Thursday, March 24, 2022

The lambing season from purgatory continues

I would call this the lambing season from hell but for the three beautiful ewe lambs on the ground. Still, the losses and trauma to get them and keep them surely qualifies as purgatory, if I believed in such a place. (I don't believe in a place called hell, either, but that's a Bible study for another time.)

As I mentioned in my last post, Bernadette was giving me subtle signs (the ones Rick missed on Bette) that she was close to lambing. I installed her in a lambing 'jug' (pen) set up within the Sheep Sheraton, and checked on her periodically throughout Tuesday and Tuesday night. When I went down to do chores and check on her Wednesday morning, her tail was messy, but still no sign of labor. Uh-oh. I grabbed a rubber glove and some lube and discovered . . . ring womb. I couldn't get in more than two or three fingers, nor could I feel any lamb parts. Rick had already left, but he came right home at my call to do an emergency c-section, the first in my flock.

With the way things have been going, I kept my hopes on saving the ewe. When Rick pulled out a stressed but living lamb, my heart jumped. It was hard seeing it wet and cold on the concrete floor of the barn, but Rick had to get the ewe closed up and I had to hold her steady for him, so I could only pray. When I was finally free to pick it up and towel it off some, I could hardly believe my eyes; we had been blessed with yet another ewe lamb, the splashiest one yet!

Rick told me to run up the house and grab a by-now very hungry Bling so we could try to graft her onto a ewe with milk. In the meantime, he milked some colostrum out of Bernadette and tube-fed her lamb to give it a boost. We tried to get Bling onto a teat, but having never nursed, she couldn't figure out what we were doing to her, so she got a bottle. Then into the lambing jug they all went, with me as nurse to watch over all the 'patients.'
Half-sisters Broadway and Bling (yes, newborn Broadway is actually a bit bigger)

Rick had given Bernie a small dose of oxytocin to encourage mothering and milk let-down, with instructions on giving her more if needed. But she started pawing, and then lay down and started PUSHING. Rick called about then and said not to give her more oxytocin (I hadn't); hopefully the ring womb would keep her from pushing out her uterus. After watching her strain awhile, I saw something protruding and called Rick in a panic: "She's pushing her uterus out!" He told me to put my hand against it to keep her from expelling it, but when I did, the mass was HARD. What the ? ? ? "I think it's a LAMB! I thought you said there was only ONE!!!" He told me to pull it out, and I helped Bernadette deliver a very strange, dead fetus, encapsulated in a tight sack, all folded up into the size of a very large sweet potato. Apparently that was in the birth canal, the size and shape of which would not be conducive to dilating her cervix.

The good news is that Bernie doesn't seem to be antagonistic to either lamb; the bad news is that she seems to have no mothering instinct towards either lamb and is definitely against to the idea of either of them nursing off of her. So every three hours Bling gets a bottle and I restrain Bernie so her daughter Broadway (I needed another "flashy" name and her dam is named after stage star Bernadette Peters) can nurse. It's hard because Bling is so clearly bonded to me and wants to follow me out of the pen, but having a sister and learning to be a sheep is essential to her future. And when she's not missing me, she's starting to play lamb games!

I was hoping to leave a less complicated job to my angelic friends who are holding down the fort for us while we are gone, but it is not to be. The other good news is that Bridget looks nowhere close to lambing; please don't let those be 'famous last words' 😳

Sleep-deprived and exhausted at . . .

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

'Glass half full'

Since my last post, it feels like tsunami wave after tsunami wave has tried to swamp me. That's why it has taken so long to write this update, but I need to do it for my own record-keeping, if nothing else!

On Monday night, March 14, my sister texted me from my parents' in alarm. When helping Dad get ready for bed for the first time, she noticed his left leg was discolored and swollen; had I seen that when I was here? No! I encouraged her to call the 24/7 home care line. It took awhile, but a nurse finally came by. She didn't think it was ER-worthy, but definitely thought he should go to the hospital the next day for a Doppler to check for clots. In the meantime, my sister learned that my parents both noticed the swelling earlier; thank God my sister helped that night and initiated medical intervention! Glass half full.

