Witnessing a birth

Camping out on the hill

It was dark and against my brain’s wishes I wrestled out of my sleeping bag: I thought I’d heard something. I left my trooper-friend Susie Q who had joined me for moral support, in her sleepingbag, wrapped in 6 layers of clothing and a balaclava. I opened the tent, put on the yeti coat and stepped into the cold.

In the morning I had come up the hill with Robert, after having been introduced by his daughter, a friend of Susie. The sun was shining, it was gorgeous and I wondered if the borrowed white yeti coat, was a bit much…

His cows seemed to think so, until I learned how to scratch them and help relieve their itch as they shed their wintercoat. We were having a good time until something noisily fell and everyone got a bit startled… Soon as the coast was clear though, scratching happily continued.

Wading through cow dung and straw in my Marc Jacobs wellies ( they were a gift, get over it…) I wondered if MJ had actually meant them to be used for any other purpose than hipster festivals.

After this little detour, we drove up to the fields and for lambing I was told to look for sheep that show unsheepish behaviour. (“Erhm ok…”) meaning they walk off to be alone and seem a bit restless in general. Tails up is also a good sign… or they might just poo: examining the evidence on the field the latter was a more likely option.

I met a lovely French lady who had seen lambs be born the day before, so I was hopeful. Driving the new born lambs with their mums from a separate little field into the covered pens, was a lot trickier than the instruction “Just slowly walk them forwards” suggested. Several rounds around an empty trailer later, I managed to get my family in – after which a little one still promptly escaped.

Slapstick turned into battle film, when Robert tried to perform, what can only be described as the sheep equivalent of a mani-pedi and bikini wax. One mother sheep had gotten fiercely protective. The French lady decided to play music in the pen, and though it was later explained as a healing chant to calm the Alpha-mummy sheep, at the time it provided an eerie soundtrack to one of those slow-motion Lord of the Rings Battle moments. When it was my turn to turn a sheep I epically failed: if I were my sheep I would ask for my money back on the pedi. StiIl I know my own limitations so the shearing was handed back to the pro.

Find the odd one out.

The afternoon we herded to rest of the sheep to the smaller field, I sat in the sun and waited. On my lap lay “One Hundred Years of Solitude” unopened as I admired the view and enjoyed the silence. When Robert’s daughter and Susie Q came to check on me, we had a cuppa in the converted horse trailer (” I really like what you’ve done with the place…”) and as we walked out: I’d just missed a birth. Lambs were just getting up. Hm, did that count? What to do?

As we were here now and generously being allowed to invade a little longer on Robert’s solitary holiday, we set up camp. Thanks to Laura CssD, I had a one person tent with instructions ( which you need to follow, especially if you are an unexperienced tent builder like yours truly)  but that evening Susie and I were watching the stars before going to bed.

Now, in the dark and armed with a small head torch I walked around the field. There I found two lambs already in the grass by mum. The last one just out, being licked clean and…not moving. Oh crap, this was not on the list. Mummy sheep was nudging it and the head came up… nothing. Trying not to panic, I go for a walk and check back. After 15 minutes, one lamb was drinking but Tiny Tim still couldn’t find its feet. Options were going through my head, one strangely being: wake Susie to see if I should wake Robert…

Tiny Tim by the light of a head torch

I skipped waking Susie and a few minutes later, head torch now actually attached to head, I was disinfecting an umbilical cord and rubbing the lamb dry with straw, as it lay with its sibling and mummy in the pen. Robert, in equal fashionable outfit, had manually fed it and apparently the lamb got up an hour later: #winning.

It was 2am and though I had missed the actual drop of the lambs: by watching the first moves, the cleaning of umbilical cords, the feeding and bundling up, I think I’d done all in my limited midwifery powers.

Thus I consider the challenge “Witnessing a birth” thoroughly met.


As promised a new weekly update and I’m very pleased to announce that some progress has been made. Thanks to last week’s resolutions and my friend S, I will be heading to Somerset next week to hopefully witness a birth of a lamb, this lambing season!

I’ve been advised to take warm clothes, a book and a tent as births don’t really announce themselves ahead of time. I have the first two but if anyone has a small tent in London area, they’d be willing to lend me – please let me know.


Lamb (Photo credit: freefotouk)

I will also take my camera to try and provide photographic evidence of this challenge. No promises though, rumour goes my dad took his very fancy camera to my birth but no pictures were taken until far after. ( Not sure if this was because of his shock or my mother’s :))

Fingers crossed that it will actually happen during the time I’m at the farm, you never know we can only hope.

So glad that this project is moving now. there are more challenges in the pipe line waiting to be dealt with. However let’s take it one step at the time: Somerset, here I come.

PS: It worries me that, when searching for lamb pictures, lamb dishes come up before the lovely image attached…