Tuesday, October 04, 2011

A Day at the Farm

(Post Warning - this post may be disturbing to some of you. It's about real life on our farm.) Last week, before my knitters arrived, we looked out in the field just after the sun came up to check to make sure the lambs were where they always are at sunrise.  It's a morning ritual on every farm throughout the world, I'm sure. You ask yourself.... "Is everyone where they should be? Is it peaceful? What happened in the dark of night while we were sleeping cosily in our beds." That morning, the lambs weren't up along the fence, where they are every morning. "Oh, no, what is wrong?," I said to myself. "Can't be good." These are the thoughts that go through your head when you are living with, raising and selling livestock. There are constant surprises and things to take care of, research, fix. It's busy just like your own job and family life. 

Sheep are pretty predictable creatures. After Julia got on the bus, we took a walk down in the field, not knowing what to expect. It had been a rainy, stormy night. Like children's books infer, on many of those kinds of nights, bad things happen in the dark.

 

At this time of year, every creature is preparing for winter (like I said last week). It's the time of year when the wild animals are wondering how they are going to make it through the winter. The fawns, the fox kits, the coyote pups, the bear cubs..... they are all growing up and needing to learn survival and life skills. Their parents know this and in the animal kingdom, it must be a wild dash to teach the teenagers how to fend for themselves. The hunting pressure rises and as you probably know, our sheep, lambs, cats, and chickens are prey for the wild creatures. 

I've lived with this knowledge for over thirty years now. But it always sickens me to find piles of wool.....


and dismembered lambs.....


scattered all over the field.....


with coyote scat nearby. 

I used to cry when we would find a dead lamb. Now, I don't cry but I still feel a deep sadness. I also think about the loss of product we no longer have to sell. Life and death is a real part of farm life. Everyone on this hill - in the woods, in the fields, and in the farmhouses that dot the land, has to eat. No matter how hard we try, no matter how much money we spend on fencing, time we spend fixing it, stuff happens. I am not looking for sympathy. This is just something that happens on a farm and we will carry on. Killed lambs means less farm income, something we worry about all the time. 

It is always something here on "Daily Tragedy Farm" as The Farmer and I fondly call our place. (I'm quite sure there are many other farmers out there who have nick-named their places the same.) For a quick fix, we purchased more electric fencing and built a smaller electrified pasture for these lambs to spend the evenings in. All the fence lines were checked and the weak spots where the coyotes dug under were filled in with heavy tree trunks. That really won't help though - it is just a stop-gap measure that makes us feel better. The lambs won't be able to graze the large pastures all night long now. The situation isn't fixed by any means. Coyotes are extremely smart animals, working hard all night long to find the weak link. We're looking into one or two or three of these. I'll keep you apprised, for anyone interested.

The other day I read somewhere that if you write a blog you should always keep it upbeat and positive. Never make your blog a place where people might get depressed, not find joy and happiness and beauty. Always have it be a happy spot. I'm not so sure I am on board with that philosophy. I think honesty is a valued trait and although I choose not to share everything that goes on on a working sheep farm with you all, I do think it is important to show some of the seedier underbelly events of farm life. As a NJ suburban-raised woman living a real farm life, I am sick to death of all the cutesy farm memoirs that are being published by the big houses today. I give each of them a try (having learned to borrow them from the library vs shelling out hard earned cash) but I usually put them down after a few chapters. Most of them aren't honest with the truth of what it really is to live on a farm and deal with the life and death of real life. Tomorrow is another day and another post and I will move on. Sorry if you are offended but this is real life on the farm.

45 comments:

Tora Consolo said...

I disagree with the opinion that blogs should always be happy places. I think that's what's wrong with our society. Gloss over all the bad parts so everyone seems happy. That's not life.

I visit and read you blog often but haven't ever posted. I think I'll make a change and start leaving comments - you're wise to share your thoughts and thanks for a slice of your life!

Diana said...

Thank you for posting this. I, too, get tetchy with the isn't-life-wonderful-hoofing-it-in-nature books/blogs. My son wanted to raise chickens in our backyard after hearing lots of wonderful stories about backyard coops, so I had to tell him about the ugly side of chicken rearing -- that he could come out one morning and find them torn apart by fisher cats or coyotes. And what do you do with chickens when they stop laying eggs? He thought about it and we decided not to do the coop. A couple people thought it was cruel of me to "rain on his parade," but it's the reality of raising animals. You can do everything to care for them, but nature's a stronger foe.

ChickenBetty said...

If I want happy, upbeat non-reality there is a whole section of Fantasy at the bookstore.

We had to have the big talk with the girls about predators last year when we lost 3 hens to a fox or raccoon and then 7 more, needlessly, to a neighborhood dog. Though never easy, it isn't as hard for me to accept the loss when the life of my animal fed and sustained another being. That is, afterall, what we are raising them for.

mary kate witry said...

I'm sorry for your loss, both personally and financially.
As a city girl, I'll ask what is probably an obvious question...do the farm dogs keep the coyotes at bay? are you allowed to shoot them if you catch them going after your livestock?
mary kate

Mary G said...

