The rain came late this year – our hills did not turn green until December. However, the weather more than made up for its late start. Our farm is in the coastal hills away from the low lying and wetter valleys along the Petaluma and Russian rivers. The flooding that affected much of Sonoma County thankfully left us alone.
However, the rain can be a big problem during lambing. Newborn lambs have very few reserves and must quickly get on their feet and have a first meal to make it. When the rain is really coming down the ewe is not as patient or persistent in her attempts to encourage the lambs and the weaker ones often do not make it.
January is always the start of our largest lambing. From the middle of January until the middle of March we usually have 150 ewes lamb. Of course it works out that at the peak as many as 20 have lambs the same day. This year between record rains in January and March we had a dry stretch in February and luck was on our side because the peak of our lambing fell during this time.
Each of our ewes is brought through our lambing barn with her lambs so that they can get out of the weather and strengthen their natural bond for one another. We are able to watch to make sure the lambs are nursing well and tag them before turning them our into our ‘new mothers’ pasture. They stay together for about 40 days until the lambs are weaned and the ewes go to the dairy.
As I write this in early April, we have around 100 ewes in the dairy with more to come soon. We are now making our cheeses three days a week and our ripening rooms are filling up fast. The cheeses require daily attention and can quickly crack if we lose our focus.
Over the years one of the most satisfying parts of cheese making on the farm has been our involvement in every step that led to our cheese. From the lambing season, to raising the lambs to adulthood, to helping them have their own babies, to bringing the ewes to the milking parlor and ultimately to making and aging cheeses with their milk.