Tag Archiv: lambs

Revelations

summer 2014 312

 

If each one of the dragon flies on my clothesline is a little revelation waiting to fly, it went about like this last week.

Since the sick lamb died, we are on watch. We took a fecal sample in for analysis from a different lamb.  The vet recommended based on analysis that we treat the whole little flock for some not so nice parasites. Duly noted. Medicine on order.

Meanwhile, bee boys reported trouble in hive #2.  Yes, they’re sure.  The laying pattern for the eggs is all wrong. I have them consult by telephone with a friend, who advises that poor laying pattern does indeed call for a replacement queen. So I order a new queen, by telephone, to be delivered by mail.

The next day my friend calls. She is going to pick up a few bee things herself in a few days. Do we need anything? As everything bee related seems to be at least an hour away in any direction, this is a good offer. I send bee boys out to reassess the hives and think if there is something else we need.

Wow, they say. Hive 2 is fine now. We don’t need a queen. Hive 1 needs one though. Definite problems there.

Tough questioning yields murky answers.  Well, maybe we should get two queens . . . well, maybe their both fine . . . hard to say. Neither will hold an opinion for longer than a minute if I press. I realize with a sigh that my grand idea that a 10 and 13 year old would manage to be the brains of the operation may have some difficulties, but I don’t give up yet, I start pulling things up on the internet. Pictures.

Look, I say. We’re going to be logical. Here are pictures. Point to which egg pattern you are seeing.

There is silence, then:  Is that really what eggs look like?

So yes, I give up for now on not being involved. Boy one and I head out to the hives despite the late hour. He touches everything. I boss him around. He expresses amazement that there is something different about my brain. Like I just don’t give up until I figure everything out and he can’t believe how helpful that is. I smile and it isn’t such a bad time together.

In one day, the new queen arrived, kids went to swimming lessons, and I drove an hour for the lamb medicine. When I got back, Boy two was obsessed with wanting to know what would happen if it turned out that one of the cats was a girl. I said we dealt with disasters when they occurred and kept getting dinner together. Would it mean, he finally asked, that the girl cat would have to go? I said of course not. He then announced, followed by demonstration that in fact, our little miniature brother kittens from months ago seem to have developed rather differently than expected.

The debate on what now to call Filippo rages.

Graduation and not

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With school ending this week, there has been a graduation focus in the air.

The lambs are on their last week of bottle feeding. We are definitely ready for them to graduate.  I’ve been scratching my head about what to do with the leftover milk powder. Feeding longer is not the answer. My latest thought is Christmas. Little packets of milk powder tied up with a ribbon, a note attached about the glories of a milk bath. What teacher would not like that? Grandmothers. Aunts. Why not uncles and brothers?

Girl two graduated from kindergarten last night. She loves the stage so it was a good night for her, even if the school learned by experience why not to schedule an end of year function for 4 and 5 year olds to start at 7:30.  By the time they hit the stage at 8:15 they might as well have been drinking. They were three sheets to the wind, anyway. Whatever they had practiced was lost in short people wandering in circles and yammering to themselves, or shouting to the crowd depending on personality. Mine had a wrestling match for a microphone with another sweet girl in a fancy dress.

The only ones sent back for remediation this week were my husband and I. Last year, after an unusual number of losses, we swore off ANYTHING that would upset the meat birds. Fraternizing ducks had been an issue, but nothing we decided, would ever mix with them again. They bred to grow not to be robust.

Then I caught a chicken eating an egg the other day and threw her outside until I could deal with her. I was pretty sure she was eating an egg she had previously pecked open, but it was also possible she was eating the remnants of an egg someone else had pecked open. Why don’t we put her in with the meat birds overnight, I suggested to my husband. If there’s still an egg eaten tomorrow, we’ll know we have the wrong girl, if not, we can put her on the fast track for a different kind of graduation.

It was not a good idea. We had some worries that the meat birds might kill the suspect but it seemed safer than leaving her outside for the raccoons. It was a bad idea. The eighteen birds we put her in with did her no harm. She on the other hand, pecked one bird to death and left another one dead of a heart attack inside (we debate annually about using this breed or not due to the frequent heart attack issue).  And in case anyone is wondering, no eggs eaten the following days. For reasons we can no longer defend, we protected a lawless chicken from wildlife, then locked her up with some innocents so she could rack up a few murder charges for her rap sheet. Maybe we will pass our classes next year.

 

Being born

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It is no small thing to be born. We all got to do it once. Being born means coming very close to dying. It’s not always sunshine and beautiful. It hurts. And things die. People, lambs, chicks. Spring on a farm is a mini maternity ward. It’s new life, but there’s death in the air too.

Every day, it’s true that we could die. So could our children, our husbands, or our best friends, but we don’t like that in our air. We die when we have to, but otherwise we avoid remembering it exists. Mourning periods with different clothing, visible signs of grief are a thing of the past or a thing for other cultures. We don’t prepare dead bodies in their homes. As soon as people die, they’re whisked away to the funeral home until it’s time to bury them. I don’t think we are trying to be disrespectful, we’re trying to forget that life is fragile and death inevitable.

