… can lambing be far behind?

As regular readers of this blog have learned, I am crazy about Soay sheep and so is Steve.  Both of us are prepared to ascribe all sorts of wondrous attributes and talents to them, justified or not.  However, Soay are no good at all in predicting the approach of spring.  Try as we might, we have been unable to discern any appreciable change in their behavior as winter turns towards spring, other than the obvious fact of actually lambing starting in late March.  But who can wait that long to celebrate the approach of spring?  Not me.  The ewes do not even “show” until a few days before they birth.

For harbingers, we are forced to rely on other phenomena.  Take yesterday, for example.  During afternoon chores, Steve called on his walkie-talkie to report that our border collie, Molly, would be coming back with a surprise for me.  Great, I thought, just what I need — a dead gopher, a particularly fragrant layer of pasture mud on her coat, perhaps a deer leg bone extricated from the same ooze.  But no, Molly trotted home triumphant because her boss had in his hands the first two chicken eggs of 2008, irrefutable signs that spring will indeed come to Saltmarsh Ranch before too much longer.


They do look rather forlorn there in my grandmother’s capacious and well-worn egg basket, don’t they?  Nothing to rival the bushels and bushels she lovingly collected and sold year after year to put my father through vet school at Iowa State College.  But two homelaid eggs are better than none, and only the first of an increasing supply over the next few weeks.  Our middle-aged hens go on strike as the days grow too short to maintain their tans, forcing us to resort to store-bought eggs for the winter, a decidedly inferior source of protein and Sunday omelets.  Yuk.  I have not decided how best to use the precious duo, but something appropriately noteworthy will come to mind. 

Yes, yes, I know, Spring Training can serve the same function – heralding spring – but somehow it is just not the same now that we live in a part of the country devoid of major league baseball, even farm clubs, instead of Chicago, with two teams to choose between and complain about.   

For many people the defining trend as spring nears is, of course, the lengthening of the days.  Alas, I am kind of soured on this signal as well.  I grew up proud and a little holier-than-thou, to be honest, about the fact that my birthday, December 21, is the shortest day of the year.  It was not until I married a scientist that I learned the relevant truths about sunrise and sunset, at least for farmers.  Fact is, sunset begins to occur later about December 6, though the sun does not start rising earlier until about January 6.  Scientific accuracy has its place, no doubt about it, but it sure can spoil the romance of what seemed like a particularly special birth date.  Oh well.

One of these days we will start to imagine we can hear our ewes gestating.  Until then, the arrival of the first eggs and the lopsided but palpable lengthening of the days suffice to alert us it is time to print lamb cards, make sure the jugs have bedding straw for the new mothers, and order supplies for the Lambing Kit.  Before we know it, the 2008 lambs will start arriving!

For now …