On farms across the English-speaking world, the term used to describe the birthing and raising of sheep is lambing. The best chance for lambs to survive and thrive is when the weather is mild and grass is plentiful, and for that reason, in the northern hemisphere, Mother Nature decreed that autumn would be the season for sheep to mate, so that their lambs could be born in the springtime.
Yet, according to Emily Ruckert, an Oregon State University graduate with a degree in animal science, with modern farming technology this is not a hard and fast rule. “In nature, lambs are born in the spring, but we do it in the winter,” Emily said when asked about the best time of year for lambs to be born. “By summer all the babies are gone and we can breed again in July.”
While Nature does most of the heavy lifting, on the farm a successful lambing season still depends on the knowledge and experience of the sheep farmer. In previous blogs we have discussed:
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It follows, then, that a moving picture must be worth at least a million. Below are ten of our favorite, most informative YouTube videos on lambing, by sheep farmers whose knowledge of the subject ranges from the beginner to the expert.
The more I looked, the more I saw. Countless times I saw it in Christian religious art, where the four Gospel writers—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—are typically depicted, respectively, as a divine man, a winged lion, a winged ox, and an eagle. Clustered on the roof of the Croatian National State Archives building in Zagreb I noticed a parliament of Croatian owls, symbols of wisdom. And in Florence I met Il Porcellino (“the Piglet”), Baroque master Pietro Tacca’s popular boar fountain, sculpted in 1634 and situated now in the city’s Mercato Nuovo. Visitors traditionally put a coin into the boar’s jaws for good luck and then rub its snout to ensure a return to Florence. As a result, the snout always has a polished sheen, while the rest of its body remains a patinated brownish-green. (Of course, I rubbed its snout like there was no tomorrow!) Continue reading “Wonderful Life: A Celebration of Animals in European Art (Part 2)”
‘I think I could turn and live with animals, they are so placid and self-contain’d,
I stand and look at them long and long.’
— Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself, 32” (from Leaves of Grass)
As we enter this season of “Peace on Earth, good will toward men,” it is worthwhile to be reminded that in this deeply conflicted world, while there may be many things that divide people—borders, currency, language, religion, politics—there are many more things that unite us in harmony. One of those unifying principles is our common relationship with animals: not merely as food or pets or helpmates, but in the simple awe and affection they have always inspired in the human psyche. It is a sentiment that stretches not only across great geographical distances but across the vast chasm of time itself.
Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
— George Gershwin / DuBose Heyward
The myriad pleasures of summer are perfectly encapsulated in the song “Summertime” made famous by Ella Fitzgerald and others. It is traditionally a time to frolic outdoors and be carefree. But for summer-loving humans, it comes with its own set of risks and dangers as well, from sunburn and poison ivy to pesky mosquitoes and under-barbecued burgers.
The same applies to our beloved pets. While dogs and cats love to explore outside when the weather turns warm, it is important to remember there are hidden perils in even the most serene and halcyonic settings that can put their health and very lives at risk.
The full subtitle of this book neatly encapsulates its theme and tone: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus. Note that it identifies itself not as a general or scientific history, but as a “cultural” one. This is an accurate descriptive; for truly, few diseases known to humanity have branded themselves into our collective psyche and culture so widely, so deeply, and for so long; and as something not merely organically deadly but infernally so, and thus profoundly to be feared. (The few others that even come close include leprosy and polio.)
Though shelved in the non-fiction area of your library or bookstore, Rabid spins a series of tales and observations that could have come from the fictional horror story pen of Stephen King. It is at once fascinating and terrifying. The authors, a husband-and-wife team, are eminently qualified to write such a book. Wasik is a magazine editor who writes about science and technology; while Murphy is a veterinarian with a degree in public health. Together they have put together the definitive “biography” of the rabies pathogen. Continue reading “Book Review: Rabid—A Cultural History“