Sunday, July 3, 2011

medicine to me

Yesterday afternoon I fell asleep in the pasture by accident. I was up there reading, soaking in the view of the mountains between pages. At some point the book was set down so I could shut my eyes for a minute. I lay there, exhausted, taking in sounds of the stream and songs of birds. All the sheep were in the shade of their sheds, far away from where I was resting. Jasper was down by the gate, drinking water farther away than that. I stretched out on the blanket, turned over, and within moments was fast asleep.

I was awoken by the strangest sensation. The grazing of a hoof across my ankle, barely using any pressure at all. It did the trick all right, startled me into consciousness and there standing above me was Jasper. (He looks bigger when you're laying on the ground below him.) The 500 pound pony could have crushed my leg with a hoof and he simply touched me. I sat up, but didn't get up, and he pressed his head against my shoulder. I feel comfortable and safe around this small horse. I know him like I know my dogs, Sal, Maude, and coworkers. He is different than the horses I ride at my lessons, and for this reason. I am with him everyday, we are always together in the pasture. He lets me harness him, lead him, and he will show me how to get around this world with the original horsepower. I regret nothing. He is joy, and when he runs across that acreage, hoofs pounding and head high I feel like I am part of something wild, magical and timeless, a girl who hatched a dragon egg.

I had fallen asleep out there because the day was hot and busy. Meredith, a day intern, came and we threw ourselves into work. We cleaned out the chicken coop, poured a concrete slab, changed out rabbit bedding, ran errands and had an amazing meal of grass-fed beef kabobs with glorious fresh peppers, squash, and sweet onions onions from the farm stand down the road. We worked hard, and ate well, and by the time she left around 4PM I was spent. With the farm recently wound to the correct time: I was looking forward to a book on the hill.

I realized up there that the entire time we were working together I had not one passing thought about anything negative. The work becomes a meditation, and the chores dissolve into the next one. Conversation was light, positive, and happy. Through laughter, sweat, and joint work I felt the same cleansing emotional jog I got building fences with Brett and Diane, pounding posts with James, Chris, and Steve. It is medicine to me, a combination of a light hoof and hard work.

Many have emailed or commented thinking I was talking about my job in that earlier post. I was not. Things are fine there, far as I know.

Plans for the weekend changed. The guy who I hired to deliver me my first full cord of wood didn't show up. Or perhaps he did, and I was on an errand and left. Either way, wood wasn't stacked. And the Pony Cart Pickup of 2011 was moved a few weeks down the road because of a child's birthday party at the location, a blessing actually. Now I have two full days without much plans, save for rehabilitating some weaker charges.

Today I might build a small fenced area for Lisette and her ewe lamb—both are sickly and need special care. Lisette was recovering from her rough Ketosis lambing season, but now has returned to a fame of nothing but bones and skin. Yesterday she was so hot and weak I could walk right up to her and touch her face, feel her weak body, and I had a serious internal discussion about putting her down. Then, at dusk, she was on her feet grazing again. What I do know is she is not a breeding animal any longer, and her lamb, Pidge, is runtish and always ill. On a working farm, even a small one, it is foolish and dangerous to keep animals in your bloodlines. Pidge is always either coughing, gasping, diarrhea-spewing, or slow. She has been caught and medicated, treated, and evaluated endless times with no results. So I am separating them from the flock and getting them both on a course for health. I will have the vet evaluate them and do my best to bring them back to good. But neither will be staying here after they recover. Pidge will mostly likely be slaughtered in the fall and Lisette, if and when she recovers, might do better with a pet flock without the rigors of being part of a breeding flock. If anyone out there wants a sweet Scottish Blackface ewe, let me know and wish us luck.


Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

I am sorry about Lisette- but do know that wool sheep do suffer a bit in the heat. The best thing you can do is let them lay around, keep well hydrated. My Border Leicesters lose weight in the summer, they detest the heat, and since they are not young anymore, I constantly check their body scores. You may actually stress Lisette out more by separating her from the flock. Perhaps bring her in the shed for a twice a day feeding of grain, along with her lamb. The coughing may be worms. Getting a fecal count on both would be good, as this wet summer is a boon for parasites. Also, a thiamine shot for both momma and lamb would be a good thing- will make them feel a lot better. Prayers the gal and he wee lamb feel better soon.

July 3, 2011 at 7:17 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Kelpie, thank you. I was thinking of seperating them for a few days to make sure I get glycol and grain in her twice a day. She is too meak to eat any without being in a pen because the other animals will knock her out of the way. I am thinking of putting them in what will be Atlas's Ram pen. I need to build it for him anyway, and they will have their own small shed and be right next to the other sheep. It feels like the right thing to do.

