Wednesday, April 29, 2009


We heat our house with wood and we cut and split most of it ourselves. Sometimes when we’re cutting firewood, we come across a piece of wood that’s too beautiful to burn. Then, Dave gets out his chain saw lumber mill and we cut 2” slabs of lumber from the trunk of the tree. Today, we milled red elm and white ash, two really beautiful woods.

The setup for milling lumber is tedious – draw a horizontal line on the end of the log, Measure up from that line and screw in a wooden plank on either end of the log. Each plank holds two nails. We wrap a string around all four nails and use that as a straight edge. Then we screw four lag screws into the trunk, two at either end. On top of the lag screws we place an absolutely flat 2” X 12” (held flat by steel angle irons running the length of each side.) Then, Dave clamps a milling jig to the bar of the saw and cuts down the length of the trunk. As he cuts, I slide little sticks into the kerf (the cut) to keep the wood from compressing the chain.

We take out the lag screws and turn the slab of lumber over to reveal the surprise inside. Smooth, beautiful in its grain and color, each slice brings new pleasure. Budd is hoping for white ash to refurbish an old panel truck, Dave is planning for book matched red elm stair treads, Tom is dreaming of furniture. Me, I just love the idea of creating something from materials we make ourselves. Like sweaters knit from yarn from my sheep, the wood we mill at the sugar bush becomes beautiful things, hand made in the most basic meaning of the word.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The air was full of birds

Clean up day at the sugar bush was perfect. Dave and I got there first (something that hadn’t happened before this season). We carried four white buckets down to the lake for wash water. The lake was absolutely still. Not even the wake of a goose disturbed the reflection of the sun glowing on the surface.

Suddenly, a Canada goose erupted from the cattails. She passed in front of us, angrily squawking. She left behind a nest built of yellowed cattail leaves. Four creamy eggs the size of my fist nestled in the long beige feathers that lined the nest. We hurried on and filled our buckets further down the lake. Her squawks followed us back to the camp.

Dave started the fires and I strained the lake water. Then we slid our cooking pans onto the fire and added soap to the wash water and bleach to the rinse water. Dave and I, friend Edgar and Tom’s wife Sue pulled taps and nails from the trees and carried the cans back to the camp. Tom scrubbed out each can and then tipped it into the rinse water. Budd or Marguerite fished the rinsed cans out of the rinse water and set them in the sun to dry.

We’ve done this for so many years that everyone knows what needs to be done. By lunch time, all the cans were washed. We sat down to potato soup garnished with leeks that Sue had pulled in the woods. After lunch, eaten sitting on lawn chairs or log chairs, we put away the dry cans, the tables, and the sleds. We loaded our cars with left over food and the rest of our gear.

The last day in the woods this year. I filled my nose with the smell of moist earth and growing mosses. I sat by the lake and watched the sunlight dance across the ripples on the surface. The air was full of birds. Small birds provided constant background music. Over head we heard the rattling cry of a single sandhill crane. Twice, we saw pelicans. Marguerite described them as “a sweep of pelicans flashing a shiny-white as they skimmed over the lake.” I had never seen pelicans so close; usually we only hear them, up, far up above our heads, almost out of sight.

On the way home, we disturbed a great blue heron when we drove between two sloughs. It flew from the open water on one side of the road to the open water on the other, grey blue wings beating steadily, yellow green legs streaming behind. One of those miraculous everyday engineering improbabilities.

And finally, the geese. Ever present, from early spring until late fall, some geese even over winter in the warmed lakes of the power plant in Fergus Falls and the open water of rivers. I love the Canada geese partly because they are monogamous, and partly because they have adapted so well to what man has done to their environment. We saw our first pair three or four weeks ago before there was any open water in the lakes, just little puddles of melt water at the edge of the sloughs. We saw our first family complete with little fluffs of grey goslings on the way home from clean up at the bush. And when we reached home, we heard a whole cacophony of them honking musically in the cattails behind our farm.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Making hay

Yesterday it was 84 degrees, tonight, exactly 24 hours later, it is snowing. And what is Dave doing in the snow? He is driving the tractor round and round the field. Every spring, before the alfalfa plants have barely sprouted, he drives the tractor over the field, pulling a Rube Goldberg sort of collection of interlocking metal parts behind him. This drag is supposed to knock down the dead weeds (and there always seem to be thistles in our fields), the remnants of the alfalfa that grew up after our last cutting in 2008, and this springs crop of gopher mounds. If we don’t get the field dragged, our hay for this year contains too many un-nutritious, un-tasty old alfalfa stalks, and the ride on the hay rack is rougher and more dangerous than it already is.

