It has been a great lambing season so far: we have 56 healthy lambs from 29 ewes, we have lost only one lamb and no ewes, and have no bottle lambs! (Although we are supplementing the quads and one little triplet with a few extra sips between drinks from Mom in the pasture). This is something to celebrate! We are having a little breather while we wait for the last 4 ewes to lamb. As we catch our breath, we are trying to support each other and figure out what life looks like in this new reality that has been forced on us by a global pandemic. We miss our friends and family who can’t visit, and we are grateful that we have such a supportive ranch family and such a beautiful place in which to isolate ourselves.
I feel fortunate to have our beautiful and ever-needy sheep to distract us, and grateful to have had such a tragedy-free lambing season to this point.
I also feel incredibly lucky to have such an amazing “ranch-family” of dedicated and loving people who give everything they have during lambing. It is thanks to them that we have such a wonderful crop of healthy lambs.
Lolo seems to be everywhere at once during lambing. He continues working hard to maintain all of our equipment, makes runs to town for supplies, but he is also out in the pasture observing the ewes and lambs, picking out the lamb that may have pneumonia, or the one with an injured tail. If we have a ewe who needs help getting up, he is there to haul her up whenever she is down, and to walk her once or twice around the yard or massage her aching legs. If we are having a difficult birth, he is on hand to scrub up and assist, and if I’m short people to do the early morning barn check, he’s there at 4:30 on Sunday, before grabbing his guitar and heading off to play the music at the 10:00 mass at his church.
Lisa is the first to admit that lambing is her least-favorite time of year, because she loves every ewe and lamb so much and can’t help but worry about everything that could do wrong. Lisa suffers terribly for every loss or tragedy we have, but there is nothing more uplifting than Lisa’s child-like joy when things go right. Lisa is there for every ewe and lamb, offering bottles to hungry lambs, making pillows to comfort weak lambs as they warm up under the heat lamp, offering second or third suppers to the ewes in their jugs, carrying a bucket of water to a ewe who is down and can’t get up. She also makes sure that the other animals–the pet ewes and wethers, the rams, the open ewes and the horses–are not lonely or neglected during lambing time. Lisa will stay in the barn all night to watch a ewe who might be in labor, because she can’t bear the thought of that ewe delivering with no one there to make sure it works out OK. She never thinks twice about sacrificing her sleep to take care of our flock. And she breathes a HUGE sigh of relief when the last ewe has lambed!
Melinda came as an apprentice in 2016 and has never left our family! She is an amazing learner and is fearless in sorting out complicated lambing situations by herself, only calling for help as a last resort. Lambing is Melinda’s favorite time of year, because of the sheer joy of all that new life. I love to watch Melinda introduce her many visiting friends to our sheep. She celebrates every lamb, every mother-child relationship, and captures so many joyous images with the camera on her phone. Melinda has also educated herself in pasture management and has taken the lead on managing our targeted grazing during the growing season. She is a talented photographer–more than half of the beautiful photos in my Instagram and blog entries come from Melinda. (The crummy ones are all mine.) Melinda loves to feed people and she feeds our whole ranch family with the beautiful garden and greenhouse that she keeps, which produces fresh vegetables for us 12 months of the year. Melinda also keeps bees, and tends the chickens that give us eggs.
My cousin Linda is like the sister I never had; she has been with us for every lambing and taught me so much of what I know about sheep. Linda’s visit every year is one of the highlights of the whole year for me–we work hard, but we laugh a lot and share so much. Linda is always on watch for the little “hunchy” lamb who isn’t getting enough milk from mom, the weepy eye of a lamb with entropion, or the ridiculous antics of lambs that should have been captured for America’s Funniest Pet Videos. With all the sleep-deprivation, we have countless punch-drunk laughs. Linda’s wisdom, calm, and sense of humor keeps all of our spirits up at a time that can get stressful. We all love Linda and none of us can imagine lambing without her. It is always a very sad day when she needs to leave for home.