Saturday, March 21, 2015

The "In between" times...

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Once again I started writing this post ages ago. I've been so tired and keeping myself too busy to properly focus. But today, I'm going to give it a try! So, here we go...

Spring, like Autumn, is such an enchanting time. It's a time when our senses seem heightened, when life and death seem more visible than usual. They are a time of change and renewal so powerful, so apparent, we cannot ignore it. 

Out of all the months, October and March are probably the most powerful for me for a number of reasons. But let's talk about March, since she is here and keeping all the attention to herself right now. 

March is chaotic. And she is moody. She is unpredictable, and a little... insane. She is powerful, and Vibrant. She is like a lioness waking up from a sleep induced by exhaustion and a full stomach after gorging after the hunt. 

I recognize this energy and relate to it on so very many levels. 

On the farm, in my world, March brings a whole lot of work, but rewarding work. But despite it's rewards it can be costly, and it's very sensitive. March brings goat kids, and lambs, sometimes healthy brilliant ones, sometimes ones that are weak, or need a whole lot of help to get or continue thriving. The sleepy times of keeping warm and full during winter are over, and the time of life, and, also, death, comes roaring in. There is that old saying, "In like a Lion, out like a lamb" or vice versa, about the weather in March. For me, I don't remember many years when March did not come in like a Lion, and I'm not just speaking about the weather.

On the animal front, my herd is doing great. Every one is still fat, healthy, beside themselves with excitement for the sunshine and warmer, longer days.

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Ruby and Horace sunning themselves...

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Scarface assures me spring is here...

On the 8th, one of my Pygmy goats kidded for the first time. She had twins. One stillborn, one super weak, unable to stand. She was an excellent mom right away, cleaning her baby, talking to him, and standing for him to nurse. I got him nursing with some effort, and the colostrum and milk was flowing well into his little body. Still, I knew he was a weakling. Very weak. But he was eating like a champ and she was a star, so he had the best chance possible. He got his doses of vitamins, and was kept warm. But he didn't make it very long. I took the loss hard, as I do every time and I immediately blamed myself, because I always immediately blame myself. 

I have saved a lot more animals than I've ever lost, but I quickly forget that and focus only on those losses. 

I mean I took it hard. I am an emotional person by nature. I think this is one of my best qualities but it can also be one of my worst and has sure caused plenty of problems in my life, mostly in my dealings with people and my relationships. I have been learning more self control (slowly!) mostly as I get older, and yes, wiser because of it. Age brings experience, more patience, and more understanding of life. I appreciate it more every single day. 

But as I was in the depth of my despair, I was holding a bottle, feeding a lamb who by all means should not be here at all. And she was eating vigorously, and happily...  

I've fought many battles, and sometimes I win, sometimes I loose. But I choose to fight. No one is forcing me to do it. I choose to fight, and I choose to choose life. I'm grateful for the experiences and for Kevin allowing me to have them. He loves the animals but emotionally he's not equipped either and he doesn't like the stress, or what he sees me go through when it's bad. Although I know he loves having the animals in his life too regardless. 

I realized also how much my illness has taught me. While it's been so easy for me to focus on the pain, the frustration, the depression... It's also been helping grow in ways I never even realized I could. I feel it. It's changed me and all of the ways it has changed me have not been bad. 

The next morning I woke up to Emerald calling for me to get her morning bottle. I was already awake and had been for some time. I was lying in bed, listening. I was worried. Would she call me this morning? Is it later than usual? I refused to look at the clock because I did not want to know. Then I heard from the living room: Baaa. The first one tame, and then as each baa came the level of her voice and urging building. I sat up, looked at the clock. She was right on time, a little early actually. 

So I warmed her bottle, fed her. Then as is our routine now she cuddled with me and the dogs while I had coffee, she got her vitamins and another bottle, and then I decided to put her in her bed for a bit so that I could go outside with the dogs for a short walk. 

It was 35 degrees F when I had woken up at 7 and it was still the same when we went outside for a walk at 9. The dogs were thrilled to be outside and not be cold. Rollie is beside himself with excitement that the squirrels are out and chipmunks... so many critters to chase again! 

We walked down our road so I could check to see if the sap was running.

 Tuesday the 10th, Rollie and I helped Kevin put out the first of our buckets for this year, and then I came inside to rest, while Kevin and Jim finished putting out the rest of the start of our buckets - 50 so far. We've done up to 80 but cannot keep up with the amount of sap. Our evaporator only makes a gallon a day, and that day consists of 10-12 hours of steady burning and keeping the right temperature. So we are airing on the side of caution this year so we don't waste any.

