Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Being a farmer and an entrepreneur is never dull. There is always a vast array of things to do and that need to be done. Throughout the day I literally ‘change my hat’ many times. This suits me fine. I may be tired at the end of the day, but always content and never bored. The summer months are particularly very busy; the vegetables are ripening and calling to be picked and preserved, maturing lambs are ready to go to market, and goat milking is at its prime, bags of wool require spinning. With all these jobs other chores tend to appear, like fencing, egg collecting….I could go on, but you get the idea. Add to this the fact that we live in a rural area that is quickly becoming a prime tourist destination. Running my farm market alone keeps me hopping.
Raising Pastured Lambs
Each season brings its expected tasks and some surprises too. Yesterday required me to do one of the chores I like the least, taking lambs to the abattoir. Our lambs are free range with no shortage of lush, natural vegetation to graze upon. They are healthy, large and quite spirited. Weighing around 100 lbs. each, being approximately 6 months of age and living an unrestricted life, they can be a force to be reckoned with. The evening before I transport the lambs, my husband, Tim, and I put them into stalls in the barn. At 5:30 am the next morning we load them into the back of our enclosed pickup truck. We load them early as Tim has an off farm job and loading these lambs is definitely a two person job. Believe me; I have done it alone. Wrestling one of these lambs when you don’t weigh much more than the lamb is quite a feat! I have also attempted, (emphasis on ‘attempted’), to load goats with the help of our daughter….that in itself is a story for another day!
On this particular July morning, with an overcast sky, Tim backed the truck up to the old log barn. Getting the first lamb in is difficult enough, but getting a couple more in without the first ones escaping is a challenge. We loaded three ram lambs and took a moment to look around in the dim morning light at the rest of the herd. They generally sleep close to the barn being guarded from predators by our guardian livestock dogs. Suddenly Tim called out, “there’s a baby!” My first response was to think he was joking around. Our lambs are born between November and February, with an occasional late being born in March or early April. This is July. Sure enough, amongst the herd, one of our Finn sheep-Gotland cross ewes had a very wet lamb on the ground beside her. Knowing that she may possibly have more, we lead her into the barn and put her in a stall with her lamb. There wasn’t much time to adore the new baby; Tim had to get to work. We drove down to the farmhouse and he headed out in his truck.
Our barn is a good walk back behind the house and I didn’t have time to walk back this morning as I had to get the lambs to the abattoir. Not wanting to stress the lambs in the back of the pickup any more than I had to, I left the truck at the house and went back to the barn with the ATV loaded with my milking paraphernalia for the goats, dog food and grain for the new mother. Of course, I forgot my flashlight. There is no electricity in this 150 year old barn. In the darkness, I could slightly make out the ewe and her new lamb. The ewe was lying on her side, straining. Not having time to return to the house for my light, I gently felt my way in the darkness. She pushed and then stood up. Oh, just the afterbirth I thought and then felt her back end just to be sure. Suddenly, she pushed again and a large black lamb slid into my arms. I lay the slippery baby down, wiped the mucus from its nose and let mom do her stuff.
I went on to milk the goats and complete my other chores before I made the drive into town with the lambs in the back of our pickup. While doing so I thought how peculiar life can be sometimes. Just when I thought my day was starting off with a ‘goodbye’, we unexpectedly find we are also welcomed with a beautiful ‘hello’. Life here on the farm is full of surprises!