Two days ago Todd pointed out that it had been a year since my craniotomy, a surgery that cut a disk from my skull to address swelling and bleeding on the brain. A year is a lot and it is not. Recovery was long and slow, my memories of my accident in Russia and the two and a half weeks in the Russian Railway Hospital are vivid and fresh. I wonder how long they’ll be like that. I hope in time they won’t make me cry.
While I was healing, life marched along on the farm and with the help of neighbors and friends things got done and I missed all of it. So, now as lambing approaches, as the big and the small stuff come at us, I relish all if it. Last week a small band of friends helped us out as Gwen the Shearer trimmed hooves and sheared the flock. Each fleece fell away in gorgeous folds of soft wool in silvers, black, cinnamon and mellow white. With my sister I drove through ghost towns to drop the bagged fleece at the mill where the owner and a sole employee held down the fort. Her remaining crew of fifteen were home barricaded against the virus. From a safe distance, I thanked MJ, the owner, and we drove away. I’ve no idea when we’ll see yarn from the mill.
Twelve pregnant ewes have been separated from the peanut gallery which consists of last year’s lambs, a few wethers (castrated rams) and some old ladies who have earned the privilege of skipping out on getting knocked up. We moved them apart because we’re at the point where we need to control how much hay the pregnant ones eat. We can’t have anyone go on a hay binge this late in the game because with four stomachs and rapidly growing fetuses there isn’t the room. We’ve been through that rodeo, prolapsed vaginas, and don’t need a repeat. To ensure they’re getting enough calories, we do supplement the hay with grain pellets which they gobble down like candy. I try to minimize the pushing and shoving by setting out plenty of sturdy plastic bins which means in seconds it’s gone. But in those seconds I get a closer look at their condition – swelling sides and swollen udders. Some udders are just now expanding while others have bagged out in a big way. By the calendar lambs are due any time after April 10.
Last year, the first lambs came early, by four days. I was in the hospital and had no idea. This year, I want a front row seat to as many births as possible. In a few days, we’ll set up the monitors, Lamb Cams, in the barn and divide up the nights for barn checks. Already we’ve tied plastic fencing to the panels we’ll use as jugs – small contained areas for brand new lambs and mom. I’ve stocked the tool box which passes as a medical chest and gone through all the one- sheets for each ewe to make certain our records are up to date. Today I’ll print out a one-sheet that will list all the pregnant ewes and who each was bred to and secure it to a clip board. Somewhere in the house there is some butcher’s paper that I’ll tack up on the barn wall where we’ll track the births in order with a fat Sharpie pen. Until we lose the Sharpie pen and have to improvise.
A ball of yarn to tie off the umbilical cord. A shot glass with the Cubs logo will hold the iodine. I don’t know where we got the idea, but once the cord is tied off, Todd holds the lamb upright, I place the shot glass under the lamb’s belly and on cue Todd turns the lamb over as I keep the shot glass pressed to the belly so that the iodine can coat the stub of the cord and the surrounding area. It’s been two years since I have done this simple move, but I see it clearly. Just as I know what a laboring ewe looks like.
Memory. What do we remember? And do we have a choice. Repetition plays its part. Trauma too. As we gear up for our eighth lambing season, may the joy of birth and the power of mother nature take hold, fill us with gratitude and, for a time, shine brighter than all else.