Sunday, October 23, 2011

raddle, remorse, and meat pies

There will be more stories from Antlerstock soon. I'm taking a short break from that story for the moment. I got on that mason jar tear and wanted to post the contest and recipe. Tonight I just wanted to share what has been going on the past week since the big event. Keep you up to date on the joys and drama, and hopefully wake up to some encouragement and kind words, as these past two weeks of the office, workshops, and a visit from my parents has left me so worn out I'm transulcent. If that sounds like complaining, it isn't. Some times this fine life just gets me with its horns, is all.

Atlas is out of the pen and covered with orange raddle. He looks crazy, but is enjoying the big pasture with the ladies. I tried fitting him with the leather harness but it was too large, the wrong size. So instead I put the thick, orange, ink all over his chest (if you only could have seen this moment...Atlas squirming while I held one horn in one hand and wiped sticky chalk on his chest with the other. He didn't care for this) and then let him back to the flock. He's not a giant beast, but he's got the goods and now he's dressed for the occasion. Breeding season is underway!

Do you realize this means Maude will be a Mother?!

Tough decisions are happening with the sheep. I originally thought I would remove Lisette and Pidge from the flock and keep them from lambing. Lisette however, has been packing on the pounds and bouncing back well. She is actually in better shape than some of the others, and removing her from her sisters and bretheren seems not only stressful for the old gal, but dangerous. I have seen what stress can do to a sheep, and since she is healing well and in better health, I decided to give her a go with Atlas.

Her lamb Pidge, however, is in poor shape. Not sick, but so small. She's small because of my inexperience and being too late with some medications and remedies early in her life. I have decided to have her take to slaughter. She's too small and too touchy for my gene pool, and keeping her around isn't good for the future of the flock. A tough decision to cull, but a necessary one. If the slaughter house says she's too small or poor for meat, then I will simply have to cull her outright. I'm not sure I can put a rifle to her. I might just call the vet. I haven't decided. I do know that her brother down at Common Sense Farm is the largest, most beautiful sheep of the season. Raised on grain with a 40+ person full-time staff he looks like the rams in the british breed catalogs. So it's not Lisette's genes I am worried about.

This is a crappy lesson. Some parts of this life just are.
If you're angry at me about all this, trust me, I am harder on myself.

But while the sheep are in a state of flux, they are generally better than they were during the rains in September. Now they are getting more grain, mineral, and everyone got dewormed. They are getting plenty of hay (1/2 more than usual, actually) and gulping their vitamin water by the gallons every day. All seem to be getting back from their misery of rain and heat. Even Sal is 100% healed from his foot business. Maude, despite her attitude, might be tied for the healthiest ewe in the flock next to the Blackface yearling (now two) from last year who is a brick shit house of sheep beauty.

I told myself I'd take it easy this afternoon. I didn't. When I feel stressed out I tend to dive into work, so today I did just that. After my parents left the farm from their weekend visit I opted to go get a load of hay in Hebron and work on a recipe instead of sitting down and reading and sleeping like I should have. But I was restless, so instead I let Jasper out to stretch his legs in the pasture, fed the pigs all the scraps from the Burger Den breakfast I had with my folks, saw to the birds and rabbits, cleaned the chick brooder (there are 9 Swedish Flower Hen chicks by the mud room woodstove now), did laundry, medicated a sheep, set loose a graffiti ram, and then before turning in for the night I am having some pot pie and a glass of wine. Both woodstoves are going strong and the farm is warm, the animals comfortable, the dogs sleeping, and I have a copy of The Legend of Sleep Hollow by my daybed with illustrations by Will Moses. I'll probably read for ten minutes and put on an episode of Buffy to fall asleep to, but the intentions are Martha Stewart pure.

If this post seems erractic, mish-mashed, and tired. It is. But the farm is crawling uphill, the dogs are happy, the coffee pot cleaned and loaded for 4:45 AM, the farmhouse warm, and the farmer managed to once again pay the mortgage and keep her dream on the defibrulator.

More coherence and Antlerstock tomorrow.
Thanks for the eyes and ears.


Blogger Denise said...

Cant imagine Maude being a mother. She's not too old?

October 23, 2011 at 7:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Prayers that you have a restful night...and wake up feeling refreshed and at peace in the morning (though I'm not sure Buffy would have that affect on me)...

My hard working farmer hubs hit the hay early tonight at the same time as our 7 month old baby girl, I personally am going to go pick up the sweater I'm knitting at and pop something soothing in the DVD player...

