I try to stay positive. Really I do. More than that I try to stay really grateful for what I have. We have been on a long journey that has seen us through some really tough times. We still had our family, at least a decent shelter and were never hungry. There is always a light, things to be thankful for. Nothing is ever all bad and believe me it could always be worse.
Sometimes though, even when my brain knows these things, my heart I guess has a hard time believing it and I want to wallow for a little bit in feeling horrible. It is not a pretty thing and I try to not be that way. Admittedly, the weather has kept me off line for a good part of this fall, that feels much more like winter to me at least. Still, I also feel the need to not sugar coat what farm life is like, the good and the bad. So here I go and hopefully I don’t wallow too much.
So, it has been amazingly cold. It is funny, because sometimes you have to really remind yourself the reality of what is happening. It was cloudy and almost warm last week. It has only been deathly cold since last Thursday. However, it feels like forever right now. It was hard to keep the house warm when we had no sun. Even with sun now it is hard to keep the house warm. I have to laugh sometimes though. As I sit here with multiple pairs of socks, pants, skirts, two heavy sweaters over a couple of pairs of long sleeve shirts and a hat, Natalie sits across from me wearing a long sleeve shirt, a pair of jeans and a pair of socks. They, and by they I mean everyone, everyone, but me, handle this type of weather much better than myself. That in itself is sometimes why I wallow. Why can’t I not be freezing all the time???? Of course when it is over a hundred I am perfectly fine. Still, the cold beats at me constantly and sometimes I have a hard time handling that.
The animals seem to be doing alright in the cold though. Jack says that he can tell that nearly everyone is in good body condition because everyone, not just the wooly sheep, have frost on their coats. This did not happen last year. Of course I do not think we ever got this cold for this long. Okay I just looked, again, it is good to actually remember that reality exists. No, we never approached this kind of cold last year, for this long for the entire cold season. There were a couple days here and there, but nothing like this. Technically, it isn’t even winter!!!
Anyway, back to the animals. Ruby went into heat again. Blackie sniffed but didn’t do anything. Really I think we need a new bull. The goats are jumping and going through fences again. They did this last year too. They rage against the fact we feed them hay when there is good browse out there. However, the ground is too frozen to move fence and to have access to water, well they need to be where they are right now. Still, they stay mostly close and I can’t blame them. I know that one of two things will shortly stop them, they will either be too pregnant to jump OR the snow will be too deep for them to do so. Conner is not happy about it though. He may not be a good guard dog in that he likes to be out there with them. But he does watch from the house and tells me whenever there is an animal where it isn’t supposed to be. I guess I should be happy in the small ways he is a livestock dog, right? We did have a death last week. This one shook me bad.
The girls came in from doing night chores and told me that Nancy had something hanging from her belly. A lot of times, many times, when they come up it is nothing. This time though…I called Jack to see if he was close to home. He was just leaving work so I told him to come down to stock asap so we could handle it. I went down to check it out and saw Nancy shivering with her uterus hanging out of her belly. We tried to get her down, she was still up and walking around, so I could check it better. It was really hard because all the animals were crowding and the cows were really persistent about wanting to check her out. The girls still had animals to check and it was getting darker. So Natalie went around trying to get that done while Layla and Gwendy fought off animals so I could tend to Nancy. It was bad. Still, I thought maybe, maybe we could save her. Though right then, I told the girls that we might have to put her down. I went and got all the things that we might need to put her back together, needles, wash, bandages and antibiotics. By that time Jack had just gotten home. It was the first night of the cold snap that we are still in. It was freezing, getting darker and windy. We needed to get a flashlight so he could see. And when he saw, he looked up at us and said that there was no way. The hole in her belly was hard, almost frozen. She had dirt on her uterus and possibly parts missing since she kept trying to eat it. So Jack went and got his gun while the four of us loved on Nancy for as long as we could. We held her and told her how sorry we were. How this wasn’t fair that she had to die this way. That we wished we could save her. Jack shot her and she died pretty quick. I not only lost an amazing milking goat, but I lost a friend. Nancy was special. Oh yes, before she had her baby she was pretty bitchy. But she turned around quick. When she got up on the milk stand she would wait every so patiently. She was always first to be milked. Then when I was done she would not get off until I scratched her head and she could sniff and nuzzle at me. I loved Nancy very much and it is extremely sad to me that we lost her. We think, and we will probably never know, that Jewel gored her. Jewel has been seen terrorizing goats and sheep before, but never to this. Still the hole in Nancy’s belly was perfectly round. None of the goats or sheep have horns that could have gored her like that. So to prevent this from happening again, we will probably be butchering Jewel soon. And we probably should have done it sooner. Given that when we all talked about it as a family we realized that everyone has had issues with Jewel, no one really liked her and she was dangerous. It wasn’t a hard decision at all to come to.
