When thinking back on the past month, I pondered my possible newsletter topics. My options seemed to include: (1) cold weather – I’m pretty sure we’ve all had enough of that, (2) snow – beautiful, but I have certainly had nearly enough of that, or (3) farming in the winter – positive Gabe and I have had enough of that…so, I have decided to look ahead this month rather than behind. Looking ahead to March, to warmer days, to spring…
“March comes in early spring,
Little birdies begin to sing,
Build their nests and hatch their brood,
With love and kindness provide them food.”
This little poem, which Gabe’s family members traditionally race one another to recite on the first of March each year, perfectly illustrates what is to come on the farm this month. As temperatures gradually rise and the snow steadily recedes, we are preparing for babes to be a part of the farm once again.
Crescent, our “prize” sow, is cozy as can be in the barn. Her nest building appears to be complete (an act that all sows go through prior to farrowing) and we are patiently awaiting her first signs of labor. Each morning I enter the barn to her soft, rhythmic grunts unsure if her noises are simply those of a sleeping pig at rest or rather, those of a large mama laboring through the birth of her brood. One morning soon, I am certain the latter will be the case.
The ewes, while slightly behind Cres in their gestation, are also gearing up for their big day. Last weekend we moved them all into a new pen in the barn where we can easily monitor their progress and isolate each ewe when her lamb(s) “drop” – a lowering of the lamb(s) into the ewe’s birthing canal that leaves hollow-like depressions on either side of her spine and tells us that lambing is imminent. With any luck, we will have a healthy lamb crop springing around the barnyard within a month. And, for those of you who have never witnessed a baby lamb in all its glory, let me tell you they are the epitome of springtime joy.
The final mother-to-be preparations around the farm revolve around Jeannette. Although she is not due to calve, or freshen, until the first of May, she will be dried off by March 1. “Drying off” a dairy cow is the standard practice of ceasing to milk a cow for a period of time, most generally about 2 months, prior to freshening. This break in milk production allows the pregnant mother to put her energy into her growing calf and maintain a healthy condition. Hopefully a little break will also serve to cheer up our girl who has been full of “spirit” lately…otherwise known as a shifty, shaving-kicking beast that I will be glad to take a brief respite from!
And so, in closing, if you too feel that this winter has dragged on long enough, remember to look ahead rather than behind. Focus on the changing light, warmer days and the “little birdies” that are beginning to sing overhead and remember that this too shall pass and spring will come again!