(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.