Monday, March 25, 2013

Not every farm lesson is a fun one...

We got an unexpected call from my father in law the other morning.  A cow was getting ready to give birth and we could watch if we hurried.  So in a dash the boys and I grabbed our boots and jackets and away we went!   We found her near the creek, straining and to this mama's eyes- obviously in the throws of labor.  She'd lay down, strain, get up, walk a bit, lay down, strain, get up, eat a bit, lay down... Poor thing.  So we watched... and waited.

... and waited.  The boys got restless and the warm morning sun made it a perfect day to run outside and explore.  So while we waited for the baby, they played.

After a while, boys playing by a creek led to the obvious, boys playing IN the creek.  It is still a little too cold for that, and this mama is trying not to yell (see last post about The Orange Rhino Challenge)- so it was time to head back to the house.  My father in law- best known as Pop Pop around my house, had some work to do, so he said he'd come back in a while and check on her again.

A while later, Pop returned, but this time was a bit more concerned.  Her progressed had stalled, usually indicating a problem.  So he ran her down to the barn and got her set up in a shoot to confine her, most mothers in labor would not be incredibly fond of this... she was not either.  My father in law quickly went to work, as pulling a calf is nothing new to him.   It was quite a thing to watch the farmer in his element, but even his skill has a limit- the calf was not only breech, but tail first.  Feet first is one thing... that's just backwards and a cow can still give birth that way- although she made need some assistance-- nothing was going anywhere tail first...  My father in law quickly made a call and help was on the way.

The great thing about small towns is that you're usually only one phone call away from someone who knows someone or something about what you need...and you're likely related!  After quite an effort, the legs were tethered and they worked as a team to pull the baby free- only to discover it had already died,  but something still wasn't right.  As I looked at the poor sweet lifeless calf, I heard- she's got twins- and my heart leapt with hope!  Surely, this one will live.  But it was not meant to be.  Although, for the mother's sake, this baby was not breech as was easily pulled to freedom.

My oldest, sat with me through the whole thing.  He asked questions, I answered the best I could.  We had lots of talks of the biological things he was witnessing, and he learned without being too sqeamish... although there was plenty of yuck to be seen.   It was good to spend this time with my boy, the farm lends many lessons on life, not all of them are fun and pretty.   We do get plenty of lovely ones, harvesting the garden, watching baby chicks hatch, bottle feeding calves in the barn.  But, the farm leads also has a lot of reality to it.  Not all calves are born alive.  Not all vegetables yield a harvest.  Not all chickens thrive to their potential.   Life happens.

I am thankful for these experiences in my children's lives.  They won't be exposed to everything the farm has to offer immediately- I was thankful my 9 year old was asking the tough questions today and not my 4 year old.  But, they won't see all the good stuff right away either.  I won't try to shield them from learning moments either.

And overall, despite the loss of the calves, my boys agreed... it was a pretty great day.  They enjoyed a day running in the fields, playing in the creek, riding in the tractor with their grandfather.   It was a pretty great day.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A new season begins...

The funny thing about seasons is that most times when one begins, it doesn't quite feel like the season it's supposed to be.  As I sit here on the first day of Spring of 2013, I realize that it's far too cold to be called Spring... in fact, they are calling for snow next week.   So it's Spring by name, but not by nature.

I sit here entering a new season of my motherhood as well.  For as long as I can remember, I've been a yeller.  It's been a well practiced and well used form of communication.  I've yelled at siblings, at parents, grandparents, cousins, friends, and now my husband and sweet boys.  You name it, I've probably yelled at it (or at least about it).  It's always the ones I love the most-- the ones I trust the most-- that get the worst of it.  Isn't that the way?   We are the worst to the ones who love us the most, probably because we feel like they will always love us and accept our worst qualities.

Today, I reach a fork in the road... kinda.  Any road can fork... it happens every time a second route is cut into a path.   So today, I'm creating a fork.  I'm veering hard away from the path I've known and charting a new route.  Its a quieter, less traveled path.   I'm following the blog "The Orange Rhino" and her steps to 365 days without yelling.  I'm hoping that like most habits, this will be contagious and the 365 days will just be the start.

Not yelling does not mean not correcting.  My boys are BOYS, they will still need plenty of direction and redirection.  Yelling, even at it's finest doesn't always change direction.  Does it produce fear??  Yes, I usually don't stop yelling until I see breakthrough.  Does it produce respect?  That, I'm not convinced of.  I would never yell at another adult or someone else's child the way my kids do... I'm pretty certain none of us "yellers" would.   Not yelling doesn't mean I won't be stern or even mad as a hornet at my children... that will likely still happen as well, but it just means that in my frustration or anger, I will not scream at or demean them.

I was told my one of my closest friends today that she couldn't imagine me raging... for this I am thankful and equally ashamed.  I'm ready for the part of me I let my friends see, be the me that my children see.  I want my children to have a hard time imagining that as well.

