Friday, April 27, 2012

The Circle of Life

And so it goes on the farm.  On Tuesday morning I came suddenly awake at 5am and I knew in that way that you know that they were here.  I put my coat on over my pj's and grabbed my headlamp and there they were.  Eirina, my beautiful white mama had twins.  And she had them in the fashion she usually does - with no help or fanfare.  By 5am, they had both been born, and well licked off.  A moorit (brown) female and a white male.  Judging from dampness, the girl was born first.  This is her first set of twins.  As a ewe lamb herself she had Lifa and then last year she had Euclid.

This is Astrid.  She will be remaining on the farm.  I had decided that if Brida didn't have lambs again this year, I would keep a ewe lamb.  Its perfect that that she is moorit like Brida, too.  As she also likely carries spotting, I might get some really cool looking brown spotted lambs from her.  Eirina is related to Draga as well.  Draga's mother was her great grandmother.  Which means she has a polled (no horns) ancestor (Draga's mother didn't have horns - that's why Draga had those unusual looking horns called scurrs).  Renauld also has a polled ancestor and it looks like this little girl will have scurrs like Draga.  She is very sweet.  So for sheep geekiness, this means that I pretty much have Eirina's colour genetics all figured out. (she carries solid AND spotting and moorit AND black - just what you were dying to know, I know!)

 And so it goes on the farm, death and birth, loss and gains.  Animals come and go.  Its hard but its beautiful, too.

Here's the rest of the crew from Tuesday morning.  I couldn't do it without Zeus who takes care of all the messy work.

the help aka placenta eater and rear end cleaner

And little Hugo is learning so fast.  He has learned not to bark at the sheep and here he is sitting quietly watching everything I did - which wasn't much. Eirina is a real pro!
The quiet observer

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Sad Good Bye

Sometimes this whole farm thing is so hard.  Especially when you do it like this.  I know and love my animals.  My wee flock of sheep.  One day will I have so many that it won't feel like this?  I lost my dear sheepy soul sister, Draga in the morning of April 13.  Something went very, very wrong with her lambs.  We will never know exactly what because there is no way I can bring myself to do an 'autopsy' on a friend and farm companion such as she.  I suspect that either one or both of the lambs she was likely carrying died inside.  For many reasons, that I won't go into here, I suspect this is what happened.  She died in labour.

She was the most tame of all my sheep and would follow me around like a dog and come when she was called.  She was one of my first experiences with milking the first year when she gave birth to a still born ewe lamb in the middle of the night.  Was it then that we became so bonded?  I was with her through the whole ordeal.  Sweet Draga.  The next year I helped her with her twin girls - spotted like her.  She started to lick me before them.   The next year twin black boys.  And I was there with her.  She was a fierce mama and a strong headed ewe.  Once she grew up, she became Queen of the flock.

And she is gone.  Too sad for me to even write about or talk about at first.  But here it is.  It was painful for me even to walk out my door because suddenly her baa, usually the first to greet me - a low resonant baa - was missing.  In the end, I am so grateful for the 4 years she spent with me, all that she taught me and the love and affection she so freely gave me.

Thursday, April 05, 2012


Events today had steam coming out my ears.  And I was not charitable.  Which I suppose is just as bad as being condescending and bullyish.  Rhiannon says I was rude.  I say I was furious.

Rhiannon has been sick a lot in the last 2 years.  The last year she has been sick more than she's been well.  She's well for a week or two and then she is sick again for 2 or 3 weeks.  She's missed two dance performances and several lessons and play dates.  I started to wonder if she had allergies.  Eryn was tested when she was 3 and is allergic to wheat, milk, dust mites and the kind of mould that comes from decaying leaves.  I am pretty sure I am also allergic to milk although I have never been tested.  Dean has severe seasonal allergies.  Although she did not have his kind of symptoms, I started to wonder if there was something going on for her.  We went to the Doctor back in January and got a referral to an allergist.

