Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Longest Lambing Season

Sometimes lambing season is fast and furious, starting and ending within five days.

In those years, we're greeted with newborn baas every morning.

This year, we decided to make life easy on ourselves and only bred seven ewes.

Lambing season is going on and on and on.

The first lambs, twins, arrived March 11, to a first-time mom.

That set us into "lamb watch" mode.

We pasture our sheep, letting them graze and roam up until they give birth. Once they give birth, we bring them into the barn. It allows us to keep an eye on them for a bit--and makes the lambs easier to catch when it's time for vaccinations and other procedures.

Our "lamb watch" mode stretched on for days, and then a week, until finally on March 22, our Big Red Ewe delivered boys.

Surely the others would follow.

But again days went by until the evening of March 26.

Our Dilute Spotted Ewe gave birth to Katahdin/Dorper triplets that were ready to take on the world.

I expected to awake on Easter Sunday to lambs galore. Four ewes were still pregnant, so that could mean 7, 8, 9 or 10 lambs.

Easter Sunday morning was glorious, with sun and bird song and blooming daffodils--but no lambs.

When we return from Easter festivities on Sunday evening, we expected to be sorting lambs in the dark, but no new lambs.

A window in my home office gives me a panoramic view of the sheep pasture. I spend hours watching them graze, looking for that one ewe that's isolating herself.

I saw one lying down yesterday, for 10 minutes, then 20, then 30. I went outside to investigate, only to discover it was Skinny Non-Pregnant Ewe taking an afternoon nap.

Today, in late afternoon, the sheep ambled to the barn to check for hay. It was there I found Neck Roll Ewe giving birth to twins.

It's now Day 20 of lambing season--and we have three ewes, Blood Spot Ewe, Tan Ewe and White Ewe, yet to lamb. A storm is brewing this evening. Maybe, just maybe?

But probably not.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Another Sign of Spring

"Look at the sky," I told my husband. "The sky is spectacular tonight."

The moon was nearly full, and the stars, so bright and welcoming, unlike the cold, distant sky of winter.

The sheep must have thought so too.

For, in the early morning sheep check, the sheep were not under the barn's overhang, the spot where they've snoozed every night this winter.

Instead, I found them in the pasture, sleeping on green spring grass, under the blanket of stars.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Lamb TV

Lambs are born curious, ready to explore the world.

A 10-month-old cat, experiencing lambing season for the first time, is equally as curious.

When the cat, Little One, jumps into the lamb pen, the ewe eyes her, but doesn't move from her spot. She quietly watches as her 2-day-old ewe lamb walks up to the cat and buries her nose in Little One's coat. The lamb sniffs and nuzzles, then finally lifts her head.

The lamb's twin brother approaches the cat next and gives her a good sniff.

Both lambs watch as the cat drinks from the water bucket.

Then Mama Ewe decides the cat lesson is over for the day, She walks up to the cat and nudges her. When the cat doesn't move, the ewe gives her a head butt, steps back and watches the cat jump from the lamb pen.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

An Open Window Morning

Is there anything more joyful than an open window on a warm, late winter morning?

I opened the window last night and delighted in the bird chatter in the early morning light. An owl hooted in the distance.

A breeze wafts through the screen, carrying with it heavy smells of damp earth, rotting leaves and promises of green.

That breeze carries away smells of burning wood, clear cold snow, a house shut up for too long.

With rain in the forecast, the open window won't last, but it promises of spring will linger, linger.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

70 Degrees in March

The temperatures jumped into the 70's today, and the breeze blew, and the sun shone, and the yearling ewes forgot they were adults now.

When I sent Raven, the Border collie, into the pasture to gather them, the young ewes responded by bucking, splitting into three groups, head butting each other, leaping onto each other, dashing and darting about.

Meanwhile, the cats, Trick and Dewey Kitty, played their own games of chase, tag and tackle in the yard.

The critters didn't have to read a weather report to know that sunny, warm days in March are a rarity, that days of rain are on their way.

And so for a moment, I followed their lead, threw back my head and kicked up my heels. For the sun was shining, and the warm breeze blew, and spring is on its way.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Trashy Thoughts

When the grass shows hints of green, it's time for the annual ditch walk.

In late winter, I pick up trash from the ditches along the road in front of our farm.

The trash is most visible at this time of year, when the grass is dormant, dull tan and flattened close to the ground. Once the grass grows, it makes the cans, bottles and coffee cups difficult to spot without the aid of a mowing blade or disc--and that's not how you want to find trash.

As I pick up an oil filter, an empty carton of cigarettes, losing lottery tickets, I think of the couple walking our hay fields in June a few years back. After watching them pace back and forth, studying the ground, I asked them if they were looking for something.

"A cell phone," she said, explaining it had been tossed out of a moving car window during an argument the night before.

I wonder what I'll find during my annual ditch clean-up. When I was a child, our 4-H club picked up trash from ditches, and I marveled at finding shoes. We also picked up lots of bottles and  McDonald's foam sandwich containers.

The environmental messages of my childhood were: Don't Be a Litterbug and Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires.

Today, environmental concerns range from recycling, to algae blooms, loss of pollinators and global warming. And, we still have litterbugs.

My garbage fills with beer bottles, plastic bottles, coffee cups, fast food bags, and so, so many Busch, Budweiser and Bud Light beer cans.

If more people would drink craft beer, they'd be less litter, I think. Does drinking loads of beer and littering go hand and hand?

It takes me an hour to pick up trash from the ditches along both sides of the road, and my trash bag is full.

I didn't find a cell phone.

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Geese Return

The Canada geese joined the bird chorus this week. Dozens and dozens are flying northward to their summer homes.

To my dismay, two stopped at the farm pond.

As I walked the Border collies in the morning, the duo swam to the center of the pond where they preened and swam circles around each other.

Honking geese interrupted their flirtations. Looking up, I spotted another pair flying toward the pond, chattering and honking.

The pair on the pond honked back.

I don't know goose talk, so I don't know what they were saying. I only know that the back-and-forth honking was loud and insistent.

"Oh, no you don't," I said, shaking my finger at the two flying overhead.

I didn't want the geese setting up house on the pond. For four geese lead to a dozen geese, which leads to dozens and dozens more.

The two must have understood people talk, or maybe they saw the three Border collies. They flew on to find another pond.

And to my delight, the pair on the water took off and joined them.

I smiled at my small victory in what is sure to become a long battle with the geese.