I wrote on Monday how I had come home after a trip away to find that my sheep had not been fed and my animals not cared for by our farm sitter who forgot to show up. Because the entire lamb flock was not doing well on Sunday afternoon, even after feeding, watering, and administering medicine to reduce the single-celled organisms that had flourished during this high-stress period, I was still concerned even late in the day. I spent much of my time after feeding and before dark making the trek out to the barn to look everyone over, hoping to catch disaster before it happened. Even a half-hour inside made me antsy, and I would look at my watch, realize that some time had passed since my last barn check, and get my shoes on to head back out. It was a stressful time when only the presence of the lambs around me lessened my dread.
Yet, I also know that too much of the shepherdess can, in itself, be a bad thing. Like most creatures, sheep very much like their habits and routines, and as the sun set, my continual opening of the barn door was beginning to wear on them. I could tell. It is somewhat like this. Imagine your neighbor – the one you really like – begins to come to visit your house, ringing your doorbell and starting some very pleasant conversation. After a few minutes, they leave and you go back to what you were doing. A half hour or so later, they come and do the same thing and leave again. Another hour later, they are back at your door, ringing yet again. No matter how much you might like this neighbor, eventually, you just wish they would go away and leave you alone! This, I believe, was how my lambs were starting to feel about my many trips to the barn to check on them. As I walked back to the house at about 7:30 p.m. Sunday evening, I decided that I needed to stop my frequent visits. I was doing nothing but making myself feel better at the expense of the lambs. My lamb flock needed peace in addition to food, and they were not getting it with my constant monitoring.
And then an idea came to mind! I have barn cameras that deliver three or four very clear images to the monitor in our bedroom. If the few lambs that I worried about most were that hard to distinguish on the monitor, then they were obviously doing well and didn’t need me to come any closer than the bedroom – and if there was something seriously wrong, then I would see that, too. The camera system that we normally only use during lambing was a great way to once again keep tabs on the sheep without disturbing them – a kind of eye up high with an overview of the entire Sheep Barn. Even better, the night-vision would allow me good monitoring even in low light conditions, since the images were most clear during the night and spanned the entire west side of the barn where the lambs were housed. If I went out in person, I would have to wear a head-lamp, limiting my vision to only the area within the circle of light – and it would likely scare them terribly. The barn-camera was the perfect solution!
Thankfully, I never saw a problem among the lambs the entire evening. Whenever I was in the bedroom, I would take a look, but there was no way to single out the troubled lambs. After I had treated them, they had settled into their hay and eventually found a comfy place along the walls to digest in peace. Only one ewe lamb continued to stand throughout the night, according to my cameras up high in the barn rafters.
Now that some time has passed, I’ve begun to relax a bit. There are still a few lambs that are in pretty rough shape, but it seems that most will be OK. Yet, now I have a problem leaving my farm in the hands of others. We have for a very long time had several farm sitters who we trusted to care for the flock in our absence. It never occurred to me that they might not come – but now, I can’t get the thought out of my mind! As a result, we’ve decided to ask our farm sitters to text us when they get to the farm to feed our sheep – every time they arrive. At least this way, I will know if they forget and will be able to find a substitute immediately.
I never want to go through this again – ever!