This year, between a pandemic, political divisiveness, and racial injustice, my summer doldrums seem especially intense. With the warm nights and worry-induced insomnia, I'm tired when I wake up - and have difficulty falling asleep in the evening. But the water needs moving and the sheep need caring for. And so we stick with it.
With the dry, hot weather comes worry about wildfire. We're constantly watching the sky for fire planes and smoke (usually our first warning). We're picking stickers out of our socks and off of our dogs. We're checking the guardian dogs for foxtails in their feet. We're keeping an eye out for snakes. But we stick with it.
What keeps me going? Why do I seem to forget this summer slog (what my friend and fellow farmer Jim Muck calls farmer amnesia) by the time we turn the rams in with the ewes in the fall? I was thinking about this question this morning as I was treating a handful of wormy lambs, dragging K-line sprinklers, and preparing to euthanize a sick ewe who didn't respond to repeated treatment.
The biggest factor that keeps me going, I think, is the turning of the year. It's hot and dry now, but I know there'll be a day in August when the day dawns cooler and it smells like fall. When I farmed vegetables I used to look forward to the first killing frost - no more picking zucchini! Now I look forward to the frost that finally kills the flies.
In late August, we'll bring the ewes back to our irrigated pasture, and all of our sheep will be in one place again. We'll flush the ewes to prepare them for breeding in September - and the rams will be turned around the first of October. Irrigation season will end, the rains will return (hopefully), and the cycle of new life will begin again. And that's why I stick with it on days like this. The sense that I'm responsible for the lives of other creatures - that I play even a bit roll in feeding and clothing my community - that I get to work outdoors with dogs and sheep and family - that's why I stick with it.