Lambing season on the farm

Lambing Under Orion


Christiane Payton and her Lincoln sheep at North Valley Farm in Willamette, Oregon.

We've invited Christiane Payton of North Valley Farm in Willamette, Oregon, to share what it is like this time of year on her small farm.

Christiane: Here at North Valley Farm, it's that time of year when the lambs arrive with a vengeance. At first one, then two, and then after a week they come in waves of twins and triplets. The barn, normally a quiet refuge from the hustle and bustle of life with four children, becomes a raucous place. Ewes bawl as they search for their babies, while the lambs play with their peers and ignore the calls of their increasingly frantic mothers.

As any shepherd will tell you, it is a great responsibility and privilege to help the next generation of lambs slip into this world. For the most part, my work consists of cleaning pens, cataloging the lambs, and giving supportive care to the ewes in the maternity ward. I raise Lincoln sheep, so each successive lambing season takes on additional meaning as the breed is rare, both here in North America as well as in its native England. The best of these lambs will have the opportunity to contribute their genetics to future generations.


A Lincoln ewe and her lamb at North Valley Farm in Willamette, Oregon.

As I make my fifth trip of the day to the barn, on an unusually clear night where one can easily see the constellations, I'm not thinking about the celestial show. Of course I would love a barn full of Lake Wobegon lambs—where all the sheep are above average—but at the end of the day, a healthy set of twins and a happy mother ewe are more than enough to lift my spirits. In the months to come, they will grow and head out onto our pasture in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon. In June when the lambs are shorn, I will check to see which have the most beautiful fleeces, with long silky curls and shiny luster.

But that's all in the future. Right now it's the time when the babies arrive and the shepherd dreams of more sleep as she heads out to the barn for her last check of the night.

—Christiane Payton

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