Saturday, April 25, 2009


The Fiddler on the Roof song is going through my head this morning... "wonder of wonders, miracle of miracles"... My lambing adventure if over for this year and it ended with a miracle. It started of course, with Brida and her twins, one of which we lost. Then Draga had her lamb in the middle of the night. She was textbook in her labour symptoms - exactly as they describe it. However, her wee one (also a girl) was born rear feet first and her slower-first-time labour wasn't fast enough and it was born dead. Another black girl but she weighed only 4 lbs.

Freya was anything but textbook. She showed signs that she would deliver within hours - mucous plug and colostrum coming out of her teats last Sunday night. Kaetlyn and I took turns checking on her every half hour. Nothing. Monday I had to go to Salmon Arm with Rhiannon for her music festival. I have never spent such an anxious day and tried my best not to imagine coming home to a dead sheep with a lamb stuck in her.... but I have a very active imagination and I can tell you that I was never so glad to see a dirty white face as I was that night.

So our vigil continued. Kaetlyn was indispensable. She would take the first night watch - usually until 4am when I would get up. Night after night after night. Nothing. On Wednesday, more gel like substance came out. This time, I sent Rhiannon with some others from our violin group as I just wasn't up for the worry. But still nothing.

Until yesterday, Friday, April 24. I had this feeling I wasn't going to make my ballet class... Sure enough when I went to check on the sheep before it was time to leave for dance class, I discovered Freya in the throws of labour (all that night time checking and she has it in the middle of the day!). She walked all over the pasture and would be overcome, lay down and push, get up walk around, lay down and push. Kaetlyn and I followed her around like nervous midwives, offering apples and grain. Finally she came out of the sun, into the shade of the trees and let us get close enough to her rear end to have a good look. I could find one white hoof in the birth canal. I could feel the other hoof back a bit which meant that the elbow was bent and stuck on the pelvic girdle. I fished around for 30 minutes but couldn't loosen it. This is where things start to get miraculous.

My friend, Shoshanna, who spins my wool just happened to be making a rare visit to our farm that day to see our spring babies. She has exceptionally small hands. She got in there and worked the other food out. By now it had been at least an hour of pushing (supposed to take only 30 minutes). Together we pulled on these two legs and stretched her vuvla around the emerging head which was huge. Poor Freya. She pushed and groaned for all she was worth. We could see a little purple tongue hanging out of his mouth and I thought the lamb was likely dead. But then we saw the little nose blowing bubbles and knew he was alive. We eventually got his head out which was so difficult because his little horns were already 3/4 of an inch high. Unbelievable! The rest of him just slid out. Beautiful white boy who weighs 8 lbs. 8 lbs! They both just layed there for the longest time, her licking him off without standing up. We all helped dry him off with towells. We had accumulated quite an audience by this time - Rhiannon, Ursula, our neighbours.

Thank God that Shoshana was there or I am sure I would have had to bury Freya with her lamb stuck inside her. And thank God he is alive and thriving. For all her night time vigils that have allowed me to at least get enough sleep to function, Kaetlyn has named him Avaldi which means "very powerful, old and rare man's name". There is an accent over the A. It is an Icelandic name of course. This Icelandic name, means of course that he is not destined for the freezer. Her is registerable, for one and besides that, I just couldn't eat him after that birth.

Isn't he gorgeous?!

And that is the end of my lamb adventures for this year. In the end, I had 4 lambs - 2 girls and two boys. Both the girls were black (same colour as the dad) and both are dead. The two boys are the same colour as their mothers and both are doing well. And most importantly, all my moms are doing well.

Sweet relief. I don't think I have ever slept as well as I slept last night!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Other Side of Farm Life

I usually avoid posting sad news. Strange. I can handle posting things I am angry about but not so much the sad. Truthfully it has been pathological in me since I was a kid. When I was sick, I hated my mom to tell people I was. I remember once hiding behind the curtains when her visiting teachers came and making her promise NOT to tell! And one time, I didn't tell her I had an ear ache because I didn't want her to tell anyone. I suffered in silence until my ear drum eventually burst... I was thinking about that aspect of myself when I was thinking about this post I think I have to write. A sad one. I hate people to feel sorry for me. I don't know why - I think it is a vulnerability issue - although I have no problem being vulnerable in other ways.... like blathering on like this about my own inner process. I didn't want to write about this sad side of farm life.

Anyways, we have sad news. Our wee black lamb died yesterday afternoon. After originally perking up after her traumatic birth, she slowly got weaker and weaker. I walled Brida and the two lambs into the sheep shelter alone that night to make sure they could get to each other. In the morning when I checked on her, she was very weak - couldn't stand. I brought her in and warmed her up, milked Brida and tried to get her to eat but she wouldn't take more than a tiny bit. When she warmed up, she started panting and got weaker and weaker. Finally she had a big bloody poop that was more blood than poo and died while Kaetlyn was holding her. We were all very sad.

Andrew dug a grave and Dean and I buried her with some snow drops and violets, wrapped in an old t-shirt. I planted catnip and violets on top of her wee grave. Death. Its the other side of farm life.

I called the vet and described what had happened. He said that for her to die so quickly that it was not infectious but something that happened during birth. Which is good as it means that the other lamb is not at risk. So far he continues to thrive, glued to his mama's side and bounding around their pen, greedily nursing.

And so the milking begins. Brida's udder is HUGE!! And her teats are huge, too. I see what the shearer saw in her when he recommended her for a milk sheep. I guess it was just too far along in the weaning process by the time I got her in the summer - small bag and centimeter long teats. Already I have a pint of colostrom in the freezer in case some other baby needs it. And it is super easy to milk her because she has so much and her teats are so big.

