Almost time for lamb-nesia


Imbolc is a traditional Gaelic festival marking the beginning of spring, during which great feasts were held. Imbolc was (and still is) traditionally celebrated Feb. 1. However, because the day was deemed to begin and end at sunset, the celebrations would start on what is now Jan. 31. 

It has also been argued that the timing of the festival was originally more fluid and based on seasonal changes. Imbolc translates to “in the belly” and was associated with the pregnancy of livestock, specifically of sheep, and onset of the lambing season. 

Here on the Northern Plains, we are nowhere near the beginning of spring, and while there are some brave and well-resourced shepherds who begin lambing now, for most of us, lambing won’t start for at least another month or two or three. 


This season, however, is marked by another sheep-related phenomenon my good friend and podcasting partner Heather Benson has named: “Lamb-nesia.” 

Yes, every winter around this time, baby lambs begin prancing through my dreams. It doesn’t matter how exhausted and stressed I was during the previous year’s lambing season, or how many times I questioned during the late nights, early mornings, and inevitable catastrophes: “Do I really want to keep raising sheep?” by the time we reach the beginning of February, I not only am itching for lambing to begin again, I am actively looking for ways acquire more ewes, or a few bottle babies. 

Once lamb-nesia sets in, my husband’s grumbling is enough to keep me in check for a week, two at the most. 

Every time I mention bottle lambs, I get “the look” and I briefly remember that yes, yes, it’s so much work and such a hassle and do I really need more to do? No, I do not. In the end, the lamb-nesia always wins, though last year I was able to make it all the way to April before I succumb — my personal best so far. 

After being so sick in December, and spending most of January just trying to ease my way back into regular life, the last thing on my mind has been adding more chores or responsibilities. In fact, it seemed I was finally going to avoid a recurrence of lamb-nesia and we might actually make it to spring without adding any new members to the flock. That is until my good friend and neighbor stopped by and mentioned she was considering picking up a bum lamb on her way home. 

And just like that, the fog of lamb-nesia descended with disorienting abruptness. 

This year, it isn’t just my husband who is shaking his head every time I bring up lambs. My son, who at 7 1/2 seems to be trying out adolescence early, or maybe even skipping straight to the grumpy grandpa phase of life, has also been shaking his head, too. “You do this every year, and you always regret it,” he says with pursed brows. 

Previously, I could count on him to be my partner in advocating for baby animal acquisition. 


The balance of power has measurably shifted, as my daughter, who may as well have sprung directly from her relentlessly pragmatic homesteader ancestors, has always been ambivalent about adding random animals to the menagerie without a good reason. I am now officially outnumbered. 

Meanwhile, today the temperatures are hovering in the mid-40s, warmer than it’s been in months. We woke to the sounds of sparrows chatting loudly outside the window, and the steady tick of icicles melting from the rooftop’s eaves. 

Spring is many months away, but today, it seems a mere breath until we will be liberated into lightness and warmth once again. 

What do you think, dear reader? Will I finally be able to resist the siren call of baby lambs until they arrive in our pasture from the mothers already in residence? 

My friend has been sending me cute photos of her new bottle lamb every morning, and so far, I’ve remained strong. I’m not sure I’m going to make it, but, just as spring always arrives eventually, hope springs eternal as well.


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  1. As a wildlife rehabilitator who’s physically no longer in the prime of life, I can relate & am wondering how I’m going to be able to turn my back on another’s spring’s orphans when there’s nobody else to take them. Thank you for getting me more familiar w/ those beautifully colored wood ducks.


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