They were both treated for worms, so I don't think that is the case. But I will have the vet see them soon as possible (hard on a holiday weekend) and give me her opinion. Either way, I don't want them to stay here. The rest of the flock looks like a team of fat haflingers compared to these two.

July 3, 2011 at 7:39 AM  
OpenID notherethenwhere said...

That sounds like a wonderful afternoon, and a wonderful weekend. How wonderful to be woken up by Jasper. I am sorry to hear about the sheep, though. I know precious little about tending to them, but I hope things improve soon.

July 3, 2011 at 7:41 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

I would agree with culling them from your flock. I am breeding my older border leicesters this fall, and then, they too, will go. They are getting up there in age, and they just don't cope with my forage as well as the Cheviots, who look like plump grapes do. Cheviots for me are the bomb.

July 3, 2011 at 7:51 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Every time I see a Cheviot, I smile. How are they as a dual-purpose animal?

July 3, 2011 at 7:56 AM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

They are meat primarily, but I sold all my cheviot wool this year. They are a nice size, hardy as all get out, no horns and savvy. They are a bit flighty, but I sort of like that in a flock surrounded by all sorts of predators.

July 3, 2011 at 8:13 AM  
Blogger Patsy said...

I think Jasper was concerned that you were't upright as you normally are. Horses tune into things.

July 3, 2011 at 9:00 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

Before you have a vet come out to see the sickies, I would take fecal samples in. It's cheaper than a vet visit and can tell you if there are any parasites. Some dewormers don't really work well depending on your area, and it may be that they just need a different dewormer. I really suspect the lamb might have coccidiosis...causes scours and losing weight. Either way, it's not normal for a ewe to lose weight in the summer. And I personally wouldn't give propylene's pretty harsh on their stomach and I only give it when absolutely necessary. I think I'd see about getting the fecal done ASAP. It really shouldn't be more than $10 per sample.

And if Lisette was having a hard time keeping her weight on, it's no wonder her ewe lamb is not thriving. What a bummer! Hope you get it all figured out! :-)

July 3, 2011 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

And I agree w/ Kelpie, vit. B shots are great for increasing appetite.

July 3, 2011 at 9:12 AM  
Blogger Paula said...

Your nap in the pasture sounded luxurious. It's pretty neat that you and Jasper have bonded so well so quickly.

Good luck with your girls, and the decision you may have to make.

July 3, 2011 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Jenn said...

I agree with the idea of coccidiosis. You can give Sulmet boluses or Corid, which is a liquid. Now that you have them penned separately you can check their stool. If they have worms severe enough to cause that much weight loss you might be able to see their dead carcasses, but a stool sample would be best. Also, it won't hurt them to get a vitamin supplement, either liquid or some kind of granular.

I know that you want the ewe to go to a good home and the lamb to possible be a freezer lamb, but a few things to think about are the time and money to fatten them up and the amount of drug residue in the meat. It might not make good economic sense for a working farm. Sounds harsh I know, but it is one of realities of farming. Sometimes it's best to cut your losses and haul them to the sale yard.

July 3, 2011 at 6:48 PM  
Blogger goatldi said...

Don't be too quick to toss the "baby out with the bath water".

Before culling I would determine exactly what the cause is and then evaluate how it will work within my budget, time available and so forth.

Sometimes it is simple as cocci,parasite infestation, feed adjustment (are they the last in pecking order? get pushed away by others at the feeder)and so forth.

A change in management may be all that is needed for them. Good luck.

July 3, 2011 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Jasper waking you up that way, sounds like something right out of some of my favorite horse stories when I was a child! I love the bond you've developed.

July 3, 2011 at 9:05 PM  
Blogger Janet said...

It may sound like a tough decision, but no way should you be breeding weaknesses into your flock by allowing that ewe to breed. If after checking for parasites they don't pick up, then they should go. You're only storing up heartbreak to keep trying after that.
Nice that you and Jasper are sympatico - it pays to spend a lot of time with your horse.
Enjoy this holiday pause - you deserve one!

July 3, 2011 at 10:12 PM  
Blogger westendhen said...

Have you ever tried Probios for Ruminants? It's a probiotic I learned about from a farmer friend when one of our (goat) kids was on death's door. She was up and capering about within 24 hours of her first dose. It's especially good before and after worming to get everything back on track. Good luck! ps - Corid in the drinking water once a month to prevent cocci. :)

July 4, 2011 at 9:20 AM  

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