Although I try to finish the stories started in this blog, I sometimes lose track of providing updates. I recently got an email from a local reader, Brenda B., who had a few questions for me. As I read them over, I thought that others might be wondering about some of the same things, so I decided to answer her questions here. If any of you have questions, please let me know and I’ll do my best to answer those at some point too!
1. Did the little twins ever at least halfway catch up? Their Mom had normal babies this year, right? Did you ever figure out what happened?
Actually, The teeny-tiny ones (blog dated March 11, 2015) eventually grew into fairly normal-sized sheep. Like many of our ram lambs who don’t quite make the cut as a breeding ram, Oleg was sold at auction last November. His sister Odessa was supposed to stay here, but when a gal from Minnesota who wanted to start a flock fell in love with her, Odessa was sold with a group of ewe lambs. She was still quite small at the time (although catching up), so I honestly didn’t think she would breed last fall — but she did! This past May 15th, at about fourteen months of age, she delivered an eleven-pound ram lamb! Both Odessa and her son are doing great, and I hope to get an update from their shepherd when I see her at the Wisconsin Sheep and Wool Festival in September.
Their dam, Natasha, went on to deliver twins (Petra and Piotr) this year. They were a bit small but close to our flock average, and they have grown very well. There is no way to know exactly why her first babies were so small, but I believe it was due to poor nutrition in the first trimester — not that we weren’t feeding her well, but that the other ewes were pushing her away from the feeders. We always split up each feeding among many feeders to avoid this issue, but some girls with a “soft” temperament still become intimidated sometimes. If this happened to Natasha in the first trimester, the placentas for her fetuses would have been deficient and unable to supply the nutrition they needed as they grew, no matter how good Natasha’s nutrition was at that point! As a result, the lambs would have been teeny-tiny — as they were. I can’t know for sure that this is what happened, but knowing Natasha a bit better now, this wouldn’t surprise me. She is very easily intimidated by other ewes in a variety of circumstances.
2. How is smiling McKinley’s butt? Did she heal up? I think about her because her fleece is in my closet.
I just checked McKinley’s back end two days ago, and she is starting to grow a bit of “fluff” in the bald areas. I can’t guarantee that it will all come back, but it certainly looks as if most of it should return to normal. Because it isn’t very long yet, I can’t tell you whether the color will be different from her typical silver. It isn’t unusual for a sheep’s fleece in injured areas to change color as a result of the injury, and surprisingly, it’s usually darker! This is one story that won’t be fully completed until shearing in late January 2017!
3. How can you sew with your sore wrists?
Mending sheep coats after my carpal tunnel surgery is proceeding very slowly! Since surgery on the left hand happened in early June, that one is working much better now. It was actually much more difficult to mend coats pre-surgery when that hand was numb. Now that I’ve had the carpal tunnel release, neither hand goes numb anymore, so doing pretty much anything with them is a bit easier. At least I can feel what I am doing! Yet the right hand will present some problems for the next week or two. The stitches came out this morning, and I’m very limited as to what I can and cannot do with it yet.
I’m using my no-sew approach to replacing elastic in some of the easiest coats, which simply involves tying a bunch of very tight knots. Right now I’m using a combination of left hand and teeth to get them tight enough! That pile of coats is about half finished. I have another pile that I will work on after I finish these, but they’ll be a little more labor-intensive. By the time I finish with those, I should be able to use the right hand more and can likely work on the rest with the sewing machine.
Last winter I was doing nearly everything with two numb hands — including carrying 50-pound bales by the twine! That was probably the most difficult task, since I had to see the twine in order to (visually) maneuver my hands to grab and pick up the bales. I’m thankful that my hands are no longer numb, and although the temporarily limited strength is an issue, I know it won’t last for long! For the time being, I’m finding ways to work around it!