Spring is always a busy season here, but this time it was sheer craziness! My travels to Germany had put me behind schedule with the garden and I didn’t start planting stuff until late April. I had to cheat a little bit and use onion plugs, because starting onions from seed was just not going to happen! My little celeriac seedlings were also long overdue to be transplanted into the garden beds. Sadly, these poor fellows looked pretty beaten up because I had failed to mention to Tim while I was gone that seedlings need to be watered more frequently than regular house plants.
I also sowed some carrot seed in early spring. I have to admit – carrots and I are not the best of friends! Mine always end up too bitter, regardless of the variety I choose. I had high hopes for this year’s harvest, though, because I had read somewhere that the lime content in the soil affects the taste of the carrot. I designated one of the raised beds as the “carrot bed” and enriched it with a good amount of lime. I then proceeded to add some sand to the mix to loosen up our clayey soil. After sprinkling some carrot seeds over the area I watered the bed. Sand, clay, lime and water – hmmmm, I didn’t quite think that through – I had just made concrete!! You would think that this would be the end of it, but I did actually manage to grow carrots in that soil. They took FOREVER to germinate due to the impermeable crust that had formed on the surface. Nothing else, not a single weed, germinated in that scary environment though, so I didn’t have to weed that bed once!
Luckily, I also sowed some carrots in my tomato beds as part of a “companion planting” experiment (see picture below). The tomato plants are supposed to provide much needed shade to the carrots during the hotter summer months and also help keep nematodes away from them. Here, too, I had trouble with germination, which I think might have been due to the fluffiness of the soil.
Spring was, of course also the time that we expected the new lamb. I had called the vet a few weeks before Frieda’s due date and he confirmed that she was indeed pregnant. This was going to be my first lamb birth and so I was a little bit nervous. After reading many books and watching several videos about lambing on YouTube, I concluded that I needn’t be worried, because nature knows what to do. It seemed that birth complications weren’t all that common in sheep and that in most cases humans don’t have to intervene. My backup plan in case there was going to be a complication, was to call Jen, the vet’s assistant, who was so kind to give me her private number.
Frieda went into labor on a Tuesday morning in early May – I will never forget this day! I opened the door of the little stable to feed the sheep their breakfast. As I gently petted Frieda on her head I heard a “woosh” sound from her rear. Sure enough, her water had broken right in that moment! I wasn’t quite sure what to do at this point and decided to just go after my business for a little while and let nature take its course. I texted my friend Lelayna the exciting news. She said to get ready to intervene if I don’t see a lamb in more than an hour. I took a shower, dropped our youngest off at nursery school and then checked on Frieda again. There was no progress whatsoever. Oh man, I had been dreading this, but here I was, putting on latex gloves and lubricating them with half a bottle of KY jelly. I remembered from my books that the lamb is positioned correctly in the birth canal if you are able to feel the front hooves and nose (in the superman position). I could only feel one tiny slimy hoof pretty close to the vaginal entrance. I was afraid to damage that little foot and tried pulling on it very gently. It was so hard to get a good grip on it, though; I pulled harder and harder, but it was clearly stuck. After about 45 minutes, I had been able to pull out the leg another three inches. I was exhausted and Frieda was clearly in pain. It was time to call Jen. During the time that I was waiting for Jen, Frieda suddenly got up and started walking around. This helped reposition the lamb inside of her so that it could get delivered. Unfortunately it did not survive this difficult birth. It must have died while stuck in the birth canal. As I was holding it in my arms, a little white ram, I remember thinking how perfect it looked. I could hardly believe it was dead. Jen came to the rescue a few minutes later. She lubed up her entire arm and went fishing for more lambs. She said that it was crucial to deliver the lambs right away. In a matter of minutes, she had delivered two more lambs – the first one was also dead, but the last one, another male, was alive and in surprisingly good shape.
After the delivery, Frieda was exhausted. At first, she was not very interested in her newborn lamb. The little ram lamb got on his feet right away and started walking towards her. It took her a little while to notice him, but eventually she started licking him and cleaning him off and that was all it took for the two of them to bond.
Everything went according to plan after that. Frieda was a wonderful mother and the lamb was thriving beautifully. We named him Ferdinand.
To be continued…
Sneak peek at next week: Summer – a procedure under the mulberry tree and my obsession with braiding garlic