Farming is Hard

It’s really hard, right now. We lost a llama yesterday, so suddenly that I can hardly believe it happened. It’s hard to even write about it, but I guess I want to document it in case someone else has something similar happen.

On Saturday, Vinnie had a lamb, the first one in the pen with the llamas. She did well, but I jugged her anyway, just to be sure, so I was in that pen and all seemed well. Both llamas were curious, up and about, nothing strange at all.

Sunday morning, I noticed that Mary didn’t do her usual ‘run in circles, leap and hum’ routine when I showed up at feeding time, but she was down next to the lamb, and I just thought it was cute, didn’t think much about it. I was watching that pen pretty carefully, as the rest of the girls are the only ones except for Marilyn who haven’t lambed yet, and I just didn’t notice anything really amiss.

Monday morning, though, when Mary didn’t come up for grain in the morning, I checked her out. She was down, but got up and walked around when I came over, but went right back to the shelter, and wasn’t interested in food. Very unusual, so I called the vet, started looking up stuff in the books and on the net. They haven’t been out on pasture, they were wormed two weeks ago, the hay and grain are the same as always. I couldn’t figure anything out, at all.

The vet didn’t show up until after 5, and was stumped as well. While she was examining her, Mary had a seizure, then another, and was dead within 10 minutes. Just awful. I can hardly believe it. She was really thin — we checked her condition when the shearer was here, two weeks ago, and even he said they both seemed in good condition. So in two weeks, she went dramatically downhill, and all that fleece hid it. She was her cheerful self that whole time, except for the last two days. The vet did an autopsy right away, and is sending the samples off to see if we can figure out what happened, but she hasn’t a clue either.

I’m so sad, and yet we have to figure out what to do with her body. Frank is in Boston, of course, so I am having Mark come by and see what he can do with his backhoe later this morning. Ugh.

DSC04729I’m all worried about Misty now, of course. She is humming constantly, wanting to know where her sister is. And just to make me a nervous wreck, she didn’t eat her grain this morning. The vet wormed her again yesterday, with something else, just to be on the safe side. She is eating hay and drinking, and her condition is good, but man. I’m so attached to these critters that this just breaks my heart and I don’t want to lose her too. I hope something definitive comes back from the lab.

I spent last night beating myself up from all sides. When I cried, I told myself I’m not cut out to be a farmer, I can’t handle this, I’m not tough enough. When I didn’t and paid attention to all the good stuff that’s going on here, and there is a lot, I felt callous and mean and like I didn’t care enough about Mary, poor thing. Have I mentioned that farming is hard? Man. I’m numb today.

DSC04691Yet life continues. I’m surrounded by new lambs and new chicks and the puppy. It’s not like I can just throw my hands up and quit. Although let me tell you, there were times this weekend when Frank and I seriously considered whether we should just quit and go get a condo somewhere. We won’t, we love it here, and I love building this homestead with him, but we sat and cuddled each other a lot last night, while watching all the critters as the sun set, sad and yet determined to keep on keeping on.

In that vein …

DSC04646 Since I last wrote, I finally got two more ewe lambs. June has the sweetest little black lambs, and did fine with them both. Two years ago, she had a black ram lamb, and it took us forever to convince her that she really had to watch over him. She wasn’t the best mother, and often followed her mother and sister, leaving him, and would get out of the jug, even. It was hard to get that one to latch, and she had to be tied, etc. She was on serious probation with us, and this year, she came through with flying colors. She’s very protective, had them both nursing, etc. Way to go, June! And girls, too! That’s the way to get back on my good side, sweetie.

DSC04712 Vinnie, a first time mama, one of the new sheep I got earlier this year from Mike Kelley at Dancing Lamb Farm, had a tiny little ram lamb. Seriously, he is half the size of Fiona’s monster single, but thriving and doing well. I jugged her, but I don’t think I needed to. I was just being paranoid. I might be able to keep this guy, as he is unrelated to everyone else in my flock, so he is in contention for staying on the farm. He’s very sweet and cute.

