Thursday, January 29, 2009

Memphis' turn

And now it is Memphis' birthday. Get a cup of coffee, glass of wine or what have you and enjoy the story.
Memphis is the queen of our flock and has been the great teacher of all things sheepish. Memphis is the face of our farm logo. She is the absolutely most feminine ewe, from her gentle personality to her thin and lovely legs! Memphis is always at the back of the flock but moves right up front and center once visiting begins. She is incredibly photogenic and as I look at these pictures across her eight years, she is ageless, never looking less than beautiful.
Below is the photo I was sent before I purchased her in 2002. It was love at first sight.

Below are photos of Memphis just after she arrived here. The top picture is stunning. The lower picture makes me smile with those ears and full face shot!

We bred Memphis that fall to a CVM ram that we also purchased. Memphis had twin ewe lambs (a shepherd's dream) and so began our first lessons. First, lambing, which she did with complete grace, and second, one of the twins (Trooper) was born with a nerve block in her spine making her unable to coordinate her brain to her back end with regularity.We named the twins Savannah and Trooper. As with Charlotte, Trooper was born an absolutely perfect little CVM with regard to color and markings. And her personality won us over despite her struggle. Here they were with Memphis on their first day, Savannah on the left, Trooper on the right.

After an unsteady start, Trooper gained strength and was able to romp and play and nurse just like Savannah. After they were adjusted to the barn, warm weather arrived and they went out to pasture to run and jump and sproing! Notice how much smalller Trooper is and how her back is not right. We felt though that if she could make it we just would let her be a fleece bearer and friend, never to breed her, of course.

But after 6 weeks as Trooper got larger, she lost control of her hind end more and more and Savannah wanted to play harder and it was just too much for Trooper. We made the gut-wrenching decision to put her to sleep. And I can tell you, once again, I will never make a tough old shepherd. I cried for days for that little Trooper who fought so hard to survive. We laid her to rest under the maple tree in the pasture behind the house which is now one of the summer shed areas where the flock stays cool in the summer months. And that shed has a tiny little plaque on it "In Memory of Trooper~ May 2003". Lessons from Memphis that have to be learned.

Memphis has taught us other lessons. In 2004 she managed to get something lodged in her gum line and it eventually worked it way out to her cheek when I noticed the abscess. That was another toughy as it had to be lanced (the vet came, thank you!) and she did not enjoy that at all. Then every day for a week we had to hold her while I drained the wound and flushed it and then gave her shots of medication. That was my first try at injections and that took some doing. I am a bit squeamish but have managed to do them now although I will never enjoy it.

Another lesson I learned from Memphis occurred the fall of 2004 when she started to hobble on pasture. She would actually graze on her knees. Not being aware of the issue or what to do, again, I called the vet and they jumped to the conclusion we had foot rot. No way! I said, and started to read everything. Low and behold in the simple little book by Storey Books "Raising Sheep The Modern Way", I read about the toe gland which is located just above the hoof area on the front of the foot, shown below.

It secrets a waxy substance and from time to time the gland can get plugged. Then pressure builds in the foot and it is painful for the sheep to walk. Here I am paying Memphis a visit on pasture to help clear the gland. It can take a few times if the situation gets aggravated but clears quickly with no medication. Memphis actually would hold out her leg and let me help her. She knew what the problem was an taught me what to do.

In 2006 Memphis lambed a single ewe lamb, Charlotte. Jack had gone down to the barn early AM to see what her status was as she was showing signs of lambing the day before. Nothing happening so he came back to the house. At 8AM we went down to the barn to feed the sheep and tend to the ewes and lambs in the big barn where Memphis was awaiting her special day. We arrived to Memphis having lambed and Charlotte was in the middle of the barn with the other mothers and lambs all around. We quickly gathered Charlotte and Memphis and got them to their private jug (a small pen with feed, water and a warming box where the ewe and lamb spend a few days so they bond).
The following day we noticed Memphis had a swollen teat , bright red and Charlotte was not well. Vet call. He came and found that Memphis had injured her udder in the lambing process and the udder got blood in it. That blood had infected Charlotte and because she was in her most important 24 hours of life needed immediate help. The vet gave both Memphis and Charlotte injections and left us with the following instructions; twice a day we needed to milk out the blood from Memphis' udder (about a quart would do) and give her some pain meds for a few days. Charlotte had medicine to take each day for three days. Well, that was a ball. Jack goes to work at 6:30 each day so we got up at 5, milked Memphis, did meds, retaped the teat and then each night we repeated the course. It went on for 11 days before finally the milk was clear enough for Charlotte to drink again. We taped Memphis' teat shut each time so Charlotte wouldn't be tempted, and miraculously it stayed on! And thank God Memphis has two teats! If we had not treated Memphis she would have developed mastitis and could have lost the proper function of the udder. As it turned out she came through beautifully and Charlotte used both teats thereafter. Little Charlotte was so good, she felt great after a few days but had to stay with Memphis in a private but spacious pen for the eleven days when all her lamb comrades waited to play with her. We would get them both into the jug for the treatment and Charlotte would lie down under the heat lamp while Jack milked Memphis. To this day I wonder if it is why Charlotte is so mellow. She never runs away or jumps from fear at all. Another lesson taught by Memphis. Here they are in the jug the first few days and you can see the tape on her teat.

Later in the spring this is Memphis with Charlotte. Memphis is the only ewe we have whose lambs still lay with her as adults. Savannah will lay next to Memphis and lay her head over Memphis' back while they rest.

And so this is the story of Memphis (So far!!). Here she is enjoying her birthday. See how little she has changed? I am sure there will be more lessons to learn from her and I will never tire of listening to her. She is a grand ewe and will be with us for the duration. Heres to you, dear Memphis, on your special day!


  1. What a wonderful ewe -- and how lucky she is that she has you and Jack to take care of. It's a good thing that SpecialEd read this first, or he would have been driven crazy by all the awwwww's. A happy birthday to Memphis and all the other birthday girls and boys in your flock! Thanks for sharing the stories and the pictures. They're the next best thing to having a little flock of my own.

  2. Anonymous7:40 AM

    Happy Birthday Memphis!!! What a special ewe you are.