Reflecting on Life and Death on a Family Farm

| 3/3/2019 8:24:00 AM

White Wooly Sheep And Lamb 

It’s noon on a rainy, cold day in February and my son and daughter-in-law have brought in a newly born buckling goat. He’s having some issues: difficulty latching on to nurse, some fluid in the lungs, possibly something going on with his front legs. But I already know not to get attached, not to take cute little photos of him and post them on social media with excited captions, “Look at the new baby!” Because death is still too close by, waiting for a shot at him.

That has been one of the hardest things about moving from my previous life to the small family farm in rural Maine, where we live today. I had to learn that death is always happy to grab what it can, every chance it gets. I had to learn the reality of that old expression, “If you’re gonna have livestock, you’re gonna have dead stock.”

Fortunately, my daughter-in-law was a vet tech, attended vet school for some time, and she quickly passed a feeding tube, made appropriate assessments and has handed off a well-fed, but possibly hypothermic little buckling to be wrapped up and warmed inside my house robe for the day, while I write.

I have been a human heater for piglets, turkeys, baby chicks, lambs, and goats thus far. I’ve worn injured chickens in my sweatshirt and baby turkeys in my bra. I’ve carried lambs in a hurriedly rigged baby sling. I have held those babies for hours, willing them to life. Sometimes I win, sometimes death wins.

But it’s a fact of farming if your farm includes animals.

3/6/2019 8:57:54 AM

Lovely essay - thank you!

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