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Whoa! I am so blown away this morning by the resilience of nature. I went up to check the sheep at about 7:30am and a little lamb came crashing out of the long grass to greet me, bawling his fool head off. I nearly fell over with wonder because I had been sure that little guy was dead of exposure.
Here’s what happened: Yesterday the fence, (Kencove electronet, more on this in another post,) fell over in the rain and the sheep got out and wandered all over 6 acres of pasture before I finally managed to corral them back in. Thank god my neighbor Leo had gone up there to get the tractor and check the oil in it. (He cuts wood for us and uses the tractor to haul trees out of the woods.) He came down and let me know that they were out. I usually check the sheep in the morning, move them if they need grass, and then see them the next day. So I wouldn’t have known the sheep were out until this morning or last night if they managed to find their way to the barn. Anyway…I ran up there and let them wander around while I moved the fence to make a new paddock with yummy grass to entice them back into the fence. Generally that would be a reasonable thing to do. However, there were three ewes with lambs in the flock and I SHOULD have grabbed up the lambs right away and secured them. This would have kept their mothers close too. But I didn’t.
I mistakenly thought the sheep wouldn’t go far and that they’d come right back in to get the new grass. I wasn’t putting it together that they weren’t really hungry because they’d gotten through the fence before all the grass in the paddock had been eaten. This means the ewes were just in it for the excitement and they ranged far and wide. The two older lambs stayed with their mummies, but one little guy was lost in the tall grass. After two hours of putting up fence and herding sheep in the driving rain, we just couldn’t locate the lamb. I came back into the house, put on some dry clothes, donned the enormous rain suit again and went back out to search with the dogs. No luck. This little lamb was just around 50 hours old at the time, so I was sure he would die of exposure. I spent that last hour tramping around the pasture crying and praying and calling for that little lamb to come out.
When lambs are separated from their mothers they tend to curl up in a small ball and lay low until they hear their mother call them. It’s a good way to stay hidden from predators, but it’s very frustrating when the shepherd of the flock is in the “predator” role. I gave up when I could barely put one leg in front of the other and was soaked through again. I need better rain gear.
It was a sad night for me. I had found a little lamb in the pasture, dead, that morning from starvation. Her mother, Rosy had stopped feeding her. This is something that first time mothers sometimes do, even if they do feed them in the beginning. I was so low about the loss of that little, beautiful lamb, and then to lose the little guy in the pasture when I could have just caught him up in the beginning really knocked me down. I had visions of selling off the flock to some more experienced, “better” shepherd who was not so foolish to let lambs out of her sight. Then I’d have another good cry and tell myself to buck up and stick with it because I really do love being a sheep farmer.
I have memorized a poem by Rainer Maria Rilke that I tried to focus on during the evening:
God speaks to each of us as he makes us
Then walks with us silently out of the night.
These are the words we dimly hear:
You, sent out beyond your recall,
Go to the limits of your longing.
Flare up like flame
And make big shadows I can move in.
Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.
Nearby is the country they call life,
You will know it by its seriousness.
Give me your hand.
While I still flinch at the word, “God,” (I am a recovering Baptist,) I find great comfort in this poem and in my own relationship to the great mystery of Spirit. This last 24 hours has been a rough ride into despair, and back again to utter joy when this little guy came running out into the open. It’s been hard to “let everything happen to” me and not just close down emotionally and be hard about it. Farming is so hard on the soul sometimes, but I’m so glad that in this case there’s a happy ending and some joy and relief.
Please keep this little dude in your thoughts and prayers- if you’re the praying type. He’s not out of the woods yet. He probably has pneumonia and his mother is not recognizing him as he was gone too many hours, so she won’t feed him. He’s dry and warm and fed now and we’ll try reintroducing him to his mum this afternoon. He has a real will to live and I feel that if he’s come through almost 18 hours in the pouring rain without food and body heat from his mother, then he’s got a very good chance of surviving. Let’s all pause for a moment to wonder at the resilience of nature.