We also went to the Missouri Livestock Symposium this weekend. It is free and close, so we went. Really, it wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great either. They are coming a long way in having better topics. This year there was a whole block of classes dedicated to intensive grazing management. However, I feel I could have given all the talks better. Again when it came to the talks on how to manage vegetation with goats, or the talk about parasite resistance with goats…none of the talks were really worth going to. Still, if I were a mainstream farmer, I would have left just some good knowledge to move myself away from bad practices. Jack and I are constantly disappointed by conferences that we hope to learn from.
And now home…cold. When the cold snap hit us I had been trying to constantly pump water into the house, just to keep the water moving. It worked up until Sunday. Sunday I was pumping and it was getting harder, but still flowing. When I woke up yesterday I could get any water. Still, I was hopeful that as the day went on I would be able to get some water. Little did I know that we wouldn’t actually gain any heat that day. Still, I had hope. Hope is always needed when it comes to farming. While my sink was full of potluck dishes from the night before and we had very little dishes to eat on, I had faith that once Jack came home and looked he would find a simple fix. So we went along our day using as little water as we could.
Then Jack got home. The first thing he did was take a flashlight and look at the cistern. It was frozen. To give you an idea of how cold it has been. See, the cistern is buried. It has a wood shed on top of it. Now, the floor isn’t finished and we never got around to insulating it like we thought we would. Still. We really didn’t think it would freeze. Now if it had been a winter, I mean a fall, like last year, no we wouldn’t have had any issues. But it just keeps getting colder. There really isn’t a warm up in sight. And that is the kind of thinking that starts to get me in slight hysterics. Because see, we are tough. We can handle waking up to a 40 degree house. I have to heat the water on the stove to do the dishes and then rinse with freezing cold water, but still. We change the way we eat and live with the seasons. It isn’t easy. I mean there is no good season. Winter is cold and we have to deal with chilblains and trying to get things done in it. Spring is actually still cold and even worse muddy and flooding half the time. Then Summer comes with its wicked heat and severe storms. Just when you think maybe I can catch a break Fall comes with again muddy wet and cold. Oh give me Hawaii any day. There have been many times in this past week where I have wanted to say fuck it and move someplace warmer. Times when I didn’t think I could do this anymore. And that is why I haven’t written.
That is why I have tried to stay positive. I have been trying to. But today is also a sunny day, hell we might actually see 30 degrees out there. Not that it would melt our cistern… And I thought, I should write. I should try at least. And so here is this blog entry. Farming does occasionally suck. Sometimes it sucks really really bad. And just like parenting, no one can ever really prepare you for it. No one can say, when it is ten below zero, you still have to go out there, in fact you have to go check on them even more. No one can tell you what that feels like. Or having to fill frozen waterers over and over again. Or coming out to find an animal that you loved hurting and having to realize that there is no saving her. This is hard. It is also amazing. And I wouldn’t stop for anything, deep down I know that. This is my life and I want and need this life. However, sometimes it is just hard.