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This Is What It Is

The veterinarian has been here often of late. I've needed him four times in the past month and a half. And probably not in nearly as many times in four years past. A yearling gave birth to a delightfully beautiful ewe lamb two days ago. And seemed to develop what may have been an allergic reaction to something and went into false labor. Today. She tried so hard to continue nursing. And did, until tonight when laden with pain killers, a spinal block and a number of other drugs, she couldn't stand. I bottled the lamb. And what shall be her name? Another of the ewes from ewe lambs that a "rich master doth make", or so they said in the middle ages when fortunes were made in sheep. Shall you make me a fortune, this pretty tiny thing with thick curls and a momma who put her head next to yours while she lay in a corner in pain? I think the fortune shall be the sight of the two of you and the devotion of your dam and what it has meant in my heart. Your name must be a beautiful one. But I am running low on names. A complaint of Angela Thirkell as well who commented on the great number amount of last names available, although as her characters were comprised of families, she could use them several times, but complained about how few given names there are.

I fancy English, Scottish and Welsh names, from the home countries of my flock, and am reluctant to reuse them. I may have to. There was a Lettice once and a Cicely and Lavinia. Maybe I'll name some of this year's very fine ewe lambs after their distant relations. That may be the answer. After, rather than instead of. I can live with that. Marcella Greenleaf has been moved into the lambing room. I flipped her over today to see if she were bagging, she is. So little Miss 105 who just became Lettice Greenleaf is not the last of the season. Marcella Greenleaf shall probably drop number 106 in a few days. Maybe it will be a eweling.

Glencora MacCluskie is being given a lesson in sitting on my leg while I write this story, the notebook propped on my knee. "Green chair", I said and she stood before it waiting to be lifted up. She's not quite big enough to jump onto it. She's bigger now than Peabody the cat, and stares at Peeb who sits in solitary elegance on the pale green silk wing chair in front of the fire. Lessons. This puppy is getting her own set of lessons. Different from any of the other dogs I have loved so. Glencora is her own puppy self. The monks of Skele write a lot about the dog as descended from the wolf. And I see it in my Border Collies. Little wolves. She doesn't seem to care how awkward her hind quarters can be positioned as long as her face is close to mine. My little dog. Shall you keep order on my farm for me when you grow up? Some days I know how blessed I am. I once had a fine red leather leash for Steele. Perhaps I can find one again for Glencora.

Things are shifting in the barn every day. For the better. It almost feels as if it is possible that all is beginning to work out. My new long keyhole feeder has been installed. At last. There is now room for fifty ewes to line up at once to eat hay in the barn. The new feeder serves thirteen sheep or twice as many lambs. I've 3 new grain feeders as well. Who would ever have thought I'd be so enchanted with some wooden boxes? But I am. Enchantments can come in many forms.

The light has changed here. On the mornings when the sun shines light moves cross a wall in the winter bedroom. Shadows from the lace curtains form patterns in the four tiny mirrors that are lined up next to a larger one. The heavy drapes that are never drawn form a definition on the wall. The air this morning had a touch of warmth in it. It felt like the spring mornings when I first went to the barn to see the very first flock that lived here. Mornings filled with wonder and promise. I used to sit on a sill in the barn proper watching these strange creatures called sheep who were to be the foundation of my new life. The sun would break over the hill and pour golden light into the barn. I was so anxious for it all to begin. When will it happen? Is this it? And it was it. Sitting. Looking. Watching. Learning to know them. Those were the previous times. As they are still. When it is possible for me to sit in the lambing room and look at the new lambs, on this day all born from lambs themselves with the exception of Brunhilda and her twins an old ewe I rescued from the ride to the dog food factory. I realize that I am the same person I was in the beginning. What I did understand then, by some miracle, is what I most truly know now. It is only by watching that you can become a shepherd. Which is why only one glance at the young ewe in the lambing room straining, caused me to run back to the house and call the vet. "This is an emergency", I said.

This morning she does not look very well. Her ears are cold. A bad sign. She is less interested in her lamb, who looks to me for a bottle. She has stood up and moved from one place to another. The question shall be, do I have her put down, or do I hope a little longer.

The lambing room has been lime washed a beautiful Quincy pink. It softens the light in the room. Brilliant and gleaming, mornings. Gentle, afternoons. There are some bottle lambs in there, two whose mother died after a long struggle when they were a month old. I've put some older lambs in there as well. They are to be sold in a week or so. They get the same special food mix as the yearling mother and their babies. It is with great discipline that I do not compare the dramas, sweet, or tragic that are represented in that lovely room. It is the point of it all. This is a sheep farm. I raise lambs for my own replacement stock. For starter flocks for other people. For fleeces (a new calling). For potential dairy flock for myself and other would- be sheep dairy producers. And for meat. Most ram lambs do go for meat. I've chosen four who seem to be breeding stock quality, to stay. The rest go. With the exception of the dairy sheep, all of this was in the original plan. A very fine Finn ram with a pitch black fleece just came to see what I was doing. He runs ok. I had his route out of the pasture barricaded yesterday. So be it. There are more than one, evidently.

This is it. That is what it is. An astonishingly sunny warm clear skied day in March. With more work to do than I could ever have imagined, in this day that God has made. This is it. This is what it is.

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There is an supplemental March Farm Story in the Farm Stories Archive