I Am Back
Tomorrow shall be the first time I have gone to the barn since Christmas. A month ago. I sat there one afternoon in late December and, for the vary first time, it didn't feel familiar to me. I tried to conjure up how I has felt, Autumn-Winter, over the past nineteen, going on twenty years, but it was impossible to superimpose those images on the future, the coming winter let alone the given moment. And, nearly in the future, the coming winter let alone the given moment. And, nearly in the front of my mind, came the realization that I did not see this winter's lambing. However, it was impossible to understand why. Nor did my mind's eye manage to see what would happen were I not to be in the barn.
Within a few days. I was in the hospital. A stay of over two weeks. With that anticipation of a long drawn out convalescence here on the farm. What I expected was my body would heal quickly and well from the unforeseen surgery that finally occurred. It did. What I didn't foresee was the marshmallow fog that surrounded my mind for the first ten days home. Anesthesia. Morphine. And the fact that I hadn't eaten any real food in almost ten days. What I rebelled against most was the deep exhaustion I felt. Long. Deep. Pervasive. Even now. I am possessed by the sense of being drained of my life. Although, every day, in light filled increments, it returns. I've begun to dream again. Of the barn mostly. And ways to improve it, and the farm itself. There are twelve bottle lambs in the bathroom. Bottle lambs are adorable. At first. But grow wearisome in the fullness of time. Of course, I want them to grow. And they do. . But as they grow their little hoofs become sharper and I feel it more as they leap all over me and each other to get a bottle. The hens are laying and I've been adding some eggs to the milk replacer of late, in an attempt to reduce the cost. Milk replacer has become prohibitively expensive this year. A dozen lambs will cost six hundred dollars.
Three Days Later.
I spent several hours at work between the barn and the indoor lambs that first day out. It was glorious. I even threw baleage as well as fed it out on the ground level. I saw my flock once more. Three or four put their heads in my hand. And I was able to sit on a feeder and dream once again. Some old friends didn't survive the winter. It was with profound sadness that I learned that McBride, of Ferguson and McBride (twelve years old if she were a day), didn't' make it. Ferguson was killed by a coyote at least five years ago. Next door. In a tragic accident. My heart broke then. But not now. McBride had a full long life. I was deeply saddened but it was different than from when I found Ferguson dead, having been trapped against a newly erected fence. McBride was the daughter of a Suffolk cross ewe I had bought at an auction . As was Ferguson . Together they were an incredible pair. Noisy. Distinctive with their speckled faces. And McBride retained for all of her like a certain unmistakable presence. She will not be forgotten.
A Few Days Later
Time has not been running in the straight line to which I have always been accustomed. The surgery went remarkably well. I continue to heal faster and better than expected. What was not expected was the exhaustion I still experience. It permeates all things. I am often even too tired to sleep and fall asleep around three or four a.m., a book in my hand.
The carriage house barn has been continuing to beckon me, of late. It has been prompted by the daily escape that the goats have been reveling in for the past few days. One way or another they have managed to bash, trash, batter and scramble their way out of the door, until Jeff and I figured out how to brace it. They, then, today, knocked the shutter off of the window and ransacked my front porch where grain has been fed out to the roosters and one escapee Buff Orpington. I heard them before I saw them and ran to the door where the first to be seen is always Cornelius, star Toggenburg buck. A substantial figure with a massive rack. We look at each other. I then back up into the house and slam the door on them. He has been scheduled to leave for quite some time. I've been wanting to go into the carriage house and resume working there. The size of Cornelius's rack, and a look in his eye has restrained me. I love the carriage house. It is self contained, and, except for the necessity of hauling waste, is a more manageable building to work in than the barn proper. I have had some of my happiest moments on the farm there.
The goats are looking beautiful, of late. They are becoming quite round and are beginning to show that they are bred. Even the yearlings look sleek. The does, all four, were covered in the same twenty-four hours in October. They are due some time around the first day of spring, give or take five days. I am determined to be well set up for the new arrivals. Milking four does and bottling their kids shall be an experience I have mixed feelings about, but milking seven and bottling all of those kids, if the yearlings were bred the same day shall be close to impossible for me. And so I must both plan and be properly set up. It is impossible, should the doelings freshen too close to the dams to make milking them impractical, to leave the kids on them to help lengthen their teats. The problem, however, is that the kids therefore, may be a bit on the wild side and may do damage to their dams' udders.
The plan has been to have four milking does, with any luck, staggered in kidding so I shall have goat's milk in December when my first lambs arrive. I've never had any luck keeping goats in milk longer than six months, however, this year I shall be intent on achieving at least ten full months from them. It is a very interesting project for me. And, in a way, I'm glad that the breakouts have re-engaged me. Something to be said for Cornelius, herd sire, staring me down on the front porch.
My dog, Glencora MacCluskie, remains to be unsettled since I've been home. She asks, in her own subtle way, for reassurances from me. I find her staring at me from a cozy spot behind the wood stove. She waits until I call her to me, and then races as fast as she can untangle herself to put her head on my knee. Nellie did not seem to suffer from my absence. She had Glencora, of course, who is so beautiful in her affection towards this little not-so-little-anymore pup. Glencora also seems happy to have a friend who is a dog with whom she can wrestle and race and lie stretched out next to, and with whom to play tug of war with, either end of an old rag. Nellie has become the Nellie, Nellie, Nellie that my grandfather called every dog he ever owned. I am, gradually, introducing her to her last name, MacCluskie, the same as Glencora's.
Oh, Glencora, inadvertently gave me the name of my new replacement ram lamb. Jeff brings into the house for me to check any lamb that isn't looking or acting quite up to snuff. Last evening he brought in a classic looking East Friesian cross ram lamb who had appeared to be a little listless. He put the lamb, a handsome little fellow, down on the kitchen floor. It promptly raced around the room. No listlessness evident there. I'll keep him, I decided. He's a very handsome fellow. And so the little ram became Burgo Fitzgerald, of the same classic story that gave Glencora her name. Glencora and Burgo had a romance of sorts that resulted in Glencora, one of Anthony Trollope's wealthy heiresses, the wealthiest in all of Scotland and England , for that matter, marrying Plantagenet Palliser, chosen for her by the people surrounding both of their lives. Poor girl. While marrying Fitzgerald would have been an unmitigated disaster (he gambled and drank and owed huge sums of money), the self-discipline required to marry someone she barely knew, hardly liked and wasn't attracted to must have been the most powerful force in her life. In any event, I don't expect this perfect and beautiful long haired creature to drink, gamble, or owe any money (I shall, for his feed and upkeep, probably shall, forever), he is now, Burgo Fitzgerald. It has a certain flair to it. I trust that he shall not let me down.
I've only been once to the barn. Haven't chosen replacement lamb number two as yet, although one of the bottle lambs certainly looks good. His horns are already apparent. His fleece is beautiful. And he is a chunky little guy. We'll see. There is another lamb in the bathroom which I should like to keep. She isn't sucking as well as I'd like her to and that is why it is still up in the air. She is a Steiff toy looking lamb. Fuzzy with a big cinnamon spot on her neck and the fly away ears of the Friesians. I like her. She shall be Maggie Malone, if she makes it. I must be nearly well if I am naming lambs again. Thank god for all things.
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