I must say, animals are a huge part of homesteading. They provide hours of entertainment and some of heartache. We’ve had our share of deaths here at the farm, an incredible time of learning for my kids.
However, we’ve also had many successes, near death experiences coming back to life! Those are worth remembering…
I thought I’d share one of our first “near deaths” with you.
We moved here to the farm in December of 2002. This was the second move we’d made in a December. Please hear me on this, I don’t recommend this month at all. There are 11 other months that are much more favorable. Moving in December kinda messes up the holidays!
Anyway, we bought our first animal in January. I told you I was ready to go! It was Sage, our Shetland sheep. She was a “bummer” lamb. She’d been rejected by her mom and had to be bottle fed. A lot of farmers don’t want to mess with bottles because it’s so time consuming and milk replacer is expensive. Well, I was looking for those bottle babies. I had 6 children, 12 hands, that were eager and ready to hold that bottle!
Sheep are herd animals so I needed another one. This was my intellectual argument to Dave. Sure we had a baby goat but it wasn’t a sheep. Sage needed one of her own kind. Of course, I didn’t mention that the goat was a herd animal also and… see where I’m going with this and why the animals multiply so quickly?
Soon we found another farmer who had Romney sheep and she had a “bummer” lamb also. This lamb was pure white and the typical picture of an Easter lamb.
Did I mention yet that I’d never raised sheep before? Had only read books on raising sheep? Am impulsive and tend to jump right in…with both feet?
Buttercup was doing so well. And then Victoria went up to the barn one morning to feed her. She found Buttercup dead in the stall, her belly as big as a basketball. Bloat. I didn’t know it could happen on the bottle…
I quickly called the lady whom I’d bought her from. I confessed what had happened and that I had mended my ways. Thankfully she had another one available – the twin of Buttercup. Their mother was blind and did okay taking care of them but it would be best to take the lamb away. I went to pick the baby up, much wiser this time about bottle feeding lambs. We named her Rosie.
However…. well, wait. Let me explain what the books say. When you bring a new animal onto your farm, they highly recommend that you quarantine your new animal just to make sure they’re disease free before you release them into the rest of your herd. Okay, that made sense.
However, this was a baby lamb who had just come from a large herd, lots of playmates and sleeping buddies. But I did just as the book said, I separated Rosie from the other babies- two goats (remember, goats are herd animals!) and 1 lamb. We’d just had company show up at the farm and we were in the driveway talking with them. All of a sudden, I heard this banging and scraping on metal. Sometimes, the baby goats would climb on the metal feeder trying to play “King of the Mountain.” The noise kept going and I asked Victoria if she would go check in the barn to see what was going on.
Victoria came running out yelling hysterically. (Don’t forget, she’s the one that found the other lamb dead with a distended belly- -a little unnerving for a kid.)
“Mom!!! Rosie’s dying!! Rosie’s dying!!!”
Panic gripped me and I ran to the barn as fast as I could. I would NOT let another lamb die and I was determined. I found Rosie in her little stall on her back with legs flailing against the metal siding of the barn. She wasn’t breathing. I grabbed her up and started to rub her vigorously, all the time saying, “Come on baby, just breathe!” Rubbing wasn’t working, she still wasn’t breathing. I banged on her chest hoping for that one big breath…nothing.
I’ve been a life guard, I’ve had CPR training and that was the next thought that came to mind. “Cyndi – breathe for her!”
I was still cradling Rosie in my arms. I put my hand over her nose and put my mouth over hers.
I tell you, when that “mothering instinct” kicks in, we’ll do just about anything, huh?! I took a deep breath and blew into her mouth. I began to rub her chest again. Nothing. One more time I covered her nose, put my mouth over hers and blew.
Rosie took a BIG breath and started to bleat. HOORAY!! I was so shaky! I cuddled her and cooed over her, thankful she’d been spared.
The other babies meandered back into the barn. We’d chased them out when all the commotion began. I put Rosie down and chucked the book knowledge. The others came up to her and nosed her a bit as if to say, “Hey, wanna play with us?”
Rosie followed right behind them out into the yard as if nothing had ever happened!
I just shook my head and walked back to Dave and our company, my legs a little bit like noodles. I told the whole story and then asked Dave if he would give me a big ol’ kiss for saving the lamb!! He said not until I washed my lips with soap, lots of soap …and scrubbed with a bristle brush!! Man, what kind of gratitude is that? 🙂