Okay followers, like I said in my previous post, I’m going to work harder at being more consistent with my posts. Of course, they probably won’t have much direction…a reflection of my scattered brain. Seems fitting, right?
Last week was a quiet one but we were making some adjustments on our modest farmstead. My parents, who live about an hour and a half away from us, used to have a large flock of Katahdin sheep. We used to raise sheep when I was younger, but these ones are different. They’re hair sheep so they grow wool to stay warm over the winter…and then they shed it. Sometimes, in one big go. There were days my mom would come home and think a sheep had died on a hillside but it was just a pile of their wool left behind. Which makes sheering entirely unnecessary! Brilliant. I love a low-maintenance animal.
My dad’s kind of had a rough go of it over the past few years when it comes to his health and because of that, running a large flock became something a doctor advised him not to be doing. A large amount of the flock found a new home in South Dakota and five of them found a new home with us – one ram and four pregnant ewes. So…now we have twelve chickens, six goats and five sheep.
The decision to take on sheep came mostly because of 4-H. My daughters truly enjoy showing livestock and are looking forward to getting their hands on the lambs once they’re born to start training them for show. It’s another opportunity for them to be involved in 4-H.
It also came because of the sad acceptance to stop raising sheep that my parents had. I sympathize and my husband did, too. He says his reasoning behind saying yes to adding sheep to our farm was because he wanted my mom to be able to visit her sheep and know they were happy nearby.
One of my mom’s favorites and now mine is right at home on our farm. She’s always the one to run up to you after eating and get ear scratches and we refer to her as a badger face because of her coloring. She’s not the standard white but I think she’s absolutely gorgeous. I have to admit, watching them is relaxing. Unlike the goats, they don’t look miserable in the cold. I love my goats but I hate seeing them shiver and though I know they can withstand the winter fine, it doesn’t make watching them shiver any easier.
I know it must sound chaotic to many – having so many different animals to care for.
The goats need hay every day and the feed we give them cannot be anywhere near the sheep because if they eat it, they’ll go into shock and die. The minerals goats have include copper (which is in the feed mix we give them) and copper is toxic to sheep.
The sheep need hay every few days. The feeder they have access to is larger than the feeder the goats have. And the sheep get corn every day which the goats can have, but in moderation. Corn doesn’t sit well in the stomachs of goats and often times will give them scours if they have too much. You don’t want a goat with scours. Trust and believe.
The chickens…well, they’re pretty low maintenance. They get feed every other day, sometimes longer depending on how long it takes them to get through what I give them. Same with the cat-chicken roosting with them, a little kitten we saved in the summer and fed goat milk to while keeping her housed with the hens until she was strong enough to hunt on her own. She’s still with the chickens and doesn’t care for us much. I think she believes she’s one of them.
Then of course there’s hauling water since we have no outside water source at the moment. I always cross off “exercise” on my habit tracker when I have to haul water, hay and feed all in one go. I haul water in five gallon buckets from the house out to the animals, trying to space it out so if I feed in the morning, I haul water at night or if I feed at night, I haul water in the morning. I try to avoid this at all costs. Not really a fan of the idea of showing up at work stinking of chore sweat. But if it’s all in one go? Yeah, that’s going on my list for full-on cardio.
It might seem contradictory to my anxiety to have so many things to juggle…but it’s actually the opposite. I’m able to take care of the livestock without my mind running in a million different directions. It’s almost like I can turn my brain off because feeding, watering and caring for them is very basic and fully within my control. Sure, there’s going to be those days like the one I wrote about the week before last where things just go horribly wrong and situations are fully out of control, like coping with stillbirths and animals going down for unknown reasons.
For every horrible moment that is out of my control, there are many more that I’ve been able to turn around. Last year, we would have lost two goat kids to the cold and lack of attentive mothers but quick action on our parts and determination had those babies living and thriving. It’s an incredibly good feeling to turn those bad situations around. Over the fall Maple (one of our does) started acting off, trembling and showing no interest in food. A quick google search and narrowing down of symptoms had me administering the right meds and she pulled out of it.
And then there’s the peace that comes in those still moments. I spend a lot of time during my chores leaning on gates and watching the animals eat, listening to the sounds of them munching hay or nibbling up corn.
There’s a word my dad uses to describe this feeling – bucolic, which means relating to the pleasant aspects of the countryside and country life.
I know…it kind of sounds like a sickness you don’t want to be anywhere near. But it’s the total opposite.
It took me years to come to terms with the fact that I couldn’t manage my own anxiety. Longer still to accept the fact that I would have to medicate if I wanted the panic attacks to stop and to not be an example of everything I didn’t want my daughters to be. Having livestock that offers a little extra when it comes to coping with the anxiety is great.
And to be honest, if I had to identify with a word (not saying I have to) I’d take bucolic over anxious any day. If not for the definition, then for the looks of confusion I could provoke just by telling people I’m bucolic.