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One of my favorite rituals of March is tasting the cold, crisp, sap and really, the life force of the earth and the tree. I thank her each spring for her abundance. If you do not respect nature, how can you expect for respect in return?

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The sap was indeed running, although the sun was not shining. I love how moody March is during any given day. Sunshine. Nope clouds. Now snow. Maybe rain. Maybe ice. Nope slush. 

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The sap run is just beginning and even though so far, we only make 5 or 6 gallons for ourselves it's still a lot of work. We are always exhausted during March, between the barn, regular chores and sugaring, it's a long, full, day. We often complain (all of us) at how tired we are, how sore we are. But every year we dream of this time, and look forward to it. The good, the bad, the ugly, the sweet. If it wasn't worth it, we would have stopped long ago. 

I can't imagine not living closely with the seasons, or with the earth, or my animals. It's hard work, physically, mentally, emotionally, I've said before it's not for the faint of heart. You either toughen up, or give up. I've often thought it was time to give up, and while it is a time of change for me as physically I am less capable, and Kevin grows older, it's not a time of giving up. I have toughened up, in some ways. But in most ways I am still that highly emotional girl I was when I started this venture 12 years ago this spring. I'm also a lot smarter too. Possibly also, more crazy.

And if there is one gift, one lesson I'm learning now that I wish for every single person, young or old, it is to love yourself fully, any flaw, any insecurity, any vulnerability. Young people, especially girls, spend a great deal of time fighting this. I know I have, and I still do. But I feel an acceptance, and an appreciation growing inside of me for the challenges I can and have over come, that I hope continues to. 

We are all flawed, we are all growing and evolving all the time on our journey through life, and no one, I don't care who they are, knows it all. And while we need to take responsibility for ourselves and our lives, decisions... we also need to accept that every one is human. I read something beautiful the other day that someone said... that to be open to love, you have to be open to loss. It's true, and it's meant on many different levels. Shift your focus from the pain, we all suffer through it in different ways. Focus on the light, and it's always there, even when it doesn't seem like it is.

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I'm so grateful Emerald is stable. She is beyond precious. This picture shows it well, but do you see the smirk on her face? It's very cute - but it's also a sign of something.

As I watched her yesterday eating, pooping, peeing, functioning well except for a continuous limp with her front leg it dawned on me, her face and the leg are neurological. Possibly. She has had both problems since she was born, and she wasn't breathing. So it's possible it's part of her problem or damage caused during the birthing from her positioning, from the trouble the Ewe had with her. She can see, and she is very alert now, and today she was even finally playing again, although she walks like her one leg is a peg. I thought yesterday it was pain I saw in the leg, and that might be. I gave her something for it and saw no response, but I'll continue to treat it for inflammation and pain. But I think also there is a chance it's damage. We will see in time.

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She is improving and eating, and while we are not out of the woods, I'm grateful for both, especially to see her more lively.

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She is such a sweet gentle soul, and she adores the dogs, especially Douglas. I think it's mutual.

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On the 11th at 2 PM, I was up at the barn checking on the girls and noticed Aurora was loosing her mucus plug. It was getting closer. As this is her first kid, and her sister had trouble, I was worried so I wanted to make sure I was there.

And I was there... for hours. When nothing had changed by 7 PM, I did the evening chores and came home to make dinner and feed Emerald again. Jim and I were doing hourly checks. He checked at 9, and I checked at 10;30- and everyone was asleep. Aurora was also just relaxing. I watched her for a while and saw she was OK so I headed home.

After a good warm day, the night felt cool and damp. The air is warmer but it chills you quicker. It was dark outside, but I like walking to the barn in the dark, I know the path and I can see quite well as long as nothing interrupts my eyes (like lights). The stars were SO bright, I couldn't stop looking up. It was an incredible show, like a painting, and with the leaves still off the trees they were glowing through the branches of all the big, dark, sleepy trees.

I knew Jim would check at midnight. His cabin is fairly close to the barn, by our sugar house.  He'd come get me if anything changed yet. I had just fed Emerald again and at midnight was closing my eyes in bed. When there was a knock at the door.

It was Jim. Aurora was screaming.

I ran in the dark with Jim running behind me up to the barn. She was indeed screaming, which isn't terribly unusual and she is very vocal, the most of any of my goats, but when I got there I could see the kid was positioned right but in trouble. So I got down and reached in.  One leg was stuck, so she couldn't get him out. I fixed it and he quickly fell out.

He was trying to get up before he was even loose, I wiped some of the bulk of goo off him, and cleared his nose and mouth.

He went to her and she put her head down and hit him, not a good sign. But while she was pushing him away, she was licking him... I could see her instincts kick in but she was confused. What new mom isn't.

I checked for another baby coming with my hand and did not feel one, but she was big enough for two and she is a Pygmy.