If Dave drags the field, our hay will be great – unless it gets rained on - in which case it loses nutrient value and probably molds, or we wait for the weather to clear and cut it too late - in which case it doesn’t have enough protein, or there’s rain coming and we bale it before it is completely dry – and it molds, or we bale it after it has dried too much- and leaves (and much of the protein) fall off.

Making hay is a gambler’s occupation – way too many opportunities to fail. We have learned, however, that the best way to have good hay to feed our sheep is to bale it ourselves. So we keep trying to overcome the odds by doing our best. Some years, driving the tractor round and round the field pulling a drag during a snow shower is the best way to start making good hay.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Life continues

Dave mentioned yesterday that there were little blue flowers blooming in the shade garden. So I took the camera out to find one. The scillas were up, their tiny blue bells bright in the patchy sunlight. Stiff bluish green leaf stalks had forced their way through the dry beige remnants of last seasons leaves. And in the center of the leaf cluster, dark green stalks each support a single brilliant blue bell.

I lay down on the cool, moist ground to photograph the flowers and the smell of the earth enveloped me. Up close, the scilla flowers appear sturdy, quite capable of forcing their way through the frozen ground to be the first flowers of spring.

The sun enticed me and I wandered into the hay field, searching for pussy willows. They thrive in the moist soil at the edge of the streamlet (if you are a hydrological engineer, read drainage ditch) that divides the east hay field from the rest of our property. But those willows were too large for me to get good photographs of the fuzzy pussy buds. I wander on, following our property line until I come to a perfect willow tree, all by itself at the edge of the slough on the border between tillable land and wetland - dry enough to drive a tractor on some years, but usually too wet to work.

The willow was perfect, a trophy tree if there was such a thing, the tips of it’s branches glowing green in the afternoon sun. I stepped within the crown of the tree to focus the camera on a stem of pussy willow buds just beginning to bloom. Thread fine anthers tipped with yellow pollen had forced their way through the pussy fuzz.

Gradually, I became aware of the sound. The willow tree was full of honey bees. These were the workers Dave and I had hived less than a week ago. They were gathering pollen to feed the brood, the larval bees which were growing from the eggs laid by their queen. These bees and this willow were the first stages of our honey harvest next October.

The bees climbed around on the flowers, picking up bits of pollen as they walked. They brushed their front legs against their hind legs repeatedly, transferring the pollen they had just picked up to storage. Each bee wore bright orange ovals of pollen on their hind legs.

The bees ignored me until I attempted to take their photographs. When I moved in on a branch with a foraging bee, the bee moved on. Then a cloud obscured the sun and I could feel the temperature dropping. The foraging bees disappeared. They must have been flying at their minimum temperature tolerance.

For me, the weather was still beautifully warm and I continued my walk through the woods. The elderberry bushes were budding out, the silver maple had already bloomed and scattered pollen to the winds. Green leaves were beginning to push their way through the leaf duff, but I saw no wild flowers until I turned around to walk back toward the house, still searching the dun forest floor for color. Suddenly, just where I had expected to see them, but hadn’t when I had walked past the first time, I saw the blossoms of a trilobed hepatica.

Tiny, light purple flowers trembled above the dead leaves carpeting the ground. Not a trace of green, just the flowers, so fragile, so delicate. And yet strong enough to survive late season frosts like we had last night.

The hepatica are a gift from my mother, given to me every spring even though she died ten years ago. I remember planting the scruffy looking plant the second year we lived here. Laurel was just beginning to trundle through the woods, Amber was ready and willing to help with every job. The four of us wandered through the woods to find the best place to plant each wild flower harvested from my mother’s garden.

Twenty seven years later, one hepatica had only multiplied to two hepatica. But they are surviving. And every year, they remind me that spring follows winter. Every year, they remind me of walking through our woods with my children almost thirty years ago and even more amazingly, every year, the hepatica remind me of walking through her woods with my mother, fifty years ago. The hepatica are a sign that spring has come and summer will follow, that six months from now we will be harvesting honey, and that thirty years from now, the sight of a hepatica may remind my daughters of their mother and perhaps of their grandmother. Life continues.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

A place in my heart

Art teacher Laura Moe and Chewy

We sell most of our lambs. Each year, a few lucky ewe lambs go to new homes, and we keep a few ourselves, but the rest join the ram lambs in the pasture from which new refugees to our community select lambs to roast for weddings, birthdays and other celebrations.

