responsibility

butted and kicked by the mother after seemingly accepted, we brought the lamb into the house....he was slow and sorry for himself at first, a few feeds later jumping out of his box, butting at me, looking for milk....an unconditional connection, id become his mother



two days later suddenly off his food, i thought it was me overfeeding him first thing, maybe he was too hot, too cold.....id planted trees in the morning, wanted to feed him again before i had lunch, knowing that it was slightly too long since his first feed but ok given the morning feed....he had no interest, taking small short nips, not kicking into the laugh-inducing frenzy of gulping and pulling as normal

hes dead....septicaemia, blood poisoning

taken by surprise, thinking we had weeks to go before the birth and time to learn more, we hadnt been on full alert, perhaps an hour born and unchecked, it might have been too little colostrum from the mother, it could have been a random infection, and it may have been my decision not to iodine its cord....wanting nature to take its course, wanting to beat the sun going and get him accepted by his rejecting mother, not wanting to be interventionist

in building an organic holding with healthy animals living an enjoyable life theres a line to walk between treating responsively when needed, and the more common medical interventions that make non-organic farming more convenient....to me it feels instinctively right that good conditions promote good health, rather than relying on protective injections and other treatments in anticipation of illness ....perhaps i took that line too far, was too idealistic, too hands off

i dont suppose there are absolute right and wrongs, but smallholding is a responsible activity....and in trying to be responsible for my food supply, for my fuel consumption, for creating a beautiful, rich environment which might in some way counterbalance my footprint on the world, i have to take responsibility for when i might have got it wrong

i know i need to put this into its proper perspective, that death is part of life in smallholding, that its one sheep, but thats not how i feel today

her first, our first

admiring the buzzard dropping from its usual telegraph pole to the riverside trees, i was heading for the bottom of the field almost by accident.....a cup of tea too hot on a cold afternoon to put down and let get tepid while i fed the pigs, i took off around the long way to see if the sheep had nibbled at the not-yet-protected walnut trees fresh in the ground



the sheep still as usual this late in the afternoon, one seemed to be looking at me from much further away than normal....the long wool seems to shorten their sphere of perception beyond just covering their eyes, but this one seemed to be following my steps from the moment i entered the field....all of this registered so far back in my brain that its only now that i remember faintly noticing the strangeness of it

within 30 feet and she moved....behind, a tiny tiny mass of curls, a cloth, perhaps a card surround for the fencing wire discarded by the contractors, it took what seemed like 5 minutes of brain time but a second in real time for all the unlikely possibilities to conveyor belt through my mind before i could believe that it was the most obvious, a lamb

her first, our first

perhaps its the fantastic nature of 'life', the impossibility of it, but it actually went through my head that it must be my cream fleece which minutes before i had hung up indoors

shit, its late, a friend calling in by luck for half a pigs head ive been promising him for days, we have to drag a pig ark a few hundred yards for some protection, get some feed for the mum, a spade to bury the afterbirth, some water....to many things, the sun will simply have to slow down dropping

another friend drops in, done this before, knows what hes doing, and as we haul the ark on its back into the field we see it....another lamb in the hedge, 50 yards from the others

picking her up to join the others was like entering another world, no, it WAS entering another world....another domestic drama, so ordinary, so not ordinary

the mother wouldnt take her, butting away one, accepting the other, then butting the second, accepting the first, she was certain of only one thing - she only wanted one lamb....an hour or two placing the rejected next to the accepted, putting her back when butted, taking away the favoured one til she bonded with the other, and so it went.....i think theyve both had a feed, but im not certain they will both be accepted

and all this an hour ago

Go to Otter Farm | by Mark D