Friday, January 30, 2004

Each morning, before putting the coat and tie that mark my role as lawyer and public servant, I dress in my hand-me-down Carhart coveralls, pick up a fifty pound feed sack and walk down to the barn. This morning I put the digital camera in a pocket next to the hoof trimmers and baling twine. It's a different crowd than you find in the Courthouse, but some days just as troublesome. This morning was a good one though. A ewe managed her first lamb without help sometime in the night and I found it strong and warm in a corner of the barn. When I was able to get mother and child together, the two of them went into a pen out of the weather for the next couple of days. The sheep pictured below are checking for the last bits of grain before heading out to the field, the llama looking on like a courtroom bailiff. The new arrival was a little camera shy, but one of the older lambs was willing to stop and pose. The ewe whose eartag proclaims her as Number 1 was not interested in modeling, but kept in a corner of the picture in case the small box I was holding turned out to have something to do with food.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Hogback Returns

High winds at dawn, first sun in days.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

We keep a close watch on the flock as the weather closes in. The rams are pretty self-sufficient. They have their shed, a round bale for grazing when the grass has gone dormant for the winter, and a daily ration of grain. The ewes and their lambs are more of a challenge. With hoses and outside faucets frozen, we hand carry water to new mothers in pens. Ewes persist in giving birth in the draftiest parts of the barn, or outside in snowdrifts. The weaker of a set of twins in particularly vulnerable in these conditions. The heat lamp is hung in the basement, ready for the next chilled newborn.
Buck Mountain in Snow

Days of light snow and freezing drizzle have converted our vistas to grayscale. Hogback and the ridgeline of Skyline drive vanished Sunday afternoon and haven't been seen since.

Withered by winter
the sound of the wind--
one-color world


(Trans. Stephen Addis)

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I have started a new essay on my much neglected other blog, The Suburban Ascetic. I hope to survey the situation of Orthodoxy in the contemporary global culture, starting with a look backwards to the past. I cannot promise more than a paragraph or two a night (or every other night.) Nonetheless, if you are interested, stop on by.
Cold weather can mean hard times on the farm. Most of our lambs are born at night, in the shelter of the barn. Nonetheless, a sizeable few make a daylight arrival. No problem on mild days; in some ways it is better for them than the barn. On days like these though, it is a risk and a challenge. Our daytime temperatures have been below freezing, with wind-chills hovering near zero. A lamb born healthy can get pneumonia in minutes. A lamb that needs a little extra care may be frozen solid by evening when we check the fields one last time before closing the barn. We lost two lambs last week. One, a weak twin that never thrived after being born outside in a patch of grass not quite covered by snow. The second, I found frozen in the pile of leaves his mother had left him in while she came in for the morning feeding. As I took away the small bodies, both ewes were calling, crying out to their lambs, not understanding where they went, or why they wouldn't come.

A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled,
because they were no more.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

The predicted snow never arrived, but the cold front that was supposed to be carrying it did, bringing single digit night time temperatures with wind-chills that literally take your breath away. I am getting over a bout with some seasonal virus, so took a shepherd's crook with me down to the barn to have something to lean on for a bit until my breath caught up again. I use an oak crook, cheap, heavy and shoulder high. There are better ones on the market, even a few high tech fiberglass and alloy crooks, but none that will stand up to a season with our big hampshire sheep like the old clumsy oak. As I walked, the ground was frozen so hard that the crook rang like a wooden bell as it struck with each step, my own semantron, calling to morning prayer.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

More snow predicted for tonight. Today's picture is last week's snowfall, just an inch or so. It was dry and slick, more like cornstarch than frozen water. Down in the barn lot it mixed with bits of dust and soil desicated from sub-zero wind chills. Carrying the feed buckets for the sheep, I kicked up brown and white powder and watched float it in the cold air before settling again.

We are well into lambing. The barn is half full of ewes with their offspring. The intensive care ward is in its usual place under a heat lamp in the basement. This year a friend who lives nearby has taken in a few of the lambs needing bottle feeding. We gave her one to keep, and Susan tells me it is neatly diapered and living in the house. I refrain from comment, grateful for the big heart that takes some of the burden off of us as we try and get through this part of the farm cycle and still hold down off-farm jobs.