Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Even the Sparrow

I find Cletapotamus' sophistication astounding.
He is a never ending source of entertainment, as well as an incredible Livestock Guardian. This is his "Superdog" pose. All he lacks is a cape, a phone booth and the ability to become airborne.

I don’t know if its because it’s winter or if it’s because our friend, the Executive Chef, was here to spend a month, but I am really excited about food. First of all, I know that we could not even afford to EAT dinner at one of the establishments he is qualified to cook for, yet, he comes for a month every year and fixes us dinner every night, plus helps me with special treats. Every year he calls and asks us to think of what we want him to show me how to make. Unbelievable. I wish I was a better student, but perhaps its best that I am not. I am not known for my powers of self control and a person can only endure so much growth, if you get my drift.
Last night's dinner was just stupendous. I took 2 of the meatie chickens we raised, out of the freezer. After picking rosemary, thyme and some garlic I chopped it up and stuffed it under the skin, like he did. I sprinkled kosher salt and some more herbs over the skin, tossed a quartered onion in the cavity with some leafy celery, poured some fresh made, melted butter over it and set it in my well soaked clay baker. This is something that is worth the purchase, even if all you ever do with it is make chicken. It just makes the most amazing, moist and flavorful chicken you ever had and the drippings make an amazingly flavorful chicken stock. Mine is by Romertopf and is a large one, able to easily hold 2 chickens. I dropped some red potatoes in...sadly I was out of carrots, so we had to do without. I will be stocking up on baby carrots next trip to town and canning them, as we will NOT go without again! Next year, I will be canning the carrots out of the garden as well as leaving some in the ground with straw, to store. I have heard leaving them out they get even sweeter. I don’t know this for myself, so I will have to find out. The really wonderful thing about this meal, is that if my garden doesn't fail again this year, I could prepare this without any purchased ingredients. We grew the chickens, the rosemary and thyme and should be able to supply our own onion, carrots and potatoes next year. The butter of course, is my own. This is the kind of eating I would like to do for a lifetime cutting our grocery bill down to an absolute minimum, things like salt and sugar.

Randyman had company for dinner. I think he might be guilty of bribery from time to time.

Setting everything in the pot made for a really easy to prepare supper and gave me 2 hours free to myself as I finished cleaning the cabin across the way today.
During this time, I checked on my apple cider vinegar that I am attempting to make. It has no more bubbles coming up, so its not still fermenting. It smells strong enough to just about knock your hat off, so I think its doing very well. I strained it and covered it again and will wait and see what happens. I can’t wait and I hope it grows a ‘mother’ so I can keep some going. Real raw apple cider is supposed to be really, really good for you.
I threw all the bones and veggies left from last night’s chicken dinner onto a baking sheet with some onions and peeled chicken feet. Yes, chicken feet. They are supposed to be the ultimate in making great chicken stock, and they have lots of good stuff in them, like natural glucosamine chondroitin and collagen. Our friend says they make a fantastic stock and I have read it on the chicken boards as well, so when we had the meaties processed, I told them we wanted the feet. So in they went.

After some web surfing, I found an awesome site called GNOWFGLINS with lots of great tips on real food. I was inspired to start using my sourdough again, so I took what I had saved out of the freezer and rehydrated it. I need a new container as it looks just like my jars of buttermilk culture, only with bubbles. It would be a disaster to mix them up.
Later in the afternoon, I went to check on the sheep, as Madge, the only purebred looking Dorper, seems to be preparing to lamb. Her bag doubled in size in one day. All the sheep ran to see me but her...she laid down looking very uncomfortable. Then she acted like she was begining labor.
I went to get my camera.

I came back with my friend “D” and her camera. Madge, the ewe, decided to put things off for a good long while. I conned her into following me into the lambing shed so I could feed the other animals. Just after dark, Randyman showed up and agreed to put the camera in the shed, which meant moving 500’ of cable and walking along the top of the 100 year old 8’ high rockwall with it in the pitch dark, with lose stones, but he survived. We finally got it all hooked up.
With all the commotion going on, I had no time whatsoever to fix some dinner. I am glad I canned all those meals last month, as we pulled some venison stew off the shelf and heated it up. It tasted wonderful and was a lot quicker than if we lived in the city and ordered 'fast food', which was good, cuz we were both hungry from skipping breakfast and lunch. Sometimes we get so busy we can forget to eat, but I don't mind. I can surely live off the 'fat of the land' for awhile.
Randyman and Cider went to bed, I watched Madge. She seemed to be in labor, but nothing was happening. Nothing. She would get up, lay down, push. Nothing. She’d rest. I figured maybe she was just positioning babies. I left messages on all the internet sheep boards I knew of for info. The general consensus was “wait”.  By 10 p.m. She was in obvious distress. She was pushing a LOT and still no signs of a baby, waterbag, or anything else. I was concerned it had just been going on too long, as nothing about her delivery seemed very normal to me. By 11 pm, I had gathered up some surgical gloves, a bottle of betadine and some super lubricant.
I sat with her for awhile before she decided she really would let me help her. I went in with the glove and found a felt like it was in the right position, so I searched around and found another. There isn’t much room in the birth canal of a sheep for a lamb AND a hand. I am used to foaling mares which at this point, it seems to me, is a whole world easier.
 There was a very large head above the front legs, so if this was all one lamb, he was in good position, but much too large to fit through the exit before him. I continued searching around blindly, to make sure the legs didn’t belong to a different lamb that might be trying to exit at the same time, but it was just one. I waited for her to push again and I pulled...and pulled...and got nowhere.

