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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

In memory of springtimes past

I drive by the sheep farm on County Road 43 and slow down to watch the lambs chasing each other across the barnyard. That’s the part I miss. I don’t miss having to help a ewe with a difficult birth, or trying to convince her to mother her young or allow them to suckle. I don’t miss sick lambs and lambs that die in your arms. But even though it kept me very, very busy at times, I do miss bottle feeding the baby lambs. Having them recognize me and follow me around the barnyard, bleating for a bottle.
I also miss my horse. She and I didn’t do a whole lot together, because I really don’t know my way around a horse. I grew up just down the road from the Williams’ farm on Johnston so I occasionally got up on a horse and never had a bad experience. In that way I don’t have a fear of horses, so that’s good. But I don’t really know what to do with them and I have no idea how to train them. So Misty had a rather relaxed existence here on the farm. She spent her days hanging out with Donkey, who took the place of her sister Ashley when she died suddenly of a fever, or from eating toxic tree bark, or from an allergic reaction to penicillin – we still don’t know which.
Having Ashley die on us after just a year in our care really shook our confidence as horse owners. It’s quite a responsibility, this extremely intelligent, strong, 1800 lbs of muscle waiting to be given something to do, depending on you for its care and feeding. When Ashley left us – left Misty, really – we decided to send our remaining horse away to be bred.
That didn’t work. The first sleep-away visit was to a Belgian horse farm where the breeding is very controlled. The mare and the stud (my apologies if I’ve got the terms all wrong – what do I know?) are kept in neighbouring stalls, where they can smell, hear and communicate with each other.
When the stud first introduced himself to Misty through the wall, she gave it a sharp kick and snorted her disgust. The farmer kept a close eye on the pair until Misty seemed to be softening up a bit in her response to the male horse. Eventually they were brought out into the main room of the barn, securely tied, and the male was assisted in jumping up on our female horse. This farm does controlled breeding, they explain, so that there are less injuries, the breeding is monitored, and the other horses on the farm don’t get in the way.
Again, it didn’t work. Misty came home with her hide worn off her hips from the stud’s hooves, and she also sported a new bad attitude for a few days. The breeding didn’t take. The second attempt didn’t either.
Now Misty lives at Shermount Farms. I miss her but I am so happy we made the decision to let her go. She is now with someone who knows horses. Roy Sherrer has her hitched and pulling a wagon and even sent us photos and video so we can see our old horse in her new digs.
Springtime is pretty quiet on the farm, now that most of our cows have given birth. We have three cows yet to go but we don’t even know if they are pregnant. They aren’t talking. At least it’s warm enough now that if they decide to give birth beyond the barnyard, as the last one did, the calf won’t freeze to death. I don’t think we have any coyotes around to terrorize the new calves either. They left when they realized the sheep were gone.
No sheep to shear, no lambs to feed, no horse to brush. I guess I’ll have no excuses about looking for time to weed my vegetable garden this summer.

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