Ricardo and Apollo

Sorry. I’ve been away for awhile. Not “away” away. Just away from sharing my life and my feelings. I didn’t want you to think that the only thing happening around here is death, with the passing of Miss Noisy and all. But sometimes, that’s what life is.

Amongst the days turned to weeks of rain we’ve had, keeping us from getting the first-cut hay in, between the quest to get all the sheep sheared – some of them twice, another drama has been unfolding. My eldest ram and one of my best friends Ricardo developed an infection on the outside of his lower chest. A place where he would lie on while sleeping or chewing his cud. A place I couldn’t see. It festered there and really got infected, so much so that by the time I noticed it, it looked like a big bunch in his armpit. He never complained. He acted like nothing was wrong, except maybe I didn’t give him enough grain, or I didn’t scratch him enough. So he didn’t tell me, and I didn’t see, and it got bad. Really bad. It didn’t smell the way some infections do, so I didn’t even have that clue to go by. My first clue was blood dripping on his leg one night. A lot of blood. I patched him up with a compression bandage and put him in a pen next to the ewes to cheer him up. We sat there for a long time that night, his head on my shoulder, me crying in his fleece. He seemed fine. Except for the infection. I talked myself into believing he was going to be okay. I started giving him shots of antibiotic.

I called the vet the next morning. Good vets are hard to come by. Mine is really good, and very busy. It was a week before he was able to come – I think mostly because I told him it wasn’t life or death. I had several sheep issues at that point, and I wanted him to see them all. Vet calls aren’t cheap, so it seemed like with the advent of Ricardo’s bleeding infection, it was time. I thought he’d come in a couple of days, but it was more than that. I’m not sure anything would have changed had he come sooner. Ricardo was still acting okay. I fed him grain every day and he’d jump out of the ram pen and come into the warm room with me so I could brush him and give him his grain. Then he’d wander around while I did my chores until it was time to go back into the ram pen.

I got the call on Wednesday afternoon from the vet’s assistant – John would be coming in the next morning. I got up early thankful that he was coming and things would begin to get better. I gathered up all the rams who were having issues: Ricardo, Benjamin, Medici, Apollo. There are 3 ewes too, but he didn’t have to actually examine them. Benjamin had an infection on the top of one hoof that I had been treating with antibiotic salve. It was actually getting better. Medici had an infection on his upper chest caused by some felted wool that crimped his skin and caused an abrasion. I had given him a course of antibiotics, but it didn’t seem to help. Maybe it was a gigantic cruel? And poor Apollo had gotten injured when he was younger and his back legs were really feeling the arthritis. I had sheared him for the 2nd time the day before and he dutifully stood, but it was hard and painful for him. When I was done brushing him out, with his tail wagging, I reached under him to feel his belly and my finger slipped into a hole in his chest. God.

John looked at Benjamin’s hoof. He was on the mend but got prescribed a course of a strong antibiotic. Medici needed a different kind of antibiotic. Then it was Ricardo’s turn. John tipped him over and took one look and his face fell. Then we rolled Apollo on his side. Same problem. John had seen this many times. The prognosis for my two boys was bad. Infections that would not heal due to where they were located and how sheep lie down, and how they get up, and the fact they are on the elderly side, and would be lying down a lot. Apollo was actually worse than Ricardo, John explaining that his legs were positioned in his hip bone as if you put your heels together and forced your toes outward. Very very painful for a sheep.

I let all the words flow over me. I understood. I needed to make a decision and I knew immediately what that decision was. I had to kill two of my sheep. One of them, my mentor. That’s what you sign on for when you raise animals, have pets, take care of another living being. You have the power to say “You are going to die today”. And it happens. Just like that. The alternative would not be nice for the animal. You know it is the responsible thing to do, so they won’t suffer. I get it. But it doesn’t change the fact that Ricardo and Apollo have gone to that Big Pasture In The Sky. And it was me who gave them first class plane tickets to their final destination. John was sad too. “Not the outcome I was expecting.” he said to me as he was leaving.

This is the part of farm life that is not enviable at all. Believe me.

I’ll share some photos of Ricardo and Apollo on another day. It’s been 10 days since and it’s still hard to look at photos of them.

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Well That’s Just Sad…

I know there is a lot of sad things going on in the world that really do make this seem like such a little thing in the big scheme of things, but it is sad anyway. Miss Noisy has passed away to the big Chicken Heaven in the Sky. I found her yesterday morning, in the barnyard, all wet from the series of thunderstorms we had the night before.

The Former Miss Noisy

The Former Miss Noisy

I know this is part of farm living. Things are born and they die and it is just part of the wheel of life. But I just don’t get it sometimes. Why Miss Noisy? Why now just a couple of weeks after returning home from her Big Adventure? What happened? Why didn’t she go into the coop with the rest of the hens when it got dark? When the storms hit, why didn’t she just stay where she was? Was she lying there when I closed the coop door? Was it so dark that I missed her? As with all accidental deaths on the farm, I take some of the blame. Poor Miss Noisy. She deserved better.

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It’s Pinky’s Birthday Saturday!!

If you like awesome knitting patterns you should knit any of Pink Hair Girl patterns. They are easy and fun and make you feel like a master knitter. Pinky’s birthday is on Saturday May 25th. She is having a 36 hour – 50% off sale on that day on all her patterns starting at 7pm South African time (that’s 1pm Saturday for East Coast USA). Learn more about the details in this Ravelry post:

http://www.ravelry.com/discuss/pink-hair-girl-designs/2579081/1-25#1

Not on Ravelry and love knitting or crocheting, or any fiber art? Well, you should be! So sign up and prepare to have Ravelry rock your world.

