April 29 – The night Petunia was born, Miranda, Maggie & I waited with her mama, Paisley, all evening long. Her labor was slow, very slow, and we were all so ready for her to deliver. Some assistance helped her to get things started and long-legged Phergus was the first to appear. Next was Philip, smaller and easier to deliver. A while later, now late in the night, Petunia presented backwards. Miranda was able to push her back and collect her legs together and help her safely through, with the right amount of finesse and strength, and, ha!, we had a triplet! Sassy and strong from the very start. The first triplets born on our farm in so many years of lambing.
Summer passed and the three grew like gangbusters as their very attentive mama cared for them.
Paisley started to wean them at 2 months old and we granted her that. Nursing triplets took a lot out of her and summer was ahead of her. I separated her from them at about 10 weeks and they lived in the barnyard with some grazing, hay and grain while mama went to pasture to graze with the others and rebuild her strength and vigor.
September 1 – The morning sky was as blue as it gets in September. I think that September-blue should be a color.
I changed my calendars.
A strong breeze was steady and the air had cooled, I bundled up to go out, sorting through my wool-drawer for mitts and a hat. I was giddy for the change. Literally skipping to the barn.
Just like that, it all went away. I found Petunia, our little 4-month old Shetland ewe lamb, turned away from the stall door, curled up in a still pose. She had died.
I won’t forget the details. The evening before when I’d tucked her in with the two new Shetland lambs, Peigi & Penelope, I was feeling so satisfied at the amount of work I’d gotten done, secure to head into the house and call it a day. I’d spent two days finding a good solution to settle in our recently acquired, wild little ewe lambs.
This past week I’d separated Petunia from her brothers because it was time. I put Philip & Phergus in the pasture with The Boy Band and they’d been baahing and baahing to their sister in the barn, their sister had been calling back.
Posting Petunia in with the newbies was a great distraction for her. She’d be their companion and her extremely social temperament would help them to learn to trust and relax in their new home.
I fed them all grain because the farm that they had come from said that the girls were eating grain now. And they were newly weaned and missing home and hungry.
Petunia ate all of the grain and choked or bloated, or both, from overeating. That is why she died.
All the should’ves – I’ve been through them and will go through them.
It’s hard not to feel it personally when beloveds are taken away as often as they had been for me this past season. There is always work in front of me, at every turn, and the relationship I have with the animals I care for sustains my energy, fills me up more than it takes away. There is no doubt that it is meaningful work.
But the hurt of grief requires a different protocol for healing. I’ve figured it out.
I live and manage a working farm. There are many dependent on me for care and so I have to be my best for everyone. I walk and talk and cry and think and work and repeat as I tick off the tasks. Discovering Petunia, racing ahead in my mind, how to bury her before evening – so many coyotes lately – should I try to take her pelt – how to skin a lamb – making phone calls – making plans – finding help –
Caring for the new, bewildered lambs. Caring for the flocks in the fields and the old ewes in the barn, the barnyard.
My back and shoulders and arms are still sore from unloading hay wagons a week ago and filling the loft, from cleaning two very soiled stalls this past week that were thick with muck from sheltering animals in various stages of care. It’s the kind of sore that I notice when I settle into a bed at the end of the day, but not the kind of sore that keeps me from hauling, shoveling, lifting, climbing, and hustling.
My heart and head are sore from the hurt and drain on my mental energy of welcoming, caring for and saying goodbyes to new and old flock members. It’s the kind of sore that feels like the verge of choking and flushed cheeks and eyes watering, but not the kind of sore that keeps me from swallowing it all and smiling broadly or laughing boldly as the antics of the pup or the curiosity of lamb or a sweet phone conversation with your loved ones brings you back.
The things I love, I love very much. It hurts like hell to say goodbye. But the things I love that are here still, I love very much. They help me when it hurts like hell.