Early the next morning my sister called, sobbing, "Mike is dead!" Our niece has just called to break the news; the night before my step-brother had been taken to the hospital with shortness of breath, and then suddenly expired. Thank God Mike had enlisted a friend to drive him up to see Dad while I was there for one final visit. Glass half full.
One final visit, just ten days before Mike died

But there was no time to sit in shock. My sister was facilitating getting Dad to the hospital while my mom dithered. Once there, Dad was diagnosed with multiple clots in his left leg and one in his lungs, put on blood thinners and scheduled for surgery the next day.

At home, Blaise was getting worse. That evening Rick decided to x-ray her for broken bones to help with diagnosis/prognosis/treatment – and saw, not broken bones, but extra bones. Blaise was PREGNANT with twins!
See the lamb spines along her belly line?

The "x-ray techs"

Given Blaise's dire and deteriorating condition and the fact that the weekend before I had given her dexathasone, this was rather heartbreaking news; I didn't have much hope for a successful outcome for any of the lives involved.

Much later that night, Rick already in bed and heading there myself, I decided to go down and check on Blaise one more time. I'd found her cast and unable to right herself a couple times, and was giving her gruel by oral syringe against her will just to keep her alive; I was too invested to quit now. When I looked in on her, she looked terrible – and then I noticed THIS!

I quickly called Rick (thank goodness for cell phones!) and told him to bring lambing equipment, towels, and a coat (I'd not donned one for what I thought would be a quick check). Given Blaise' small size and weak condition, Rick told me I'd have to go in since my hands are smaller. It took a lot, but I finally managed to pull out lamb #2, an even flashier black spotty girl but sadly unresponsive. Still, I had one live lamb. Glass half full.

Blaise had no milk, so Rick gave Bette some oxytocin and milked her. Up to the house we went with Bling, who we tube-fed through the night. The next morning I dashed to town for powdered colostrum and lamb milk replacer, and I have been my wee charge's personal servant ever since, taking lots of photos along the way. (I might even share them here . . . someday!) And with continued support (Rick has given IV fluids and antibiotics), Blaise has s-l-o-w-l-y started improving. I am no longer force-feeding her, nor do I worry about her getting cast. She will never mother Bling, but at least she's alive. Glass half full.
Blaise seeing her lamb for the first time since her birth. "Who are you?"

"Get away from me." (Fortunately she was too weak to hurt Bling.)

A family portrait

On Friday I got another shock, this one not nice at all. I was walking back to the house after picking up a package at the gate, and saw Poppy playing with something limp in the wooded lot. Afraid she'd found Bling's twin (I didn't know where Rick had buried it), I called her off and went to investigate. It was a dead lamb all right, but the wrong color; it was moorit with a dusting of white hairs on its head. Fearing that Bernadette had lambed, I put the lamb up out of Poppy's reach and ran down to the Ram-ada Inn to check, even while another possibility came to mind and was confirmed by Bernie's still-pregnant condition. Bette had given birth to twin ewe lambs. Where the second one had been for a week was a mystery; there was no sign of trauma or predation. Had she survived her birth but died unnoticed and abandoned when Rick and Brian moved Bette and Boop to the barn? I was heartsick. Not being here for Bette's lambing had resulted in the loss of two ewe lambs, 50% of my lambs so far. Digging deep, I remind myself that Bette's surviving lamb is a big, growthy girl. Glass half full.
Taken the day I found the dead lamb, Boop's one-week birthday.

Meanwhile, a flurry texts and calls from my sister kept me updated on Dad's condition in the hospital. The clots in his leg were dealt with surgically and with a filter in the major vein, but his strength and will were failing. With information from his hospitalist, he and Mom decided that he would go home to hospice care, and my sister was a dynamo getting things ready for his return via ambulance on Sunday morning. My step-brother's memorial service is this coming Sunday; we are flying down for that, and to hopefully have some time with Dad. Nothing is guaranteed at this point; we are all going day to day. I am so glad my sister is able to be there at this time.

