Lambing Season in Osage County, Kansas

Hank reflects on lambing season chores and greener pastures ahead.

Karen and Gus

Karen and Gus the Border Collie.

Photo by Hank Will

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It’s nearly lambing time at my place. It’s coming early – too early – but not entirely by choice. Well, actually, entirely by choice, but not because that’s how I desire to manage my flock. I’d prefer to have my ewes drop their babies on lush green pastures in the spring, but this year, my fences malfunctioned as my best laid management plan was scattered by events beyond my control – or so my perception suggests anyway.

In 2015, when I might have been fixing fence, sorting ewes and selecting rams, I instead had the privilege of helping my wife, Karen K. Will (once a regular contributor to the pages that follow) finish out her 44-year journey here on Earth. She fought a valiant fight, but was taken by an incredibly aggressive cancer last July.

On April 23, 2010, I blogged about lambing season; this is part of what I had to say back then:

Lambing season has begun on my Osage County, Kansas, farm. Missy, our black bottle lamb from last year, dropped her Katahdin twins last Tuesday without any complication other than being slow to clear the membrane from the ram lamb’s face. Happily, my Partner in Culinary Crime (aka Karen Keb; not yet Karen K. Will) was on hand to let the gasping guy out of his sack; he was a little slower than his sister, but within an hour was up on his feet claiming his share of colostrum. The comical milk mustaches Missy’s twin lambs wear today are a testament to her fine ability to handle the reproductive load – she’s got lambing season down pat.

Today I smile fondly, remembering that Karen, too, got lambing season down pat. And for the next several years she checked for newborns while I was at work, assisted when needed, and handled the bottle feeding for any orphans or hungry little triplets. In fact, I recall many spring evenings walking out to the pasture after work to see Karen surrounded by wagging little lamb tails and an armload of bottles. She named each bottle baby. She was a natural.

In 2016, I’ll pick up the pieces of my place and get it moving forward once again. I’ll get those ewe numbers growing like Karen and I had always planned, and with a little luck and a lot of work, maybe my fences won’t be quite so prone to malfunction. Then, in 2017, imagine the bumper crop of lambs I’ll have bouncing around on lush green pasture. I hope there aren’t many that need bottles.

If you’ve ever had to pick up the pieces and move forward, or have simply needed to dig deep and find the grit to keep on keeping on, I’d love to hear about it. Write me a note or send me a photo (hwill@grit.com), and I just might be able to slip it into a future issue of the magazine.

See you in March,

Hank


Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn on his rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines.