If 2011 was the driest year in decades, at least 2012 is showing welcome signs of improvement. Night before last, the rains fell for hours. They were our constant calming companions throughout the night, though in truth we could have done with just a little bit less thunder. At daybreak it was clear that at least three or four inches had fallen. In just that short a time, parched pond beds were renewed and the stream that once flowed cleanly across the pasture returned.
March is the busiest month here. The ewes are due to lamb soon, so we (and by we I mean Frances) have devoted important hours to reading and re-reading lambing texts to prepare for the worst. The shopping lists now include items like “colostrum powder,” “CMPK Drench” and “OB lube” (don’t ask).
Meanwhile, the ground has warmed nicely and is now ready to receive seedlings. The natural soil in this part of North Texas is composed of a thick clay that resists tilling. We planted herbs and cool-weather lettuces in a plot near the house that had previously been gardened. Then, as a learning exercise, we put together a 4×8-foot raised bed and planted tomatoes and a variety of pepper plants. The earth in the raised bed came from bags of peat, composted garden soil and vermiculite. If our high hopes are met, we’ll build out many more raised beds for next year.
Sadly, one of our wethers dropped dead in his tracks on Tuesday. Downy was 3 years old and a stalwart in the pasture. I resist calling the livestock by name so as to avoid the traps of anthropomorphism. But it was hard not to compare Downy’s natural markings with those of his sheeply compatriots. Most of them are poker-faced but Downy always had a sunny look. He was not flighty like the others, and lent a stable, amiable vibe to the pasture. He had been battling a chronic respiratory ailment, and it finally got the best of him.
In the country, you can’t really sweep problems under the rug the way you can in the city. We need to deal with the reality of Downy’s carcass. We’ve arranged for someone to bring a mini excavator over tomorrow to dig a grave deep enough to deter predators. The rains this week are not helpful in this regard, as the water table is high, and machinery driven across the pasture will leave ruts. While we wait for the mini excavator, we have wrapped Downy up and lifted him off the ground in the tractor front end bucket. It will be a relief to lay him to rest tomorrow, for new sheep and new vegetables are right around the corner.