Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Spring is on the way

As I was checking on new lambs today (there were 4, by the way), I first heard and then saw several flocks of sandhill cranes flying north. My friend David Gallino, who runs cows in Nevada County, and I always compete to see who sees the cranes on their northbound trip in the spring and on their southbound trip in the fall. This year, David won - he first spotted them on February 19. I saw my first cranes two days later. The cranes must have a pretty precise calendar - I noted in my weather diary (which I've kept since 2001) that they fly over every year during the third or fourth week of February.

Another sign of spring is the wildflower display that's started at the ranch in Lincoln. We moved cows to fresh feed this afternoon, and I noticed some wonderful little yellow flowers called "butter and eggs." This are usually the first flowers to show up, and we've finally had enough rain to get them going. Hopefully the vernal pools at Doty Ravine Preserve (the winter ranch we lease from the Placer Land Trust) will boast it's usual spectacular display of wildflowers this year.

The final sign of impending spring is the presence of bottle lambs in our kitchen. Sometimes a ewe won't take its lamb at birth, which means we bring the lamb home and raise it on a bottle. Our girls especially like this (although they don't generally get up for the 2 a.m. feedings). We obviously prefer for the ewes to do the mothering, but sometimes we have to step in. We have two of them sleeping in a dog crate as I write this.

One of the many things I enjoy about farming is the opportunity to experience the seasons directly. At the risk of boasting, I'm proud to say that I've seen the vast majority of the sunrises in my life. I like being outside in all kinds of weather, and I love the chance to see the changes that the weather and the seasons bring to the plant and animal communities around me. I'm incredibly lucky to make my living this way!

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