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Thursday, May 3, 2012

A four-shower day on the farm

I had four showers today. Shower number 1: I woke up covered in sweat, which often happens when you are female, in your mid-forties, and your husband's alarm has just startled you into an adrenalin rush at 4 a.m. because it is turkey hunting season and he has to get outside before sunrise.

Shower number 2 was a result of my playing veterinary nurse to the sheep. One of our ewes has an infected ear, because she caught her ear tag in the feeder and tore it off. It sounds brutal but it actually happens quite often without incident. Usually no one gets an infection. This particular ewe also has a bum leg. Her knee is swollen and the fleece has worn off it. We aren't sure what's wrong with her, but I decided I could treat the infected ear and raw knee with liquid iodine, at the very least. The iodine works as an antiseptic to kill any germs that might be on the wounds. Unfortunately my iodine bottle was clogged and I couldn't get it to spray. I had to take the top off and pour the medicine on the sheep's ear, then flip her onto her back (an acrobatic feat of strength and coordination in itself) in order to spray both sides of her infected knee. Well, the moment after I sprayed her ear, of course, she shook her head and sprayed me with the iodine. I got it on my neck and in my eye. When I flipped her to treat her leg, she kicked so hard she knocked the iodine bottle out of my hand and I spilled it all over myself, staining my leg right through my blue jeans. This is why I needed another shower.

Halfway through the morning, my friend Julia came over with her two daughters and two of their friends, to see the new lambs. While feeding one of the newborn triplets with a baby bottle, the lid opened and I got soaked. After our guests left, I had shower number 3 to rid myself of the stench of sour milk. After lunch I drove into town to do groceries. I came home, completed a few writing assignments, cleaned up after the hunters, watered the houseplants and did some laundry. Then it was time to go out and feed the lambs again.

One of our ewes had triplets but she hasn't been able to feed them at all. Two of her babies expired, and I am determined that the third will survive. I sat on a pile of hay, the lamb across my lap, and encouraged him to suck my finger. Then I inserted the bottle nipple in his mouth. Within minutes he had consumed a cup of warm milk replacer - enough to fill his belly for a few hours. He also peed and pooped on my leg during his feeding, which is actually a very good sign that he is going to be okay. After I put the lamb back in his pen, I went in to the house, threw my clothes in the washer and climbed into the shower for the fourth time in one day.

After dinner I realized I hadn't found the litter of kittens yet. I pulled on some barn clothes and headed out to the hayloft. The two mother cats were poking about up there, but I couldn't find their kittens. If I don't find them soon, they will be too wild for me to adopt them out and I will be stuck with them. I spayed ten barn cats last year. I don't need any more. Once up in the loft, I got hay down my rubber boots, in my mouth and in my hair. Farming is not a job for the faint at heart. I searched under old boards, inside boxes and behind hay bales. I couldn't find the cats.

Now back in the house an hour later, I am sipping oolong tea and trying to write a column. The faint smell of hay and barn is in my nose, and I cannot ignore it. I might have to take shower #5 before bed.

Tune into the Big Breakfast Show with Drew and Diana at STAR 97.5fm, Kemptville's radio station.

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