Thanks for the transparency and honesty you share with us about your life Jenna. I always enjoy reading here. Blessings to you :)

October 23, 2011 at 7:53 PM  
Blogger L-Marie said...

Jenna, please don't be too hard on yourself. There are things that we have to do as farmers that we would never have dreamed we would. Culling a flock or herd is one of them. There are times when such things are necessary for the good of the whole.

I have never known anyone who was new to something and did everything perfect the first time. It is a very steep learning curve. My g-grandfathers words still ring true "You do. You screw-up. You learn. You do again, but right this time". A wise man my g-grandfather.

Sleep well Jenna in the comfort that you are not alone.

October 23, 2011 at 8:00 PM  
Blogger Flartus said...

Sorry about Pidge. But you can thank her for teaching you enough to save future lambs. I guess she is the sacrificial lamb, in that sense.

Maybe it would be easier not to name any new lambs until they're a year old. Easier to kill something nameless, isn't it?

At any rate, I've found that all my problems generally look better by the light of day. Sleep well and know that you've accomplished a ton in the last week...more than most folks can point to in a year.

October 23, 2011 at 8:11 PM  
Blogger georgie said...

L-Marie's grandfather was a wise man. Please don't beat yourself upside the head about Pidge. We all make mistakes when learning and experiencing something new. That is part of the deal. My Dad was making his first remote control model airplane. One evening I heard him in his workshop, alternating between grumbling and laughing. He'd concentrated so hard on the plans that he'd forgotten to flip the wing pattern. He had made two beautiful wings for the plane-both of them right wings. The next planes he made were done perfectly.

October 23, 2011 at 8:23 PM  
Blogger Goat Song said...

You're doin' just fine, girl. :) Just keep your chin up and enjoy the ride.

You have no reason to blame yourself for Pidge; it happens to all livestock raisers. I've been raising goats for a little over 4 years now, and lost 5 goats to sickness this summer. A sixth goat is still on the sick side, but we're in the "hurry up and wait" stage. It took the vets three months to diagnose the problem, and now they say they can't do anything more for my animals. I say all this because things happen. I feel horrid that I lost such good stock this year, but it was a learning experience.

So rest now. And then face life with a fresh perspective. Things happen. It's a part of life.


October 23, 2011 at 8:26 PM  
Blogger rabbit said...

Hard as it may be, Pidge very well could be the instrument of learning-mistakes make us stronger if we let them. As for not naming things.... I name EVERYTHING, my iphone, riley's ipod, pets, houseplants, and I kill the the latter quite readily-not of my own willingness, it just occurs.... Life happens when we're busy making other plans.

I am so amazed by you, and after spending the last week constantly yammering about CAF, Antlerstock, you, the books and blogs, your creatures, everything we learned I'm even MORE amazed! Everyone is their own worst critic but sometimes, especially on HARD days, escapism is the best antidote for hard reality. Recently at work we've been "enjoying" the news of a run of lost animals-some planned to another facility, some for the big sleep.

Life's not fair-a fair is what happens in the fall.

Watch your "year one" video; it ALWAYS helps me.

October 23, 2011 at 8:34 PM  
Blogger Becca said...

So sorry about Pidge, but as you said lesson learned. Here's hoping Lisette's next lamb is as strong and beautiful as can be. Don't be too hard on yourself; you're still learning. And we're learning right along with you. No worries.

October 23, 2011 at 8:42 PM  
Blogger sweetbugfarm said...

Oh, Jenna~
Yes, life on the farm is hard. I knew it so growing up on one and can some it up like this: One day, great joys with brand new baby calves coming out healthy and strong and a beautiful day with a sunset ride on the fast, healthy horse.
Other days, cow shit overflowing your muck boots, a horse kicking you in the ass and a baby and a mother not making it through the birthing process.
I remember it all and can't wait to get back to it~For every good memory there is a sad story to go with it.
Be well and take care of you~mama always needs to come first. There are lessons to be learned, always from this farming/ranching life, and I doubt that any of us has all of them right. Do what you need to do with good intentions and move from there.
You are an amazing woman, doing the work of those 40+ regardless of whether you want to give yourself credit. Keep on doing what you do, we're so many of us holding you up~

October 23, 2011 at 8:47 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

No one is angry with you; it's just farming.
Would you eat Pidge, or let her meat go to someone else?
Hope you will be able to recuperate tonight.

October 23, 2011 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Nicola Cunha said...

