May 30, 2011

Wee Wild Woolies

     5 am.  The fog rolls in from the ocean.  So thick you can hardly see past the shoreline.  It brings a deep quiet, muffling the sound of waves on the shore, the cries of the gulls, and the distant baaing of sheep.  You know they are out there, but they are hard to see.  White on fog.  It's lambing time on the island.  The weather can be a bit nasty in May (especially this year).  It's the cold rainy days when you have to be extra vigilant, tromping over hill and dale all day in the rain, keeping watch.

      Usually lambs are born without incident or fanfare.  While wondering the island you come upon new born lambs tucked behind a knoll or standing on wobbly legs under mom's watchful care.

But sometimes you come upon a frantic pacing ewe and a lamb unable to get up because it's too wet and cold.  Tucking the lamb inside your rain coat you make note of the ewe and where you found the lamb and head back to camp.  A box on the open wood stove oven door serves as a warming hut for cold lambs.  A few hours (sometimes over night) and some warm lamb formula usually brings them around.  Always a miracle.

     With any luck, by mid-afternoon the rain stops and the sun begins to burn through the fog as you head back out in search of the ewe that will claim the bleating lamb in your arms.  Fortunately, the ewes usually tend to stay in the same area where their lamb was born so you don't have to search the entire island.

     But which one of the hundred white ewes on the hillside is the right one?  You slowly move toward the ewes and when you're just close enough you set down the lamb and scurry and hide (the lamb's have a tendency to follow you).  Abandoned on the hillside the lamb will begin to blat a piteous cry.  A short ways off a grass munching ewe will pick up her head and baa in answer.  Calling back and forth they slowly work their way towards each other (cue the violins) until little tail wagging lamb finds ewe.

     Another rounding of the island as evening descends and you take a moment to listen to the ocean and watch the antics of gangs of wee wild woolies banded together for a game of 'king of the hummock' or 'catch me if you can' while mom ewes munch grass nearby.

     Tuckered out lambs snuggle beside ewes at the end of day ....

    as the fog rolls back in from the sea.