb from last year. Does that make him a Ramling?

He is Bryonys son, the twin to Sage. Last year we found the three of them walking down through the village and Sage was limping quite badly. As we were going through a lot of rain and the dreaded Scald had infected the grazing in this area. It lives between the clews in the hooves and sits there all sweaty and nasty smelling until eventually  it becomes footrot.  So, we bought them all indoors and sprayed everyones feet with a purple coloured spray made for such situations. This will often take out the problem within a couple of days, along with an antibiotic injection, short acting and given daily for 5 days. By day 3,  Sage was unable to stand and therefore could not feed. So several bottles a day were administered and she stayed with Mum and brother for a while but the lameness spread. Now she could not move any of her legs. The Vet did not know what was wrong but he tried several drugs and homeopathic remedies. After a couple of weeks Sage came to live in the kitchen as she needed to be turned every hour or so and Bryony  and son needed to be turned out.

 So the summer went on and Sage grew slowly. She could by now move her back end but not her front end. This perplexed the Vet even more as, if it was a condition of nerves he would have expected the front end to be affected as the nerves travel down the spine. Eventually he told us that if she was not substantially better within a couple of weeks he felt her case was hopeless with little chance of recovery for Sage to live a natural life. So curtains for her. Well I don’t know if he expected me to take note of what he was saying but we had had the conversation about if she was in pain-NO. And the bit about her “Spark”, definately present.

 So to use the Vet for her any more was pushing it a bit. We had done the herbal and homeopathic route with no change. So we decided to see how things went. A month later I was beginning to think we should give up too.

BUT, the Shepherdess. She say NO!

Her arguments to keep Sage were all sound but there was a nervousness about her being kept as she was, in a dogbed in the kitchen. We had tried to adapt a baby bouncer, on the Vets advice, so she could get the chance to move her legs and feet, without sucess. We turned her regularly and she could push her front legs against the side of the bed and get a bit of pressure behind them. Her back end could stand but just shoved her forwards, but if she was put on the floor she could shuffle around. Then she would do “push ups” against the cupboards and steps. By the time she had been in the kitchen for nearly 3 months she could nearly sit up like a dog, but if we put her in a standing position, her legs would just bend and take no weight at all as she slumped to the floor.

 Most of the time she seemed happy enough with lots of attention and the best pickings of any greens and roots available. She had a blanket of dogs to sleep with and would boss them all around. She did need to be put in the bath from time to time which she did not enjoy, but though her life was unnatural, it was not causing her distress. I supose it was as unnatural as we make life for a lot of our pets, yet we love them all the same.

 During August, one rainy afternoon, I was starting the process of dyeing some wool in fact rather a lot of wool. It needed boiling to remove the dirt and the lanolin. So with the Rayburn roaring away and a huge pan of boiling wool on top, the kitchen windows were streaming water from the inside and the room smelled like a wet sheep, it was a very pungent place to be. Sage was shuffling on the floor and the last place I noticed her, she was in her sitting position at the steps into the dining room. The dining room door opened and in walked DSs girlfriend. As I looked over and caught her eye, there was Sage, standing at the bottom of the steps. Knees and hocks bent and very shakily but she really was standing.

 Over the next few days she advanced to walking albeit rather oddly, then after a couple of weeks she was ready to move outside into a goathouse. Finally she was able to go out, acompanied by one of us at first. By November she was refusing to come in at night, so warily we let her out, checking on her at bedtime and first thing in the morning.

 This year she was shorn and now she no longer has a brownish dry, even dead coat, she is difficult to pinpoint from a distance.

 Back to Nestas suitor. He remained as wild as the other lambs until Sage started being out on her own. Then gradually he became more bold, until one day I was sitting in my car at the entrance to  my top field, when a dark brown sheep wandered up and stood next to my open window and I was idly stroking it. When I looked to see who had come to visit, I realised it was Sages’ brother. He has been one of the tamer sheep ever since.

 We all think Sage told him of how she lived with us and we looked after her until she got better.

So Nesta has a long luxurious fleece but had not lambed yet so we could not shear her Her wool has begun to separate and felt but as she had grown bigger and more sedentary, there was nothing we could do.

 On Sunday, she was missing. The rain of late has grown the bracken to enormous heights and most is now above my head if I walk the tracks and the sheep stay nearer the dwellings around the Hamlet as the grass is shorter and the wolves and other beasties can be spotted and an eye kept on them. The one short stretch of pavement bears testimony to where most sheep doze during the short hours of darkness. So that needed cleaning and lots of searches through the bracken to hedges where the sheep lamb, proved fruitless. Most of the sheep lamb, if not where they were born, in the same place every year. By afternoon we were very worried. Over the years we have had attacks on sheep, occasionally by dogs but most regularly by local people. On a few occasions we have had sheep taken off the common and dumped, usually miles away and often on very busy roads. So we checked with the Chairman of the commons, and other people who might hear of sheep being dumped.

 Nothing reported, but I needed to go out for a while, leaving The Shepherd to keep an eye out for Nesta and walk some tracks again. She went along the stretch of hedge often used as shelter but now overgrown, though this had been walked lots of times during the day.

I went to collect some much needed hay, lovely green stuff.Useless for horses which would become ill by gorging on it, but for the goats it is well appreciated and keeps the milk yield up. I can fit 4 bales in the back of my car and we use a bale a day at this time of year.

 On my return I went to put the kettle on and make some tea. The Shepherd came in and we talked for a while. After way too long I asked about Nesta thinking that there would be no sighting as she would have said.

Wrong. It seems Nesta had been found along the stretch, checked often that day, with her newborn baby boy just beginning to stand up next to her. He is black with white stripes on his face and a grey haze on his sides and brown on his legs. He was still very wet and she still had afterbirth dangling down, so he was very new. He is quite big. The pair were safely penned up to bond and recover before going back out in a few days. Just a little gem of information.

 Teenagers!

 Now the one ewe who has not lambed this year is Florence, and we are still waiting to shear her too.

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Published in: on Tuesday July 21st, 2009 at 6:26 pm  Leave a Comment  

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