• Posted on: 21 November 2021
  • By: MrWurster

We are at that time when our lambs are being weaned. Some don't mind, some complain and complain. There's also some asserting authority behaviours going on.

For example a lamb calls for its mother. The mother either doesn't answer, or gives a half-hearted acknowledgment. The lamb keeps calling…"Come here! I'm calling you!". The mother responds, "You come here!". It can go on for awhile.

So I didn't really notice a lamb calling persistently as quickly as I should. I should have noticed earlier….it was pretty much yelling non-stop. It was quite loud, because he was down in a gully and there was a sort of amphitheatre effect boosting it.

It’s a nice spot, and the sheep pass through regularly. An old dredge hole from gold dredging days, its been colonized partially by elms so is gloriously cool and shady in summer, and a good windbreak in winter. Some winters it fills up with water, like this year, then it siphons away through an underground channel, some of it making its way back into the Ovens River via a moving spring.

The saplings in this pic are the same ones in the next pic. This is when the gully retained a lake, for a few weeks. The rest of the elm "forest" is offscreen, out of the water.

Wombats like the steep silt walls left behind from the mining, and rabbits like the wombat burrows, so my dogs also like to pass through more than once a day. The rabbits are just starting to pickup now, and my dogs caught one yesterday.

So they ran ahead of me as I walked towards the edge of the dredgehole. When I got there it was an odd sight. A lamb was at the base of the dredgehole, apparently wedged between two elm trees. My dogs know the sheep are off limits, but when things go offscript they can become agitated. At this stage they were standing back, waiting for me to appear and to spell out what was going to happen next, but clearly they thought something exciting was happening.

I suspect if I wasn't there a fox would have eventually killed the lamb. Its bigger than a fox, and not normal game, but pinned fast it wouldn't be able to defend itself or run off. It was certainly making enough noise to attract attention. So the Winnie-the-Pooh solution wouldn't be a good one.

As I approached, sliding down the wall of the dredgehole, my dogs got closer, sniffing the lamb from both ends, which got the lamb kicking and bucking which in turn got the dogs bolder. Enough. I growled them off, and picked up that dreadful weapon, a stick, and waved it at them. Off they scuttled and sat at a safe distance to watch the rest of the show.

Very odd. The elms were about the same size, and notionally straight, the way an over-populated forest sends up straight trunks. But on closer inspection they were both slightly curved, and if anything, the space above the lamb was slightly narrower than the bulge where he was jammed. I tried to lift him up. Not going anywhere. His wool grabbed the elm bark, producing friction, but his round belly was tightly squeezed. I was worried if I pulled too hard I'd tear his skin, which so far seemed intact. No blood that I could see.

While there's a bit of give in the belly of a sheep, there's not much play in hips and shoulders. A lot of bone, they are a certain width and that's it. So no pulling him out lengthways, either forwards or backwards.

A chainsaw? For one of the trees, not the lamb! That was way down the list. If I cut an animal with a chainsaw I would have nightmares. Less apocalyptic was a reciprocating saw. I could possibly slice a wedge off the tree…No. At some stage I'd have to go past the lamb, maybe a centimeter away with a live blade. Same nightmares.

Plan B. Back home I went and came back with a bottle of olive oil. I liberally doused the lamb at the contact points.

Sometimes with a lamb stuck in birth, I can ease them out by getting one foot out then the other. Pulling both together doesn't work. So rather than wrapping my hands round his torso and trying again to lift him, I twisted him slightly, raising one hip. That, and the oil, and he squeezed up and with a bit of force I pulled him up and free. Solidly on the ground he took off using that Pepe Le Pew run that sheep use when they want to go fast. Straight up the wall of the gully, wailing off into the distance as he went.

By the time I followed after him he was way off, and I could see his mum ambling towards him.

Clearly she had been waiting for him to come to her.