Saturday, March 27, 2010
Lambing season is the time of year when my insecurities as a shepherd are revealed. Every year brings new challenges and new things to learn. This past week, we almost lost Ina.
Ina is our head ewe; the leader of our flock. All of our other ewes know where they stand with her. We have built our flock from Ina's ewe lambs over the past three years. She is one of those irreplaceable ewes. Ina is strong willed, yet gentle. She nurtures her young, yet lets go of them when it is time. Ina comes when we call her name and guides the other ewes where they need to be. This past Tuesday, I thought I had lost Ina. Tuesday morning when I went out to do chores, Ina was obviously not well. She was lying down with her head on the ground. Her breathing was very heavy and labored, her nose was runny, and she had no desire to eat. I had been concerned about her the previous few days. The night before I had even gone out to the barn in the middle of the night to look for her. I just had this feeling that things were not well with her.
There are times when I feel over whelmed by the fact that I am responsible for keeping all of our animals healthy and alive. They trust me to provide proper care and nourishment to them. They trust me to keep them safe from predators and to create safe boundaries for them. They trust that I will be there when they are in danger, need my assistance, or are sick. They trust that I will know what to do for them at all times whether they are healthy or not. I am their shepherd.
As I finished up chores, my mind raced through a mental list of what could be the wrong with Ina. She is only about 10 days from her due date, so two things came to my mind, either toxemia or milk fever. I quickly went back to the house to scan my shelves for the various supplies I felt I needed. Having never seen one of our sheep so sick, I put a call in to our vet as well.
Though I am their shepherd, I find that at times like this, I am the one who needs shepherding. It is times like this that I stop, take a deep breath, and pray for guidance, discernment, and the ability to do what needs to be done.
While waiting for the vet to arrive, I made a trip to the feed store for some supplies which I did not have on hand. I also monitored her temperature and found that it was actually falling. I began treatments for toxemia. Though I had tried to get Ina into a stall in the barn, she just wanted to be in the run-in with her friends. I covered her up with my coat and some towels to keep her warm. The vet had told me over the phone that what I had described to him did not sound promising. Ina's prognosis was not good.
As I stood looking down on Ina, I suddenly felt a sense of how dependent each of our animals are upon us. Ina lay there completely unable to do anything for herself and she counted on me to figure it out and to provide the right medicine for her.
Once our vet arrived, he did a complete exam of her and began listing all that we could do for her. I could tell that he had little hope that she would recover as he must have said four times that her prognosis was not good. I, however, had not lost hope nor did I plan on losing Ina. We began various treatments and 45 minutes later, the vet had "done all he could" and as he closed his car door, he once again said, "her prognosis is not good."
It is during situations like this that I am reminded how I too am totally dependent upon a good shepherd. It is God who provides for me as I provide for my animals. I am dependent upon his directions, strength, and guidance.
Within 45 minutes of the vet leaving, Ina perked up. She lifted her head, opened her eyes and wanted to nibble on hay. All afternoon, I watched over her. In the morning I had put an email out to my Romney email group asking for help. By the afternoon, my phone was ringing with calls from other shepherds from across the US. I am forever grateful for their words of encouragement and wise counsel. Before going to bed, I gave Ina one more treatment for milk fever. During the night, I went to the barn every two hours to check on her. At the 2:30am check, Ina was standing in the middle of her stall, eyes wide open, and eating. She looked at me as if to say, "Why am I in here?" I stood with my mouth wide open in amazement for at least ten minutes. As I left the barn, I looked back over my shoulder and said, "Welcome back Ina!"
As I went back to bed I thought of my own heavenly shepherd. Once again, he had given me the discernment I needed, and placed people in my life who would direct me as I cared for Ina. I was overwhelmed with how He watches over me and tends to my needs.
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Shearing Number TwoWhat a glorious Spring day! A great day to be sheared! This afternoon, we had our angora goats and llama sheared. My shearer made me promise to not take any photos of him shearing my goats. He claims he doesn't like those "nasty little things" but I am not sure I believe him. He is so gentle with them and despite their maaing and carrying on, he is so patient. He calms them by talking gently and softly to them. I couldn't help but get some before and after pictures of Charlotte. She is such a woolly little goat with the sweetest personality. She looks quite humble without her ringlets. I have shut the goats into the barn for the night so that they will be warm. Mama Llama was the best behaved I have ever seen her for shearing. I told our shearer that it must be because he knows how to charm the women. He just laughed. Usually there is much spitting and swaying back and forth. Today, she stood quite still while her stylist was at work. There was much discussion over the particular style that we wanted for the llama. Our shearer said that shearing a llama is like going to a hair salon. Not only do you want your hair cut but you want it styled as well. I think the llama looks rather proud of her new hair cut. I can't wait to dehair her fleece. I have special plans for her fleece this year but you will have to wait for another time to hear what those plans are.