I just finished an awesome book and am feeling like a bit of an evangelist for it. As soon as I was three pages into it, I thought, “Everybody I know has to read this book! Right now!” So should you feel inspired to pick up a book just because little old me recommends it, here’s my review:
Brene Brown The Gifts of Imperfection. A truly life changing book. It talks about how to become enough for yourself. Rather than compare yourself or try to live up to people’s expectations, let yourself be enough. There’s a lot of talk in there about how to overcome shame and an amazing bit on what hope actually is. (Hint: it’s not an emotion.) I read this in no time flat and it just sang to me. It’s one of those books you pick up again and again because it’s so wise. Brene bases her book on her research into vulnerability and shame, sharing with readers the results of literally tens of thousands of interviews. From those interviews, she teases apart what people who are living their lives wholeheartedly have in common. Unfortunately for me, very few of the things on that list apply to me, but she gives wonderful advice on how to change that. Since finishing it last week, I’ve been dipping back into it daily. When a friend asked if she could borrow it, I went and bought her a copy of her own since mine is now dog eared and full of underlines and marginalia that read, “Wow! That is so true!” “That is so me.” And, “That’s a quote to memorize!” Clearly, I couldn’t allow anyone else to see my facile exclamations, (because I haven’t mastered that ability to allow myself to be vulnerable to people reading that and judging me on my inane comments!) Luckily, in depth perusal of the text and the soul searching it sparks will have me one day lending my original copy, marginalia and all, without shame.
It’s June and the hay is ripe for cutting. We no longer have our own baler so neighbours of ours are cutting our hay on shares for us. John (the dad) and his boys Josh and Ben are extremely patient and have been teaching me a few tricks of the trade. Yesterday we got out Dad’s old rake, (which worked beautifully! One of the few machines left on the property that works as it should,) and John told me how to rake the hay he’d mown a few days ago into windrows for baling. Then he pointed me in the direction of the field and left! I was extremely nervous to be left alone with a machine I didn’t know how to use,but luckily, raking is not rocket science and even I managed to make
neat little rows of hay. These are actually John’s rows of mown hay nut you get idea. The windrows are just skinnier and fluffier. Usually hay is “tedded out” which just means spread out with to dry with a machine, but we don’t happen to own that machine so we rake a few times in order to expose all the grass to the sun and wind.
Unfortunately, I also managed to expose the rake to my high tensile fence.
Luckily, I hadn’t tightened it or that particular adventure could have been dangerous!
Mum came up and helped me get the girls back where they belong. Amazing what a little grain can do. Here are some lovely sheep pics that mum took while she was waiting for me to tighten the fence.
We call this little guy “Camo” because he looks like he’s dressed in camouflage.
This little girl is having a drink- the water is reddish because they get a bucket full of minerals to snack on. The minerals stick to their lips and wash off in the water trough.
Here is Aoife (pronounced ee-fa) chewing on some grass with Willa to her left with the black face and Beverly in the foreground. My original 7 sheep were Dorsets and I crossed them with Clun Forest ram (Willie) which is why the next generation has black or speckled faces. Willa looks just like her dad,hence the old fashioned name.
This is a good photo of the coloring of this season’s lambs. Willie’s daughters were bred to a Suffolk ram that my uncle leant me so they tend to have all black faces and black stockings. They’re just so cute!
This is what sheep in electronet are supposed to look like. Not this:
Little %$&*#!s resisted my efforts to move them to greener pastures this afternoon so now I’m waiting in the field for Mum to come rescue us. It’s going to take two people and some grain to coax the beauties back inside.
It’s been quite the month around here! Between getting my pottery inventory up large enough for the farmers market, fixing fence and being sick or injured, my poor sheep have been suffering. I had them out in the barnyard to munch on grass there and start to get used to it, but they kept escaping and getting to the greener grass on the other side. I had the electric off because I was fixing fence. Don’t believe people who say sheep are stupid. They’re actually little wooly opportunists.