Because I know that we will sell them, I try very hard to become attached only to the few we will add to our flock. And every year I struggle with the bottle lambs. If the lamb has a nice fleece, and is a girl, and isn’t a bottle lamb because of some physical problem, then I look forward to adopting them. But the rest I have to enjoy as bottle lambs without becoming attached. That is easier to do if they all look the same – plain vanilla white. And I never, ever name them until we decide to keep them.

This year we have two bottle lambs who don’t fit that plain vanilla description. Chewy is black with striking white markings on his face. He went to school to introduce a group of children to sheep and wool. They named him, I didn’t, because he chewed on their shoe laces. Chewy, like all bottle lambs is affectionate, enthusiastic, and follow us everywhere. Then, Chewy broke his leg. I don’t know if he got tangled in a fence, or stepped on by a ewe, but he was limping when we found him on Sunday. I held him and Dave fit a curved metal splint around his hind leg. Next Dave wrapped his leg in bright blue vet wrap and attached it to the splint. When I let Chewy go, he struggled to his feet and raced off, half the time dragging the splint and half the time walking with it. Wherever he went, he was recognizable by his walk and by the bright blue bandage.

Although he is a white lamb, Little Bit is not plain vanilla either. Dave struggled hard to resuscitate him when he was born and we had to warm him twice. He eventually grew enough wool and matured enough to maintain his own body temperature and we were able to turn off both the heat lamps that warmed him. He finally learned to use the sucker bucket and we were able to stop going out to the barn to feed him every four hours.

Now, after only four weeks, we are trying to wean him. All the other bottle lambs are weaning successfully, but Little Bit always looks hungry. He is the smallest lamb in the flock. He was too fragile when we should have docked his tail, so he is the only lamb in the flock with a tail. And to top it off, he developed a septic shoulder joint which Dave drained and treated with antibiotics for two weeks and now he limps.

Tonight when I took fresh milk out for the sucker bucket, Little Bit looked hungry, but his limp was better. Chewy, on the other hand, had lost his splint and his limp was worse. Tomorrow, we will resplint his leg. Tomorrow, I will dilute Little Bit’s milk with water so he will have to depend even more on hay and lamb creep, the ground grain and vitamin mixture that we feed to the lambs.

With each succeeding day, Chewy and Little Bit will look more like the other lambs in the pasture. For now, when I stand at the fence line watching the lambs, Chewie and Little Bit rush to welcome me, their little faces eager for milk and attention. I pet their heads and they suck my fingers. I can’t keep either of these lambs. They have no place in my flock, but they do have a place in my heart. Lambs like Chewie and Little Bit remind me that I don’t raise meat, I raise breathing, running animals.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Winter is past

Yesterday I got a fire permit so that we can burn the old bee hives. Hopefully burning will destroy any microbes that have over-wintered and our new bees will remain healthy.

We filled two pickup loads of trash from the bee area – old hives, bee travel boxes, and insulation. I collected 24 cans that were shipped with packages of bees, still with remnants of sugar water in them. How could we have not cleaned up after ourselves these last 29 years of raising bees? The woods which shelter the hives from the north winds also harbor two trash piles that were here when we brought the property in 1980. I had long ago given up on the idea of cleaning up those piles, but I never imagined that we would create our own.

Tonight, our woods are a little bit cleaner and we’ll have a big bonfire, sip some red wine, and enjoy being outdoors with no mosquitoes. The wood ticks, however, are out already. I just found one crawling up my arm.

Dave drove the loaded pickup to the bonfire site at the end of our drive way and I walked back through the woods. The periwinkle and Virginia bluebell plants that my mother transplanted from her garden when we first moved here are spreading well through the woods. The periwinkle might even overtake the ground ivy – a real coup. And in the duff of tan leaves on the path, I saw a sliver of bright red. I scuffed away the crumbling leaves and found the first crimson cup fungus of the year -a fragile saucer of brilliant red, pure white on the back – a sure indicator that the winter is past and spring is here.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cool morning

Yesterday I collected three boxes of bees from the Twin Cities. When I picked
them up in the cool morning, the bees hung clustered around their queen in the center of each box. By the time I got them home, most of them were clinging to the
net walls of their boxes, flapping their wings and trying to cool down the box. I sprayed them with sugar water and stored them in the basement, the coolest place in our house.