Meanwhile she got up and really went to work cleaning him, all the while talking to him. After a while he started looking for milk, and after a while of watching him struggle, I helped. It took a bit, but I cleared her teats so the milk was flowing well, and got him to suck. He was up but clumsy so having a hard time getting food. She was standing for him but not for long. I got out of the pen and just watched, letting them have space and after some more time, he nurse twice on his own.

Just after 2 she passed her placenta so we were done. He was still nursing. Finally I could sleep.

For less than 4 hours.

Then it was up with Emerald.

The next morning I felt a little zombie like, I had a lot of coffee, and Aurora and her little boy were doing great.

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He's got a fully tummy and he's very fiesty and strong, as a healthy kid should be.

Aurora loves her little guy, she's a great mom. It's heart warming.

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I went up for a quick check again of the baby at 9:30 and I noticed Brie had discharge and had totally pawed up her pen.

I waited an hour and with no change, I came home to tend to Emerald and the dogs, and do laundry... and we started every 1/2 hr checks based on where she was at with it. We were really hoping she wouldn't also wait until midnight!

At 3:30 Jim went up to check since I was in the middle of being crazy - when I get over tired I get hyper, so I was making Shepherds pie, Maple syrup pie, buttertart bars, hard boiling eggs, making the bed up with all new bedding, and doing laundry. I was just realizing I was crashing and needed to take a break when he came right back and got me. It was time.

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Once we got there Brie had a healthy Saanen kid already up, and almost nursing without any assistance. I went in and cleared the plugs from her teats so the milk was flowing free and easy and within minutes he was nursing several times on his own. She was also tending to him like a star, better than I've ever seen her tend to her kids. She always get a little moody with them but this guy she was all over. He's big, healthy, and strong, and I'm grateful for that.

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I was also happy to see that Aurora's little boy was nursing at the exact moment I went to check in on them.

I've also noted that everyone came through the winter quite well since all the does that kidded don't even look like they did, they are still so fat!

Now, back to today the 21st of March. 

It's spring now, and heavy wet flakes of snow are falling from the sky.

I am worn out. But everyone is doing well. Jarlsburg, the Saanen buckling is huge! And Spriggan, the Pygmy buckling is fat and round and making good use of his built in Pygmy "spring" by hopping everywhere and never walking :)

Emerald is doing amazing. Two days ago she started spending the days at the barn because she needs to run around also spend time bonding to some of the animals there, so she spends the day playing with the goat kids inside and comes home for the evening/night. I'll continue that until the night time temperatures even out, hopefully next week, and then she'll move up there. She is growing like a weed and her leg has almost completely straightened out. She has NO limp. I am sure now all of her problems were because of out growing her mother and not having enough room. I am so grateful my hard work is paying off in this happy, energetic, fat lambie.

The sap has not run but maybe one day so far as the temperatures are not on our side. Even when it is above freezing the wind is bitter and cold. I'm not sure what this will mean, whether the run will come late or not at all. If the weather suddenly breaks into spring and does not ever find the happy balance of just below freezing at night and above during the day, we won't have much of a run. We've had almost no sunshine this month either, which has been tough on the trees and every one else.

Now hopefully, I'll be able to write a post that doesn't span the length of 2 weeks! I have many new pictures to share and plan to do so now that things are settling down for a moment. But I wanted to catch up with everything that happened here.

Yesterday and again today, I'm trying to get a little rest. Running on little sleep and lots of work has left me pretty worn out since I am still not myself. But I've been managing better than I would have expected. The dogs are thrilled to be able to rest since they find running around after me all day instead of sleeping all day, quite exhausting :)

I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend! I hope also that the sun comes out soon, we all need it or like the trees, we will also just want to stay asleep. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Full moon of March

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Note: I started writing this post on Thursday the 5th and because I want to get it published so I can move forward in my writing and updates, I'll share as is. So it starts Thursday and finishes off yesterday evening. :)

Yesterday started innocently enough. And actually after not seeing any changes in any of my pregnant girls throughout the night or early morning I decided to just focus on cleaning, maybe do some cooking and prepare for the busy days ahead. I wasn't even going to go to the barn again at noon but just wait and check again later.

But then I did end up going to the barn, all because I thought I heard something that I never did. I thought I heard something that triggered me to trudge the 300 feet through the snow again to check on everyone. 

When I got there, everyone was fine. But I noticed Aurora's babies were moving around in her tummy, changing positions. Then as I stood there and just watched them eat some hay, Aurora had some contractions. Then she went full on nibbling her sides, squatting, pawing at the ground. All major signs of something happening. Her body had changed as the kids moved, and she was even looking at her tummy, nibbling it, and then making faces.

