Battle Lost

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We lost a ewe today.

We'd been prom dress shopping and were in high spirits. We set out to do evening chores and spotted a ewe who looked to be just going down to lamb. We made her a pen and carried on feeding haying and watering all the others, to give her time to get the job done.

Then, in a very short space of time,  a frighteningly, vanishingly small space of time, things went wrong. We called the vet. Things went horribly wrong. There was nothing we could do ( Boo and I are basic level at intervention, Neil's a pro, but he wasn't there - as it turns out, even he couldn't have helped.)

We battled with that ewe. We did all we could do, and it wasn't enough.

By the time the vet arrived, the poor little girl had died - and the vet sprinted up the field to try to save the lambs. That's not a process you want to hear described. It failed, and we lost all three. Thank you, Gethyn, though for doing everything possible, including a short cross country sprint.

Sometimes, keeping sheep is the hardest thing in the world. The chores needed completing, the fence needed moving, the water troughs needed filling.  We dragged on like robots,  in the cold and the rain, with darkness falling. We all love them. They are our family.

To some, it might be strange. A tough, fifteen year old girl, who hours previously had been modelling prom gowns and limping from trawling round Salisbury in high heels, fighting the tears, the elements, and everything else life has to throw at her,  cool as a cucumber as the vet tries to cut free lambs from their tragic mother, wiping an oil creased  Barbour sleeve across her well mascaraed eyes as he fails. Shouting into the wind at the injustice of it all. Turning around, pulling up her collar, calling her dog, and getting on with tending to the rest.

Sometimes it will break your heart. George Henderson, I think it was, said farming is a business, shepherding is a vocation, or words to that effect.  I understand why some people think we shouldn't keep animals for meat, or for profit, but if there was no return in sheep, they would become extinct, I think. The endless toil and terrible heartbreak. No one would keep these paradoxical,  ancient creatures. They would be lost.  It's hard to explain to someone who has never stood and gazed at their own flock of sheep.

It's made them, these daughters of mine. Refined them in fire. Made them remarkable. They shine like molten copper.

There is no joy like a newly lambed ewe, proudly nursing her lambs, and watching them racing the fence lines on a spring evening.  There is no sorrow like losing one of our tiny flock

our little flock, in their big world.

This has been a long, long day. Tomorrow, I'm off to work. If my plans to work a third job come to fruition, this time in a fortnight, I'll still be working. I'm now wondering if it will honestly happen, with all the trials that can come along with livestock.


mel said...

i'm so sorry for your loss.....i know what you mean -- all of it. especially about your daughter...

it's a good life - the best, but a bloody hard one.


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