So we are grateful for our brown boy now named Basil - which could be food or a real name. I think he would make someone a great ram - especially with Renauld's good genes. And I think brown is my favourite colour of icelandic sheep and he is a rich dark mild chocolate brown. And we are missing our sweet black girl who didn't live long enough to get named. At least in her last hours of life, we held her and loved her and she died feeling our love around her.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Images of Easter at Our House

Kids playing several silly games of Uno while the turkey cooked, and they ate their chocolate. It involved Tyler (with the beard) getting severely ribbed after bragging that he always wins... He discovered the power of 4. (the power of 4 siblings against one, that is). Tyler is Erin's boyfriend for those of you who are wondering. We like him. He's a very good sport!

After dinner we played a game of Cranium - the youngsters against the oldsters. (Dean, me and his parents were the oldsters). They creamed us, I have to say...

And isn't this perfect timing? Well, not totally... I had arranged to get my meat chicks and my laying chicks at the same time this year so I could be done by the beginning of summer holidays. The layers didn't arrive (2 weeks in a row!) but I still had to pick up these little roasters. Less than ideal because these little monsters will have a really big head start on the chicks arriving next week. They grow faster anyways and I might have to get two brooders going... But I have to admit, having chicks for Easter is pretty fun.

And then, right on cue... Brida went into labour last night. I awoke early this morning to see a little black head protruding from her rear. I was so scared. I thought it was dead. Kaetlyn had been checking on her every two hours all night and when she last checked at 5am, she didn't see anything. I woke up at 6:30. The head is supposed to present with two little hooves. I had to stick my arm in up to my elbow and find those two little hooves and help her out. I thought she was dead but I put my hand on her chest once she was out and there was a little heart beating away. A 10 lb black baby girl. Doing fine now. And before I could turn around there was another head at the opening and again with no hooves. I pulled out one hoof and he came sliding out a little 8 lb brown boy with huge horn buds.

Zeus behaved amazingly. All his natural insticts kicked in. He licked and licked and licked these babies right along with their mama. He chased the other sheep away. He cleaned up Brida. The brown one follows him around like he is his other mama.

Isn't this the perfect shot? There they are. Twins. Their wool already so lustrous and curly. Right now Brida is eating some well deserved hay and grain, the lambs are sleeping and Zeus is laying nearby. I'm going to go and have a bath...

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

My Sister is an Amazing Photographer

My sister Laura is an amazing photographer. Her blog is always full of great pictures. Lately she is into doing portraits and she has some really great ones. Her latest subjects are our parents. I stole some of my favourites but for the full effect go here.

When I see this one, I can see how some people think I look like my mother.

I think these series of pictures not only are great photos, they capture more than just my parents. I think they capture my sister's relationship with them as well and her goofy, quirky way of being with them. There is no artifice in their poses. There is genuine affection. Not just for each other but for her as well.

Now I've got to pick one to get as an 8x10 for my wall... so hard to choose!

And this is the perfect one to finish with. This is so typically dad that I can hear, without any effort, the sounds he is making, as well!

Sunday, April 05, 2009


May 12 is coming. Another provincial election. You know I've got to say something.

First of all, I've got to say that I have never got the appeal of Gordon Campbell. Maybe because I was working in the human resources field when he was first elected and saw first hand what happened when he cut funding to social programs. I saw how it effected some of the most vulnerable in our society. Maybe that is why; but to me he has always seemed a slick, smarmy politician in bed with big business. Someone who believes we have to choose between the environment and the economy. (Show me where there is an economy without an environment?!)

I was flabbergasted when he was re-elected. I mean, I thought surely that people were on to him, I mean it was so obvious. Apparently not. Sometimes I feel like I am from another planet... BC politics have long frustrated me as we swing from one extreme to the other.

I am really concerned about what Campbell is doing. How he is dismantling our public companies like BC Hydro and BC Gas. In fact, look at what has happened to BC Gas. Our public natural gas company is now owned by Texas based Kinder Morgan. Originally it was part of BC Hydro. Now owned by Americans. BC Hydro is now well on its way. Take a look at this video. Maybe you think our utilities should be privately owned. I don't know, I think there is a lot of value in having publicly owned and controlled utilities where profit at all costs is not the driving force. Where the goal is to provide British Columbians with affordable power while taking into consideration the environment.

When I think about these things too deeply, I get all panicky inside. It might have something to do with the fact that I live in the middle of the conservative heartland of BC (too close to Alberta, I tell you!). I remember what this province was like when I was a child - when half of the highways were gravel roads. And I see how it is now - where it is dangerous to eat fish caught in Okanagan lake. Where wilderness is developed to provide massive mansions for people living in Japan, Germany and Alberta who don't even live in them but stay at the most a few weeks of the year and don't even rent them out when they aren't there. And I think of my children and even the rest of my life and I wonder when it will end - this fanatical expansion for the sake of expansion, greed, corporate lust and the apathy of people who don't bother or are too overwhelmed to get informed or don't want to get involved - who don't even bother to vote.

Anyways, this scares me. What can happen to our rivers, scares me. What kind of a world do we want to live in? This isn't going to happen in someone else's back yard. This is our backyard. This is such an important election. Gordon Campbell has been quietly and not so quietly undoing or undermining public institutions for the sake of foreign investors. Its coming to a head. What kind of BC do you want to live in? Get informed. Vote.

I'm tired. Is this post coherent? I'm going to bed...

Friday, April 03, 2009