Sunday, March 23, 2008
Tom, Rob, and I were just beginning to poke into the manure pile with our pitchforks, endeavoring to fill the spreader once more for the oxen to pull out to the fields.
On a hillside in the distance, some hundreds of yards away, the sheep were grazing as puffy white clouds against a green sky. It was Tom, with keen eyes, who noticed that one of the sheep was apart from the flock. Further gazing confirmed what he suspected – a new white speck, much smaller than the others.
Tom climbed the hill as Rob and I leaned on our pitchforks and watched with great interest. When Tom approached the lone sheep, he paused a few moments before reaching down and picking up two tiny objects, one in each arm. The First Lambs of Spring. As Tom came down the hill, the bleating mother kept a close chase at his heels. Tom would stop periodically, allowing the ewe to nuzzle and lick her new young.
Something strange and perhaps wonderful was happening. As Tom finally finished the hill and reentered the barnyard, the giant draft horses in the pasture moved as one to the near fence and then stood at attention, as if each was most eager to be the first to view the new life. It's nothing I've seen them do before. The rest of the sheep, too – all those who weren't pregnant we kept separate from those who were – crowded to the corner of their pen to try to get a better look.
I, too, strained to see. And then there they were – two wooly and wet lambs hanging from Tom's arms. (My first impression, strange though it may have been, was of their resemblance to scraggly white dishcloths hanging damp on a clothesline.) Tom carried the lambs into the sheep barn and we all gave them a looking over. And then we left quietly, leaving the two to their mother and privacy among the straw.
A few minutes past 7 a.m., I was the first into the sheep barn as I began the day's chores. The two new lambs were there, huddled in a pen with their mother. Then I looked deeper into the barn and spied two additional lambs – one tiny and white, the other tiny and black.
The smile that surely crossed my face would have been something to see. New life had sprung overnight. For a few moments I lingered there and considered my monumental discovery.
After some time, I thought I'd take an even closer look, so I took a few more steps into the barn.
The sheep I've gotten to know at the farm are at almost all times the most timid and fearful of animals. They run away in blind and unreasoning panic at a first step in their direction. So I was most impressed when that mother sheep advanced boldly to a new position between me and her infant lambs. She might have been a lion, the way she puffed up and started stomping the ground with a hoof. I backed off.
Amazing things all, these past two days. They seem so to me.