Winter in Connemara is long and dreary. It's only daylight for a surprisingly short amount of time – from about 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. – and even then, it's rare to see the sun come out. It might not be too cold, but the wind is bone-chilling and relentless, and by the time spring starts inching closer and closer, everyone's ready for some sun.
Spring can have a lot of false starts, and it's only Mother Nature herself that can really tell us when she's good and ready to leave winter behind for at least a few months. The horses start to lose their winter coats, and even more telling than that is the start of lambing season.
Just outside my office window is a distinctly Irish sheep field. Full of craggy rocks and fast-moving streams that are freezing cold no matter what the season, it's the kind of field that you wouldn't expect to see inhabited by anything with legs as delicate as sheeps' appear to be. But they manage just fine, and by the beginning of March they're starting to look suspiciously pudgy.
After a few weeks of impatiently waiting, I was writing when I heard the first baby bleats. They're not happy about the whole affair, suddenly forced rather unceremoniously out into this cold, damp place. By the time I ran outside, he'd already figured out the basics of how his legs worked and he was standing out in the hay pile. There was no learning curve with his voice, as he was bleating his little heart out as he stumbled around on tiny, unsure feet.
The first of many, I decided he'd be called Onesie.
Onesie was on his own for almost a week before his friends started showing up. By that time, he'd mastered standing and was working on frolicking – a tall order with the spring weather this early little one had been born into. Nights were still cold, the rain was still coming sideways, and he was learning really quickly just how harsh the conditions can be out in the Connemara mountains. Mother Nature might have slipped up a little on him, sending him out into the world just a tad bit too early.
He was fine, of course, and it wasn't to long before more and more lambs started coming. Once Mother Nature decided it was time, handfuls seemed to happen overnight. Onesie made friends and took charge – with an extra week under his belt, he was instantly the biggest, baddest baby on the block. Whenever there was a king-of-the-rock-pile game organized, he'd head straight to the top. And even though he's always at the head of every mini-stampede across the hills at three weeks old, he still hunkers down next to Mum every evening.
And somehow, they – and the scores of other babies filling the fields across Connemara and across Ireland – make the long winter months all worth it.
Originally from Attica, NY Debra Kelly is a freelance writer and journalist who has seen most of the U.S. during her travels. Ready for something new, she's now living in the wild hills of Connemara with her husband and plenty of animals. She is a frequent contributor to Urban Ghosts, Listverse and Knowledgenuts.