Anticipation every morning, during lambing season. Pulling on work clothes and boots and layering up for the chill of pre-dawn. The dog, eager and wagging at the door, ready to go out into the morning. Stepping out of the cabin, the light from below the horizon casting the trees in darkness, birds darting way beyond the speed limit from tree to ground to tree.
We walk toward the barn, Dahlia and I, her nose in every direction as she tracks who visited in the night, which coyote crossed where, which rabbit is still holding itself just behind a manzanita. The sheep are still settled down, legs tucked beneath them and chewing steadily, but they baa out when they see me and start to stand. I seek out the lambs first, quickly counting and making sure all are there, even as I am still walking closer. I get to the hog panel gate and peer inside, and there, in the back corner, holding herself in that awkward new-mother stance, Yuna is surrounded by one, two, three shaky little white lambs. Triplets.
I knew Yuna was ready to deliver any day, and I expected twins, but somehow it never crossed my mind that there might be more. She had been the last to get into the pasture for several days, slowed down by her width and nearly waddling. But last year she had only a singleton, a ram lamb with a sweet face and disposition, and this year I only hoped for healthy twins.
Triplets, good news and bad news. Will she accept them all, and be able to feed them? Will one or two crowd out the others, is one already so much smaller than the others that it hardly stands a chance? I jog to the Subaru and drive over to the yurt site to get Dan. “Yuna had triplets!” I announce and he responds, “Oh, no!” Is it good, is it bad… maybe.
We bring the flock out to pasture and I go back in the barn with a flake of alfalfa and a bucket of water with a quarter-cup of molasses stirred in. Yuna doesn’t look twice at either, which worries me a bit, but she is focused on her lambs, which are all clean, standing, and huddling around her udders. I spot a ram lamb and a ewe lamb, and then another ewe lamb.
The next morning, as I prepare to take the sheep out, Gigi makes her way over to Yuna. Gigi has had triplets twice, and was not bred this year because she had such terrible mastitis the last two seasons, and lost two of her three triplets. I watch her carefully as she rubs her nose against Yuna’s face, holds it there a moment, and then turns back to the gate.
Five days later, all three lambs are running and playing in the afternoon sunlight. We’ll wait till they are a week old, then name them. Welcoming them to life in full.