20 February 2012

Time to put on the big boy suspenders

My last day running the farm with Kate's help.  Tomorrow the Burchsteads will be returning from Hotlanta and with them comes some welcome pressure relief.  I'm not any less convinced I want to farm, but whew! keeping all sorts of animals while thinking about the future and making time management decisions in tandem with the predicted weather is draining.  As each day since Wednesday has passed, I have gained more respect and empathy for Jeff and Amy, as well as every other farmer out there.

Throw in the constant worrying of whether a ewe is going to give birth and my hands felt quite full.  Wednesday and Thursday of last week went smoothly as I mostly took care of projects like wrapping and freezing the rest of the two lambs we butchered, making a ginger carrot ferment, moving, cutting, and covering firewood, and preparing for market.  Then came Friday...

I was merrily doing chores and going about my rainy, farm business when I saw that a ewe was beginning to give birth.  Earlier I had noticed the ewe was standing off by herself for most of the morning, a probable sign that she was beginning to go into labor.  The amniotic sac was coming out and immediately I went to trap the rest of the flock so that I could eventually extract the mom and her lambs.  I went to prepare some warm molasses water to put in the greenhouse where she would eventually end up.

The first lamb was born and the ewe did not immediately start licking it to clear the mucus on its face so it could breathe.  I went to clear its nostrils and the ewe ran as far as she could.  I started to worry that it wouldn't bond with its baby; an important aspect of lambing and ensuring the survival of the lamb.  Eventually the ewe would pass its second lamb stillborn.  I tried to get it to bond with the live lamb by bringing it to her nose but she kept running away.  Trying not to get frustrated, I called it with a sheep call and lured it with grain into the greenhouse.

I spent the next two hours drying the lamb to prevent hypothermia and trying to get it to nurse despite the ewe's refusal to stand and the lamb's being so weak it couldn't figure out how to nurse when I put the teat in its mouth.  In between all this, I called Amy on the cell phone and got her guidance.  Eventually I got the lamb to nurse after cutting away some wool for easier access and Kate would subsequently come to help me get it to nurse while I held the ewe still.

We still had to pick up apples, do chores, and prepare for market before Saturday morning.  All told, we didn't finish working until 9 PM; managing to get the truck mostly packed so we could get up at 5 AM to do chores and pack the rest of the market items.  Oh yeah, we also had Kate's parents over for dinner for her mom's birthday.  They were gracious enough to bring some Thai takeout and ease a bit of our burden for the night.  Thankfully, the lamb was at least able to nurse with our assistance several times before we went to sleep and eventually would nurse on its own as its mom began to grow closer to its baby.

The next day would be rough for both Kate and I due to relative lack of sleep and a very long day lasting 12 hours.  She went to the Portland winter market while I ran the booth in Brunswick.  After the evening chores, we relaxed for a little while until we took Kate's mom out for dinner for her birthday; this time our treat.  That night we both slept deeply.

Sunday afternoon I was able to drive a different team of horses at Mitch and Penny's.  Their horses, Dick and Dock, are used to collect sap which they collect using buckets hanging from spiles tapped into sugar maples.  I got a tour of their sap trails and had a wonderful afternoon chatting with Mitch and driving his horses for a little while out in their hay fields.  All in all it was a long week with little much of a weekend, but I enjoyed it all.  I hope you all enjoyed reading this update and enjoy the lengthening days!

Burn down your cities and leave our farms, and your cities will spring up again as if by magic; but destroy our farms and the grass will grow in the streets of every city in the country.
- William Jennings Bryan

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