And wouldn't you know it? Bernadette is looking suspiciously close to lambing now. I am praying that she delivers tonight, so I can ensure that her lamb(s) are stable and nursing well before we leave.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Life is a rollercoaster ride

Landing in Oregon a week ago today was ecstasy in spite of the whirlwind I knew awaited me. But I did take a couple hours to just check in with everybody and 'smell the roses,' so to speak. Poppy greeted me with much 'hugging and kissing,' which fed my dog-loving soul. A bouquet awaited me on the table, my smallest orchid has buds, and flowers outside are popping:

I got to meet my newest flock member, and then decided to take her and Bette outside for a photo shoot

while the rest of the 'fold of misfit toys' got a little pasture time:

I turned the horses out to play,

and then had to hurry to get ready for a concert that night. I had purchased tickets to Black Violin two years ago for a late 18th birthday / early graduation gift for Brian, and after two pandemic delays, it was finally happening March 8:

Yes, all that was packed into my first afternoon and evening home! But wait; there's more. After a late concert in Portland and little more than two hours' sleep, Rick and I were up and at 'em again to get him to the airport for a 5:15 flight to Indiana. That was the other reason I needed to be home by March 8; to take my turn holding down the fort.

Stayed tuned for how that's been going at . . .

Monday, March 07, 2022


I woke up around 4:00 a.m., having dreamed of 1) Brian oversleeping, making him late for his second day at his new job and creating great consternation in our home; 2) seeing just how bad the condition of the back end of our recently purchased home was (not my actual house, or my parents'), to the point that it was not secure from the weather or would-be intruders; and 3) taking Poppy outside for a potty break, during which she got away from me and I thought she would be 'gone girl' (although her recall eventually worked and I had my hands on her when I finally exited dreamland). As I lay here in the dark, I heard/felt my silenced phone vibrate. Odd; who would be texting me at this hour? Most likely Brian, working his second night at his new job as a nighttime stocker in a big grocery store. I had texted him before I went to sleep; he was probably responding during a break.

It was Brian, but there were two other messages sent nearly a half-hour earlier. Maybe they are what woke me up, though I was not conscious of the vibrations. Rick sent me a video snippet of Bette and Boop at 1:46 a.m. PST (NOT when he's usually conscious), plus a worrisome text. "Doing ok. Blaise however is struggling and not eating. Gave her Nutridrench and dextrose in her abdomen and b complex and Banamine tonight. Got her to drink a fair amount but she is grinding her teeth. Worried me!"

There was no going back to sleep after that. I laid there and prayed for my sheep, my son, my husband, my parents. I wondered if my struggle, my lesson to be learned, was about letting go of "control" (not a new lesson). It is tempting to think that if I'd been at home, I would have been on top of imminent lambing; Bette would have been moved to a prepared lambing jug/stall ahead of time  and monitored carefully, and Blaise wouldn't have gotten bashed/toppled and now be on the verge of death.

But I've been needed here, and helping my parents had to take priority over being my animals' steward. "Honor thy father and thy mother...." But I will be on a plane by this time tomorrow, leaving my parents to fend for themselves after four weeks of being their emotional, mental, and physical support. I am not at all confident that my mom will be able to function as sole caregiver, nor am I confident that she/they will 'call in the cavalry' of self-paid in-home care before an accident occurs. More control issues? Perhaps, but after nearly three weeks of assisting Dad (except for the few times lately I've hovered while Mom practices assisting), I know just how much focus and physical strength it takes to help Dad stand and walk, and I've seen my mom's limitations. I wish there wasn't going to be a four-plus-day gap between my departure and my sister's arrival. I wish we didn't live so far apart. I wish I could be in two places at once. I wish – I wish that there were no good-byes, even as I look forward to a promised land full of joyous reunions.