I know it's hard and sad ... but it is also reality of farm life. Thank you for posting this slice of reality.

Hugs.

Mary G.

katiegirl said...

That's a shame and I'm sorry for your loss. Have you ever used LGDs? They could really help guard against predators.

Elizabeth said...

I am sorry to hear about your loss AND thank you for sharing. I agree with the honesty posting versus keeping everything happy and full of rainbows and unicorns. *hugs*

Lucy said...

Oh I'm so sorry for your loss. It's sad to see these lovely animals become bones, especially when you know these animals.

But there's another way to look at it, as you know, the wild animals have to fight for their own survival, too, and they surely have little ones to feed. Life for them is harsher.

I don't know anything about farms, and certainly not how to prevent wild animals from getting to your farm. I'm sure you're doing your best to protect them.

P.S. I feel so honored that you commented on my blog, Kristin. I know handwash is best, but I'm too lazy... How do you find time to handwash everything you knit?

Jessica L'Heureux, la tricoteuse heureuse said...

Thank you for keeping it real. I too am sick of "Mary Poppins" "everything is perfect and sunny" websites. They only afford to make my real life feel like an utter failure. On my blogs I like to stay honest. It's my life I'm writing about - some is good, some isn't - that's what makes it interesting. Your blog is interesting and informative, and honestly the one I tell others about most. Keep it up!

Susan B. said...

Thank you for your honest reflections on farm life. That is why I read your blog, and I don't read the "always happy" blogs. Real life includes death and loss, and people who want to gloss over that or cover it up are frightening to me. I started reading your blog for the knitting content, but it has become one of my favorites for exactly this kind of post--I, too, grew up in suburban New Jersey, and I appreciate learning about real farm life. Thank you.

MarmePurl said...

In a profound way, I do find joy and happiness and beauty in this post. Nature, in all its gore as well as it's glory is a beautiful place. If these things didn't happen, the balance would be out of wack. I appreciate that you have shared this event.
That said, I can totally understand and relate to the concerns over lost imcome. In the end that is what concerns me the most. All the best to you at finding a solution.

Hallie said...

We are no where near what I would consider "farmers" but we are trying to live a more natural, sustainable life. We've started raising chickens and ducks (both for eggs and meat) and have so much to learn. I thank you for sharing a real view of farming. I think more people need to know what goes into making, caring for and raising the products we use everyday, whether is is for goods or foods we need to know the good and the bad. We too suffered a loss this week due to nature, while not a big investment or livelihood but rather a much loved pet duck. We aren't sure what took him, only feathers were left. As I said, we are new to all this so any info you have on coyotes (our best guess as the culprit) would be much welcomed...


I too had to write about it,not everything in life is rosy..
http://ourbrokenroad.blogspot.com/2011/10/what-becomes-of-broken-hearted.html

I'm very sorry for your loss...

MicheleinMaine said...

Joining in to say how sad it must be to deal with this on a regular basis. It's the 'circle of life' I tell my own daughter, but it's still sad.

I live in a beautiful place, and visitors often remark how it's such a 'paradise.' I smile, and agree that on warm summer days it is indeed quite wonderful. But there is also an 'underbelly' here too, of poverty, ignorance, isolation and just plain hard work to survive during the cold, hard winters (and even in the summers sometimes!)

It is important to present both sides as you do so eloquently. Thank you, Kristin!

Sharon said...

I'll take your honest reflections, good and hard, over the seemingly perfect world others live. Life is hard and that is how I can marvel at the beauty that does surround us. Thanks Kristin.

Margo said...

So sorry for your loss. Life isn't always upbeat and positive so why should your blog. Tell it like it is.

Leslie said...

Ouch! I know this hurts financially and emotionally. I appreciate your keeping the blog honest, Kristin. Meat doesn't come from styrofoam trays nor eggs from a box. it's a shame when stuff like this happens, but as you say, the d*&# coyotes have to eat too.

Just keep on keepin' on. That's all any of us can do.

fracksmom said...

I enjoy your stories, and life is real. You always have kept it real, please don't change the way you blog, the good, the bad and the ugly.


Hope they haven't gotten too many.

Whosyergurl said...

Kristen,
I joke that my blog is the life I wish I had...but recently blogged about my brother being back in jail and the fact that he is a felon. Guess that wasn't too upbeat or happy...but that is where my heart and mind have been recently.
I'm sorry about the loss...yes, part of nature and the food chain.
xo, Cheryl

Lynn Gates said...

Absolutely, I want real life reading. (This is the first comment I have ever left, too.) Granted, I read mostly non-fiction books, and come from 3 or 4 generations of farming families on both sides - I so get it. Your writing also teaches about happenings in your area, which is so far from mine. It's way up on my list, Thank You!

Lynn in Colo.

Robin Allen said...

Oh, those poor little lambs. And poor you! We may not farm, but we feel loss and know what you're going through.

If you weren't real on your blog, I'd never know what coyote scat looks like. But from now on, I'm going to read your posts before I eat breakfast. :-)

Auntie Shan said...

**THANK YOU**!! For keeping "IT" *REAL*!!

hlmauera said...

