Sunday, February 9, 2014:
We grew up in Texas. It gets cold there in the winter. Sometimes there’s a frost. Hauling round bales a mile each way in the rain when it’s thirty-five degrees out and you don’t own a winter coat, you find out just how warm a brown paper feed sack can be when you cut holes in it and wear it. We aren’t sissies.
But five degrees is too cold for baby lambs, maybe. They were born around milking time, and the ewe wasn’t having anything to do with one of them. The little ram lamb was clean and dry and walking well; the ewe lamb, on the other hand, was hunched, damp, and uncertain on her legs. We didn’t wait too long before we brought her up, but her body temperature was already dangerously low. There wasn’t any fight in her. Fortunately, the good folks at Silo Fence Farm in Minnesota, who are also our valued in-laws, are lamb experts, and on their advice we learned just how good a thing for hypothermia is a bucket of warm water. Hotter than you would bathe a baby in, and dunk the lamb up to her ears. Hold her in it for ten minutes or more, rubbing her to get her circulation going. Then hoik her out, rub her dry (this will require multiple towels), sit down in front of the woodstove with her wrapped in a blanket and offer her a bottle. Raw fresh cow’s milk with a little sugar in it is what the Minnesotans recommended; we added an egg to the milk because of our experience raising baby bulls – the albumin acts as a binder to slow the passage of food just a little, or so the theory goes. It works for us, anyhow.
Pretty soon the little girl was exploring under the furniture in the playroom.
Meanwhile her brother, mama’s good milk notwithstanding, is finding the barn a little too cold. We who were cold in Texas when it was thirty-five degrees don’t have any idea how cold is too cold for a baby lamb. Ewe and ram lamb are in a cozy stall with eight inches of hay under them, but at two o’clock the children bring up the ram lamb to all appearances in the last stages of expiring – limp, almost non-responsive. A finger inserted in his mouth finds it very cold. Into the bucket of warm water with this one; he seems to be having spasms. His eyes are rolling, and breathing is hard to detect. After ten minutes we take him out and dry him but his mouth is still cold, so a fresh bucket of water is prepared and he gets another ten minutes, after which he is still alive, but only just. We’re not beaten until we’re beaten, though, so we dry him as well as we can, being now soaking wet ourselves, wrap him in blankets, and deposit him in the lap of whichever girl child is in front of the heater. Infifteen minutes he is guzzling warm milk from a pink baby bottle.
Love those Minnesota medicine men.