Today was the day.  We went to Kelowna.  I forgot to bring the paper with the address.  I couldn't remember the Dr's name.  Maybe that was a sign...  And when we found the office (I remembered the street and asked someone), the receptionist (who was wonderful!) said that there had been confusion and that our Doctor had said the appointment was cancelled...  Perhaps another sign I should have heeded and gone home...  Nevertheless, we went through with it and filled out the intake form.

A very nice and personable nurse took us into the room and administered the scratch test.  Another nice nurse took us into another office and debriefed the test.  Rhiannon did not test positive for any pollens, trees or grasses or any animals like rabbits, cats or dogs.  She also didn't test positive for any food allergies however I don't think the scratch test is especially accurate for those - a blood test for antibodies is more accurate.  She did test as being very allergic to dust mites - two different kinds. 

This actually made sense to me because she started sleeping with Kaetlyn's old duvet 2 years ago.  She also sleeps on a 30+ year old futon of solid cotton (the brute weighs more than 100 lbs!) and her room is carpeted.  We will be making some big changes around here!

If I had left at that point, I would have left feeling enlightened.  However, we had to wait more than an hour to see the actual Dr.  She was the type who does the closed-eye fluttery thing when she talks to you.  Her bedside manner with Rhiannon consisted of grunts and cursory pointing and abrupt and incomplete commands.  Going over our history, she fastened onto the fact that Rhiannon has never been immunized.  She insisted that Rhiannon's frequent illnesses were not a result of allergies but instead a result of not being immunized.  She said that immunization protected children from all infections and that children who were immunized got sick less often.  When I challenged her on this she was very condescending and went into a lengthy explanation of how immunization works.  I listened politely and told her that I understood how vaccinations were supposed to work.  She then went on about how people in olden times used to die from infections (huh?!) and that because of vaccinations small pox, etc. had decreased.  This was about all I could take.  I stopped her there and reminded her that actually there had never been a study that proved cause; that this was actually a correlation and not a causal relationship.  She went on to tell me that it was ridiculous to think that Rhiannon's allergies caused her illnesses.  She pointed out that she did not have immuno-defficiency.  I stopped arguing with her.  She recommended two drugs and gave us a prescription for one - both for symptoms Rhiannon does not have (one was for asthma, the other a steroid nose spray).  She also insisted that Rhiannon was a mouth breather (Rhiannon is just getting over yet another cold) and wouldn't listen to me.  Mouth breathers get sick more often.  Heh.  By this time I was so furious from being talked down to and bullied with misinformation that I just bit my tongue.  She hustled us out of the office (her shortest appointment since the time we had been there!)

Basically she was telling me that although Rhiannon had just tested positive for a severe allergy to two different dust mites, this had no effect on her health.  It was illogical for me to think that her immune system that was dealing with an allergy to dust mites would be further weakened and more vulnerable to colds and flus.  These symptoms were rather a result of not being immunized.  Just in case you agree with her, please check out this recent German study using more than 17, 000 children.  Or check out this less formal compilation which actually finds that non-vaccinated kids are sick LESS often.  You will notice that according to this study (which has its weaknesses: relying on self-reported data, very small sample size for non-vaccinated children [.7% of the population], etc.) there was no statistically significant difference between rates of colds and flus between immunized and non-immunized children.

I might have been wearing jeans and a hoodie but I am actually a well-informed, educated woman.  Would she have treated me different if I was wearing a power suit with an expensive handbag?  As a mother, I have made an informed decision for my children. And one I do not regret.  One that I believe in.  What is worst in the medical system is the lack of logic and science from a discipline that claims both.  What is worst in the medical system is abuse of power and authority to forward a particular agenda.  I think this push on more and more vaccinations comes from the interests of pharmaceutical companies and not scientific evidence or logic.  I think that if we suddenly stopped immunizing we might be surprised at what doesn't show up.  I also believe that vaccinations have their place.  Developing countries without sanitation and clean water and good nutrition might benefit.  I am far more curious about the damage being done to immune systems with all these vaccinations - basically man-made immunities.  I think there is no substitute for strengthening the immune system through fresh air, good wholesome, non-processed foods and getting sick once and awhile.  And yes, I've had: mumps, both kinds of measles, chicken pox, whooping cough and hepatitis A.

Not that she asked...