I know I have said this before, but I LOVE the sheep in the early morning dawn. This morning was no exception. I was a little early arriving at the barn because we were expecting 60 new little baby chicks. The sheep were not anticipating my early arrival I guess, and they seemed sleepier than normal. It was just getting light outside but still a bit gloomy inside. Blurry shapes greeted me. Of course Heidi and Hagar were blocking the gate, so I had to step over them. Gretchen was close by with Gustav and Grace curled up at her side. Hep, the ram was right in the middle, head resting on the hay as though in a very deep coma. I always check to see if he is still breathing when he looks like that. Francois, all 40 pounds of him, still sleeps snuggled up next to Franny. I find that endearing because he is almost as big as she is. The rest were in their favorite little spots, one ewe with one or two little ones curled up close. As I headed to open the door, the shapes started coming to life, stretching, groggily at first, and then up on their feet anticipating the day. Two by two, one ewe and one lamb, or sometimes three by three, a ewe and twins, they marched out the door. So civilized. So obedient. The little ones were still too sleepy not to follow the rhythm of the morning. The holy grail was the round hay bale that had just been placed outside for them the night before. Now that the weather is getting warmer, the sheep are eating outside rather than in the barn. The joy of spring. In a few weeks they will be out on pasture, glorious, glorious green pasture. Happy days! I think we long for that almost as much as they do.

It is not until later in the day that the lambs come to life. They start racing around the barnyard single file, as though spurred on by an unspoken signal. As many as fifteen to twenty lambs now participate in these daily rituals. The house is the best spot to observe, unseen, as the whole barnyard is visible. Sometimes they are chased by one ewe who seems to have been assigned lamb duty for the day, like a favorite aunt. She successfully chases them into the barn where, much to her annoyance, they simply fly out the other door, still single file of course. Not one to give up, she again chases the whole string back into the barn, only to be outwitted for a second time. Finally, resigned, she gives up and goes back to her grazing, while the little ones go back to annoying all the other sheep.

Nick expanded the creep feeder last weekend to accommodate all 21 lambs. Now there is room enough for all of them, plus some. For the lambs, it serves as a good opportunity to get away from their ever watchful mothers. No competition for food, and no one to push them away. The other day, there were at least seven lambs lined up neatly at each of the troughs. Or so I thought. On closer observation I noticed that, although all the shapes were black, not all had wool. Wool, feathers, wool, feathers, all black but something was amiss. The chickens were lined up alternating with the lambs, and no one was any the wiser. They all continued contentedly eating or pecking away at the food. There was less pushing and shoving than when the adult sheep fight for their grains in the big troughs outside. The wonders of nature never cease to amaze.

We are getting ready for the three goats now. Annie, the first to get pregnant, should go next week. Coco, whose udder seems to be considerably larger than Annie’s should go next. It is possible that they may switch with Coco going first. We’ll just have to wait and see. Goats, because of their agility and mischievousness, need a much higher fencing system in order to keep them in, so the barn has to be reconfigured yet again. With all the movable barricades and fences, it is possible to make these changes at what to many would seem like the last minute. Farming changes day by day as new situations arise. Adaptability is the key. What works one day may not work so well the next. A farmer always has to have a plan B, C, and D in case A doesn’t work.

Springtime in the Barnyard