There was no traction and he was not moving. 
I had lubed her up well as she seemed to be having a ‘dry birth’. What helped to dislodge him also made it harder to pull him because it was so slippery.
I kept working on him, finally having to remove the gloves and found some baling twine which I tied around his front feet and pulled some more. It was midnite by the time she and I got him delivered. Bruno had wandered in at some point and was watching from behind me. Surprisingly to me, the lamb was very much alive, even after all the time he had been crammed in the birth canal with no progress. I made sure he didn’t have any fluid in his mouth and lungs and set him in front of her so she could see what a good job she had done. I sat back and waited to see if there was a twin on the way, while she and Bruno set to work drying off the little buttstopper.

It wasn’t long before I was certain there was no twin.
 After a good long time, I also realized she was NOT going to let him nurse. I had to mash her up against the wall and hold her so he could get his first, life giving, immunity boosting colostrum. This carries all the antibodies necessary to protect him for the first few weeks of his life.
I pondered the past couple of weeks and what bad shape I have been in from my RA. I haven’t been able to use my hands much as my wrists and fingers as well as my shoulders have been really weak and painful, but today, I wasn’t having any such problems, even after spending 2 days of cleaning a cabin, mopping floors and such. The timing was perfect, although I hardly think it was coincidence. A lot of praying went on during this labor and I think even though there was a lot of difficulty, I never felt alone. I think Someone who cares about my sheep, as well as myself, Someone who even counts the sparrow, was guiding us through the process.
All was well, so I headed back to the house. As I watched them on the monitor, it was clear she was not only going to keep him from nursing, but was trying to hurt him in doing so. 
Finally at 3 am I thawed out some goat colostrum from last years kidding and brought him to the house to give him a bottle. He drank hungrily, while I argued with Cider not to keep licking him and get him all wet again.
Cider is worse than Cletus. He thinks every baby animal is his to mother. He tends to knock them over and lick the hide and hair clean off of them if we allow him. He’s great for bringing weak calves around, but not so great with the little critters. Bruno doesn’t let him near the lambs or kids, but Bruno he was outside on patrol again, while I tended the lamb.
After he was dry and fed, I took him back to his mother. Bruno and Cletus who had finished their short rounds, came with me and checked him all over throughly and cleaned up the shed. I finally hit the bed at almost 5 a.m.
This morning came pretty early. I got up later than planned, at 7:30, with only a couple hours of sleep. I headed back out with the boys to hold her again while the lamb, whom I have named “Stewie” nursed. She didn’t fight nearly as much.
I got the wagon and the milker and milked EmmaLou, fed the chickens and checked Madge’s water. After I processed the milk, I checked the monitor and saw she is letting Stewie nurse all by herself. It’s beginning to snow and my wrists and hands are getting painful again, but there is no emergency in front of me now.
Life is good.


  1. What a night! How you had the presence of mind to have a camera handy is beyond me. It is amazing how much strength we can muster (with a little help from above) when we need it. I glad you have so much help - and I just love your description of Cider's method of "helping"! It is obvious, from the picture of your dinner guest and pups, that bribery had been used at some point. Dogs never forget.

  2. Life is Good. Madge is so lucky to have you as her mid-wife. :) Stewie is one lucky boy, too. I laughed out loud when you called him a *butt-stopper*!
    Your chicken diner sounds divine, I must get a clay roasting pan. I had one once. (Lost it and several other things I have yet to relace in a house fire 4 years ago.)
    My favorite meals are those that we prepare from thigngs we have grown ourselevs. The taste is so much better. Or so we think :)
    Have a wonderful and more relaxing day. Hugs...

    1. What a beautiful, amazing thing this birthing process is. I'm so glad it all turned out right. I have seen both good and bad. I do think that you were given some special "powers" to help this ewe with her birth.
      "I never felt alone. I think Someone who cares about my sheep, as well as myself, Someone who even counts the sparrow, was guiding us through the process." This is a lovely expression of what this spirit might be... Someone who counts the sparrow... yes. Very nice.
      The last time I heard the name "Stewie" was when I saw the mini series "The Thorn Birds". I was reminded of the bravery of life and the chances we all take... sometimes ending tragically. This little lamb was given some help and survived. You did well.
      Just rub those hands and wrists with some Aspercream for a few days. If you haven't got any, please buy some. It works really well.
      Love the chicken dish. You keep this up and you won't need a grocery store ever again.
      Cletus is a crack up dog. Love the photos.

  3. Love the photos! The chicken looks a-m-a-z-i-n-g. I know you can't do too much for RA, but have you tried Biofreeze? It is kind of like Bengay but totally better. Cute Stewie.

  4. no, I haven't. I do have to take shots monthly and I am on several medications to minimize the joint damage. I just seem to have good days and bad days...but timing is everything! :) I will check into the biofreeze, thanks!

  5. So sorry you have so much pain to deal with Petey, but it's so great that you have a well developed sense of humor! Isn't it calming to know we are in the care of the Good Shepherd? Your food as usual inspires me to be creative, in my own unique carboniferous way ;). Was this Madges first lambing? I was reminded of James Herriots stories of lambing in the Dales, love those books. Good for you to be there when Madge and Stewie needed you. Growing up we had a ewe that twinned every year for my sister and I to enter in the fair. One year she had a troublesome time lambing. The firstborn was huge, head hanging out, legs back. His head was taking a beating with her attempts to birth him, laying down, getting up... I got home from school and found them this way,fortunately the "sheep lady" lived nearby and was able to deliver her. The lamb lived and I dubbed him Job. I think my comments are too long!!

  6. He is good. The best part is that He has shown me, that even when things don't turn out well...He is still good!
    This wasn't her first lamb, you could tell she'd lambed before when I got her as she had the remnants of a little bag.
    I had a mare try to deliver like you described...head and neck out, with one front leg back. It was hard pushing the baby back to grab that leg but we did it. It was a hard lesson, but was a good lesson too. I think we learn more from our trials than our triumphs. Good name, Job! LOL

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