Everyone has said it but I wanted to add my "Me too!" I appreciate the honest content and I am sorry for and understand your loss.

I read your blog for the farm content, although the knitting content is fun too. I've always considered myself a country girl but real life requires apartment living. I live too far from farm life to get the rich farm experiences, both bad and good. However, I'm honest enough to know that I don't want to handle the responsibility of even a hobby farm by myself. It's blogs like yours that remind me of what I'm missing but also why. It's a lot of hard work and it takes at least a part of every day of your life. It's a serious commitment and not something to be taken lightly...which people do when they don't see the harsher realities.

Cinnamon said...

I don't think you should apologize for telling the truth. "Farming" has been very romanticized and people really don't get what actually happens. I like the honesty and like reading about it, because I want to truly be informed, so thank you. No apology needed.

mary kate said...

It's mary kate again...
As an FYI I noticed that Morehouse Farms has the dogs that you are interested in..perhaps you could contact them about the breeder that they have successfully purchased from in the past?
good luck,
mary kate

Suzanne said...

So sorry for your loss. My Aunt and Uncle had a dairy farm in VT. Things do go wrong and as much preparation as you can do, things will happen that are beyond your control.

Loretta said...

I am sorry for your loss. If I wanted cutesy and fantasy, I can watch a soap. I read your blog because you tell us like it is. You give us a glimpse into true farm life, both ups and downs. Don't change a thing.

Susan said...

Thanks for sharing the bad with the good. I grew up on a farm and while we didn't have many animals, it always made me sick when we had hard rain or hail in August and it destroyed crops. Not as bloody, just as hard. I read your blog to see stuff like this too. It's real life.

Reneelynn said...

Kristin- I read your blog every day that you write, and today was not depressing ,it was a fact of life. That doesn't mean we enjoy it but we try to learn from it, improve what we can, and continue on. Keep up the good work you are on the right track.

Kathy said...

Nope, not offended. Life happens. Like you said, we deal with it and move on. I love your blog.

somebunnysloveDOTcom said...

Thank you for telling the truth. Bunny hugs to you, Mark, and Julia! =:8

sheepyhollow said...

You have my vote...keep it REAL! Farmlife is difficult and joyful. So much depends upon Mother Nature, despite our best efforts. I'm very sorry for the loss of your lambs!

Cindy said...

How about an Akbash?

bookagent said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I read your blog for the wonderful mix of farm life and knitting and wouldn't trade your approach in any way. The link to the guard dogs was fascinating, I had no idea! Something else learned here on a real life blog.

Vermont Grand View Farm said...

Or what about one or two of these??
http://www.mysticmoonllamas.com/

We purchased two last fall and they are wonderful guards!

Jessica said...

Life is not always happy, and blogs should not be either.... but the addition of an LGD or three will always brighten my day (I favor the giant white ones, having a Great Pyrenees myself).

katiegirl said...

Oops, I had to go back and re-read to see you're already talking about LGDs.

Marcia said...

I don't mind when the blog gets "sad" or even "depressing." I appreciate your sharing the realities of your life. It is very interesting to see your point of view.

I have great respect for you and your family.
And I'll miss your yarn too!

Sara said...

I've been reading your blog for years because of the realness of your writing. It is life, good or bad, happy or sad and everything in between. Thank you for sharing your life with us. I am so sorry for your loss...
Sara in WI

phaedra96 said...

I was going to suggest Great Pyrenees but the Maremma are good dogs, too. Either way, some guardians are needed.

carol said...

I love everything you write. So sorry for your loss.

Jen said...

So sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your life with us, the good and the bad. People (and dare I say, Americans) need a good grounding in reality.

India said...

I'd much rather read about real life than bubblegum any day. I'm sorry about the lambs--but I'm a country girl, and I know that this happens. I hope for your sake the loss wasn't too extensive!

Karen at Struan Farm said...

Not offended in the least, and think it's better not to sugar coat it. These things happen, it's life. In New Zealand this sort of incident tends to happen with rogue dogs (we don't have predators like coyotes), but lately we've started to hear about human "rustlers" stealing sheep and cattle. What next, as if farming isn't challenging enough? As we say, "Kia kaha," be strong.

Dianne@sheepdreams said...

We have two Great Pyrenees, who live with our sheep. We are in an area with a large coyote population and the dogs work hard to keep the coyotes out of our pastures. I think I can safely say that we would not have any live sheep here, if not for the guardians who live with them. We love our dogs, but they are farm workers, not pets. I hope you can find a reputable breeder, who will be available to help you learn how to manage the dogs (be sure your dogs come from "working" parents). You can't train them to guard, they must have the instinct, but you can manage them in a way to reinforce their natural abilities. Good luck, Kristin. If you get some good dogs, you'll wonder how you ever managed without them. (by the way-Happy Belated Birthday!--I'm an October b-day, too.)

hidingplainsight said...

Speaking for myself, oh dear. This made my heart heavy too. But I would rather have real life in all it's ways than a cheerful lie...

I love your blog and have been watching your lambs and I feel a loss.

Blessings and watchful guard dog wishes,
Cyn