When Dave got home from work at 9 p.m., we set up the hives using new boxes and frames. Last year all our bees disappeared between August and September, possibly due to colony collapse disorder. One of the suggested solutions to that problem is sterilizing your equipment. Dave sterilized the plastic feeders and the flat hive lids, but the frames with all the honeycomb seemed impossible to clean. So we made new frames and boxes and will burn all the old ones.

This morning, before Dave left for work at 7 a.m., we hived the bees. They were once again clinging to the queen in the center of the box. Dave pried the sugar water can
out of the center of the box and lifted out the queen in her cage of sugar. A small cluster of bees clung to her cage. Dave laid it aside and then shook the rest of the bees from the box into the hive. Then he hung the queen’s cage between two frames and set a sugar water feeder over the hive.

In the next few days, the worker bees should eat their way through the sugar cage and release their queen. They will begin making honey from the sugar water and she will begin laying eggs. By the time Dave opens the hive to the outside world, hopefully, the weather will be slightly warmer and the bees will be healthy and working well.

As we set the covers on the hives, the sky was a turbulent gray and to the east, the rising sun tinted the horizon pink and red. Two pair of Canada geese flew over
head, calling back and forth to each other as they settled into the wetlands below the hill where our hives sit. We couldn’t hear the buzzing of the bees, but in just a few short weeks, worker bees will be ranging the woods and fields looking for the first spring flowers. This morning I noticed that the big red buds on the maple outside our bedroom had burst into bloom. Our bees will be harvesting nectar soon.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The taste of maple

Tom Andrews feeds the fires

After Dave left for work yesterday, I fed the sheep and added milk replacer to the sucker bucket for the bottle lambs. All except the last three are on diluted milk and we’ll stop
feeding them replacer in a day or two. But the youngest three bottle lambs are barely three weeks old. It’s hard for me to wean them just yet, even though I know we’d save
money if we did.

Then I headed for the sugar bush. Easter in the woods is always a wonderful day whether it rains or snows, the sun shines or the wind blows. Yesterday, the wind was blowing and the sun wasn’t shining, but the woods protect the sugar camp from the north winds and the fires under the pans of boiling sap warmed us.

We hung Easter eggs from branches, hid them in hollow logs and the roots of trees. Children’s voices rang through the woods as they collected the bright eggs first and then with the help of adults found most of the really well hidden ones. The sound of the ax splitting logs into burnable size pieces of wood beat a counter point to the happy voices

The sap wasn’t running – it hadn’t frozen last night - but the fires were rapidly turning sap to syrup, evaporating off 30 to 40 gallons of water from the sap for every gallon of finished syrup poured sweet, hot and fragrant into the can for Budd to take home and strain and can for the rest of us to use on pancakes, in cereal and bread, and hot, straight up with a coffee chaser for a really decadent dessert.

Even with all the Easter candy and desserts around, the sweetest treat at the sugar bush comes from the maple trees. We drink cold sap for just a light taste of sweetness and spring. We make coffee from partially cooked sap – sweet, hot and highly caffeinated. And when we transfer the syrup from the cooking pans to the can Budd carries it home in, one lucky person gets to use the rubber scraper to clean out the pan and then licks the syrup off the scraper. Nothing perfumes the air better than the scent of hot maple syrup, and nothing satisfies the tongue better than just a taste.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

In the maple woods

Budd Andrews carves a spile

Three days ago, pairs of wild geese wandered at random across the snowy fields looking for open water. At 10 a.m. there was none. By noon, the edges of the lakes were melted and the geese settled in. By late afternoon, a turtle was basking in the sun on the yellowed grass above the lake shore. Those days are perfect for maple sugaring.

We work in Budd and Marguerite’s sugarbush. Bordered by two roads, a cornfield and a little lake, the maple woods there slope down toward the south and are warmed by the late winter sun. In theory, having a sugar bush is easy. All you need is a maple tree and some time.

First we pick out the maple trees – not the easiest thing to do in late winter before the leaves come out. Dave recognizes the trees by the bark and the branching habit. After the first year, I can tell a maple by the hole drilled through the bark last year.

Then we drill a 7/16th inch hole through the bark and into the trunk of each tree with a brace and bit. Next, Budd cuts a piece of sumac wood about four inches long and whittles one end into a sloping shoulder that will fit into the hole. The other end he carves into a spout. Finally, he pushes a piece of wire through the carved wood, driving out the soft core and creating a spile, a tube for the sap to run through on its way from the phloem cells of the tree to our collecting cans. We drive the spile into the tree with a wooden mallet. Then we pound a nail into the trunk under the spile and hang a collecting can on the nail and wait for the sap to run.