DSC04663 We spent the weekend working on the horse house. It’s hard work. The sides are 12 foot in all directions, so unwieldy to say the least. We are going to have to rent scaffolding to put on the roof and sides. We are building it that tall because the horses are huge, and we want to be able to do deep bedding in the winter, so that’s a couple of feet worth of hay when all is said and done. We will be able to use the tractor bucket to clean it out in the spring, or at least that is the theory.

DSC04423 I’m glad we are out there working on it, finally. I got the tractor stuck in the mud out there, and blew the clutch and something else (flywheel?) on the truck trying to pull it out. That was an expensive mistake, and very frustrating. I was getting where I didn’t even want to go visit the horses, because I just got sad that I couldn’t bring them home. I was just pushing too hard, and I just should have stayed away from the mud. A thousand dollars later … Frank points out that it sure makes the horses not such a good idea or deal, doesn’t it? Arg.

DSC04696 Frank did get the sawmill running, at least, after having to change the blade and fix the puller cord thingie again. Assuming we can get the logs to it soon, we should be able to do all the siding for with our own wood. We want to do most of the inside in oak, which we have plenty of, so that should save us a pretty penny to use our own wood.

DSC04515 The Mega-catch things finally showed up, and Frank got them working this weekend. They are at least working enough that I don’t need bug suits out there, and if that holds, sweet. We have one on each side of the house, and eventually, I think we’ll move the one that is on the garden side right now out over near the horses. Supposedly two of them will be good for three cleared acres. I am crossing all fingers and toes that they actually work.

Lisa in the bug suit Frank in the bug suit If not, this is what we’ll be looking like again! I am allergic to black flies, so it is really invaluable to be able to have the outdoors back for me in the spring and summer. The bugs up here are so thick that it is the reason we get hummingbirds in the spring. They need protein for their babies, and come to where the small bugs are in abundance, which is black fly season!

DSC04688 The little chicks are all outside, exploring the world, now. We had one disaster yesterday with the puppy, who had been being so good. I was distracted with the sick llama and not keeping as close an eye on him as I should, when I saw him streak by with a chick in his mouth, dead of course. Arg. I scolded harshly, put him in his crate for a time out, and am being really strict with him when I go out, making him stay right with me. He’s doing great as long as I am right there, but now I don’t trust him at all. Frustrating, but we’ll get there. The chicks are adorable, and go back to the trailer to eat and sleep. Getting them in last night was easy. The big chickens peck at the little ones, but nothing drastic. I hope they all turn into one big flock, soon.

DSC04698 We are starting to bring up the window boxes. I know it is early, but the 10-day forecast keeps the lows at night into the 40s, so what the heck. I’m here all the time now, not traveling, so if I need to cover them up for a night or two, I think I’m safe. They are ready to come out of the basement, and I just don’t have the time to tend to them down there. With the weather so nice, I can’t stand to be in the basement at all. I’m really looking forward to having a greenhouse next spring, assuming we find the time to actually put it together.

Got weed? I think that’s all that there is to update. Rest in peace, Mary. I’m glad to have known you. You were supposed to be with me for twenty years, and I’m so sorry you are gone. I miss your cheerful self so much already. I can’t bring myself to change my computer background yet, but it keeps making me cry to see it. What a silly, happy girl she was.

5 thoughts on “Farming is Hard”

  1. I’m so sorry about Mary, Lisa. That must be so incredibly hard. I hope Misty stays in good health, and the lambs help distract her (and you!) for a while.

  2. It is sad to hear about Mary. You and your whole family, (animals and humans) are in my thoughts.

  3. Lisa, I think everyone feels like they aren’t cut out for it when they loose an animal friend. Besides—like us you are doing LOTS of different things and sometimes it just wears you down and makes it even harder to cope with the bad times. Next week will hopefully be a better week. REALLY sorry about your loss—I can completely empathize. Don’t kick yourself too hard.


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