Oh my, what a day. I was about to post this picture on Instagram when I realised just how much I had to say about it.
We were invited to a friend’s farm today. It was such a sweet, kind invitation because she knows how much my boys adore everything in nature and she wanted to share it with them. New to farming herself (it’s her new partner’s farm) she was seeing it through eyes wide open and said to me on the phone ‘it’s just amazing, you have to see this’.
That sentence is a great way to convince me to go to pretty much anything. Nature-wonder-junkie that I am. And so we went. With excited chatter, so many questions, head to toe waterproofs and a bagful of snacks. Always a bag of snacks.
I’ve been to public lambing days in the past where you grapple with a hundred other people to get close enough to peer into a pen and glimpse a lamb and they mostly made me feel awful. Such an intrusion for the animals. So my relief and delight today when we arrived and it was just us and the farming family. And it was peaceful, gentle and kind – and rather than gawp we were able to help out.
There were the triplets who needed a top up with a bottle, the pens that needed more bedding straw, the sheep and their babies who were ready to be moved outside to graze and yet more to be moved to the nursery area (pictured) to free up the individual pens for the expectant mothers waiting to birth. We listened and helped out with whatever we could. Even N, my littlest seemed to follow exactly what was happening and was needed.
A few things struck me as we moved around the farm. I don’t eat meat these days. I’ve been veggie for a few years now. Initially it was for health reasons, lately I’ve realised the moral reasons have developed significantly. Hence I was expecting to feel uncomfortable at the farm. And I did on some level. But I was also heartened by how well these animals were being treated. It was truly admirable. They were spoken to, handled gently and carefully, reassured whenever anything was happened to them or their lamb. Very well cared for. Maybe that’s unique to a farm of this size or to the family itself, but I had huge admiration for how they did things today.
Another thing that struck me, as it often does, is how close we are to these animals. We may walk on two legs and have highly developed minds, but we go through the same seasons and experience similar life cycles as they do. I asked whether the sheep usually need help when they’re birthing and the farmer said ‘the first timers often do, yes’. My friend told me how she’d seen a first time mother sheep leap back in alarm after she saw what she’d birthed. No idea what had just happened and in shock. They had to coax her over and encourage her to sniff her lamb, telling her ‘it’s yours my love’. As I helped the boys top up the bedding straw in some of the pens I chatted to the sheep (I have a habit of filling awkward silences) and watched them carefully to make sure they were ok with us being there. I realised as I looked at each mother that I could tell the first time mothers from the seasoned ones. The latter having an ‘it’s ok, I’ve got this’ calm about them and the first time mums looking at me with wide eyes that still said ‘what in the heck just happened?’ though their lambs are several days old by now. One new mum had to be reminded that when her little one bleated she needed to stand up so it could feed. While another knocked her lamb into a water bucket and didn’t notice!
I felt a huge affinity to those new ones. As I looked into their eyes I could remember that wide eyed shock on my own face. The clumsy, slightly cluelessness about those early days. The looking at others for reassurance – ‘am I doing this right? Somebody?’. As I spread the straw around (the boys were enthusiastically lobbing in big clumps, of course) I said ‘well done, mama – you did so well’ to each one and gave them a reassuring nod. Yes, new heights of crazy-person reached on my part, but it’s what I would’ve wanted to hear if I were them. To the expectant mothers I gave a quiet go-get-em, you’re going to be fine.
I love that the boys got to experience this today. R (who is 6) marvelled at how warm the lamb was that he carried to it’s new pen (with mum following closely behind). ‘Well it would be,’ he told my friend, ‘it was born with a woolly jumper’. She laughed, happy to see how much they’d enjoyed it I think. Huge gratitude for friends like this who know your children and know how sharing something like this will give them so much. We live in a town with a smallish garden and much less immediate connection to nature than I’d truly like. And yet, these boys of ours are so connected to it. It runs in their veins. Thanks to getting out in it every chance we get and to days like today.