It has begun, lambing and all that it entails. Or most of what it entails. There are fourteen new lambs in the barn as I write. And fifteen ewes in the lambing room as well as most of the mothers and their lambs. Gigantic. Bagging. Very pregnant ewes. Outside, eating balage are another fifteen nearly as gigantic, also bagging ewes. One dropped twins in the sunshine on clean hay in the downed part of the barn around eight this morning. I heard the sounds of an ewe freshening from the baby monitor in the kitchen, and went rushing down there. False alarm. It was a penned ewe who was rebelling at being confined with her twins that was blatting. However, outside was an old sheep and two largish, long legged lambs. Males, fortunately, or unfortunately. I need ewe lambs this year. Or think I do. I always think I do. And so into the lambing room they and their dam went. No new ones there as yet this morning. But it is early still in the day.
I returned to the house with a light heart after feeding out water and grain and hay. May the rest of the ewes freshen during this warm spell. No wind to be heard. The air, still and quiet, and warm. There are no wars in this house at the moment. A battle or two, perhaps with a rapidly disintegrating kitchen, a skirmish with wet wood, a minor engagement with forgetting to eat properly. But no wars. And I do remember them. And being defeated. Their shadows hover behind me. Peering over my shoulder from time to time looking for a familiar way in. But they haven't crossed me yet.
I've sold some of the summer's lambs and have some ready cash with which to have four more lambing pens built and two repaired. That will give me nine pens for ewes that need a little extra in the way of grain and/or their lambs need to conserve their energy. I've not feeders for them all, but big coffee cans will have to do. There is good hay from Wendell Hotaling and water in the barn for the first time in years. I still haul it seventy feet, but that is better than two hundred each way from the brook and back. Hope lives in small things. It is I who have become too accustomed to rough living to change it easily. But perhaps that too can be changed, or forced off course. Perhaps. Strength of will born of hope.
Two little lambs in the lambing room have thick and curly coats. They are enchanting creatures. Perfect, each, in a classic way, of form of feature and confirmation. I am too hasty in my love and reach down to pick them up as they race by, rather than wait until they come to me. It is a forgivable error on my part. I do not consider myself to be a patient person. And one must be patient to earn the reward from livestock. Sometimes they choose to reward me despite myself. One little ewe with a pink and orange ribbon on her neck runs towards me whenever I enter the lambing room, stops short a foot or two away, and then turns towards her mother. I couldn't be happier anywhere else. If I sit on the floor, more or less eye level with the ewes, they come to me, one at a time, and we stare at each other for a little while, and they then turn away.
One sheep, without a particularly developed udder and without a particular bulge on either side, bearing no magenta crayon mark on her back designating her as about to drop a lamb, barreled her way past me from the barn proper, and, knocking me off of the step, trashed her way into the lambing room. I let her stay. Her vehemence alone convinced me this ewe, who did not show any evidence of being imminently due to freshen, was intent on being in the lambing room. Who am I to contradict her? The next morning she delivered a large, perfect, beautiful ewe lamb. The dam had either freshened in there before, or was born there. The vet, who visited twice in 48 hours this week, was of the opinion that she had been born there. For a day or two she was wary of me. But by the third came to put her face in my hand.
I've not chosen as yet who is to stay. I want them all. But there is someone who wants to buy a starter flock to eventually milk. I need the money. And ten ewe lambs shall go, plus an East Friesian cross ram lamb. Most male lambs shall go for meat. And the ewes shall stay. I've only just begun a list of the names. One has been coming to mind, of late, Glencora. But that, I think shall be the name of the Border Collie puppy I am going to choose tomorrow. Glencora MacCluskie.
Fly's mother whelped this week. The puppies are Fly's full brothers and sisters. I don't know if I can stand making that trip tomorrow. The last time it was with Ernest. To pick up Fly Flanagan. They are both gone. I've not let my mind have access to my heart. It is more than can be borne. The thought of being in a vehicle with a friend traveling across the surface of this life makes me feel so very small. So very momentary. I am momentary. Accompanied by all else that is momentary as well. What tiny creatures we all are. Going about our business. Believing it to be serious.
And so, this new puppy, whom in courtesy to its breeder, Bob Bishop, I shall have to choose by appearance alone, and not by spirit, for I have first refusal, has a name before I've seen her, and a place in my heart that is new, for I have had to create one especially for her. And she may never know how hard it is for me to do it. Shall she live beyond me, or I her?
Yesterday's bread was a failure. Yesterday's soup was a success. Shall I be extravagant and make a new loaf and feed the remnants of this dry miserably one to the goats, or perhaps the chickens? The soup is better today than yesterday. I'm trying to convince myself that 11:00 is still breakfast, but I'm having little success. One "Rule for Living Here" is to not go to the barn until the fires catch. And the coffee has dripped. Oh, I don't drink it until I'm back up to the house, but I want it made when I come in. No farm wife here to help me survive my day. I try to make a soup at night to eat for breakfast the following day. Sometimes that works. Sometimes it doesn't. I have little stamina by afternoon without some "hard" protein. That means meat of some sort. And fuel, for the body, and perhaps the soul. I could be satisfied with this life were I only a little more efficient, and a lot more disciplined. My dream presents itself and represents itself, wearing different raiment with which to clothe itself. But it is always the same. There are voices saying I'll never have my dreams realized. And voices saying I'm not able to pull it off. And my voice saying you don't know even now what you are doing. But the vet himself admitted to being confounded by sheep, at times. A comfort, that, what I do know is that nothing equals the pull that the barn has on me these remarkable days at lambing. And, by some miracle, my timing has been, so far, right. I've walked in unexpectedly on ewes freshening four times. And minutes after most of the rest of the time. An ancient ewe with a severe case of pneumonia not only pulled through, but dropped two lambs, the third being too big and died despite my and the veterinarian's able assistance. She's nursing the two. They look good. And she looks as proud as a sheep can be. Her little ewes shall stay indeed. They need to be named. I must expand the list.
The kitchen is warm enough to leave it. The coffee and soup are hot enough to drink. I see sheep in the pasture looking for a blade or two of grass that they may have missed last fall. I must drop some more hay for them behind the barn. They are reluctant to go inside to eat on this mild and pleasant day. I, too, am reluctant to be inside and shall now go and join them. Tomorrow I shall wash my face and make the journey to choose Glencora MacCluskie.
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