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Seeking Relief - Hail, Separation Anxiety, and Broken Connections

Posted 3/29/2011 9:49am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

Its been an eventful week.  Last Wednesday night a cold front moved in bringing with it a thunderstorm and hail pellets that covered the ground.   Earlier in the week I was relieved to return our ewes to pasture before any lambs arrived.  They've been shorn and their ear tag numbers spray painted onto their sides so that we can keep record of them and their lambs, and they were given a few large round bails of hay to hold them over till the grass really gets growing.   It seems like we are getting our seasonal routines worked out in a timely manner for once!  Our sheep are hardy stock  (they were bred in the borderlands of Scotland) who stoically put their butts to the wind and rain and stand still waiting for storms to pass.    The best time to count our sheep is during a rain storm when they stand in quiet formation, like a regiment on guard duty.   But... hail stinging the backs of newly shorn sheep is a different story.   I must admit this was an incident when I truly felt sorry for our sheep and very glad that no lambs had been born yet.   One feels rather helpless as lightening zips across the sky, nervous children are wanting to stay very close, and the whole flock of sheep is walking around heads down, trying to get away from the stinging hail.   Even from the kitchen window where I watched them I thought I could see their skin shivering like they do when flies are bothering them.  Thankfully the hail remained pellet-sized and only lasted a short time. The next morning the sheep were lying in the sun around the hay feeders, calmly chewing their cud.

This past weekend we also succeeded at getting the cows out on pasture before any calves arrived.   Part of this processes involved weaning some of last years late calves so that the mama cows get a break before the new calves arrive.   Weaning is never a quiet process and seems to be a lot harder when the cows and weanlings are in audible range of each other.    We kept the weanling calves in the barnyard with the bull where they have plenty of hay and water and shelter from hail storms.   The mama cows were taken to our southwest paddock where they have both new and overwintered grass to eat and clean pastures for giving birth.  The problem is they can both see and hear each other.   Last night two cows were determined to get back to their bawling calves, (the calves are nearly "teens" -- just a month or so away from sexual maturity themselves) and probably get some relief for their tight udders.   What it meant for Roy, Mac, and I was stomping and stumbling (well -- not Mac-- he's graceful in the worst of circumstances) through the wetlands at dusk shoo-ing a determined cow back across the creek to hang out with her pregnant sisters.    We succeeded and felt confident that the hot fence would keep her in.    This morning she was out again.   But her wandering is limited so we left her go to be dealt with again tonight.  For today she can wander alone with an eye and ear to both her calve and her "sisters".   As her milk gets reabsorbed I am hopeful she will reconsider her circumstance and quietly return tonight to the maternity paddock to prepare for a new arrival.   Fat chance.

The sheep survived the hailstorm but our modem did not.   The electric didn't blink and our old phone is working fine, but perhaps the jumpy nine-year-olds just did it in.   While there is much to love about living thirty minutes away from a "town",  having access to the internet has made it much more appealing.  The last five days seemed like what I imagine an abbreviated addiction recovery process might be like - albeit requiring far less courage from me.   Initially I had a hard time structuring my day without checking email or working on the website, checking my bank account or even my facebook page.   But four days in I found I could focus on other important work with very little thought of email.  So all that to say, if you've been feeling ignored by Blue Rooster Farm, that is why.   I had to make a decision over the weekend -- do I drive 50 miles round trip to check email at my in-laws or do I stay home and get to cows out with Roy.   For farmers who make an effort to be sustainable, our carbon footprint is pretty big -- we put a lot of miles on our cars-- so I opted to stay home.   But my "recovery" was short-lived -- this is a business after all!  I am hoping for UPS delivery today and in the meantime -- I had to make a trip anyway.  We need groceries and my library books were due and I did not give up email for lent.