Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sunday Night

This morning Patrick milked Coco for me so I could make a cake for Maggie before we left for church. After church we gathered with a few friends at their pool to celebrate Maggie's birthday. I was thankful to have goat cheese and smoked trout in the fridge and bread in the freezer to make some quick snacks for her erudite friends with great taste.

We got home late in the afternoon and Nora and I took a walk to inspect the beginnings of the hay harvest. 15 round bales and more to come. But unfortunately we found a ewe breathing her last breaths as we walked round the corner of the barn. She was the girl who delivered the twins in early summer.

She hadn't been looking too great in the heat. She isn't one of the young ones, so she must have been vulnerable to the severities of the winter and summer. I was deciding that I should try to find a way to end her misery as we walked up to the hay field and was relieved to see that she had quickly slipped away (died) in the time it took us to walk 25 acres and back down. I don't think there was a thing we could have done to save her, but I felt pretty low, anyway. Felt like a failure as a shepherd since I was not able to keep her alive. She was looking a bit rugged this season, but had been out grazing with the flock as normal. Unfortunately Fridays and Saturdays are so busy for me that I didn't notice her at all. I wondered if I had noticed her could I have done something to save her.

Made me think of Philip being sick in the middle of February. I wanted to take him to the doctor on Valentine's Day. He didn't want to go. I wondered if I had insisted, would he be alive? Probably. And over the weekend I have been thinking about that a lot. I think that he would still be in serious pain and in suffering, but alive and we don't know for how long, and he didn't want to spend his last days and years in and out of hospitals.

It is hard to avoid second guessing in life.

I think that I may have made some mistakes in managing the care of this ewe who just died, but there isn't anything I can do about it now, at least for her. I need to shear all the sheep and haven't been able to find a shearer who will come. I guess today makes me realize that I may need to find some equipment and learn how to do it ourselves so we can inspect all the sheep, take care of their maintenance and make it easier for them to endure the heat wave.

The orphan lambs are crying tonight. The flock has surrounded them, but they miss their mama.

Thomas and Patrick loaded the carcass up in the back of the truck and I will take it to be disposed tomorrow. No cremations due to burn ban.

On another note, I got to practice spearing big rolls of hay and moving them around the field. We still have more work to do, but will wait until the end of the week. Maybe we will get some rain early on this week. I am thankful to see plenty of green leafy grass in the field. More than I had imagined. What a relief. I am so thankful to know we are able to harvest winter food for the animals. May it be nutritious for them. Hopefully we will be able to harvest some food for the human animals for winter this week as well. More potatoes, beets, green beans and onions.

Life on the farm is full of ups and downs. It is hard. I wish I were better at this life and knew all the right things to do. As I sat down, a bit discouraged, I was reminded that there is a pretty steep learning curve on the farm and all this hard stuff is training me. We may need to make some mistakes for a few years before we figure out what works for this farm in our little valley. Animals get old and weak and die. It isn't always fun.

But our life gives us moments of joy and meaning. Like the moment I heard delight in Maggie's voice today as she looked out the window and noticed the huge bunch of guinea keats following their mamas out in the field. And the chance to see Rose cook up ground venison and spaghetti sauce for supper since I had to work on the tractor. Not even 10 years old and she was able to help me out. And the feeling of the cool evening air on my skin as I watched the sky turn pink and dark blue and watched the fireflies come out while I plugged away in the upper field.

We have some very good moments in our life.


Chris said...

Your extension agent may have leads on shearers. Also through extension, you can take a course on sheep shearing. I did, and sheared my own, but talk about hard work! Thinking of you and yours, hoping for the best. said...

THanks, Chris. Wow. So you were able to manage the shearing. I have given myself a week to work on options. Having a cool spell helps. Did you find a particular shearing equipment company work well/poorly?

Chris said...

I had a small handspinners flock of mostly colored ewes. I sheared about a dozen ewes each year. It's very hard work, hard on your back, but doable. You must use good clippers, expensive but they make the job go quicker. Sorry I don't remember the brand I had.

Your extension agent might be able to put you in touch with other small flock owners who may have shearing suggestions.

Are you feeding "sheep minerals"? It's very important with our mineral poor soil. There is an animal husbandry rule I call "the three stresses" The idea being that an animal may be able to tolerate two stresses in it's life, but may succumb when one more stress is added. The stress could be pregnancy, worms, heat, poor water, lack of minerals, poor nutrition, hoof rot, being chased by dogs, the list goes on and on. Sometimes by identifying the stresses, I could figure out why I lost a ewe and perhaps prevent other losses. I feel lucky to have had few losses.

I love reading your blog; real life is so interesting. I'm glad to see your appetite and joy in cooking has returned :). said...

Thanks for the great comments, Chris. We do feed a natural mineral combo with diatamaceous earth and Thorvins kelp. I wonder if that is enough with the terrific heat stress. I try to make do with the D.E. for parasite control but it hasn't cut it. I think that the heat/worms/and the stress of poor nutrition that comes when all the sheep feel like doing is lay around is what brought on the loss of the two ewes. I am so thankful to see everyone out and grazing in the cool weather. The point about the three stressors is a good one.

I think that these older girls were under too much stress trying to nurse lambs during this season.

Having to learn the hard way is a drag and even so, unfortunately seems part of the learning process.

I am glad to regain joy in cooking and eating as well.