I jumped out of bed at 12:35 a.m. this morning and ran downstairs, throwing open the front door to allow the dogs to spill out, barking. Nessie was on a tear down the driveway: sharp, sharp barks and warning howls. Cricket followed her and joined in and Jackie defended the front of the house. I stood in the driveway, outside lights flooding into the immediate lawn and field. I wasn’t cold at all, though the temps were in the low 30s. I was ready to fly into the fields if need be, grab my flocks and run them to the barn.
After a couple of minutes, the not-too-distant pack of yapping, singing coyotes quieted and disappeared into the night. I climbed back into bed, Nessie following like my shadow, slipping into the hollow behind my knees to sleep close.
A few days ago I had heard from Holly who had told me that coyotes had come the night before and killed Petal and one of their wethers.
Petal was a white Shetland ewe lamb, born to Pansy the year before, whom I’d hemmed and hawed about selling. I was smitten with her and she was the prettiest ewe lamb that I ever had seen here.
Holly and her family were a lovely and loving home and if I’d sold an animal to anyone, they surpassed my high standards of placement. I got over myself and consented to sending she and her companion ewe lamb, Doris, along to their farm in the Berkshires.
I cried. I’m still tearing up. Today I was moving some items around while loading my vehicle for a journey north to deliver yarn, I found a small, square-framed photo of Petal from when she was just a month old. I remembered when my daughters were amused at my framed print. “Mom! This is is so little!” “Yes”, I said, “so I’ll always have my little Petal with me.”
We are both suffering, Holly and me. We both loved her. Their family had never been through such a violation of their flocks before. They are devastated. It happens. You do your best to care for your animals and things happen.
Last night I went to bed, prepped for an early wake up to get chores done and load the van to head north. On my to-do list for the morning was to figure out what to do about the turkey in my barnyard that had been showing a change in behavior recently. I thought that she might be someone I need to cull early, she seemed to be suffering and I wasn’t sure if it was because of her genetics or an ailment. She had a condition with her feet, a “bumble foot” which limited her stamina to compete with the others in the flock. But she had grown and she’d thrived all summer long so I thought she might be fine, though she was weaker.
This morning I peered into the flock, hoping not to see what I had found. She was dead. I am unsure if it was the colder night and she didn’t have the strength to deal with the change in temperature or if her decline was because of a too-long undetected malady and that was that. It was a rotten way to start the day, to dig a grave for a beautiful creature such as she was. My heart was heavy while I cared for the rest of the animals. I worried that I failed her because I didn’t recognize her symptoms earlier that told me she was that unwell. I was anxious to suffer such a big loss, economically, as my turkey-crop here is a large financial investment for me. And I nervously visited my turkey-order list when I went into the house later on to make sure that my Thanksgiving orders were covered and I wouldn’t have to call anyone and break the news that I would have to cancel. Fortunately I was undersold by one turkey, which meant I would not have to call anyone.
My trip to the yarn shop in Shelburne, VT, “Must Love Yarn”, went according to schedule and it was a pleasure to visit and see the new venue for our farm’s yarn. They have a fabulous display of Vermont farm yarns in their well-stocked rooms and it was downright cheery to see small flocks represented. I was proud that our farm would be included and our fiber obtainable for patrons of their shop. There was enough time to visit in between their carefully curated selections from my wares and then I left Kelly and Carol to their day, making my way south in the wake of the biting winds off of Lake Champlain.
There was snow falling as I stopped at my friend Debbie’s, halfway home. We watched out the window over hot coffee, the table littered with washed and carded mohair, mittens and yarn and homemade cookies. Her kitty, Smokey, padded in and out a little here and there to check on us. I stayed much longer than I’d planned. It was comforting to be with her and talk about projects and family and hear a kind word about the hardships of farming.
It is no wonder that I found myself with low-energy for much of the day, between the fatigue of interrupted sleep and turn of events. There are many wonderful and good things happening and I prefer to rejoice. Twice I have fallen asleep while typing this evening, preparing paperwork for the farm’s business, following up with correspondence. Some days, though, you just need to tuck in early and start fresh the next.
Tomorrow the sun will peek out and the temperature will be in the 40s. I will plant white crocus bulbs on the small graves of my beloved flocks that have gone on, I will remember Petal in the spring when small white flowers ripple and wave over the surface of the warming ground.
When you care for animals, you are blessed with the gifts of your time with them on earth and then your memories of them thereafter. Doubly-blessed. When I wake up tomorrow, I will try to return the blessings to those that need me. Maybe you will, too.