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So I stayed with her for quite a while. A couple of hours past and she had been lying in a nest she had dug chewing her cud, relaxing, so I decided to take advantage of the lull and go home to get some more water and a snack. 

I was so distracted by my thoughts, I was halfway home before I even realized Kevin had plowed for me so I wasn't walking through the deep, wet, melting snow anymore that was up past my knees. I hadn't even heard him do it while I was in the barn!

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I was at home for 3 minutes, I was super quick. As I approached the barn everyone was just milling around outside as usual, and my eyes roamed over them, I suddenly noticed Ruby, my ewe, lying up against the barn wall, flat out, pushing.

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I had thought she wasn't bred until just recently. I decided to double check and found out she had indeed bagged up, but even though I knew she was pregnant I didn't expect her to go this early. 

I did have it in my head that if anything was going to start happening, it would be now... I knew the full moon would stir things up. It always does

My first thought was that I would have to carry her into the barn, and I couldn't do that by myself. The guys were over at the Sugar Shack getting it opened up and the chimney secured because any day now we'll be tapping trees and then making maple syrup. Both Kevin and I have cell phones but the connection out here isn't great. But good enough if I call, he'll know I need something.

But amazingly Ruby got up and ran towards the back of the barn, to the door she uses to come in and when I got back there, she came right inside the barn and went straight into her pen. 

Then one  of the most stressful hours of my life began.

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I have delivered lambs before, and many kids. I have had good experiences, scary ones, terrible ones. But this one, this one was a huge challenge. The lamb was too big. And by too big I mean WAY to big. When it comes to birthing animals you need to call on your experiences, your knowledge (be it first hand or from books, Vets, etc) but you also need to use self control. You have to evaluate each situation to decide when and if to intervene because there is a fine line between, helping, saving a life, or causing trouble. A very fine line. Each situation is different. 

After I watched her for a bit, I called the guys at the sugar house and Jim drove the ATV over to the barn to come and hold Ruby for me so I could feel in there and see what was happening. The first thing I noticed was the lamb needed help with positioning, so I moved it. I also noticed how huge the lamb was. And by huge I mean I had no idea how I could get her out of there without injuring or killing the ewe.

I told Jim to leave, and I backed off a bit to give Ruby space so not to stress her more. She was not in any serious duress at this time, breathing steadily, not panicking. The sheep, unlike the goats, don't love being handled. Especially the ewes when they are lambing. So I didn't want to stress her more than she was.

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Horace says, he's glad he's a boy... and neutered.

Then panic set in. I was dangerously close to loosing both of them. The Vet would not be able to arrive for 40 minutes or so if called, way to long. 

As my emotions fell down on me like an anvil I decided I had to trust in the Gods, and do my best. I didn't call for help from Jim again, I called on help from a different, non physical source.

I wanted to handle Ruby alone, because I wanted the least stress possible on her. Now, keeping in mind that I've been sick for so long and had two major surgeries on my body that I'm still trying to get over, somehow I summoned physical strength I didn't know was still in there. I somehow managed to hold on to Ruby, who didn't want to be a part of this but had no choice, and work on getting the lamb out. I was afraid of injuring her but at this point it was do or die. Obviously you can't just go in there and yank, but I needed to give it my all. I got one leg free and realized this time the other leg was stuck, so I moved it, and pulled it out. Ruby was not helping at all at this point.

Once I had both legs out, Ruby finally stopped trying to get away from me and started pushing but the head was stuck. The lambs head was HUGE and it was the problem. Even with the legs out. I just kept working it gently but firmly with my hand to get the head moved and finally, finally, I pulled both legs with all of the strength in my body with one hand while the other one guided the head so that Ruby would not get torn, the head not get twisted around...

The lamb slid out gently and onto the ground.

I opened her mouth, got her breathing quickly, and she took a giant gasp of air. Ruby got up and ran. 

I fell backwards catching myself on my hands. I was out of energy and emotionally exhausted. I let a scream of shock and alarm out of me that came from somewhere deep inside of me. The fact that both animals were alive scrambled my brain. I've had mothers come close to loosing their kids, or have still borns, or have them be positioned wrong and stuck, but none of those were anything compared to this. I have never come that close to loosing both the mother and baby so fast. It's hard to describe.

The lamb was up on it's feet within seconds, I couldn't believe it. And she started coming straight for me so I got up quickly and got out of the pen to let her mother tend to her. Ruby is a first time mom, and those are usually the toughest for birthing and also for deciding whether or not the doe or ewe will care for her young or not. Some of them have no mothering instinct and absolutely will abandon them especially if they suspect weakness or any defects. It's just nature. And I am one for respecting nature, giving it time to work, I've learned that lesson of acceptance slowly, over many years, but on my farm, my animals are here because of me, they are my responsibility, and at some point I need to make a decision. I won't just let nature take it's course and let an abandoned lamb or kid die, although I've been given that advice before... I've never taken it. I also don't run a big time operation here for meat or dairy, even then I'd always choose life, but especially on our farm, and in my world, there is no option of just leaving things. 

