New life in our barn for Christmas

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Dorset sheep

It’s beginning to look a lot like … well, like Doris is running things around here. The Dorset was not due to lamb until right around Christmas day. One of our earlier-bred ewes did her lambing a week ago, birthing a ram lamb, and Doris decided she could not be shown up in the performance category.

Doris’ fine lamb

This past Wednesday night, all in a hurry, the Dorset who wants to be a permanent pet on our farm brought the prettiest little ewe lamb in to the world, small but strong. As we checked those two young lambs one recent evening, I commented on how well both are doing under the watchful eye of the two mama ewes.

I couldn’t help but make a fuss over what a remarkable Dorset the ewe lamb is — a definite keeper. “That dang Doris did it again,” Doug grumbled.

When I defended her, saying she hadn’t done a thing wrong that I could see, he said, “Wouldn’t you know she would have a darn nice ewe lamb, so there’s no good enough reason to send her packing again this year.”

New life

It is great to see new life in our new barn. Each day, I find myself spending more time in the barn than I do anywhere else, working there at an enjoyable pace.

Young lambs are delightful enough to draw even the toughest character in to a grin. Twin ram lambs born just four days ago are already jumping about on all fours, playfully head-butting each other, taking turns jumping on their mama as she lies down, calmly chewing her cud.

Old barns

As I shake out fresh straw for warm bedding in each pen, I realize we will never stop missing our grand old barn, lost to fire in January 2014. Even on the most frigid winter day, that sturdy old barn remained surprisingly warm.

One thing occurs to me in that faint way that happens to us all once in awhile: When I dream in my deepest sleep, it is still the enormous old barn that remains, forever a part of each story worth dreaming. The barn where my great-grandfather raised more than 200 lambs each year is gone now, too — bulldozed for no good reason by later tenants after he passed on — and yet I picture him there, still.

When we rebuilt, Doug wisely kept the old west wall, which had been the underside retaining wall of the bank part of the barn, building the new up against that wall. Our barn is kept warmer because of this, protected by the bitter winter wind that we catch mightily on this high knoll.

Lamb jammies

Even still, we cloak our newborn lambs in warming blankets that look like colorful fleece pajamas to help hold body heat. Those twin ram lambs, dressed in green polka dots, are more fun than any toy a child could dream up.

“Cute as Christmas!” is what my great-grandpa Charlie would say if he could visit our barn just now, there is not a bit of doubt in my mind. I pick each of them up, letting them get used to being handled, and the littlest lamb gets hold of my finger as a pacifier.

We will be hosting Christmas here, and there is no doubt these lambs and many more to arrive in the coming days will get plenty of attention in between the gift-giving and the feasts and the games newly unwrapped, all ages of kids wanting to head down to the barn. It’s true that joy shared is doubled many times over. I can’t wait to share the fun.

From our farm to yours, we wish you a merry Christmas.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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