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9 Dec 2009 - 12:53 PM  UPDATED 6 Sep 2013 - 9:31 AM

I wasn’t sure I’d get lambs. The sheep arrived too late for most farmers to think of lambing. Fred brought over the Wiltshire Horn ewes I’d bought from him, along with a borrowed ram, in early May. Despite the ram showing some interest in the girls, I wasn’t sure they’d got up to much.

Then, suddenly, the sheep started to look rotund. Bellies as round and taught as an Olympian’s bicep. And when last Sunday I saw one of the ewes spending time alone, lying down under the trees rather than traipsing the paddocks near the house, I figured it wouldn’t be long. After dinner I found her, lying down for each contraction, standing and nibbling grass in between. She seemed close to lambing, but I wouldn’t know how a ewe is supposed to look in the days, hours and minutes before the big event.

A neighbour, whose sheep had given birth a couple of months ago, offered to lend a hand. I’m not sure if I’d even know when to ask for help. It turned out my sheep didn’t need it. Contractions of three minutes apart quickly became two minutes apart. The ewe squatted, letting out only the tiniest clicking sound from her mouth. Then a little baby lamb was born, pushed out like a long, thin sausage, late on Sunday night. Its head and forelegs were out first, the hind legs last. Within minutes it was licked clean and on its feet. Within the hour it was suckling. Birth is at once both shocking and exhilarating to watch, a privilege to witness.

By the next morning there were two lambs. Another ewe must’ve gone into labour at dawn. And the third one looks like she’s carrying twins because she’s the biggest of the lot.

Spring is a relief. Instead of having to cull chickens, and wait for the growing season, now I can watch things thrive. The quince has flown into blossom. Bees thrill to the warm, still, sunny days and fill the air with their hum. In the house block the flowers are poking their heads out in force; red and pinks and blues of startling colour. The grass is leaping out of the ground, and I’m thinking I can stop feeding Maggie hay.

In the vegie garden the mangelwurzel I planted in March has miraculously recovered from the possum attack and is flourishing. (Mangelwurzel is a turnip-like pig food that I was hoping to use with the Saddlebacks.) The broad beans are tiny and sweet. I’ve planted my heritage apples, a greengage plum (is this the best fruit on the planet? – it’s certainly up there), a nectarine and a few asparagus crowns.

Soon I will get weeding. Preparing the garden beds for the best time of all, the fast, wonderful growing season of summer. But first, I need to consider how to protect the place from possums. I’m asking all the neighbours, all the gardeners I meet, just what I should do. Most suggest a dog. Others a gun. Many suggest both.