So I watched and I waited. The lamb went to Ruby but Ruby kicked her, and ran. I sighed because I had a feeling this would be trouble. I gave it more time and this kept up. If it was warmer outside I would have left them even longer than I did but it wasn't warm enough and I knew what was coming. So I tried to get Ruby to accept her, allow her to nurse, without annoying Ruby anymore than she already was. My efforts failed, and I knew it. I've been here enough to know when they have failed or when someone is being stubborn. I've forced does to nurse kids they have abandoned which works fine, but you also end up with a kid they usually will not allow near them when you are not forcing them to stand for the kid (I'm using the term kid here since mostly I have goats) so I decided in this case it was time to respond to the situation.

I called for help again. Jim came with the ATV, got me what I needed, and then held Ruby while I milked her to get colostrum. I didn't get very much, but some is better than none.

Then I ran the 300 feet home carrying the lamb in a blanket rather than riding the ATV because I was in a hurry. The lamb was soaking wet, had not been tended to at all, and was shaking now. I needed her dry, warm, fed, and calm. 

The next little while was just chaos. I had planned on cleaning that morning, cooking a big meal in the crockpot so that we'd have leftovers, getting all my bottles ready just in case (for goats) and etc. etc. Since none of that happened, I tore around trying to find what I needed, trying to dry off this baby and clear her eyes, mouth, and get the fire going in the wood stove because it was out.

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She took the bottle right away without even a seconds hesitation. I'm not sure I've had any bottle baby take the bottle as fast as her.

Oh yes, that's right. HER. Later, when things had calmed down we checked again because I thought it couldn't be true. Usually if I end up with a bottle baby it's a boy!

The dogs were beside themselves, they love babies, and they just wanted to clean her. After I got her fed and as dry as I could, I put her in about the fourth towel and Jim got me a big box and some hay for her and then went back to work with Kevin. 

The lambie fell asleep in my arms so I just stood there for a long time, letting her sleep, snuggle, feel loved, calm, and safe. She'd been through a lot. 

The evening consisted of me using my emergency frozen pizzas. I buy a couple at maple syrup time because when I'm having babies in the barn and we are boiling sap for 12 hours a day, if I forgot to put the crock pot on, or didn't make dinner, we'd be mighty hungry. We have a ton of food in this house but it all needs to be cooked, I should have more freezer meals prepared but that hasn't been possible lately with my health.

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It's also not that easy to cook holding a lambie! But it can be done...

Afterwards, I milked Ruby again, and was pleased to see she was up, eating. Not bleeding any more than she should be. Bright eyed. 

By evening Aurora had not changed at all since her earlier antics. No change in her appearance and she seemed to forget that anything was happening. I honestly think part of the reason for her antics was to keep me in the barn. Had she not been acting strange, I would never have stayed up there. Ruby wasn't even on my radar for lambing. I truly believe that.

After the animals were all put to bed and fed, and the people, I showered and held the baby until finally she allowed me to put her in her bed to sleep (she'd fuss every time I tried) and I was asleep shortly after.

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And she let me sleep for a while, which was nice. Goat kids will go to bed, usually by 10 PM a bottle goat kid (young enough) will sleep and usually they sleep all through the night. But the only other lamb I ever raised which was Braveheart, had me up every hour. He was sick of course, but still, I didn't know what to expect.

At 6 AM the Kakarikis birds started Kaking. This woke me up, and then right after I heard baaing. I got up, looked at the temperature outside, 6 degrees F. I noticed the Wild Turkeys were sleeping in the driveway just past our garage, by the garden. 

I heated up some milk while the lamb, named Emerald since her mom is Ruby, hopped around the kitchen happily. She took her bottle right away and filled up. She was happy to greet the day. I was exhausted, but happy to see her so full of life and not weak, she was running around on our floors without even falling over already which is a big feat, especially when you are a new born on stilts. 

I put the coffee on, and went up to the barn to check for babies especially since it was chilly out. When I got there everyone was still sleeping and nothing interesting was happening. Ruby was up, bright eyed still. 

Back at home I had put Emerald in her bed and thought I would take a cup of coffee back to my own bed to lie there quietly and read for a while. I knew I wouldn't be able to go back to sleep. But as soon as I lied down, she started calling for me. I wanted to try and let Kevin sleep, so I got up, closed the door and went to the living room with her. She quickly fell asleep in my lap in the recliner without ANY fuss and she slept, and I drank 4 cups of coffee.

