In the wake of the California Artisan Cheese Festival, publisher Stephanie Skinner and I took a trip out to visit Joel Weirauch at his eponymous Weirauch Farm in the hills of Sonoma County, California.
Joel's holding Irene, who was bottle fed at home for the first month—her mother had udder problems, so Irene got very comfortable around people. She's one of the older lambs: some of the wee ones in the barn were only a few days old, but they all have names that start with "I"; Irene, Iris, Ivy, etc. Nex year, every lamb will have a "J" name, and so on.
Joel and his wife Carleen are making humane, organic, farmstead sheep cheese in an old-fashioned, new-fangled way: bootstrapping their way into the business, renting land and using recycled schoolhouse trailers for aging caves. Never throw anything out, eh?
A fortnight ago the first lambs were born on Holker farm. At the moment it’s the youngest sheep, the first time mothers, that are giving birth and this means a higher degree of problems than the more experienced ladies who should start at the end of next week.
It’s a natural part of the cheesemaker and dairy farmer’s year; no young uns, no milk. We tend to consider birth to be an entirely natural part of any animal’s life and especially because we as humans have such ready access to medical advice and support, we forget that it’s a major undertaking. While having lunch up at the farmhouse, I saw Nicola’s notes for the first 2 weeks. The numbers of stillborn lambs to live lambs were pretty much neck and neck and where the lambs were born successfully, the inexperienced mothers didn’t know what to do with them and she’d made notes to bottle feed most of them.