After shivering in my pajamas when I let the dogs out this morning, I wore my winter coat and boots when I went out to do my backyard chores. I had to break through a sheet of ice with the end of the hose to fill the water troughs in the sheepyard. The sheep snuggled together out of the sharp wind in the lean-to barn and the cow stood out in the pasture, the wind ruffling her starting-to-get-shaggy black fur. (Is it called fur on a cow? Her hide?)
Dodge, our merino ram, is in with the ewes. For the last few weeks, he had been pacing the fence line that separated him from the girls, sticking his nose in the air and curling his upper lip in an Elvis-like way. Hopefully, he'll do the same job he did last year, and we'll have lambs in late March. Last fall, when we put him in with our four merino ewes, we never saw him actually "get down to business" and when spring rolled around we weren't actually sure if all or even any of our ewes were pregnant. We had bought our Border Leicester, Phyllis, in January, already bred at the farm she came from. So we knew we would be having at least one lamb. And then we got six. Each of our four merino ewes had lambs, and Margaret had twins. So Dodge earned his keep on the farm. We're hoping he'll do the same this year.
The best thing about moving to the country and living on a couple acres with gardens and animals has been the connection to the seasons, the changing weather, and the end and renewal of new life. I have been brought closer to the earth, the soil that sustains our vegetable garden and our cornfield, the pasture grasses that feed our sheep, the sunshine and the wind that dried my clothes this summer, and the growing seasons that affect Joey's livelihood. Never in the suburbs were our lives so intertwined with nature. We make decisions based on the weather, our lives revolve around animal's reproductive calendars, and today I went to work with mud (or maybe sheep poo) on my jeans where I wiped my hand after giving the sheep water.