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I was able to get more colostrum out of Ruby Thursday morning and Emerald drank it all, which made me feel so relieved. The colostrum, first milk, is essential to life. I've been lucky enough to have both a goat kid and a lamb survive that never got it - but Braveheart was a struggle to save and he lost high eye sight, and Sammy, my heart goat, who came from a big dairy operation, had horrible joint deformities and problems because of it. Emeralds systems started working very quickly after her first feeding Wed night which surprised me, she peed which was fine, but she had her first poo almost right away and it was a healthy first one, which meant the colostrum she got worked, but I felt a lot of relief giving her even more the next morning. 

So Thursday and Friday were fine, tiring, busy, but fine.

Then Saturday morning Emerald was her usual self, and after breakfast she was lying on me sleeping with the dogs while I had coffee. She peed on me. I thought it was awfully strange since she had always told me previously she wanted up, and then she'd pee. But she was out like a light, clearly dreaming and I thought that was why she did it. And at first I didn't even get up, I sat there with my pants wet and let her sleep more. But then she did it again.

By then I had noticed her nose felt awfully hot too. I got her up and could see something drastic had changed in the past 1/2 hr.

I still have no idea what happened. She had none of the usual symptoms of any of the usual or expected things that would affect a newborn lamb, especially an orphan. She crashed fast, and HARD. Honestly I don't think I've ever had that fast of a decline and I've had a lot of bottle babies and sick ones, from other farms, or mine. I've also raised a goat kid and lamb that never got colostrum, Braveheart who got an infection in his blood and went blind, and Sammy who came from a big dairy farm and had some type of infection even the Vet's couldn't figure out. I saved both of them through a lot of effort - and many times they were on deaths door. But this was so shockingly fast and so not obvious as to the cause I wasn't sure how to respond.

So I spent the entire day covering all my bases. She got a shot of penicillin, Vitamin A &D, Selenium. She got oral Vitamins, electrolytes via syringe. She got something to settle her stomach. She got multiple temperature checks and also an enema (those things she especially did not appreciate.)

She couldn't lift her head, would not take food. She was accepting the electrolytes via syringe but not without a fuss.

Then finally at 7 PM, she was in her house sleeping because I had just finished dinner... and she woke up and asked me for milk, on her own. And she ate it.

Since Saturday, she has been eating very aggressively and very well. Her systems were not totally normal on Sunday, Monday I started getting a little movement of poop and more pee but lots of mucus, of course because of the upset. Today her poops are perfectly healthy. This is a big marker of how things are inside of her. She's also held her pee while sleeping on me until I let her up. She's still quite lethargic however. But we've made it this far which has been a huge achievement.

Yesterday I had a particularly hard morning on the farm, and lack of sleep and my already struggling body doesn't help. So I took a walk, and ended up sitting in a tree, with a cup of coffee. I walked to that tree through snow up to my waist, but it was worth it.

I sat there and I listened to the birds singing in the trees, the first sounds of spring, of the change that is in the air. Of new hope. New life.

I have learned a valuable lesson or at least I am learning it, finally. I have realized all of the losses I have had in the past and been through with any of my animals be it through rescue or on the farm, as difficult as they were, have given me not only a greater knowledge but also a higher intuition. As Kevin was preparing to deal with my likely heartbreak again on the weekend, which we've had enough of because when caring for animals it is inevitable. This stuff is not for the faint of heart... I realized even though I am fully invested as usual in this lamb, I have to accept only the things I can control, and release the things I cannot. That might sound ridiculous but it can be so hard to accept. I'm not saying I am there, but I am suddenly aware of it more.

If we cannot accept it, we cannot have peace. Every animal I have ever lost is in my heart, especially the toughest ones that I fought to save. I have always looked at that as only pain, but suddenly I realize in it's own way, it was also a gift.

I know I am doing all the right things, and I know Emerald has as strong a spirit as any newborn I've ever met. Together I hope we can get through this.

I'm ending this here for now, because she is asking for a bottle! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hello world!

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I started working on this post weeks ago and never finished it even though I have been meaning to, and trying to.

 January was a very rough month for me, and February, although *knock on wood* I'm slowly catching up to where I was before in November and early December.

I had a major set back when my Doctor changed the medication I have been on for a year. It was changed at the end of November and for a while things were OK but then things got really out of control very quickly. My entire body went into a flare up with symptoms I've never even had before and old ones stopping in to visit. We did blood work, a CT scan, and took me off all the new meds (3 of them) and put me back on the one I was on originally and after a few weeks of that, things slowly started to calm back down and by slowly, I mean slower than molasses in January.