Do you takes scraps home from work? I used to work in a restaurant and we had designated buckets that we emptied food into the a pig farmer to pick up.

October 23, 2011 at 9:11 PM  
Blogger Stacie said...

I don't post much on here, but I just wanted to say that it takes courage to be so transparent, and when you take on the role of providing for animals, you sometimes have to make tough decisions. I've been following you for quite a while, and it's clear that you do your very best by those animals, and that's hard, because it also means it's harder when it doesn't work out!

October 23, 2011 at 9:16 PM  
Blogger Megan, Rudy's mom said...

I'm very new to this farming idea and have been reading your blog a lot lately. You have inspired me to work towards this life. Is there any way Pidge can be adopted? If not I'm so very proud of you for doing the right thing! It's mother nature at her worst. I'm sorry you had to learn this way though. Mrs. Potts said,"Cheer up child it'll turn out all right in the end you'll see." It's kinda my mantra when shit starts to the fan in my life. Feel better!

October 23, 2011 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Karen Rickers said...

Jenna, you are an inspiration.

Your days sounds perfect ... except for the Buffy. Sad to say, I have never found that chick with the three names to be an actor of substance. :-D (I lean more towards BBC drama, I guess.) But perhaps she's an acquired taste.

Go, Atlas!! Hehehe.

October 23, 2011 at 9:27 PM  
Blogger rabbit said...

OH! And p.s. YUM Burger Den! <3

October 23, 2011 at 10:22 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Dear Jenna, like Karen said, it's just farming. You have done right by your animals, so forgive yourself for the few times that don't go as you hoped or planned for. We lost our friendliest goat a couple years back, and at the time I tried to remember that even with the incredibly difficult decision to put him down, how lucky I was to have goats in the first place. I know you've wtitten about that feeling too. The hard decisions just come with the territory, but the privilege of being a farmer is worth it, yes?

October 23, 2011 at 10:31 PM  
Blogger Glyndalyn said...

Enjoyed all your recent posts. Glad AntlerStock went well. Your farm will do well and what you described today sounds normal. L-Marie's great grandfather is indeed a wise man. From the Phony Farm in TN.

October 23, 2011 at 10:45 PM  
Blogger Katou said...

Hugs, Jenna and have a good night sleep.

October 23, 2011 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger Misty said...

I have a friend who has become a farmer of sorts. Her fiance always wanted animals. She, on the other hand, having a military background, is more than happy to keep them only long enough to put them on her plate.

On the other hand... your Pidge may have a second chance with someone else. There are numerous kind hearted souls who long to have a sheep or two to coddle. Just a reminder that just because Pidge may not fit into your ideal picture of a ewe, doesn't mean she wouldn't bring joy to someone else. I have rescued animals before and both livestock and I have been happy with the arrangement.

Don't get me wrong, I raise meat animals, too. It's just that some animals are meant to be pets (ie. fiber animals) and others are meant for meat. Might I suggest you ask if anyone would want Pidge first before putting her into the crockpot? There's always more than one way to be a farmer.

October 23, 2011 at 11:16 PM  
Blogger Fresh Eggs Farm said...

Hey Jenna - I just sent you an email. Check it out - Hopefully this would work for you???
Shelby - Fresh Eggs Farm

October 23, 2011 at 11:51 PM  
Blogger redbird_farm said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 24, 2011 at 12:26 AM  
Blogger jenomnibus said...

"a brick shit house of sheep beauty"
Jenna, don't ever stop writing :)

October 24, 2011 at 12:26 AM  
Blogger redbird said...

I’m trying to picture Atlas orange…you’re a top notch sheep wrangler by the way. Rest up, and remember that Pidge is just one part of being a shepherd-which you are.

October 24, 2011 at 12:31 AM  
Blogger daisy said...

So sorry to hear about dear Pidge. Is there no educational farm that would take her? I'm thinking if she's small, she might be good for a farm where schools come to visit.

Hope you had good slumber and that all is better today.

October 24, 2011 at 7:03 AM  
Blogger kate said...

Jenna, carve out time for you. Maybe pull something out of your design study past. Go see a local theater production. There are many in upstate NY and in VT, MA and CT.

I can't imagine that situation with Pidge......, and I like that you are sharing your experiences with this tough decision.

October 24, 2011 at 7:11 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

Keep at it, gal! Sometimes the rocks in the wheelbarrow get heavy, but remember, you're moving mountains a little at a time and your doing a great job at it! You truly are an inspiration!

