A crowded empty nest

A few weeks ago our nest was about as empty as it could get. Neither of our boys were planning on coming home for Easter and their Christmas visit was long behind us. As I moved the chick incubator into a son’s old bedroom I couldn’t help being struck by the irony of hatching eggs in the very room of the symbolic empty nest.

A few weeks ago our nest was about as empty as it could get.

Neither of our boys were planning on coming home for Easter and their Christmas visit was long behind us. As I moved the chick incubator into a son’s old bedroom I couldn’t help being struck by the irony of hatching eggs in the very room of the symbolic empty nest.

I drew the blinds, cranked up the heat and for once was grateful to have a quiet, unoccupied room to use for my chick hatching project. Ten days later the former occupant of the bedroom phoned to say he had changed his mind and would be coming home for a visit after all. Two days later his brother did the same.

To add to the irony, they emerged from the plane at the exact same time the chicks started emerging from their shells. By the time we got home from the airport seven chicks had hatched. My nest was no longer empty. On the other hand, it wasn’t quite as full as I would have liked. Out of 34 eggs only 11 hatched — not a good percentage at all, but at least I was getting a hundred per cent return on my children. Make that a 150 per cent when you factor in that one of them brought along his girlfriend!

Not to be outdone, Rowdy looked up at our full house and promptly spit out not one, not two, but three healthy little lambs. What a quintessential Easter we were having. Almost a dozen downy baby chicks and now three bouncing baby lambs!

I was pleased beyond reason to discover that two of the three lambs were girls. It’s a rare sheep that can successfully raise triplets — fortune had smiled upon me. Now all I had to do was make one of the girls into a bottle lamb and I would finally have a tame Icelandic sheep for the milking.

Often a ewe will outright reject one of her triplets, butting it away when it tries to nurse. Some will even do that with a twin. If the ewe does take all three lambs, since she only has two teats, there will usually be at least one lamb that stands around baaing out hunger pains signalling the shepherd to break out the bottle.

Rowdy turned out to be a rare sheep. Of course she did. I should have known. She not only bonded enthusiastically with all three lambs but for the first few days they all thrived under her care, their plump little bellies full of milk and not a ravenous baa in the bunch.

“It’s not fair,” I told anyone willing to listen and some who weren’t. “They’re even all the same size. Not a runt in the litter.”

Then one of the ewe lambs looked over at me, let out a small baa and lay down. That was all the encouragement I needed. I swooped in with a bottle and after chasing the lamb several times around the corral (she was surprisingly agile for a starving animal) I managed to corner her in the shed.

It took almost a week to convince the lamb that she needed extra bottles from a two legged mama, but she has finally warmed to the idea. More importantly she runs up to me instead of away from me, and likes it when I scratch her behind her ears. Having a sort-of bottle lamb also turned out to be a bonus when the nest emptied of children once again. There’s nothing like a cuddly little lamb to help banish those childless blues.

When I picked up the lamb yesterday I was reminded of an old story from back when I was a kid about a farmer who had a bucket calf he fed in a little corral without a gate in it. Don’t ask me why there wasn’t a gate – my guess is that if there had been one there wouldn’t be a story.

Anyway, three or four times a day he would fill the calf’s bucket with milk, attach it to the side of the gateless corral, and then lift the calf over the fence so it could drink without being jostled by the other cows and calves. As the calf grew so did the farmer’s strength until by weaning time he was hefting a 500 pound calf over the fence with ease.

Maybe if I lift up my bottle lamb up a few times a day I can strengthen my wonky shoulder.

And who knows? By the time the kids come home for another visit I could be tossing a hundred pounds of lamb around with the greatest of ease and have the physique of a body builder.

Hey, anything is possible.

Shannon McKinnon is a humour columnist from Northern BC. You can read past columns at www.shannonmckinnon.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau announces donation to Duke of Edinburgh’s award ahead of funeral

Canada will donate $200,000 to the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as… Continue reading

Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science) Will Amos responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says the fact that a screenshot of him in the nude was leaked to the media sends a troubling message about the corrosive state of politics in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Canada’s naked MP speaks out: leaked photo sends message ‘anything goes’ in politics

OTTAWA — The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot… Continue reading

Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Most Read