Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The first lambs of the season arrived on Saturday, March 20. Mom and babies are happy, healthy, and the lambs are growing like weeds!!

Friday, March 12, 2010

How the world has changed in just 10 days! We had several warmish, sunny days, and then on Wednesday the temperature reached the mid 60s. The farm is muddy, and the chickens are wearing huge mud-galoshes. They are eating less, laying fewer eggs, and their feathers are becoming thin and ratty; the spring molt is imminent. I sheared most of the ewes on Sunday, and I could feel a wave of heat rise from each one as I removed their heavy, woolly coats. Some are very heavy with lambs and milk and will give birth within a week or 10 days; some will lamb closer to mid-April.

I've encountered other evidence of spring's nascence. Late Wednesday night I returned from a workday in Chicago. As I dragged my sleepy self out of the car and toward the house, I heard peepers!! The tiny frogs sound like a myriad of children clicking the little noisemakers we used to win at primary school carnivals. The frogs will yammer out their desires with surprisingly loud voices day and night for several weeks. Under the influence of the peepers, I looked up and noticed old friends Ursa Major, Ursa Minor, and Cassiopeia high in the sky. These constellations accompany me on my nightly journeys regardless of the season, whereas Orion and the Pleides (Seven Sisters), still apparent but low on the horizon, will soon give way to the stars of summer.

Thursday morning, on the way to the barn, I noticed several bunches of crocuses on the south side of the house, little spots of white, purple, and yellow in the drab, dead-grass brown of the dormant lawn. Here and there the leaves of tulips, jonquils, and daffodils were beginning to push through the wet soil, and the little, green, fuzzy rosettes by the front porch will soon be tall, elegant oriental poppies. Even the air felt different: softer, fresher, kinder.

A cold front went through last night, so it is cooler today and raining lightly. I can see the woodland by the river from my window. The monotonous gray brown of the tree tops is broken occasionally by the yellow green of the willows' upper branches and the crowns of the maples and silvermaples, reddish with swollen buds. The promise of fecundity is on the pear, and the tiny seedlings by the window and beginnings of green in the herb garden presage savory summer meals.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The days are warmer and longer now (in the upper 30s, lower 40s), and the nights are warmer (high 20s). The forecast calls for "continued moderation" this week, a cautious way to say, "Spring is here!"

The sheep are kind of soggy, and two of the Shetland cross ewes are shedding their wool, which means the quality of what's left of their fleeces will be very low. I'm looking forward to beginning the process of shearing on Sunday.

We took the dogs on a long walk last Sunday. Near a dense patch of brush by a rushing creek we heard the first red-winged blackbirds calling, their songs disguised by the cacophony of winter-bird calls. Ken attends to and sorts sound as part of his being, and he was the first to recognize the male's loud, gurgling conk-a-reeeee. When we stopped to listen, we could hear the female's sputtering chatter in the background, uttered just as the male call began (Birdjam, www.birdjam.com/birdsong.php?id=25).

This morning early the dogs and I walked on the flood plain along the river. There are still patches of ice and old snow, and the night's low temperature made for stiff mud and easy walking. The sky was overcast and a few birds were evident, mostly woodpeckers, sparrows, and cardinals;  we didn't hear the conk-a-reeeee of a red-winged blackbird. As we climbed the last hill toward home, a lone Canadian goose, honking, flew overhead headed southwest, and then a single snow goose, northbound, passed just above the trees, honking in a higher pitch. The time to find nesting grounds and mates is upon them all.