I’m so pleased to announce that we think our Girls are pregnant. Of course they should be, right? Sam the Sham, our ram, has been sharing living quarters with them since the end of October. They’re young and presumably fertile; he’s young and presumably virile. Why wouldn’t they be pregnant? It’s just us Nervous Nellies, us newbie shepherds, wallowing in our ignorance and utter lack of experience. We hadn’t seen any ‘action.’ Nothing. Sure, it takes a while for the ewes to cycle, but once in the presence of a male, they should be inspired to do so. Right? I’m shooting from the hip here, with nothing but book reading to go on. Surely, we thought, we’d see all kinds of barnyard antics. Surely they’d all be busy doing their thing all the time. But short of some tail-sniffing (which was encouraging) we didn’t spot a thing. Just as I started to get a wee bit worried (what if he was abnormally uninterested?) I realized that I only spend about 15 minutes, 30 minutes max, with them or with them in my sight per day. That leaves a whole lot of time for lovin’ when I’m not around, right? So I relaxed a bit, turned my focus back to whatever was on my plate at the time and loosened up a bit.
A couple of days after Christmas, I received a sign. I shrieked and giggled and finished my chores quickly before sprinting in the house to deliver the good news. What did I see? What did I notice? It was the wool on the Girls’ backs – all ruffled up and disheveled. As if it had been tousled by the front hooves of a Mister sneaking up behind. (also, he had lipstick on his collar and was smoking a cigarette)
What a relief! So, counting on my fingers, we could expect to have lambs anytime from the end of March to the end of May. (Go ahead and impress your friends with the tidbit that sheep gestate about 5 months. I do.) That’s a long stretch to be an on-call midwife. A long stretch to not go anywhere for the weekend. Maybe, come early April, we’ll up to our cheeks in lambs and I’ll be laughing at all my prior nervousness. Maybe not.
What I can tell you right now is that expecting our first batch of lambs is a lot like expecting a first baby. There’s the fear of the unknown, the grappling with a lack of experience that can only be minutely overcome with research. There are the apparati that are foreign and daunting (!!). I have to start keeping iodine on hand, for cripes’ sake. So much reading to do, so much to get a working knowledge of in just a few months’ time. Right about now I wish I were the daughter of farmers, that I had even the slightest shred of experience in this, that I had someone in my back pocket to go to for advice or a swift kick in the arse. I’d have it made if that were the case, right? Ah, but that’s the trade-off for marching to your own drum beat, to wading through uncharted waters. Uncharted in our previous reality, that is, but we’re finding plenty of neighbors here in this new place. And lambs are being born every day.
On the upside – I will, at some point, get to see lambs being born! I get to, when needed, be a midwife, get to envelop my senses in the earthy goodness of newborn lambs. I imagine it will be sublime and intense and like nothing I’ve ever experienced.
But for now, like newly-expectant mothers everywhere, I’m a little freaked out.