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Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gearing up for Christmas

One or two of our ewes are “bagging up”, as the Farmer says. That is a rather indelicate way to explain that they are developing an udder. Apparently they were impregnated by Rambo back in July, before we had a chance to lock him up. In any case, all signs point to at least two of our ewes giving birth before Christmas.
The snow has arrived, and no one likes to be born into a snowdrift so we wrestled (correction: the Farmer wrestled) the expectant ewes into the lambing pen. They look pretty comfortable in there; the Farmer just finished stapling plastic up over the open windows yesterday.
I’m happy to see the udders because it means the ewes will have milk and I won’t have to worry about staggering out to the barn in the middle of the night with a heated baby bottle full of milk replacer. Not that I mind feeding new lambs. I’m just not very fond of it in lieu of sleep.
Of course, when there are lambs in the barn I am always running out there to see what they are up to. The lambs get themselves stuck in the feeders, they fall into water buckets, they squeeze out of the pens through gaps in the wall and then can’t find their way back to their mothers. They are constantly getting into trouble. A friend of mine suggested that we put a video camera in the barn so that we can watch sheep TV. But I can see myself getting obsessed with that. I’d be checking out the monitor every few minutes and panicking when one of the little ones moves out of camera range.
Someone else suggested I use a baby monitor, but unless the sheep are trying to communicate with me directly, I probably won’t be able to figure out what they are talking about. Besides, I gave away my baby monitor back in 1993 when it started picking up conversations in other homes. I felt too much like a voyeur. And I’m sure our neighbours with monitors would really appreciate having the sounds of a hundred sheep cutting in on their frequency.
While we wait for the sheep, we prepare for Christmas. Even those of us who are militant about not falling under the commercial spell of fuss and expense have things to do to get ready.
You would think that our 200 acres would yield at least one good Christmas tree. Well it didn’t. The Farmer and I rode the ATV to the back of the pasture where the spruce grows. None of the trees were suitable candidates for our symbol of Christmas, but we thought we might lob the top off one of them to make a tree for our daughter’s apartment. My dear husband hauled himself up into one of the trees, face full of snow and branches, in an attempt to saw the top off of it. It wasn’t until I picked my way through thorn brush and deep snow that I saw the other side of the “tree”. It was completely bare of branches. He finished sawing and it fell to the ground. I watched his (snow-covered) face as he walked around to examine the back of it. “It’s not a Christmas tree. It only has one side. If we give her this she will think we don’t like her anymore.”
And so we came back to the house soaking wet and empty-handed. It’s a good thing too, because when the offspring arrived for Sunday dinner, she announced that maybe she didn’t really want a tree after all. Sigh. She’s such a city girl. I gave her some extra garland and a package of gold balls and told her to have fun decorating. I’m glad she wasn’t too disappointed.
After dinner, I gave the girls the job of decorating our tree (a beautiful 7-foot model, purchased at the Johnson Brothers farm on Townline Road). As they untangled garlands of beads and hung ornaments in strategic places all over the tree, they chatted and laughed. I took pictures. Poured some rum into my eggnog and put my favourite Christmas CD on in the kitchen.
“You know it’s Christmas when Mom breaks out the Celine Dion,” my eldest declared.
Happiness is watching my girls together, laughing, teasing each other, and reliving memories of Christmases past.
As always, but especially during special occasions, the ghost of Dad is in the room, laughing along with us, and reveling in the joy that is family.

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