Dealing With Death

Not the cheeriest of titles, I know. But this time of year, that is where my mind goes. Tomorrow is the 5th anniversary of my beautiful Daughter’s passing, and in less than a month it will be the 4th anniversary of Sweetie’s passing also. For most folks, spring marks the beginning of things. For me, it marks ends. The passage of time has not made it easier, and I am a mess a lot of the time though I do a decent job of hiding it from most folks.

It is also an unfortunate fact that, as a farmer, I have to deal with death more often than most people do. It is simply a part of the life that I have chosen. I know that some people don’t want to think about the more unpleasant parts of my life style, and it won’t hurt my feelings if you choose not to read this post. I promise to get back to happier subjects next time.

Some years are worse than others. A few years ago, I grew to dread going out to feed, as it seemed that more often than not there would be a dead animal to deal with. Lambs dropped like flies, it seemed, and ewes too.

Inesh after Malcolm napping in a sunbeam  at KelliesThe first picture is Inesh just after I sheared him before breeding season a couple of  years ago. He is the father of all of last year’s lambs. Next is Malcolm as a lamb, then Merlin.

Since November, I have lost him and my other big ram, Kirk. They had been fussing with each other for a while, and I can only surmise that they caused each other some internal damage since they died within a week of each other. This month, I lost both Merlin (last year’s bottle lamb) and his twin Malcolm. Fine in the morning, dead when I went to feed in the afternoon. In reviewing my books, I have had problems with all of their mother’s lambs.

So, what does one do with a dead animal? I have always chosen to treat them with respect. Used to be, they would go into the ground here, with a pile of rocks on top to keep them from being too attractive to the neighborhood dogs. We have quite the graveyard in the back, including Kid the Younger’s horse (thanks to a good-hearted acquaintance with a backhoe).  My back, however, no longer makes it easy for me to dig that big a hole. So now I take a drive out to federal land and lay them to rest there. It is a solemn undertaking. No radio, my thoughts centered on the animal in the back of the van, words said in thanks to all they have given me. Their body goes back to nature, and I am always amazed at how quickly that happens. Within a month or less, there is little left but bones and fiber.

Most areas do not have an easy, inexpensive way to deal with animals that have passed. There used to be a rendering plant locally, but it closed due to new neighbors complaining about the smells (which were there before they built their fancy houses). The landfill does not knowingly take livestock. Some friends compost or burn dead animals, some donate them to zoos or places that keep large cats or wolves. It is a fact that all of us have to face, that none living survive forever. I am glad that I am able to honor my animals contributions to my life respectfully. I just hope that I don’t have to do it again soon.

On to happier subjects. Fiber Market Day went well and several of the bar code towels went to new homes. Last week, I did a new-to-me show, sharing a booth with Laura at the Small Farm Journal Fair. It is interesting how different things sell at different shows. I sold several of the silk scarves I’d dyed a few years ago, as well as some batts and finished items. We did a lot of demo-ing, and I took Myrtle and Naveed as pr animals. It was a fun show, but being on for 4 days straight was almost more than my poor introvert brain could handle. In addition, on the last day of the show I spent the morning at another venue teaching beginning drop spinning. Sunday I spent recuperating, so exhausted I could barely follow the tv show I was trying to watch.

I took advantage of the fact that I would be gone for most of the day during the show to wean the lambs (that way I miss most of the drama and noise). Naveed was the last to get weaned since he was at the show with me. When we got home, Myrtle joined the other 2 goats in with the wethers, while Naveed went back in the main pen with Ashe and the other lambs. Starting Sunday morning, I have been transitioning Myrtle to a milk goat. It is so nice to have fresh milk for my morning coffee! It has been slow going making the switch, but she gave me 8 ounces yesterday morning and 6 in the evening (as compared to 4 ounces each time the day before). I’ve got a jar of milk in the fridge that I am letting sit for a while to see if I can separate the cream off and make a little butter. Wish me luck! Making cheese will probably have to wait for next year, when I will hopefully be milking all 3 of the goats. All in all, I am very happy with my progress so far. Myrtle has a nice little udder for a first timer, and I am keeping my fingers crossed for Clara and Cloe.

Ashe is doing well, working really hard at getting up. I opened up the barn now that it’s just her and the lambs, and she gets herself outside to enjoy the sun. She still can’t straighten her front legs all the way, so she looks strange, but she can get herself a drink of water on her own and her spirit is unbelievable. She is putting on weight and eating like a horse. Even if she never recovers completely she is an inspiration, and she will be auntie to the lambs as long as she chooses to stick around.

Next up on my to-do list is getting all the stuff I didn’t sell listed on Etsy, so keep checking back there if you are interested in any of the bar code towels, batts or hand-dyed top & yarn.

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4 Responses to “Dealing With Death”

  1. Leigh Says:

    Aw Sue, today is that very hard day. I know it still hurts badly. Hugs to you.

    I have to agree with you about livestock and death. Each loss is tough. We’ve buried all ours here, though I can’t say that digging a huge hole is all that fun.

    The milk will likely need to sit for several days to get the most cream. I usually wait at least three days before skimming mine. It all goes into a jar in the freezer until I get enough for butter. 🙂

    • majorasue Says:

      Thanks Leigh.

      I let the first few days milk sit in the fridge. Scooped off the cream this evening and put it in the freezer (I as checking out your archives last night, lol). Milking is a work in progress. I started off getting about a cup a day total out of her. Today, it was a total of 20 ounces.

  2. annie (rubyslipperz) Says:

    I’m very sorry to read about your daughter’s passing. But, I feel your post was dignified and honest. We lost a son-in-law (he was 27 just before he passed…our daughter was 26…they had 2 little boys together), about 5 years ago. I don’t think it’s possible to get over it. But, maybe it can get easier as more time passes.

    I really enjoyed your post about treating your animals with respect after they die. Thanks for taking the time to share with us. =)

    annie
    rubyslipperz1052 – on ravelry

    • majorasue Says:

      Thanks Annie. I figure we all deserve a little dignity when we pass, and I think it is only respectful to thank them for all they add to my life.

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