Night shift

Lambing is now in full swing. My husband spends most of the day up in the sheep barn and then returns last thing at night for a final check. I love going up there with him then. To enter into the soft glow of the bergerie, is to find a haven of calmness after the madness of the day.

Every evening, we wade through the mountains of hay piled high on the mangers which run almost the whole length of the building, kicking it to each side so it can be reached by the ewes. The air, dusty from the unrolled hay bales is warm and smells of summer. The expectant hush of the sheep greets us as we walk in, along with the underlying noise of hundreds of jaws grinding together in united rumination. The silence is only punctuated by the soft ringing of the sheep bells, or the noisy bleating of a lamb, separated from its mother.

The sheep, a local breed (Préalpes), normally skittish, neurotic creatures lay quietly in the straw with their lambs beside them. We walk up the middle of both mangers, the extra height allowing us to check the flock for new-borns or signs of any imminent arrivals. My husband will usually warm a bottle or two for those lambs whose mothers are lacking milk and will check that the newest arrivals have fed.

Then, leaving them to settle again, we step out into the frigid air. Another day finished down on the farm.

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