I watched some lambs be born with Girl two beside me. I didn’t know if the lamb, whose foot we saw go in and out and in and out before it finally came out, would be alive. Sometimes they are not. My daughter cheered when at last it emerged alive. But I think I found it more beautiful than she did when the lambs sputtered and cried, because I knew more about the thin line that separates survival from death. And the miracle that happens when something steps across it.

Death as destruction is rightfully abhorred. Death as cessation of life is a gift we do not comprehend. This also makes birth beautiful. Perhaps I am speaking for myself; I glimpse that death is merely the end of what we know, but most of the time, I fail to understand it. Yet birth, the gift of life, this I can comprehend. There was nothing. Now there is something. Breathing, moving, living.

In every birth, we celebrate our own. A tiny vision, fresh and new as the day we were born. Not yet resigned to anything. Happy to be who we are. Curious to see who we might become. A furious hope still clinging to our skin, we are a little bit born again.

Drawn and quartered

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Until further notice, I see these in my dreams.

Current status: run off my feet with lambs. I’m not sure yet how many will need me for the long haul. I’m feeding one and half from the four batch, and the littlest lamb from the three batch. He was getting lethargic and falling behind. One of the kids asked if we could try feeding him. I assured them that it wouldn’t work. It takes a day or two for the new ones to get the hang of the bottle and after a week with just mom, most won’t touch it unless they’ve been hungry for a long time. First try, Jr. was sucking back on the baby bottle like a pro. Now he’s the first to come crooked happy leaping when he sees me.

None of the five batch have taken to the bottle yet. One does ok. I’m trying everybody on little nibbles and swallows so nobody gets dehydrated and Lily gets help with the milk supply. Overfeeding means scours (diarrhea) which means dead if it isn’t fixed. It’s a juggling act with bottle fed lambs to give enough nourishment, but not too much.

Milk is mixed, measured, and delivered at mom milk temperatures. Amounts are tracked according to when each lamb was born. The finicky five group, still deciding who is going to give in and who refuses to budge for sub par, takes extra time to cajole. From preparing through to clean up, each feeding takes about 30 minutes. Times five feedings a day means a lot of time and a short leash for being away from the farm.

Lily with five lambs stresses me. Lambs always do best with the mother. Mothers do not always do best with so many lambs. My sheep advisor (200 plus ewes and 700ish lambs) recommends removing any lambs past three, period. Only the very exceptional ewe can take four, he says. He has a separate barn for all the bottle fed lambs. They can bleat their hearts out until they settle in at the orphanage and grow slowly.

In years past we tried lambs in plastic tubs in the house, the garage, tiny pens in the yard. It is just soooo much work and away from the mom, they don’t thrive. You kill yourself for scrawny, weak, and barely, maybe. When you finally put them in the pasture with everyone else, they run to their mother, and she knocks them down and refuses to have anything to do with them. As is already clear to real farmers everywhere, I am not psychologically designed for farming.

But what if we are asking too much of Lily to raise all those little lambs? She doesn’t seem stressed but am I missing something? Decision still pending. Sleep still disturbed. Lambs fill and empty me both. Meanwhile I am stretched. Tough teachers those little four pound weaklings.

Victoria Day

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Canadian etiquette requires that Victoria Day weekend be spent in outdoor pursuits: camping, cottaging, gardening – anything outside. This somehow brings honor to Queen Victoria, who passed from this life in 1901. I wasn’t raised with Kings and Queens. Twenty plus years into this Canadian experiment, I’m warming up to them quite nicely. The holiday Monday that the monarchy extends to me each May is always well received. I don’t mind doing my part to hail to the Queen.

This year in Victoria’s honor, my husband got a new fence up and we moved some manure piles and spread them on the fields using our handy, dandy pitchforks. Boy two graduated to tractor driver so Boy one and I could throw brown treasure off the wagon. Extended family offered help, so the wood splitter got some action and a kitchen garden went in for me! Girl one began her lawn mowing career. Steering is an issue. Girl two put herself to bed at the end of the day but woke up to ask when work days were going to be over, because they were really, really long days.

I’m sure the Queen appreciated all that, although I don’t know which Queen. I’m guessing that Queen Elizabeth appreciates it in Victoria’s place, on account of the 1901 departure. but it might be that a whole group of them sits down  around 3:00 to feel grateful to Canada. (*This just in: the holiday now includes celebration of the reigning monarch’s birthday.)

So in tribute to Victoria, with birthday wishes to HRH Queen Elizabeth, the best (and most daunting) part of the day was Lily, herself of royal blood, who finally had her lambs. The best part of the gift was the timing. Right smack in the middle of the morning in broad daylight. Kids got to see lambs born. (That tiny little sentence really doesn’t do the experience justice. It might deserve it’s own post on miracles, only I can’t write it yet due to the daunting.) The daunting part, was that Lily kept going past three lambs, right on to five. So far, they are all alive. The next few weeks involve a lot of frequent bottle feedings with lambs at different stages. Although fewer lambs would mean less work, for some reason the instinct for life is stronger in all of us than practicalities. My heart sinks every time I think one of them has died, and soars if they wiggle up and start stumbling around again. It will be unusual if they all make it, but since you never know which ones will make it, you knock yourself out for everybody, say a prayer, hold your breath, and wait.

One things is certain. Each of the five will receive a royal name. Since we name all the girls we keep by flower names, we must certainly dub someone from the group, Queen Anne’s Lace.