Here he is! The first lamb of the season, born this morning around 7am and very appropriately on the first day of SPRING! On a wintry Sunday morning in Kansas, I had slept in, got up with tea and a book, and was getting ready to walk into town for my first lunch out, when Natalya rushes in from the barn where she’d gone to feed (albeit a late) breakfast to the sheep, excited about our newest edition. We set out with tagging supplies, iodine, clamps and a cup for colostrum and got the (already dry) newborn’s umbilical cord taken care of, got him weighed and made sure his mom (Bitten) was bonding ok. Freckle Face (the guard llama) seemed happy and satisfied as he hummed (really cool!) and proceeded to check in with the mom periodically, sniffing her and observing the new relationship with his usual, austere posture. As miraculous and exciting as this birth and new life experience is, Bahauddin (father of the famed Rumi) in his ancient wisdom, seems to sum up the full spectrum of the picture in his words: “In the oven of the womb you were a wet lump getting baked for the world’s longest banquet table.” A gristly ending, I know, and probably not exactly what Bahauddin was referring to in his esoteric rantings, but somewhat fitting dont ya think?
Other news from Lawrence: It’ a cool town! Lots of bustling, local stores and restaurants including Wheatfield’s Bakery; a wood-fired bread oven shop specializing in preserving and maintaining heirloom varieties of wheat and ancient grains. (I highly recommend the #9: turkey and cranberry relish on walnut-sage bread…..and/or today’s focaccia(!) artichoke heart and caper.
(The world’s most) Local Burger is another local chow arena supposedly including a selection of the 9 different meats raised in and around Lawrence (all sold at the Lawrence Farmer’s Market, starting April 10th!): bison, beef, pork, lamb, emu, goat, chicken, turkey, and…..elk I think?
The Lawrence Barn Dance Association holds contra dances every other week in a rotation with a few other area dances, so I should be able to dance at least once a week while here! Last night the dance was a bit lacking in numbers due to 1) the weather, 2) spring break and 3) some big basketball game (what?!) Still, I couldn’t have asked for nicer people, or more interest in me (the new person in town) and what I was doing, how WWOOF works and wanting to share garden stories and situations.
Farm work has been long and tiring; forking up the barn from its layers of winter manure and bedding to transport into a sectioned and surveyed fallow field to begin new beds for bigger production this year. My hands and arms were so tired that first night, I had trouble even holding my book open as I read before bed! At this rate, my arms will be toned in no time, that’s what farmercising is all about.
Anyway, once the barn floor was bare (after about 23, 200lb. cart loads back and forth to the field) it was spread with a layer of lime, several bags of sawdust, and a generous heaping of hay before the sheep were brought in from their outdoor lot to spend the night indoors where they could stay dry before being shorn the next morning. And, so we get to shearing!!
The 12 sheep were corralled into a small corner of the barn so that we could catch them easily to slide out the door onto the makeshift shearing platform, covered with a large sheet to make collection of the wool easy. Danny, the shearer, set up his tall electrical equipment to the side of the gate and out came his shears; really glorified and extremely humongous clippers. (Resembling the buzz-cut razors used in barber shops; just getting them ready for lambing boot camp, like I said ;)
A few people came to watch and help with the process, some brought kids, we had snacks and practised some hand-spinning on a drop-spindle when we had downtime. Overall, it was the day of the diehards; snow shooting down, subsequently building up and a drafty barn to boot.
Other highlights so far have included going with Natalya to an LGBT chili and bingo night (rowdy crowd, but they know how to cook some chili,) getting connected with the Lawrence Sustainability Network and their upcoming events, coming to find out that they banded to together and supported the local co-op (The Merc) to the effect of keeping Whole Foods from setting in here, attending my first Taize’ service, and getting to soak in an outdoor hot tub of one of Natalya’s friends after a hard day’s work and to warm up as the snow just wasn’t relenting. There’s also a huge public library here, and being newly carded I have that world of books at my fingertips (well, at least three in my hands at a time as I have a temporary deal.) Not to mention all the lamb and summer sausage I could want and only warm, sunny days in the forecast from here on.