Monday, April 28, 2008

April Showers

It's been raining and raining and raining here off and on all week. The horse paddock is a treacherous swamp of slippery clay. The sheep paddock has become a running river bottom. The back pasture, where the ewes with lambs are, has standing water all over, even though it is on a fairly steep slope.

Hundreds of earthworms migrate, red and wriggly, across the top of the mud, or lie, pale and drowned, in the bottoms of rain-filled feed troughs.

I do the chores carrying an umbrella, wearing sweat pants hiked up to my knees to prevent the bottoms from getting soaked, my feet bare and muddy inside my green rubber clogs.

It's peaceful sleeping in the barn during the rainstorms. Something about it makes the sheep get quiet and contemplative. They lie, chewing rhythmically, enjoying the cool, damp air. Madrigal, my tortoiseshell barn cat goes prowling out in the rain, then comes in to snuggle inside my sleeping bag with me to dry off.

I wake regularly every couple of hours all night, every night, for about 3 weeks now, checking to see if any of the ewes are in labor. My mind has started to lose the distinction between night and day in that way. I feel that I could nap at any time of the day or night, and equally, I could be awake and alert anytime also.

I do worry about the lambs in the rain, although fortunately the temperatures have been mild and pleasant. But for a lamb---especially a very young one---who gets separated from the warmth and nourishment of his mother during a rainy windy night, the borderline between healthy and hypothermia is pretty narrow.

So throughout the night and day I keep my ears open for the sounds of lambs crying in distress. If it persists for long enough, I get up and go find the lost baby and return him to his mother. Fortunately, all the older lambs are quite sturdy and stout by now and I don't worry about them. It's just the little ones who still have so little body mass with which to retain their heat.

Each morning, I make the rounds of the wet pasture, making sure each ewe has the right number of babies with her, and that all the babies look lively and well. So far so good. I guess a Virginia spring rainfall is nothing compared to whatever harsh weather these sheep evolved with for 1,100 years in Iceland.

If the old adage is correct, we should have a bloom-filled May, because April certainly has provided more than its share of showers. And even with the extra inconvenience, mess, and worry brought by so much wet weather, I think about the devastating effects of last year's drought, and I don't complain a bit.


Rhea said...

That all sounds peaceful and wonderful...except the hundreds of migrating earthworms...that kind of freaks me out.

Anonymous said...

Oh Ewe! Such a good mama.

You're right about the Icelandic conditions. Although they did have the hot pools to herd inside on those unbearably cold days. And watching out for vikings. Rough life. They got it easy on your farm. Ironically, my close neighbour is of Icelandic extraction. Her hair is big as the sheep when she washes it. Sharp wit but no horns showing.