the long day: part 1
I was up with a lantern and the ailing cotswold ewe moments later. I found her breathing heavy on her side, kicking her legs with a sad effort every few moments. I did as Shelly told me, propped her up on her tummy so her head was up. She let me, and raised her head to look at me. She was still there. I have seen sheep beyond "there" and she was with me. I checked her eyelids. I checked her feces (normal pellets) and I brought the white tub of honey and electrolyte water over to her and she drank, greedily. I handed her a cup of grain and she ate. I gave her more anti-toxin, penicillin and tried to remember a time in my life before syringes and viles of antibiotics filled my fridge.
When she was in an okay place, I fed the rest of the flock. I fed Jasper, the meat birds, and the laying flock. The two male geese (Cyrus and Ryan) were out and about but Saro was on her new nest. They drank the water out of Jasper's bucket and Jasper eyed them through a mouthful of hay. The rabbits were seen to last. They are always last, luck of being indoors when everyone else is out. I checked on by does and found a new fluffy nest of white hair. My Palomino doe had a healthy litter! What a nice surprise on the morning with so much ailment on my mind! I fed my two breeding does, and my buck and Megan's herd in their cages. All the rabbits were doing well. After some fresh hay, pellets, and water refills they seemed to be doing great. Even the new mama.
I called the post office. It wasn't light out yet, but Jeff answered. I asked if any chickens had arrived under the name Woginrich, and they had. I could pick them up at any time. I texted Cathy Daughton, whom I was splitting this first shipment of Freedom Rangers with. I asked her, if at all possible, if she could do me the favor of babysitting all 50 until Saturday morning? I had been up with the ewe and the vet until late, and didn't have time to prep my brooder or a bag of chick starter handy yet. She said of course, but she could come pick them up. I had enough going on with the sick ewe. I told her I wanted to drive them down. Not only did she deserve it for the babysitting, but I needed something to do until the vet arrived around 8:45. I wanted to fill up my time so I didn't pace around worrying. She obliged. and I zoomed out the door with Gibson to the Dodge.
We headed out the door and turned south onto route 22. The sun was just starting to rise. It streaked blue across the horizon and I scruffed his ears. "Welcome to Level 2, son." I said. It was his birthday. It still amazes me that the day he was born I was living in a cabin in Vermont. My life has changed so much since then.
3 miles later we were pulling into the Post Office's empty lot. As soon as I walked into the glass-fronted building I could hear the little red birds. The Freedom Rangers from Pennsylvania were all in their little box, waiting for feed and water. I thanked Jeff, and loaded them into the back of the truck. Gibson eyed the box and then returned his eyes to the road. 50 chickens in the back seat no longer bear much acknowledgment. He is after all, a proper adult farm dog as of the today. Guess he wanted to act like it.
We headed south to White Creek, but first I stopped at Stewart's for Coffee. I almost bought a sloppy breakfast sandwich, but avoided the temptation. I had lost 5 pounds and two inches around my middle since Merlin came into my life. I could run 2.5 miles and wore out a pair of running shoes...I wasn't about to show up to our riding lesson smelling like cheese and bacon when he wasn't even allowed to eat grain. I bought an energy bar instead. I won't give up coffee, though. Not for anyone. I don't care if Merlin was a friggin' unicorn. Coffee's a deal-breaker.
The 52 of us headed south again on route 22. The sun was up now. The truck warm ever since my friend James Daley kicked the right part under the dash by accident that got the fans working again. I turned on the radio and Keith Urban was singing. I sang along. Like many radio songs, you don't realize you know the lyrics. I sang to the poppy country song and sipped by coffee. Gibson hung his front paws out the window and smelled cows, mud, and morning light. I remember thinking how trucks, country music, and dogs hanging outside of windows used to all be considered foreign and other. The trucks and country music were shunned in a faux-class assumption of ass-hattery on my part. Now I can tell a Toyota Tacoma from a Ford F150 at 200 yards. The dog hanging outside the window would be considered irresponsible. Gibson has been rolled by sheep, ran full speed into fences, busted through briars, bled, muddied, and gnashed teeth. He doesn't wear a leash. He doesn't mind the risks. I let him be himself. I smile (but I still hold onto his tail).
We arrived at Firecracker Farm shortly after. The coffee was gone and Gibson leaped out to pee on some nice unsuspecting bush. I handed the box of chicks to Ian (farm manager) and soon Cathy's youngest, Seth came out. He looked like he just woke up (He had) but was game for some poultry farming.
Within a few moments the fifty birds were under a warm light in a new wooden brooder. We chatted, talked about our animals and Tim's trip to Cambodia. Papa Daugton and her eldest son, Holden, were away. It was Cathy and the boys and fifty chicks for the now.
I only stayed long enough to see her pig (beautiful yorkshire gal), and wake up her own farm for the day. Her flock of Wyandotte and Swedish Flower hands colored the lawn like ornaments. They were all fat and happy, twice the size of my birds. If anyone has a way with poultry, it's Cathy Daughton. I beamed looking at her farm. So blessed to know these people, folks I only got to know because of this love of food, animals, land, seeds, and life.
I headed back home with the birthday boy, calling Dr. Shelly on the cell phone as I pulled out of the farm's steep drive. I'd be at the house to meet her before 9AM. I still had a full list of errands, lessons, chores, plans, vets, training sessions and more ahead of me... I looked longingly at my empty coffee cup. Then at Gibson.
"We're gonna need a bigger boat."