I have just gotten our new sock yarn back from Stonehedge Fiber Mill and I am so excited! I blended our own Romney wool and mohair with just a little bit of nylon. The yarn has a nice luster and softness. It is a 3-ply fingering weight with 400 yards to the skein. On Thursday I finally found some time to get the dye pots going. I chose lots of bright spring colors. I hope to dye more yarn this week. Let me know what color you would like to see and I will dye some for YOU!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Knowing how to think outside of the box is the key when renovating old structures in Vermont. Our friend, Keith Mazzarella, is an expert at doing just that. He has lived in VT and worked on old barns and homes for 25-30 years. Last Saturday he joined my husband in our 150 year old barn to repair a leak in the roof and to begin adding windows to the studio space. As boards were being removed from the outside of the barn and beams were revealed the challenge of placing windows began. They worked for the better part of the day taking out one window and putting in a new window. I enjoyed watching the two of them work together and banter back and forth as they would problem solve. Two perspectives were present in that barn; one was an experienced builder and carpenter of old structures for 25+ years and the other was the civil engineer of 25+ years. On occasion they would come looking for me as they had to adjust our initial plans and needed my blessing before doing so. At the end of the day, a flood of natural light poured through those windows!
Tuesday, March 09, 2010
On shearing day, we bring the sheep into the barn before the shearer arrives. This way, no time is lost bringing sheep to the barn once the shearer arrives. The girls wait in a stall for their turn to be shorn. They peer over the railing watching attentively. I have always wondered what they must be thinking about while they are watching. Once they are sheared we put them back in the stall to get reacquainted with one another. It seems as though they don't quite recognize each other without their wool. I too must learn who is who. It is amazing how much I rely upon their wool to tell them apart.
This year the natural colored fleeces were especially beautiful. Even our shearer commented on them as they rolled off the back of each ewe filling the shearing floor. I couldn't wait to get them skirted. The very next day, a friend of mine came to help with the skirting. We spread each fleece out on the skirting table in the warm sun. We worked our way around each fleece pulling out any hay and manure. By the end of the afternoon, all of the fleeces were ready to be boxed and shipped to the mill.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
Saturday was a beautiful day for shearing sheep. The sun was warm and there was no wind. The sheep were calm waiting for their turn on the shearing floor. Our shearer, David, spoke to them as he sheared, telling them what "pretty little girls" they were or commenting on what nice fleeces they had. I filled him in on each of the ewe's history as he sheared, asking him questions or seeking his advice about various sheep issues. Then, he would share stories with me about one of his ewes or about a farm he had sheared at. For the better part of two hours we stood in the barn talking while he sheared, laughing at his jokes and stories. It was a great day for shearing sheep! Thank you David!
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
A Perfect FitThis morning my daughter came outside to find out why I was lingering beyond my normal chore time routine. She found me scrounging around in the barn looking for pieces of wood. After spending the better part of an hour cleaning hay off the barn floor, I had decided it was time to build a box to store a bale of hay. We typically drop down hay bales as we need them from the hay loft. One bale, which is used to feed our rams, stays on the floor of the barn. The chickens love to scratch in the hay, building little nests and looking for seeds to eat. After several weeks of this, the barn floor is covered in hay.
This was not a new idea, but rather an idea which never made it beyond the sketching stages. Items on our "to do list" are prioritized and building a box for a hay bale was never seen as a high priority. Today was the day that it moved from the bottom of the list to the top. With my son on a ski trip with friends, it freed me up from home schooling responsibilities giving me time to work on my project.
As I gathered the wood and power tools I needed my daughter stood and watched. "Need any help?" she asked. "Nope," I answered. As I plugged in the power saw, my daughter said, "Scarey!" I said, "Nope, just noisy, not scary."
She eventually wandered back to the house to do her school work and I began to measure and cut the wood. My husband is the real woodworker in the family. He understands how wood goes together, how to best design something, and how to make cuts to perfection. I am the idea person who is able to tell him exactly what I want. Despite my lack of woodworking experience, I must say that my box doesn't look bad. I enjoyed working out in the sun and I even had two roosters with me to oversee my work and to sing for me. The true test came once the box was finished. Would a bale of hay actually fit inside of my box? I picked it up and carried to the other side of the barn where we keep our hay. Here I set it on the floor next to the other box which we already have. It appeared to be the right size. I scrambled up into the hay loft and dropped down a bale of hay. Yes! It fit perfectly!!