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.
Florence Nightingale, mother of modern nursing
My mother was a nurse. My husband is a nurse. I wanted to be a writer, a teacher, a missionary, a social worker, and run an orphanage. I never wanted to be a nurse, but have come to believe it to be part of who I am. My first nursing role was taking care of my mother when she was sick. She wasn’t a terribly good patient, but I liked doing it. It was a good way to say, I love you. Something that helped me with goodbye.
My mother’s lifelong love of nursing didn’t translate into a degree until I was in my twenties, but to me she was always a nurse. Some of my warmest childhood memories are of her nursing me when I was sick. I often had terrible sore throats. During one particular illness, where I was dizzy with an especially painful throat, a bell was found so I could ring for help. That silver bell became my special privilege for every sickness thereafter.
We weren’t an overly physical or affectionate family. We practiced humor more than touch, but sick meant my mother sitting on the edge of my bed, running her fingers through my hair. She would wipe my head with a cool cloth, feel my neck to see if my glands were swollen, listen to my endless thoughts and questions. When I was sick, my mother belonged only to me. Our family troubles were a fuzzy dream. My mother was present then in a way that allowed me to let go of all that. Her fretting about me set everything right. If we went to the doctor, I believed it was to get what my mother had already figured out that I needed.
It has been difficult this fall to get the kids healthy and keep them there. This weekend we cancelled everything, but at the end, everyone was closer to beating the extremely tenacious hacking cough that has plagued us.
Monday morning, girl two arrived downstairs with cheeks blazing and a sore stomach. Boy two was looking cadaver like, still not hungry, and exhausted after 12 hours of sleep. My partner in crime felt lousy as well.
Boy two is better now. Girl two spent most of Monday night throwing up so was fit to go nowhere Tuesday. It was slow going but at least her stomach had settled. The waiting game of, “who is next or is it done?” has begun.
I wish I could tell my mom that I take kids heads off over stupid things (wet boots kicked off in the wrong place, toothpaste spit dried on the sink, doors shut loudly), but I get up fifteen times in the night to clean up puke, rub backs, and wipe heads gently without any effort at all. That I always want them well, but I cherish the exhausted moments spent beside a fevered head, whispering soft words, and running my fingers through their hair.