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Whiskey & Immigrants is our new podcast which introduces listeners to regular, everyday immigrants. We hear their stories, how and why they came to America, their expectations vs. reality and much more. We hope you’ll join us.

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The Tweeting of the Lambs: A Day in the Life of a Modern Shepherd

The hills of Cumbria, in northern England, are known as fells. They are among the wettest, coldest, and windiest places where sheep are farmed outdoors year-round. The weather is rotten, more or less, from October to May. So by lambing season—a three-week period, usually after Easter, when the ewes give birth, and there are triumphs and miscarriages, adoptions and accidents, gambolling and suckling—the flock, the shepherd, and the land itself are already worn out. “You’re just about fucked,” James Rebanks told me. “The whole thing is designed so you are just about to break.”

On Twitter, Rebanks is the Herdwick Shepherd. A little more than a hundred and nine thousand people, most of them trapped in office environments or riding public transportation, follow his account for gorgeous, wide-skied pictures of his flock, and for his evocations of the English countryside. In 2015, Rebanks’s memoir, “The Shepherd’s Life,” became an international best-seller, and he was compared to the nineteenth-century rural poet John Clare. Clare, the son of illiterate laborers from Northamptonshire, wrote about the land from within it; Rebanks’s writing has a similarly involved quality. When he feeds his ewes, he writes, “They line up behind me, with their heads down, like a massive scarf.” Rebanks has around two hundred and fifty sheep to look after, and when they’re lambing he has no time to write. He barely sleeps. “You are trying to keep things alive,” Rebanks said. “You make a mistake and something dies. And then—if you get through it—in a week or ten days’ time, the grass comes, the sun shines, and there is a feeling of absolute sheer exhaustion that turns to elation.”

It was just before seven o’clock last Wednesday morning. Two-thirds of Rebanks’s ewes had lambed during the previous sixteen days. In theory, he was through the worst of it. We stood in a steel-framed barn on his farm, which is in the valley of Matterdale, in the Lake District. One side of the barn was open to the sky, which was gusty and full of rain. Inside, Rebanks, who is forty-four, had made temporary stalls for the ewes and newborn lambs that were struggling. Straw and wood chips covered the ground, and the air smelled of wet wool and new milk. “This is basically the hospital,” Rebanks said. He wore green waterproofs from head to foot. “Everything that is healthy and strong and big

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