Saturday, March 05, 2022

Team effort

A lot has happened in the last two weeks since Dad was released from hospital. A great team of healthcare professionals worked with him in the hospital and during his outpatient radiation treatments. Another great team of healthcare professionals are coming to his home, monitoring, supporting, and assigning him exercises to hopefully improve function. Mom and I are helping him throughout the day with companionship, meals, and physical assistance. My sister has helped from afar with support, research, and ordering needed items through her Amazon Prime account, and is driving down next weekend to spend a week here. A team of workmen have labored all this week remodeling the master bathroom to make it more usable and useful, and have taken care of some other needed repairs. My husband and son have held down the fort at home for much longer than they planned or imagined. And through it all, my dad has shown amazing grace.

The master bath remodel was needed because there was not an accessible shower in the house. Their small, square shower stall, directly behind me in the photos below, could not be used because of a floor leak; the tub they never used anyway, and the toilet was old, short, and round.

Now there is a low threshold shower with lots of grab bars in place of the tub so that Dad can get a shower with the assistance of aides, plus a better toilet and beautiful tile on walls and floor.

In addition to a bedside commode and wheelchair for Dad, I asked my sister to order a supply of fiber to keep me and my spindle busy during downtimes. (All arrived quickly; no supply chain issues here!) Then my sister wouldn't let me reimburse her, the sweet rascal.
At the top is the fiber I brought with me, all spun up in four turtles of singles. Below that are the ten different colors of dyed merino roving that came in my order, 20g of each. I'm almost done with that pale pastel lot at the bottom now.

When I woke up this morning, my silenced phone showed two missed calls, Rick at 1:00 a.m. and Brian at 1:05. My heart skipped a couple beats as I opened a text message sent at 1:48. It said, "Heat lamp on the lamb. Ewe number 48 had a single" along with this photo:
Right on schedule for her October 9 breeding date, Bette had lambed. I had so many questions, but knew Rick would be sleeping with the two-hour time difference. So I texted him, "Call me when you're awake." One minute later, he did!

It was not a short birth announcement. When Rick did chores late last night, he found mayhem in the Ram-ada Inn. Blaise was on her back like a turtle; Rick thought she was dead at first. He got her righted, wobbly but alive, then heard a lamb and saw Bette guarding it, all dried off, in the corner. He and Brian had to prepare a spot in the empty horse stall and move momma and baby into it. Brian said he witnessed it nursing, and they went to bed.

I had several questions, including the certainty of the mother since he said Blaise looked kind of skinny to him and Bette had no vaginal discharge. So Rick got up, said good-bye, and headed down to check things out more.

Rick found the lamb cold and weak, so he took it into the tack room where there's a heater, gave it sub-Q dextrose, milked the ewe, and started tube-feeding her colostrum every hour. Yes, it's a ewe lamb. 😊
Bette was distressed so Rick took her into the tackroom, too.

After several hours, little girl gained enough strength to stand when Rick lifted her up.

It was so hard to be so far away, wondering if the lamb would make it or not, powerless to help. I briefly contemplated finding an earlier flight home, but knew the crisis would likely be over one way or another no matter how quickly I could leave. And every day I can be here is helpful, if not essential, to Mom and Dad.

At 4:30, Rick called again. He had gone down to the barn to check on the pair and feed the lamb one more time before he had to leave on a veterinary emergency. When he got her up, she immediately went to nursing! Hallelujah, praise the Creator – and my dear husband's efforts. I am awaiting tonight's report, but I am much encouraged – encouraged enough to share the name for her that popped into my mind and wouldn't leave. Meet Bette's daughter Boop:

That's it for the latest news from Texas and . . .

P.S. for Tim at Oakdale Farm; I sure hope you read this! Your blog has been compromised (hacked?), along with your email. Your blog will load briefly, then switch to a page called "" And the emails I've tried to send to let you know bounce back as undeliverable.