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Monday, May 10, 2010

Clubber and the hobbledy-horse

When you work side-by-side with the Farmer, you have to learn to speak his language. He has been farming solo for so long that he isn’t used to giving verbal instructions about what it is that he needs done. As a university professor and writer of research papers, he is quite capable of high-level communication. As am I. But on the farm, you often find yourself taking time off from perfect grammar and syntax. “Go see the seven sisters and get that thing out of their pen, then come through the big door and bring it to me. But be sure to hook the door when you close it or that jackass will be in there lickety-split.” I paused. I was a little unsure of the exact meaning behind his request, but we had gone out to the barn to put a naughty ewe in a head gate, and I had seen one in the area with the last batch of ewe-lambs, whom the Farmer referred to as the seven sisters. So I was pretty confident that was what he wanted. I wasn’t sure which big door I was supposed to go through either, but I knew that Donkey (often referred to as the jackass due to his mischievous nature) enjoyed the sweetfeed that was stored in the centre of the main barn. So I deduced that I was to go through the big door there to bring the head gate around to the lambing pen. I fed this clever deduction back to the Farmer for confirmation: “You want me to go into the ewe-lamb area, get the head gate, bring it through the main barn door to the lambing pen and be sure to latch the door behind me so Donkey doesn’t get the sweet feed. Yes?” The Farmer just looked at me. “Well, we haven’t got all day, darlin’.” He’s so cute when he smiles. His eyes crinkle up and with that big moustache he looks like Magnum P.I. When the Farmer came in one day and said “you’ve got a couple out there all hobbled up,” I wasn’t sure if he was talking about the lambs or the ewes and whether they had themselves tangled in baler twine again or something else and why was he telling me instead of rescuing them himself, anyway? I figured it would be simpler to go out and look. The Farmer had already disappeared into the basement to get something. I heard the feeble cry of newborns as I approached the barn. The Farmer had put the two new moms and their babes in neighbouring pens. I called and watched as two little creatures hobbled out from under their year-old mothers on club feet. Oh. Now what do we do? Just then the Farmer reappeared. “They will probably straighten out on their own. Or we could splint them. We’ll just have to watch to make sure they are getting enough milk.” They seemed to be doing fine. Although one had a sunken tummy. The Farmer milked colostrum from the mothers, fed the babies by mouth syringe and I went back to the house to research club feet on the Internet. Apparently club feet are often a result of a condition called oligo-hydramnios in the mother, which is characterized by a deficiency of amniotic fluid. The lamb can be given corrective “footwear”, just as with human club-foot babies. I worried that splints would hurt the lambs’ little legs, and make it difficult for them to lie down, stand up and tuck under their mothers to nurse. I prayed their legs would straighten out on their own. Within the first week, the bigger of the two lambs had straightened out his legs. I had already named him Clubber, but it has taken on a new meaning now. He is strong and bullish, stealing milk from all the unsuspecting mothers in the pasture. My little hobbledy-horse, on the other hand, is taking a bit longer. In her third week of life now, she is out in the pasture with her mother and thriving, but she still walks with one hoof turned under. When she sees me coming with the bottle, she cries and hobbles over to me as fast as she can. I hold the bottle up high so that she is forced to stand on straight legs and tippy-hoof to reach it. I think she will be just fine.

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