Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Dark Side

Warning, this is not a happy blog, but one that I need to write, a sort of therapy I guess.  I look back at all the times I would drive by a farm in Lancaster county or elsewhere, and see the animals in the field or barn and I think of what I wasn't seeing.  The death that happens so often on a farm.  Not the butchering of animals for purpose, that I am well aware of.  Not the culling of animals for breed integrity or general health concerns, that I was aware of as well.  No this is the death that comes for no reason, without warning and is the most sad.  I was aware of it on some level, but I guess I chose to ignore it's existence. I have faced it on more occasions than I care to since moving to our farm, yesterday was the hardest I think I have had. 
The day started out quite good, Psyche was due anytime and safe and snug in her pen.  Mom and I were headed off to Steam Valley Fiber Farm to get a tiny little bottle lamb named Peanut.  Peanut was a triplet lamb and not getting enough to eat, so Phylleri was bottle feeding him,  not most peoples favorite task.  I am looking to increase my sheep and he was a cutie.  So what we thought would be a quick 1 hour trip, was more like 3 hours.  We returned to the farm with Peanut, who was renamed several times on the trip home.
This is Peanut, who is now know as cupcake.
We settled on Cupcake as a name because he looks like a hostess cupcake with the creme. 
We got home and headed to the barn to check on Psyche, who we found standing over her buckling. 
This was the buckling.  Almost identical to the lamb we brought home.
The little guy was having trouble from the beginning and was quickly getting cold.  Cold will kill quicker than you think.  We got him in the house and under a heating pad, but after a lot work, we lost him.  He was a big and beautiful boy and the futility was hard to deal with.  As I said before, we have lost little ones and big ones before, but it all piled up at once.  Was there something else we could have done, was there something we shouldn't have done?  Doubt and guilt are a terrible mix.
This was after all, the second buckling that we lost from Psyche.  Last year she miscarried a month before she was due.  I had hopes this buckling would grow and be my herd sire. 
Death on a farm is always lurking around the corner, sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn't.  Either way, it's never easy.
As with most things on the farm, after the dark side, the light begins to show through.  When we first arrived home, we had rubbed Psyches scent on Cupcake, in the hopes that we could let him nurse off of Psyche when she was on the stand.  Between that and her milk we had been feeding him, Psyche bonded with Cupcake with very little trouble.  At first she was confused, we had taken her kid and when we brought 'him' back something was different, lucky for us and Cupcake, she gave up trying to figure it out and on last visit to the barn, we were greeted by a protective mother and a fat and happy baby.


  1. Sad, and sweet, and (from one former farm girl to another current farm girl) completely true.

  2. so sorry the little boy died, and that you are having the guilt & doubts that (unfortunately) go along with dealing with & caring for living & mortal things. I'm so glad to hear, though, that Psyche is the proud & happy new "mother" for Cupcake. This story, though from the "dark side" of farm life, does have a true happy ending. Much love to you and yours.

  3. Oh, I hate losing a baby -- and then having the mum calling to me, asking me to help, just breaks my heart. Horrid to lose the little man, but at least Psche does get a chance to mother a little one...