I tried to put them out last week too, but then I couldn’t figure how to get the used electronet I’d bought to work-turns out it needed a better ground rod. Can I tell you how tired I am of learning experiences? Could I please have something just go easily for a bit? I know, I know. Life is hard. This is one of the four great treat truths, (damned if I can ever remember what the other three are though, because I’m always wrestling with That one!)
Yesterday Leo and I were able, (with much grunting and scuffling and cursing,) to load up the 26 sheepies and take them up to the pasture for their first night out! (In case I haven’t mentioned him before, Leo is my 71 year old neighbour who comes over and helps me out most everyday. God. Less the bored elderly!)
I thought I’d sleep outside with them to make sure the electric fence kept the coyotes at bay, but when actually faced with a wet, 45° campsite at 9pm, I quickly “logicked” my way out of that one! If I got sick then I’d surely be no good to the poor sheepies in the future right? Right. Back to my nice comfortable bed!
Here’s a video of the sheep while they were still in the barn. I miss those girls! They would call to me if they heard me out in the pottery studio (in the old milkhouse,) and I’d go and give them some cuddles.
Sorry about the quality of the video- it’s my first on this new phone and I haven’t figured out how to make the sound better yet.
(Well, Hmmm…) Now I have to figure out why the video didn’t load. Sorry! Experiencing technical difficulties over here!)
…happened today in Morrisville NY in the beautifully renovated Madison Hall. I didn’t make a whole lot of money, but I did meet a whole bunch of wonderful people. The organizer is Duane Button, and his entire family came out to help cart the farmer’s wares up and down stairs to the second floor. A more cheerful and polite bunch has never been found! I also met a number of delightful craftspeople/farmers/bakers/cheesemakers who will be vending along with me at the Hamilton farmer’s market in May. The people who came out to look were great as well, and very interested in watching me throw pots, (no pots were hurt in this farmer’s market production.) I had such a great time chatting with them all and many of them said that they, too, would be out to the Hamilton market. I hope they do. That’s one of the fun things about being part of a market: you build up a little community of friends with the other vendors and customers and then you get to see each other every week. All in all, it was one of those golden days made even better by the bright spring weather. Hope your Saturday was just as good!
Hi all. Sorry for the radio silence. There were big things going on the past year such as the death of my father that just set me back on my ass. I’m having little forays on my feet again and will try to do just short posts at least once a week.
Today is a sheep shearing day as I’ve got my first three lambs sold and going to slaughter on Monday. That is truly the worst part of this biz.
Well, not really, but if my friend Leah gets her way, people will at least know that Spooner and Daughter Farm is on the map.
Here’s her blog post for the week and yours truly is mentioned along with my favorite tractor. (and who doesn’t have a favorite tractor?)
Leah started her own company in the new year: Taking Root. It’s a company that explores sustainable travel, hooking up adventurers with entities, (such as farmers) that are producing real food or goods or events in a sustainable way. Well, go to her website as she explains it better.
This woman is such and inspiration. Go Leah, go!
after the moon. Two weeks ago when the moon was full, I happened to be on the tractor right after sunset taking a load of ashes from Mum and Dad’s monstrous outdoor wood furnace to the compost heap. It’s located up near the the market garden at the top of a small hill about a quarter mile from their house. It was about 18 degrees out, (that seems to be a temperature that initiates introspection in me for some reason,) and the sky was crystal clear and deep, dark blue, the color of the Atlantic near the shore. The moon was hanging in the sky with a halo around it, lighting up the snow below. It was so beautiful and still even with the thrum of the diesel engine chugging up the hill. For some reason, I didn’t feel like the tractor was a disturbance, but just a part of the larger landscape. There was a big feeling to it that reached into my chest, and I could picture the three generations of farmers in my family going up this hill on a tractor for the same reason of an evening, and who knows how many countless generations on horses before that, on this same piece of land. That feeling of peace and connection is part of why I’m back here on my parents’ land canoodling around in the dirt and feeding hay to fat sheep and beef cows.