On beautiful spring days, when the temperature has dropped below freezing the night before and rises above 32 degrees in the warmth of the sun, sweet maple sap runs from the trees and collects drop by drop in our cans. When the sap comes a drop per second, it’s an okay day. When the sap runs two or more drips per second, it’s a great day, and when the sap practically streams out of the trees, we know that we’re getting behind boiling the sap down into syrup.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Spring at last

one pair of wild geese
against a roseate sky
rising with the sun

Monday, April 6, 2009

What do shepherds do after all the lambs are born?

What do shepherds do after all the lambs are born?

Well, obviously, they keep feeding sheep, but what about the other twenty-two hours of the day. Ever since we moved to the country, Dave and I have spent the last part of March and most of April out in the woods making maple syrup.

We began sugaring in March of 1981, the first year we lived in our new home. Four year old Amber helped her dad drill holes in maple trees and then pound in little metal tubes called spiles. We hung big blue plastic bags under the spiles and waited for the maple sap to collect. Laurel, at nine months old, slept and played in a playpen beside the wood fired cooker in the back yard.

We were so proud of our very own, home made maple syrup.

A couple of years later, we visited friends Budd and Marguerite Andrews at their sugar bush and realized that there were better ways to make maple syrup. The most important difference was that they tapped sugar maples and all we had on our property was box elders (a type of maple with less sweet sap. With box elders we had to boil almost 60 gallons of sap to get a gallon of syrup, while Budd and Marguerite were boiling about 35 gallons of sap for each gallon of syrup.)

The next improvement we noticed was that Budd always finished the batch of syrup in his cooking pan and poured it off before adding new sap to the pan. His syrup was lighter in color and more delicate in flavor than ours.

The third improvement was that Budd carved his own spiles out of sumac wood instead of buying metal ones, and used recycled number ten tin cans instead of the blue plastic bags that we had already discovered were easily attacked and destroyed by squirrels. His sugar bush cost him nothing but time.

But the last improvement was the most life changing. Budd and Marguerite didn’t make maple syrup by themselves; they involved all their friends and relations. Sugaring lasted a month and a half and every weekend the sugar bush rang with the sound of axes, hand saws, and people laughing and talking. Weekdays had fewer visitors, and chain saws were used to get ahead on the wood pile, but the people were still there, enjoying the snow and cold, enjoying cutting and hauling wood, enjoying the smell of maple syrup and wood smoke in the air, and most of all, enjoying each other.

In 1985, we joined Budd and Marguerite at their sugar bush and we’ve been working with them ever since.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Lambs in the snow

Fending for himself

Yesterday we moved Spring and her baby into the group pen. Spring’s baby was tiny even for a newborn and he was over a week old. He had just managed to walk convincingly in the last several days. His wool was sparse and funny looking. And from the way he homed in on my voice and the bottle, I wondered if he wasn’t blind.

Spring would have more room in the group pen, but the extra space might be hard on her frail lamb. If he walked too much, he might not be able to take in enough calories to keep himself alive. I was also worried about how the other lambs and ewes in the group pen would respond to him. Would they bully him, step on him because they hadn’t seen him, or ignore him?

I settled down with the milk bottle and Spring’s baby in my lap. He sucked, gulping six ounces of milk in a matter of minutes. When I set him down, he wandered around blindly, not crying, but obviously trying to find his mom. She was looking for him too. Spring circled the group pen, sniffing each lamb. When she came to her own, she chuckled, but didn’t seem to know what to do next. The baby wandered off and Spring followed. Eventually, the baby found a warm spot under a heat lamp. He curled up and went to sleep, his mother standing protectively over him.

Dave and I did our chores, keeping an eye on the tiny lamb as we fed the ewes and spread clean straw on the barn floor. When we finished, we leaned against the wall just to watch. The barn was quiet now. Lambs and their mothers had nestled into the fresh straw. A cluster of lambs slept under the heat lamp in the group pen. Spring’s baby was right in the center of the pile, accepted by the other lambs and perfectly capable of fending for himself.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

A cacophony of ewes

The nominative plural for a group of sheep is a flock, and it fits adult sheep perfectly. But just after lambing there is a much more descriptive word– a cacophony.