October 24, 2011 at 7:20 AM  
Blogger Teresa H. @ Oak Tree Farm said...

Whatever you do with Pidge (finding her a new home or sending her on to be processed), please don't be so hard on yourself. Think about how far you have come from your very first days and attempts at farming life. Each new type of livestock poses it's own challenges and there's a good deal of "learning by doing" involved in that process. Sometimes, you even can do everything "right" or by the book, and you can still be challenged by the results. This cyber-community is very proud of you and we appreciate your candor, Jenna. So, keep up the good work and know that you have our continued support and good wishes on your farming journey.

October 24, 2011 at 8:02 AM  
Blogger Kate said...

Jenna, I think something was in the air yesterday. I was in a bad place too. After being up at your place it was hard to come back. The things that weren't going well still aren't going well. But today is crisp and new. I have two, three, maybe 40 projects to work on but the funnest is to keep coffee hot in a glass jar. You are a force to be reckoned with. Nothing can change what your blog does for people who gain inspiration and fun from reading it. Like, me in the crap mood I was in yesterday but then thinking about how to keep coffee warm! I'm sorry for Pidge. Life really isn't how we'd like it to be sometimes but the gifts of this world will come and soothe you. Your friends, your dogs, your horse and the crisp air that carries away grief and fear.

October 24, 2011 at 8:23 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Ah yes, the Burger Den. Yummy! I had to laugh as my coffee pot is set for 4:45 too.
If the slaughter house determines Pidge to not be large enough you might be able to find her a pet home. Otherwise you know what to do for her and for your farm's financial security. This is the part of farming that we don't like to think about but it is also part of the responsibility we take on with animals.

October 24, 2011 at 8:33 AM  
Blogger katiegirl said...

I'm sure Maude will be a fine mom! Most of those more standoffish ewes make the best moms because they're protective and attentive. And Pidge should be fine ot process, even if you had to have the meat ground. You can keep the bones for stock, and keep the hide to be tanned. You can sell it or keep it and have Pidge pay you back for all the hard work and time you put into raising her. There's a tanner in PA that does a great job for a reasonable price.

October 24, 2011 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Sorry about Pidge - that's always so hard. But I also think it's great that you recognize and are making the right decision. Too many new-to-farming folks just can't seem to get their heads around culling, and frankly it's one of the most important and necessary things we do. When you're deliberately making more of an animal over and over, there's a responsibility to act as nature would and remove the weakest and sickest.

October 24, 2011 at 9:37 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Jenna, it's that time of year for sure. My little ram Earl is having a time keeping up with his 3 girls right now. Every time I look out the window, he's jumping on one of them. So there will be lots of spring lambs all over. This is exciting! I am so sorry about little Pidge though. But you are doing the right thing. You just can't keep a sickly animal. Not good for the animal or you. You have done all you could do.

And I went to bed at 8 last night myself.

October 24, 2011 at 10:09 AM  
Blogger Mindy said...

I think farming, at any level of experience, is a lesson in heartache. There are things you can do and things that are simply out of your control. There may have been things you would do differently with Pidge you didn't do then but would do now. That's expected. How else do we learn if not to make mistakes?

Yesterday I had a third meat chick in a week killed by the adult layers that live in the stall next door. The chicks got in through a hole in the chicken wire that I'd noticed but improperly fixed. I should have done more to fix it, I should have known better - all of these are should haves that run through my head, costing me sleep and filling me with guilt.

But that's farming and that's our farming life. We'll do it better next time.

October 24, 2011 at 10:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maude? A Mother?!

;) Maybe it'll bring out her good side!


October 24, 2011 at 10:44 AM  
Blogger Tiffrz-N-Kidz said...

That's a tough decision, and it's no fun, I know. I have an ageing ewe that's having a rough time. She's a favorite of the breeder that I got her from, but probably soon she is going to have to transition into mutton stew and a rug. The breeder would prefer I euthanize and bury her, but I feel that anything less than salvaging her meat and hide would be wasting her existence. If anyone expresses negativity towards you for your decisions, they need to get a life of their own. Or buy the lamb off you. :-)

October 24, 2011 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger doglady said...

Jenna, I just had another thoughtand I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner. If Pidge isn't big enough for traditional lamb meat why not have the slaughter house grind her bones and all into dog food. A lot of us pay good money to feed our dogs raw meat and here you have some you don't have to waste.

October 24, 2011 at 1:17 PM  
Blogger Zelda said...