So, yes... it's chilly out today.  Not quite spring.  And today I sit here wondering how I'll ever stop myself from yelling, especially in the heat of whatever comes that would usually warrant such a response.  It's not quite spring... but it's coming.  The blossoms are getting ready to bloom... the hints of a sunshine-y green day are breaking through.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


It's been a strange day.  Death does that... makes days strange.  Even when, like today, it didn't directly affect me.   It affected those I love.  A dear woman in our community, that I am lucky enough to have met on several occasions, slipped quickly from this life in the early morning hours of today.  For several formidable years, she was one of those "extra moms" to my husband.  One that you're blessed to get when you become good buddies with someone and you spend so much time together, hanging out, playing, that their parents become your parents.  My mind races quickly to all my "extra parents"-- some of whom I would mourn as deeply as I would the loss of my own.   I also recently learned of the passing of a dear woman whom I taught to knit and spent a few times in my yarn shop praying with, as she just happened to stop in and need a friend.  Both women died unexpectedly.  Both were simply living life when it suddenly stopped.  

I'm reminded of how quick life passes.  How one day, you are here and the next you are not.  It's a sobering thing, mortality.  Cherish the time you have.  Say the words you need to say when you need to say them.  Don't waste another moment not hugging those you care about and letting them know that you indeed care.  Life is fast.  It goes until it doesn't.  Life is fragile.  We are as a fleeting mist, here for a moment and then gone.

Death is a part of life.  Something that levels the playing ground on this planet-- everyone dies.  But as the saying goes... not everyone truly lives.

Friday, March 8, 2013

I'm no Noah.

So, as we plan our garden, and start forcing some bulbs on the counter, I am also in the middle of researching animals.  As a fiber artist (which is the fancy name for yarn hoarder) my goal is to spin my own yarn from my own animals and thus be more self sustainable.  My goal is also to start a line of yarns using natural dyes made from things right here on the farm.  I'm very excited about that.  Of course the ADD starts to kick in and my mind starts to wander to natural soaps and lotions made from the lanolin from the sheep and then several google searches later, I'm back on facebook and totally forgot what I was looking for.  Baaaaack to the sheep.  So for a while there, I thought I was getting llamas, but after talking to my vet about some local worming issues and transportation concerns, we decided against the llamas.  They would have had just the coolest story-- and they still will whatever farm they make it to.  Sadly, it won't be mine.

I've got several favorite types of sheep in mind:

Of course the adorable, but very expensive Babydoll Southdown:

Oh please, if you don't think that's just about the cutest thing you've ever seen, you better check your pulse.  That lamb is smiling.  Flippin' SMILING.  Come on.  That is adorable.  They are a small breed, actually not a miniature version of the current Southdown- this breed is the ancient breed of Southdown sheep.  Before modern refrigeration there was no need for gigantic meat sheep because there was no way to preserve and use that much meat.  These were a common family sheep in the British Isles because they served both for wool and to feed the family.  And of course because they naturally smile, I envision them just coming to me as I call to them and baa-ing in harmonious tones and having my very own petting zoo in my backyard.  Yeah... I've never owned sheep before obviously.

Next up:

Majestic and dual purpose, this sheep breed was created by King Louis XVI when he bought Spanish Merinos from his cousin and the breeding that was then done with the English Longwool sheep in his kingdom (thank you Wikipedia).  But honestly, horns totally freak me out.  Something I have to get over... but does it not look like he could skewer me with those horns?  They have long wool, 3 inches in staple length (which means a lot to a spinner).

Shetland Sheep

Another small wool breed, sweet dispositioned.  Look at the guy in the slacks just loving on his sheep.  Yep.  That's what I want.   Their horns don't look as menacing and in this breed, only the males get them. They derived from the Shetland Isles of Scotland and don't usually weight over 100 lbs (lambs are born weighing 4-7 lbs).

This smaller breed, like the Babydoll Southdown, is a continuation of the original breed.  There is something very cool about raising a breed of sheep that has stood the test of time.  

And then there's always cross breeds.  I've been told that you can get some great fleeces from "mutts".  Sheep that have been bred for specific purposes, wool, temperament, luster of wool, size of lambs, etc. can be so much more versatile than their purebred cousins.  

We are in process of planning our barn.  I'm also hoping to house and raise motherless calves, strictly for the purpose of repaying the debt of building the flock.   I'm pretty excited to be a cow-mama.  It includes bottle feeding twice a day-- and as my boys are getting bigger, that will fit the maternal bill nicely.

The whole decision making process has given my bloggers block and I apologize for that, as winter has descended upon us, our farm-y activity has gone into a bit of hibernation-- but this weekend promises warmer, more spring like temps.   We've got some sick kiddos in the house, but I'm hoping a good dose of sunshine will cure what ails us!