Enter Cordelia Pembroke-Worthington
Feeding out hay in the evening has always been a chore I've particularly disliked. Some years I am finished early enough to call it a late afternoon feeding. But early March bears the brunt of the burn-out that February brings and it gradually becomes increasingly difficult to finish my chores any earlier. Oh, I'm graining and baleaging and feeding hay three times a day as it is. The newly built key-hole feeder has not been installed as expected, and there is not an efficient way to put hay in feeders once a day, as most people do, or even twice. So three times it is, and so be it for now, the third time being to merely top it off for the night. Just hay. Neither baleage nor grain.
I've loved my evenings, in the past, with the sheep. Not doing chores but just spending time. It is the happiest part of the day for me. But that leisure is swept away while carrying bales, breaking them open, and filling the mangers. The sheep become more interested in the hay rather than visiting with me. Quite understandable. And so it just doesn't happen.
It was seven o'clock when I went down last evening. I berated myself all of the way down there for not being able to get there by six which would have given me time for a later, quieter visit that night. The wind was fierce. The temperature, merely cold, not freezing. I was in a discouraged frame of mind. The water line has frozen adding an hour and a half to my chores each day. I let the sheep out for water, afternoons. But getting them all back inside is another matter. A workman managed to let into the barn some of the twenty-five who were supposed to be outside. And in doing so, let some out of the barn who were supposed to be inside. I then had to bring everyone inside whether they were supposed to be or not and have been a dismal failure at separating them and returning the rams and unproductive ewes and yearling lambs (hoggs) to the barnyard. Therefore, some ninety odd sheep, minus the two Merinos I bought from the Farmers Museum, all are let out of the barn, every afternoon, through the narrow door, to the hook-up for water. I count them. Many of the now ninety-five lambs leave as well. The remaining dance and race and spin through the air in the empty barn. They are so beautiful. Getting almost two hundred animals back in is another story. Without a dog. Inevitably I find a lamb stuck somewhere who doesn't know its way around as I circle the barn, the barnyard, and the big roll of baleage. In the wind. That, too, is inevitable. Some sheep have squeaked through the barn door upstairs where hay and baleage is kept. They've made themselves quite at home. So it wasn't a surprise to see Chanel, a sheep born here, raised in splendor on someone else's farm, and returned here last fall, upstairs in the loft. In front of an open window. What was a surprise was to see her pawing the straw in front of her and licking some fluid on top of it. No lamb to be seen. Just a tea cup amount of fluid. And a ewe determined to remain in the wind. The wind. I fed the sheep. Again. Bottled my bottle lambs, all of whom have mothers but who need something extra there times a day anyway. And went upstairs. There was Chanel. And a lamb. I tried in all ways imaginable to encourage Chanel to follow me, lamb in my arms, down the wooden stairs to the middle of the barn where there was less wind. But, unfortunately, Greenleaf Flock Sire and four goats were spending the evening there. Nothing could persuade her.
Oh no, not another lamb in the house. Not that there have been many. This year, at least. But oh so many, in the basement and other places, over the years. Too many altogether. I took off my sweater. Wrapped the lamb in it and headed for the outer door. Chanel followed. It was dark. Windy. And slippery. How to get them in the barn?
Pembroke-Witherspoon, semi wild goat, daughter of Pembroke, the wildest doe I've ever entertained here, and Witherspoon, a black Nubian buck, started to follow and changed her mind. She looked a little thin to me. Did she need water? I had thought she had begun to bag a little and might be due in a few weeks but her udder looked small. Oh well. The light was still on in the carriage house. I stood a better chance of getting Chanel and her lamb in there than down a flight of stone stairs, across a yard, through a gate, over a wall, through a passage, a set of doors and another gate into the warm barn, and a pen.
So I opened the door, backed in with Chanel following me, and her lamb in my arms. I backed into a pen, put the lamb down, picked up my head, and saw in a corner, a large Nubian eared black and white kid goat. Alert, tucked very nicely, if you please, in a corner of a horse stall, nearly surrounded by hay. I scooped her up, and brought her into the kitchen, which was, thankfully, warm after a day spent fighting to get the temperature out of the thirties, into the forties and beyond. Peabody the cat sat on the rocker. An unnamed but very pretty black lamb lay behind the wood stove. And Glencora McCluskie, puppy extraordinaire danced in attendance. This is the first kid goat to come in the house. Oh. Oh. Oh. May no others need to share the honor.
I had been thinking over about to freeze to death all day and had eaten as is my wont when cold, a lot of bread and butter. No serious protein which always gives this farmer a lift. The doeling is bigger than the puppy, the lamb, and the cat. She sat somewhat reluctantly in my arms. Took a few ounces of milk from a bottle. With disdain, I might add. And in all ways showed me something. What that was I really don't know. But her individuality has made itself known.
There is really another doeling in a pen in the barn. A tiny thing, showing, as does her brother, the signs of the pigmy great grandfather they all have in common. I've not separated her from her dam although her dam leaves her once a day for baleage and exercise. She doesn't like to be handled. Her mother, until now hated to be touched. And I may not be able to tame her down. But this little white and black doweling with the long droopy ears of each of her grandfathers has fallen into my hands. And she is mine.
Goats, unlike sheep, have been known to be unwilling to bond with whomever feeds it. Lambs, on the other hand, will exhibit friendly tendencies on their own. Some of them. Or curiosity. Or interest. Some come to be fussed over even having perfectly fine mothers, or maybe because of having fine mothers. I intend to keep this little goat, name her, breed her and milk her, and so, although it is certain her mother would have returned to her, it is even more certain that this lovely creature will integrate far better into the farm than her wild and skittish mother, and her even wilder and ferocious
grandmother ever did.
I've been running low on names of late. Reading Angela Thirkell hasn't been of her usual help as I've run through her names of choice over the past seventeen years. But Dodo came up, Dodo Farnsworth, and it is one I've never used. Last night, the little doeling asleep in a basket in my room, the better to not tempt Glencora to employ her Border Collie instincts throughout the night, almost became Dodo Pembroke-Carrington. But the light of day changed all that, and she became Cordelia Pembroke-Worthington, as she should be, carrying in her name, the names of her grandparents and mother. (I never named the unpleasant creature who was her father. He now lives at a neighbor's with his equally impossible brother and I'm glad!)
I bottled the bottle lamb, bottled Cordelia, fed Peabody and Glencora, who, blessedly sits when she wants to be petted rather than jumps, stared the fires, which, mercifully all caught, and went to the carriage house to see the impossible, independent, domineering sheep, Chanel, and her lamb. And there in place of the doeling was still another lamb, a little ewe. Twins! Chanel dropped another lamb sometime in the night. I ran back for a big sweater. Wrapped the two lambs in it. The eweling was cold. And walked backwards again, out of the carriage house. Chanel followed. Through the snow filled yard, through a gate, (and how I opened it, arms full of two lambs struggling to go free of the soft warm cozy sweater, still mystifies me, across the barnyard, through an aisle, through the double doors, pushing open the straw blocked gate, past the ewes who decided the lambs in my arms were theirs, and pulling up the gate to the lambing pen, got the ewe and her babies in, and the lambs who were in and think I'm their mother out, and returned to the house for some almost hot coffee and too dry cornbread I made last night. And Cordelia and Glencora, and Peabody. And the unnamed bottle lamb. The cold that has come in at the end of February and circles the house and barn this early March had filled me with despair and a feeling of being defeated. But somehow, that feeling has begun to leave, ebbing slowly away, to be sure. But ebbing away at that. Cordelia Pembrook-Worthington had something to do with that.
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