Today we vaccinated all the babies. Dave picked up a lamb. I pulled up a little tent of skin on its shoulder, slid a syringe needle into the space and injected 2cc. of Clostridium perfringens Type CDT. This vaccination will keep the lambs from getting overgrowths of bacteria in their guts.

The lambs wiggled in Dave’s arms during the injection, but scampered off when he set them down as if nothing had happened. The easiest way to keep track of which lambs we have vaccinated is to partition the barn with all the animals on one side of a fence. Then we drop the vaccinated lambs over the fence to the unpopulated side of the barn. This works well until a few ewes realize that their lambs are missing. They start calling for their babies, the babies call back. But because of the fence down the middle of the barn, they can’t get together. Christmas paced back and forth along the fence line talking to her babies, but other ewes were not so smart. Some ran around the pen bawling and searching for their lambs. Rooster just stood in one place and bellowed.

By the time we finished vaccinating the 50th lamb, our ears were ringing and we had to shout to hear each other over the din. When we opened the fence, the ewes rushed through and the noise level increased as they checked out lambs sniffing and crying for their own. No one in the barn today could deny this group of sheep is a cacophony of sheep.

And then when all the lambs were released to the freedom of the barn yard, we realized that there is also a better nominative plural for a group of lambs.

The barn emptied as moms and babies, reunited at last, ambled out for corn and hay. I lifted the bottle babies one by one out of the group pen. Each lamb looked around, then, catching sight of another lamb, trotted over. When the group of bottle lambs swerved toward the barn door they were met by incoming lambs, racing at full speed. The bottle lambs broke into gallops and careened around the barn, practically running up the walls in their enthusiasm. After two or three circuits of the barn, they were out the door, ears flapping in the breeze. Like the water in the mill race at a mill, the lambs flowed around corners, over obstructions and then burst free – a race of lambs.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Lambing is over

A spring blizzard swept in last night and dropped an amazing amount of snow on our farm. Dave and I waded through knee high drifts to feed the sheep. I expected them to stay in the barn, but they must have been hungry, because the ewes plowed through the snow to meet us. Their lambs followed, scrambling through head high snow banks.

Lambing is done for the year. We are grateful to no longer waken at 3 am to check for new lambs. We are relieved to be done battling an elusive metabolic killer which stole both moms and babies. We are pleased to be able to work on anything other than lambing.

And yet, we miss the absolute wonder of each new birth. Our adrenalin levels will drop back to normal, and contrarily, we’ll long for those moments of heightened senses when we battle to save a ewe or a lamb. Our sleep cycles will be uninterrupted and when people ask “what have you been doing?” we’ll say, “oh nothing,” and wish we could complain again about lambing because it impresses people so.

We have 50 healthy babies in the barn. Eight of them use the sucker bucket. A dozen have found the creep feed and luxuriate in relaxing with full bellies under the warm glow of a heat lamp. Tomorrow, we’ll vaccinate the non-bottle lambs and introduce them all to the creep feed. They’ll grow even faster than they are now.

Puzzle never had any babies. About half way through lambing, she gave up trying to adopt every baby. We were relieved and I think she was too.

Available’s triplets bounce around the group pen. After the blizzard, we will let them out into the vast world of the barn yard. I look forward to watching them race around the barn in great circles with all the other lambs.

Avi (daughter of Available) and Gigi (daughter of Apple Blossom) are the only lambs we are adding to the flock this year. I worry that whatever metabolic problems the ewes had might have affected their lambs and I don’t want to add sheep to the flock with weak bones or insufficient thyroid glands or messed up immune systems.

Maybe still spends a lot of time lying on her side. Her babies use her body as a warm, soft perch, and watch the world from their position curled up on top of her.

The ice crystals melted rapidly from Rooster’s baby’s tightly curled wool; his ears thawed. He has disappeared into the rest of the flock, completely recovered and unrecognizable.

Zaida had a single big white lamb who keeps her busy enough so that she doesn’t have time to lie on her side with her feet out.

Christmas has two lambs just as petite as she is. They follow her through the deepest snow and stickiest mud. They are curious and afraid of nothing – just like their mother.

The Horned Ones babies are doing well. Her second lamb born never learned to nurse on his mom, but took to a bottle well. He has grown from a scrawny little black lamb who always looked fragile and cold, to a rambunctious little hellion who eats everything – milk, hay, creep feed, gloves. When he went to visit a school, the children named him Chewie because he ate their shoelaces.

Lambing is over, but the lambs will be with us for at least three more months, embellishing our pastures and our lives with their presence.