Life and Death on The Farm

Last week was quite something, folks.  On Tuesday the 17th, we went to the Androscoggin County Courthouse in Auburn to formally finalize our adoption of Mr. Ezra.  A happy, happy day that we were lucky enough to share with some extended members of our family.  The family theme continued as my sister and her fam rolled in the next day to spend the rest of the week with us.  As for the farm, our usual springy work continued, and we had some more lamb action.  Read on…

Fresh off the arrival of lambs Lake and Palmer back in March, we’d been keeping a close eye on our other pregnant ewe, Savannah, watching her actions, her mood, her belly, her udder, etc. for signs of when she was getting close.  And, as with Sienna, the birth of her lambs caught us completely off guard!  I had moved the sheep out of their winter pen and onto pasture for the day.  They were thrilled by this change and kept busy munching grass.  I hardly paid any attention to them at all.  Sonya and Brittany, who’s been doing some volunteer work with us this past month, were leaving the greenhouse after a day of seed sowing and wandered over to see the sheep…and there were lambs!  No one saw or heard anything.  We all launched into action mode, herding the sheep (and carrying the wee lambs) back to the winter pen, making a quick jug for the momma and lambs, getting hay and water for Savannah, a shot of nutrient gel for the lambs, and watching them carefully to make sure they were nursing.

As with Lake and Palmer, the lambs grew stronger with each passing day, and we let everyone out of the jug after a day and a half to explore.  The little ones were both ewes and were named Emerson (thus completing our bizarre 70s prog-rock homage) and Coco.

Savannah with her lambs, Emerson and Coco.

Flash forward to Friday (the lambs were born on Monday)…  Sonya had to travel up north to pick up our potato seed from The Maine Potato Lady, and rest of us decided to spend the morning at the Maine Wildlife Park in Gray.  I had rigged up a section of electric fence netting around the sheeps’ winter area so they could remain close to home yet still be able to graze some.  Lambs and mommas alike seemed happy and calm as we left.

Lil' Coco

Several hours later, we returned to discover that poor Emerson had somehow become tangled up in that fencing.  My brother-in-law freed her and got her into the shade.  When I got to her, she was mewling and unable to stand.  I tried to feed her water from a bottle but eventually just jumped in the van with her in the hope that someone down at the Poland Animal Hospital could help us out.  Alas, little Em died in my arms on the way there.

Emerson

Back at the farm, the kids (Lydia and my nephew and niece, Jake and Sheridan) were hanging out near Lydia’s swingset and they wanted to know how Em was.  I told them she was gone and tried my best to explain the concept of death to little Lydia.  Sonya arrived back home, and we decided we needed to bury the lamb rather than just tossing her into the woods…with coyotes in the area, it seemed wise not to let them get a taste of sheep.  My first instinct was to keep the body out of sight from the kids, but Sonya wisely felt they should be included if they wished.  Jake and Lydia decided to help us bury Emerson.  We picked out a spot at the edge of last season’s pig area near the rock wall.  Sonya and I dug a hole while Jake and Lydi took turns holding Em’s little body.  We all talked through it…about how we would miss Emerson, what a good lamb she was, how she would become part of the earth and make the grass grow for the sheep of the future, etc.  After the burial, we made a heart-shaped marker out of rocks and stood there for some time trying to make sense of it all.  The ritual of burial was good for all of us.  I was furious with myself initially but gradually came to realize that accidents will happen and that it’s all a part of farming, and of life, too.  Accept, and remember, and move on…

A bit later, Lydia asked Sonya if we could go back out and dig Emerson up.  Son explained that she was gone and we couldn’t do that but what if Lydi drew a picture of Emerson to remember her by?  Lydi, Jake, and Sheridan were very excited by this idea and got to work.  Three distinct pictures emerged, and once finished, were taped to the wall near our kitchen table (along with Jake’s sign “Emerson’s Wall”).

Drawings of Em by Lydia, Jake, and Sheridan

Jake's drawing. The caption just kills us: "You wanted to grow up now I drew a picture of u grown up"

So, bon voyage, Emerson!  The Lord, or the Universe, or Mother Nature, or whatever, giveth and also taketh away.  I think we all learned much from you, little lamb, and you will not be forgotten.

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We also want to remind everyone that you can come see our little flock this Saturday and get some excellent grub, too.  Another farm potluck, a brunchy affair, will be happening right here on 4/28 from 10am-1pm.  Bring along a dish to share, catch up with us and your fellow neighbors and CSAers, and check out the farm.  We hope to see you here!

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2 Responses to Life and Death on The Farm

  1. Auntie Mere says:

    You parents handled that absolutely perfectly, IMHO. Next much more tricky discussion: the eventual deliberate killing and then eating of such a lamb, in fact said lamb’s sibling, in order to enjoy roast lamb, chops, and all that.

    Story books of cute little farms with red barns and hens clucking, rarely if ever, cover this. I have not investigated this in recent years, however.

  2. Donna says:

    I’d say you handled that beautifully. Death is such a difficult concept to explain to such young minds. Giving each child the option of wanting to participate in Emerson’s burial had many lessons intertwined there. Bravo – well done!

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