With udders filling, and bellies rounding, my thoughts go to readying for lambing season. If I have learned anything at all from my many years of lambings, it is that with each year, I will push myself to my limit, I will see and do things that will bring me to my knees in awe and wonder, as well as in unreserved despair. I may have my well-ordered lambing kit with thermometer, nutritional supplements, homeopathy remedies, scale, and colostrum, but one can never know all the situations they will encounter. Even veteran shepherds of 25+ years tell me that every year they learn something new. It seems, despite my efforts, I can never be totally and fully ready for the boundaries I will push myself to, the ultimate highs and the devastating lows of the rhythms of life.
Each year, I go through the ritual of restocking my lambing kit. I put my order together for the livestock supply company. I visit the feed store for supplies that need to be purchased locally. I may even pull my books off the shelf and read the well dog-eared pages on lambing, the difficult presentation positions, mastitis, toxemia, and milk fever. I may also read over my notes from the previous year-the ewes that needed support, the treatment plans for the ewe with mastitis, the lamb weights, and who singled and who twinned. I take stock of where my shepherding mentors will be when my lambing begins, making sure I will be able to get hold of them should I need advice. Like a mother-to-be, I go through a “nesting” phase of cleaning the barn, setting up lambing pen panels, and spend hours looking at swollen bellies. All of this gives me confidence and something to focus on as I wait.
Once lambs begin to arrive, the hard, yet delicate work begins. Nature brings most lambs from the womb into this world with ease, filling lambing pens with new life. Ewes care for their young, bonding with them, loving them, and nourishing them. The expected happens with ease, the simplicity of it, and the effortlessness, fills me with wonder and awe. But this ritual of birth can sometimes become difficult and entwined with death. I tremble at my lack of control. We intervene, we work, and assist. Despite our efforts, sometimes the result leaves me feeling helpless and disheartened. But when I win, when I beat the odds and the results are positive, I feel empowered and humbled at the same time.
No matter how “ready” I feel at the start of lambing, when it has drawn to a close, I am astounded at the learning curve each year brings. Sometimes that curve brings me to my knees in sorrow and sometimes it brings me to my knees in joy. I take note of each birth, each detail, the symptoms, the process, the work we did. At the end of each lambing season, my knowledge has grown, my instincts have become refined and sharpened, and I realize that I can do more than I ever thought possible. I can hold death in my arms and I can sit back and bask in the glory of the delicate miracle of birth at the same time.
Are you ready for lambing season?