It was really trying, physically, and mentally for me. It was like going back a year in time pain wise and everything was out of control. This is all due to a problem we've not been able to manage properly yet through surgery or meds, not the main issues that my surgeries either greatly improved or completely fixed. We haven't been able to fix this issue but we know for a fact now that the medication I've been on, while not making it go away, has obviously been keeping it at a more manageable level than any of us (Doctors included) realized.

Finally now I've been coming around although I'm still really tired, and still managing some symptoms, I'm starting to get back to where I was which is to say I am functioning a lot better, can at least get up and out of bed, and am not in uncontrollable pain. And along with that, my mind is waking back up. My mind, my creativity. I can finally think again clearly to write, I'm cooking more, I'm able to draw, get to the barn. So I feel a lot more motivated, inspired, and more like myself.

Finally I am rejoining the world again! It was stressful emotionally for me because I wasn't sure what was happening, or why, and neither was anyone else. It's emotionally draining when you are so consumed with what is happening to you that you can't see past it. But this has been a great time of learning for me as well, learning to stand up for myself better when it comes to my health care, learning what is going on with my body better, and learning how to teach myself better coping mechanisms as I move forward. So it wasn't all in vain, although it would never have happened had my new Doctor not changed my medications. I've still got a very long journey ahead of me, but at least I can see the road again, I was walking blind for quite a while again.

February was a very cold month here at the farm and this year we did not get our usual January thaw or one in Feb. We usually get at least a couple of days of warm temperatures where we can clean in the barn and things thaw out a bit. Last winter was brutally cold but even then we had a break, this Feb it was cold and stayed that way. This winter our well froze for the first time ever (it was easily fixable thankfully but still!) The water to our barn froze for the first time ever to the point where we have been unable to use it for over a month. Our mule (ATV) froze - the engine. We've never had that happen in 7 years.

But just now, it's breaking a little bit, the sun is starting to come back... Even though March has just arrived you can feel the change in the wind, it's not bitter cold, but it's that damp March wind that is warmer, but makes you chilled quickly when it's blowing. And even though March threatens to bury us in snow and it's completely unpredictable, at least we know spring is coming, we don't just know it, we can feel it.

Things on the farm leading up until now have been typical for winter: basic and routine.  Just... survival. The animals get fed and watered and kept warm, fire wood is cut and stacked, brought into the house and thrown into the wood stove to keep the house warm. Meals are prepared and minds are to be occupied. These are the times during the busiest seasons, part of us looks forward to. But during that time it's impossible not to long for the excitement of the seasons ahead. 

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It's been the same in the forest, everyone has just been trying to stay warm and full... and be patient.

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The Woodpeckers...

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Wild Turkeys...

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And our Deer friends. This picture is from January. We only have two or three deer now, which is quite alarming. But our turkey population is higher than usual.

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Every day we have a group of Males, and a group of females that come through past the house, and stop to eat seed. The wind is scattering the seeds off the Sumac trees which is a favorite of everyone.

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The little dogs are more than happy to, and actually prefer to, spend all day in bed. When I can't do anything they sleep with me constantly, get up for pee breaks and meals and that's about it. It's so bad that when I am feeling better and am up most of the day or all day, they actually get really annoyed! Douglas just puts himself back in bed, and the Chihuahua's go from bed to the wood stove, to their  new recliners. We got a new King sized bed and a bunch of furniture in December after Christmas and it just arrived the second week of Feb. Everyone is extra spoiled now!

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But when it's warm enough they come with me on short walks which they enjoy, as long as they get to come home and go back to bed!

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When we were out the other day I noticed there were Coyote tracks very near the house next to the turkey freeway. I found scat as well, just below the house by our garden. Hopefully he was just passing through.

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The little dogs also enjoy going up for a visit to the rest of the family... 

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Jackson had gotten his halter off because I had it so loose... when he gets it off like this (which he
does every winter) he thinks he's a wild man. I used to take it off completely for the winter but I leave it on loose now because he likes to think he's a wild horse without it on... as soon as it's on, he's calm, collected, and sweet as usual.

He wouldn't take any treats from me that day because he thought I was using them as a distraction to fix his halter (I was, but don't tell him) and he was very suspicious of me and my "gifts..." they needed to be left for him in his bowl to collect at a time of his own choosing...

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But no one else had a problem taking the treats!

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And they even shared with each other... kind of!

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Got more?

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Lavender and Beatrice

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Braveheart and friends...

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Douglas feeling very tough, from this side of the gate....

(I wanted to share this picture but I want to add this was taken several weeks ago, we've gotten a lot more snow since then in case you've wondered from the pictures!)

