Sunday, January 27, 2008
A while back, I asked The Farmer what's the most important job he plays as a shepherd during lambing season. I expected him to say something like pulling out a live lamb during a difficult birth. But no, not my calm, mild mannered, quiet Farmer. He told me his most important job is observing.
He spends all day and parts of the evening with the sheep. Lots of the time he is moving feed around - it takes a long time to feed 150 ewes and over 100 lambs. Once he is done with morning chores, he gets a little break for a quick lunch. Then it's back to the greenhouse barn to feed some more.
Often, when I arrive for a quick peek at what's going on, he'll be standing there, just looking. I think to myself, oh, he's doing the big part of his job - observing! He miraculously knows which ewe lambed the night before. He can tell you which lamb belongs to which sheep and if it is a single or a twin. He can tell if a ewe is in trouble and needs help with a delivery. It boggles my mind that he can tell them all apart. I can tell what breed one of the sheep is or perhaps about how old it is. I can guess how old a lamb is within reason. I can tell you if a ewe is having trouble lambing but the other stuff, not a prayer.
I guess it's a lot like a knitter going into a large yarn store. I can tell one fiber from another. I can pick out just the perfect ocean teal blue from one that is just not right. I can feel the difference between a superwash wool and a beautifully soft merino wool. I can guess which yarn might have mohair or alpaca in it.
I guess it's the same for all of us. We explore our passions and learn as much as we can. Then we observe and make decisions. But tell me, could you tell which sheep is the mother of which lamb?