In the elder days, before paper and printing presses and the relentless logic of the modern world predominated and stifled humankind’s well attuned intuition, the harbingers of the turning of the year were not dates on a calendar, to come and go according to our expectations, they were experiences of pivotal moments in the flow of time–powerful “little seasons” that express cycles, enchantment and change.
Imbolg is the name of one of these little seasons. The name is an old word that literally means “in milk”, and it refers to the livestock giving birth which “freshens” them–renews the production of milk. Long ago, especially in cold post-glacial Europe right up through the Middle Ages, much depended on that flow of milk. It was an important food source that made use of grasses and hedges humans could not digest. The milk was lovely fresh but its nutrition could be stored all year in the form of delicious cheese, and helped get the people through the long months of inevitable winter.
Today Imbolg (Imbolc) is commonly thought of as a minor high day. Folk of many ilk still celebrate it, yet on a homestead in the north lands it is a pivotal time, for it means so very much. It is the first evidence of the waxing of the sun, announced by new life. At the time of Imbolg, winter is in its very glory, feral and frigid and piercing. But with the birth of Imbolg livestock, we see the warmth of maternity as goats and sheep gently, lovingly tend their young. And shortly there is again surplus milk for the folk of the homestead. We have been getting some 6 liters a day from our dairy goats. We use about a liter per day and the rest is frozen. Daphne will begin turning it into fine cheeses in a few week. When the goats are weaned, that production will double.
This year one of our goat mothers bore twins, a little buck and a doe. The buck was larger and hardier but the doe was having some difficulty with the intense, unusually cold weather so we brought her indoors to live in the kennel we keep aside to serve as an animal hospital. Once you bring kids inside, you can’t put them back out while it is still cold or it will shock and kill them, so the little doe in this image will be hand-weaned and kept indoors till some time in March. Then she will be slowly reintroduced to the outdoors and restored to her flock.