Here are some of Pink Hair Girl’s designs:

http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/sources/pink-hair-girl/patterns

I’ve knit Winter is Coming. It’s a gorgeous shawl based on the Game of Thrones epic story.

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And I’m knitting Dragon’s Hope, with only 8 more rows to go before binding off

Happy Birthday Pinky!!

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Walking

You would think that being a farmer, I’d get enough exercise to keep me svelte. Not so. I don’t know what it is about it. The more exercise I do, my body adjusts just enough to say to me “nah-nah-nah-nah-nah. Now you have to do MORE!” I really hate that. Really. I hate exercise for the sake of exercise too. Over the years I’ve done it all… aerobics classes, yoga, stair stepping, rowing, weight lifting, lunges, jumping jacks, home video exercise, The Bow Flex, the skiing machine, the fitness club. On and on and on.

My husband walks. Every place we have lived people come up to him and say, “Hey! You’re the Walking Man!” He walks everywhere. In all weather. If he feels chunky he just walks more and up steeper hills. I hate hills. I like it flat and smooth with no rocks or ditches. No bugs. No heat. No dusty roads. No Rain. I guess I’m fussy about walking. I guess I just don’t like to walk either and put all sorts of things in the way of exercise.

Then someone said, “Hey! Why don’t you walk and knit at the same time?” Oooo. Now that’s exercise I can get my resistant brain to agree on.  I can get the prerequisite walk in while also stealing more knitting time out of the day.

So this week I started to walk. And their are rules to be followed:

  • #1-I walk by myself
  • #2-I decide where to go and how long to walk
  • #3-I walk in the early morning, or I don’t walk at all  :: already broke that rule ::
  • #4-I get dressed, but I don’t have to brush my teeth or wash my face before I go
  • #5-I don’t let weather stand in my way
  • #6-I don’t let bugs stand in my way either – that’s what bug hats are for
  • #7-I don’t have to knit if I don’t want to

Seems like a lot of silly rules, but they are intended to just get me out the door and walk with no pressure. I have this rebellious side to me that if someone wants me to do something, even if it’s me, I resist if I think if there is something else I’d rather be doing. Like knitting. So #7 is important. I don’t want to force myself to knit. That would make knitting not fun. Welcome to my brain.

What I discovered during my morning walks is a world that I occasionally notice as I’m doing my daily chores, but haven’t surrounded myself with it. Nature coming to life after a long Winter.

Fiddleheads becoming ferns

Fiddleheads unfolding into Ferns

Fiddleheads unfolding into Ferns

The ancient yellow birch tree who now has someone living in her

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      Ancient Twin Yellow Birch

 

Yellow Birch Cave-Home

Yellow Birch Cave-Home

Teeny tiny wild violets

Wild Violets

Wild Violets

The grass in the pastures

Grassy Pasture

Grassy Pasture

I see animal tracks too. Deer of all sizes. Raccoon. Something that I hope is a dog and not a wolf. This morning I saw deer scat. A big pile here and a teeny pile there. Mom and baby deer. Aw. No photos of that. Aren’t you glad?

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Starring Miss Noisy as The Hobbit

Yesterday morning as I was refilling the chicken food feeders and doling out scratch grain, I heard a familiar squawk. “Miss Noisy!!” I exclaimed. “Where have you been?”

The Hobbit, aka Miss Noisy

The Hobbit, aka Miss Noisy

“Squawk! She said. “I’ve been on an Adventure!”

Three weeks or so ago I let the chickens out of their coop for the first time this year. It was a beautiful day, the snow was mostly melted, so it was time for the hens to come outside and scratch and sniff the world again. We were still deeply entrenched in sugaring season, so I had to remind myself not to forget to close the chicken door that night when all the hens got back inside. Thankfully, I did.

The next three days were blustery and wildly windy, cold and just plain nasty. The hens stayed inside. A day or so later as I was feeding them inside the coop, I missed a sound. The persistant squawking of Miss Noisy. There was a persistent squawking, but it wasn’t Miss Noisy. It was another hen, taking over Miss Noisy’s job. Because Miss Noisy Was.Not.There. Where was she? Not in the coop, that was certain. I have three Black Stars (breed of chicken) and I counted only two. Aw. I was sad. That meant that when the hens were out the last time a hawk got her. Feeling guilty that I hadn’t noticed her missing for 3 days, I searched around the grazing area of the chickens but couldn’t find a trace. Usually there are a bunch of feathers around if a chicken gets taken, but it was so windy, I thought the feathers likely blew away.

But she wasn’t taken by a hawk. Or a raccoon. Or a weasel. Or a fox. She just WENT AWAY for three weeks! But where DID she go? What did she do at night? How did she NOT get eaten by a predator or a Dragon? Weren’t there Orks after her? ::shudders::

We will never, ever know.

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… somewhere in the middle…

My Girls. Overlooking the sugarhouse, the pasture, and way in the distance, Canada.

My Girls. Overlooking the sugarhouse, the pasture, and way in the distance, Canada.

These are my girls. Some folks call them ewes. To me, they are my friends and co-workers. To them, I am their maid, cook, doctor, caregiver,  pedicurist, hair stylist, and probably some other not-so-flattering things.

This is a story about two humans, who, bored with their high-tech life and the Golden Cage, find a way to do that one thing that a lot of people dream of: quit your job, move somewhere rural – in our case North, and start a farm.

That was 8 years ago. So we pick up this story somewhere in the middle. Somewhere after countless good and bad decisions are made. Somewhere after learning everything the hard way. Somewhere after merging our psyche with our new life. At a place where we are starting to feel settled. Starting to feel like we might know what we are doing.  Doing the things we both love, and more often than not, love not. Because that is truly Farm Life. And all the good things are worth the bad things.

Join me on our journey, won’t you?

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