Monday, May 11, 2015

The Sorrow, The Loss

I always say that when you have great days on the farm, enjoy it. Relish it. Never forget what that great day feels like.
Eventually you will have a crappy day, and you will need those great days to keep you going.

I have suffered my share of losses, mostly chickens and calves, over the years. I have had days when it was too rainy, too dry, too hot and too cold. I have suffered through days of being unsure of my decisions and days of not knowing what the next day would bring.

There have been days when I really missed the easy going neighborhood life, the long family vacations and even the spur of the moment adventures away from home.

Some days I feel completely isolated from the *outside* world, like I have not a single friend with whom I can visit and share stories.

None of those days, however, can compare to the complete devastation I experienced yesterday. Devastation that I am still feeling today, deep in my gut and my soul. I am so sad and so full of despair at times that it is difficult to even breathe. My only solace is that I know farming and caring for livestock has its ups and downs. It is not for the faint of heart, in fact it is for the full of heart.

My sweet ewe, Lila, was not a sheep I wanted to breed this year. She was my most valuable ewe in terms of money value and heart value. Her fleece was a delicious combination of Teeswater and Black Wensleydale , and it had a soft sheen like no other I have seen. She was a dominant ewe in my flock, yet she was very gentle. Her only flaw was that she was not a good mother, therefore I was done breeding her. Her life was to be spent on the farm giving beautiful fleeces and that's it, until she decided to break from her paddock last fall and find my ram.

4 hours with my ram was all it took to make sure we would be watching her closely all spring waiting for lambs, usually triplets. Last week she appeared over due and ready to lamb at anytime, however she experienced a vaginal prolapse. The vet came to fix her up and we determined she was not yet in labor. Since then we kept a close watch on her, every 2 hours.

She was fine. She was grazing and eating and keeping with the flock, until yesterday. I noticed that she finally separated herself from the others about 7 am. She wasn't eating and she had a slight discharge. Finally, she was in labor. I removed her sutures and continued to monitor her every 30 minutes. She never seemed to be in distress and I was happy to finally get the pregnancy over and have lambs.
It only took a 30 minute time frame for her to collapse. To perish. In only 30 minutes she was no longer standing, but on her side and completely dead.
What did I miss? What did we do wrong?
It was too late for anything to be done to save her or the lambs.
Just like that my sweet, favorite ewe was gone. All hope of three babies was gone. Weeks of anticipation were replaced with utter and complete loss. Emptiness.

In that very moment I questioned everything I was doing. The sorrow, the anger, the disbelief instantly makes you wonder if you chose the right life out here on this land.

I need the great days, or at least memories of those great days. Those days when a calving goes perfectly and a cheese tastes fantastic. Those days when all the hens are laying eggs and the meat birds weigh more than expected. The days when all the hay gets stacked in the barn before it rains and all of the milking cows stand perfectly at milking time.

Today I reflect and cling to those good days, the great days, because the sorrow of losing Lila seems too much to bear. Am I being overly dramatic? Maybe, but I am not faint of heart. I am full of heart, much like most of the farmers and horse people I know.

Am I doing the wrong thing by farming? Should I give up? Maybe. You know it is hard at times, and it can feel daunting to keep up with everything at times, but I can't quit.
 I won't quit.
Deep in my gut I feel sad and powerless, but deeper still my will is strong.

Rest in Peace sweet Lila.


  1. This just breaks my heart. I am so sorry for your loss. She was a beautiful ewe. Farming is so hard at times but you do it with all your heart and that is what makes you fit for this life.

  2. I am so sorry for Lila and you and your whole family. We are all tempted to wonder if we made the right decision and what we could have done differently. Don't indulge in it. You made the decisions that were right for you, your situation, your animals. Nothing is going to change the outcome. You did the best you could do and that is all we can do. Take this sad, awful experience, try to learn something from it, and if you can't, then keep doing what you are doing now and remember the sweeter times. You are in our thoughts.


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