Just a suggestion, but if Pidge was on antibiotics for more than a few days, I'd just go ahead and put her down without trying to salvage the meat. You wouldn't knowingly buy meat laced with significant antibiotics, so I'd say the same thing for any animal, including one you raised. We had to do this with a calf a few years back, and while I hated wasting the meat, I've got to say that I knew how much medicine we'd put into him and it made me a little reluctant to dine on that meat so we chose to forego it. I guess an adoption as a "pasture pal" someplace might be the best option. Either way, you have done your best and there is nothing wrong with either slaughter or adoption.

October 24, 2011 at 2:14 PM  
Blogger PhysicsFysh said...

I won't judge you for what you ultimately decide, but my first thought when you were describing Pidge was that she might be able to find a home with a famer who dabbles in agritourism. It's pretty popular among families down in the DC area and animals like Pidge might be just right for petting and introducing youngsters to animals.

I'm not squeamish about culling, but I'm the kind of lady who tries to find new uses before cutting losses. XD

October 24, 2011 at 3:08 PM  
Blogger Kelpie and Collie said...

Forgive me if I am wrong, but didn't Jenna say that Pidge was not sick- just small? She's still quite young. It's doubtful given her breed that she would take this year is bred, and by next year, you may see a different sheep. My lambs from last year were small, but you should see them now.

October 24, 2011 at 3:28 PM  
Blogger Ohiofarmgirl said...

chin up, baby. the hard truth about farming is that not everyone makes it...and not everyone gets to stay. its the way of things. trust it and move onward and upward.

hang in there!

October 24, 2011 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger karental said...

About Pidge - maybe your action/inaction had something to do with her size. Maybe it didn't. Her brother is a poster-Ram, but that doesn't mean she had all the goods. Maybe your treatment has made her better than she would have been. There are runts in most litters, and imperfections occur all the time. Go ahead and learn from the experience, but don't ever fool yourself into thinking that your actions are 100% responsible for all the good things OR all the bad things. You do the best you can, take steps to minimize the bad and enhance the good. Just my half century .02.

October 24, 2011 at 4:23 PM  
Blogger Jasmine said...

I saw the title of your post and was like, what?!?! now she's learning to weave - with back to front warping?!?!? and then I realized that 'raddle' referred to the specialized sheep breeding equipment modeled by atlas, not to the specialized weaving equipment I frequently use of the same name.

Sleep well, and find peace. Its already within you. You're faced with the tough decisions and realities I haven't experienced yet, but when I do, I hope to face them with the same grace and courage you are.
I hope the processors are willing to turn her into meat for you, I know I would feel better about that, than turning her into compost - as great as compost is.

Also - unshorn sheepskins can make lovely rugs, they do have to be tanned tho...

October 24, 2011 at 6:32 PM  
Blogger Elliot said...

Your little sheep was meant to be, and your decision to cull her makes good sense, painful as it is. She has made you a stronger person and a better farmer, and in that sense she will benefit the flock for years to come.

October 24, 2011 at 7:18 PM  
Blogger bookkm said...

It's all good. Sleep well.

October 25, 2011 at 10:42 AM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

What trait in her are you culling from your breeding program? You said she's healthy but small?

Perhaps giving/selling her to a farm as fiber stock would be an alternative to paying a vet to kill her? A small but healthy scottish blackface is a useful animal, breeding stock or not.

October 25, 2011 at 4:24 PM  
Blogger Tami said...

It sucks. Having to make decisions about livestock sucks. I remember when I lost a little ram lamb due to my inexperience. Gosh was I mad at myself! With the angoras I had to decide who to keep and who to cull. Often people were mad at my "insensitivity". Facts were facts. Some just didn't make it in my "breeding" program. I disliked the idea of sending a buck or doe off as a wooler because they could still be bred. Often times people would breed. Maybe you can find someone who wants a sheep just to have. Someone who has a "shepherds flock". Maybe not. It's a learning lesson no matter what you do. I hope a couple days has helped to shake off the blah, the heart ache, the exhaustion. After all, it's October. Your October. :-)

October 25, 2011 at 7:42 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Pidge is not sick now, no. She is however, about 25 pounds, and constantly getting diahrea. Her rump is always brown from a runny bottom.

Someone from Ohio emailed about her, but I'm not sure they will get her. It must be a 12 hour drive up here...

October 25, 2011 at 8:04 PM  
Blogger Meredith A said...

did a fecal sample provide any insight?

October 26, 2011 at 11:20 AM  

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