Now things are slowly starting to build up at the farm. Kevin and Jim are getting the sugar house ready as soon it will be time to tap. We made a trip a couple of weeks ago over to Vermont to Leader Evaporator company to buy some more supplies, including a 65 gallon tank to put in the back of the mule which will be easier to carry the sap from the bush to the sugar shack in. We have several barrels we use for this now, but they are heavy and spill quite a bit. There is a lot of work to be done to get ready and if the weather man can be trusted, the sap may run in the next week or so.

I have goats due anytime now so I have started midnight barn checks to keep an eye on everyone. I have three does bred for early March, two who are first time moms, and one doe bred for later in the month. Dahlia, my oldest Pygmy doe was with the buck, but so far aside from being chubby (which is normal for a Pygmy anyway) she's showing me no signs that she is bred, so time will tell.

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I'm very excited and very nervous as usual. I think I'm always more stressed out than they are. While I'm tired and not as strong physically, it feels so good to be walking up to the barn by the moonlight in the brisk air once again. It feels... normal. It reminds me I am still me, and things are still moving forward, the seasons, the days, that there are exciting times coming again. Life is still moving forward.

There are a few things on this on this farm, in my life, that make me feel like I am surrounded by magic. OK, there are more than a few, but a few that every year never get old, never seem just normal and basic, but always seem like suddenly I've been transported to a fantasy world. Walking to the barn at midnight in the cold snow, without a lantern because the moon is lighting my path... being greeted at the gate by my big dogs to walk with me through the snow, that is one of them. My senses are heightened, my mind is at that time (unlike the rest of the time) completely silent. I feel most alive, and most happy then, more aware of my blessings, my surroundings, the elements.

It's a gift. Just as the first time each spring the Whip-poor-will sings outside my window, or the first firefly lights up. Yes it's nature, it's a primal rhythm, but to me, it's also pure magic.

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The first night I started midnight checks really freaked Max out. He knew it sounded like me, and smelled like me but he had to really check me over closely to make sure some intruder had not stolen my jammies and was just pretending to be me.

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The dogs love it. They love the extra snuggle time and usually a treat, and they always like to show off what good guards they are for me, showing me who can run the fastest.

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Cold moon light...

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My target date for my two first time Pygmy moms and my Saanen, Brie, is the weekend. But I'm anxious about all of them and checking relentlessly because you never know. Aurora and Firefly are for sure pregnant, and nicely bagged up. Fireflies babies are making a lot of fuss, and I think she's closer than Aurora. Their sister, our midget Puffin, of course was not bred as she's way too small still.

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Every evening at bedtime, the dogs get a special treat either before dinner, or with their dinner, and every night they get pretty excited about it...

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They appreciate variety as well.

They love winter and actually do best in the cold. They have a house to go in of course with bedding and both of them use it from time to time, but this is their favorite time of year. I think Flavious has more hair on him than the sheep do!

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We've really been lucky the last few nights with great sunsets and clear nights.

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Last night of course the moon, and Juniper, were pretty awesome.

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Flavious under the moon...

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Today, it has been overcast and quite damp. Now it's snowing. We are supposed to get 5 inches but the weather man hasn't been right many times this year, so we'll see.

I washed my hair with a new shampoo... I switched from my usual lime to a coconut and everyone was pretty interested in checking it out. Lavender climbed on my back to get a good whiff of it...

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And then Dahlia who always grabs and sucks on my braids....


She has never actually snipped it before, but today she cut almost the entire end of one braid off. It actually took me a second to realize what happened as I stared down at the hair in my hand.

If you want a hair cut, she's now accepting new clients.

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Since the bucks are not hormonal anymore and are completely calm, Henrietta, the hermaphrodite has taken over as herd leader. Since I lost Sammy, my heart goat, last winter, things in the herd have been different. He was the boss of everyone, and he ran a tight ship. But since he passed no one has taken his place so it's kind of up and down as to who is in charge or who is being the most bossy on any given day.

Henrietta has tried to rise as the leader on a couple of occasions which is interesting because she is usually picked on by everyone. Henrietta's male hormones actually are stronger than her female, but since she looks more female or at least did when she was born, I've always referred to her as "her." I know, it confuses even me.

Anyway, she has never won the position, but with the bucks being real suck ups without their hormones raging and the females not caring right now, she is currently bossing everyone around. Puffin is the love of her life so she spends most of the time following her around.

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Rollie is just content to watch movies and snuggle inside where it is warm. At least until the grass is visible again.

I promise to write, even when I don't feel as inspired, because I think it's important for me, and I'm so grateful for all of you, for caring, for reading, for sharing in my world here. And with hopefully many tiring but great days ahead on the farm, I'll have much to share!

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