Greetings and salutations! I apologize for the extended silence but a wave of unrelated events knocked me off my feet in February and it’s taken me a while to find my energy again. This was a long winter.
We had plenty of snow. I was happy for the skiers in the family and for our ski town that depends on tourism. I didn’t even mind dealing with it at the barn, constantly shoveling out paths, doorways, and gates. After toughing out one or two scary drought years I try to remain grateful and thank God for every bit of precipitation.
However, six months of dark skies certainly took an emotional toll. It was grey and gloomy nearly every day.
Except when it was gloomier.
When the sun finally came out on Sunday, April 21, locals professed shock — “what could it be?” — and emerged from their homes blinking and nearly giddy with joy.
The next day it was grey once more, with high winds and rain. Everything was ice, slush, and mud.
I remembered Allen telling me years ago, “We need some rain and wind to dry things out.” Sure enough, the pounding rain melted the snow and thawed the surface soil. A week of dark, rainy days wiped the landscape clean for the first time since October.
The very next day (two weeks ago) we got a fresh foot of snow. Last weekend we had a rain and wind storm with tornado warnings. Really.
There was a lot of stress this winter. Job anxieties, financial anxieties, the ever-clamoring to-do list. In the midst of it all, my bad knee flared up until I was so crippled I could hardly climb the stairs to our bedroom or walk to the barn. The pain woke me up when I turned over in my sleep. My bad elbow throbbed. I developed a heart problem, finally diagnosed as intermittent atrial fibrillation. (I am fine, but the episodes were scary.) I felt ten million years old, like a bucket of rusty and broken parts.
About five years ago, an older friend said to me, “Don’t you find your energy slowing down?” I’d shaken my head in surprise: “No, why?” She smiled. “You will.” This winter my energy ran out.
In early February I was sleeping in my clothes on the living room floor to do barn checks. In short succession, my ewes Geranium and Cranberry both gave birth to triplets. After checking at 11 PM I got back to the barn at 2 AM and missed Geranium’s birthing by five minutes; her final triplet smothered and died when she was too tired to rip open the amniotic sac. Two days later I missed Cranberry’s birthing by fifteen minutes. She laid down on her first two healthy lambs, accidentally killing them, to deliver the third. Carrying three dead, perfect lambs out of the barn took the heart out of me.
The next morning I found Cranberry’s final triplet stretched out flat. He was too weak to suck. His head lolled and when I gave him a bottle the milk dribbled out of his mouth. I was numb. That day a colleague at work mentioned that I looked tired. I explained about the lamb.
“If anyone can save a sick lamb, you can,” Dave said.
Though my brain felt dull and stupid, his confidence cheered me. I named the lamb “Dave” and force-fed him, stroking his throat to stimulate him to swallow, every few hours for days. Finally the morning came when he bounced away from my reaching hand.
Yesterday the blessed sun was out. The brown dead winter fields are starting to flush green. Limping slowly, I got my net fences out of storage and set them up. I covered one of the shelters and ordered more tarps. I filled the water trough, and turned out the sheep on the new grass. Dave the ram lamb galloped out with the flock, fat and happy.
And I am back.