On Lambing Loss and the Cycle of Renewal


It doesn’t have to be spring to see the cycle of renewal happening here on the farm. At Bittersweet, days of frigid cold and nights of blowing gales accompany the onset of lambing season.

HOMEGROWN: Sheep and lambs in snow

Lambs. Is there anything that tugs at our hearts more than their soft, wooly faces or the sight of twin lambs nursing from a good and patient mom? Having a bad day? Grab a lamb and go sit on a hay bale in the sheep pen for 30 minutes. When a ewe shares her tiny one—a soft nose snuggling into your neck, small whimpers, tiny lamb kisses—all of your troubles melt away. (As for that mom, maybe she has bad days, too: little ones demanding too much milk, wandering out of sight, getting pecked by curious chickens. Lambs take energy. When night falls, rest comes soft and sweet to that mom, as well as to the shepherdess.)

With Jack Fergus in the pasture last season, the girls’ due dates came earlier this year. I was OK with that until we hit December. Unrelenting cold. Wind howling up over the cove and slicing across the pastures. Gates blowing shut just when you’re driving the flock in for the night. Snow drifts up and over the fencing, leaving pastures vulnerable. Frozen water. Buckets, buckets, and more buckets to keep hydration levels up. Hay. Did I say hay? I lost count at 200 bales. “Isn’t it a little early for this much snow and cold?” I kept asking. Sometimes yes, sometimes no, depending on who answered. But even the old timers were commenting that they hadn’t seen a December like that for a while.

HOMEGROWN: Sheep, lamb, and chicken in the barn

Frankly, I expected lambs by Christmas. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. But two weeks later, at morning feeding time, Colleen gave birth to twins, two coal-black boys, 9 and 10 pounds. Last year, in March, all the girls delivered overnight. It began just before St. Patrick’s Day, ending Easter Sunday with Maeve delivering the last set of twins under the pine tree by the sheep pen. Warm days and sunshine melted winter snows, and after the first weeks, lambs were sprawled across the earth, soaking up the spring warmth.

3/17/2014 8:43:35 PM

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