My week was intense. I felt so much like the warbler that found it’s way into our house and suddenly realized it was trapped. And then spent a bunch of energy flitting around looking for the exit sign while inadvertently bashing it’s head on the windows, attracted to the promise of what lay on the other side, but unable to travel that enticing direct route to get there. Then being chased, pursued, and finally caught and held by something larger. Something that it didn’t fully understand.
I busted my little buns in the garden this week. I wasn’t the only one busting buns; also Eric, sometimes the kids, and more often than not our farm neighbors and devoted helpers, Jesse and Hannah. A tremendous amount of work went down. Sweet potatoes were planted. All varieties of peppers and eggplant were transplanted. Ginger. Watermelons. Muskmelons. Zucchini. We cultivated. We pulled weeds. We got sunburned. By Thursday afternoon, we had accomplished so much and we were all pooped and ready for a break. And blessing of all blessings, in rolled the thunder, lightning, and dark clouds. And then the deluge. (Can you hear the porch swing creaking and long gulp-y swallows of some type of carbonated, fermented beverage?)
It rained hard. By evening, when the rain subsided, enough rain had fallen to bring the small creeks up in a flash flood. My wool sheep happened to be on the other side of a raging “branch”, so including them in the evening rounds wasn’t an option. But I just figured all was well and instead went with Eric to lend a hand with his chores: moving the big flock/herd of sheep and cows, collecting eggs, loving on the dog, feeding the chicks and goslings. All the critters in that circuit were peaceful and glistening following the storm. So we do the chores and head to the house and call it a day. Friday morning, also known as “harvest day”, rolls around. Before heading up to the gardens, and since the raging torrents had subsided, I went over to check on my sweet little wool sheep. My most skittish ewe, presumably from the fear of the intense storm, had likely spooked and had gotten herself tangled in our electrified net fencing,,, and was dead. Not at all what I was expecting to find waiting for me on that otherwise beautiful morning. (Here the little bird begins bashing it’s head on the window, trying to understand why it can’t get out.)
But (not to sound cold), there’s a business to run and a harvest to execute. So I untangle the ewe, remove her from the paddock, and in a haze, move on with my day. Fortunately, the harvest is relatively quick which allows me to return my thoughts to the dead ewe. I couldn’t bear the thought of her being “wasted”, but at this point her meat was dogfood. Her fleece was gorgeous, though. Shorn just long enough ago to hide all of the wobbles left from my inexperienced shearers hand. And she was my only brown ewe. Here, I would like to interject what a damn fine husband I have. For I voiced my desire to skin the ewe so that I could tan her hide and Eric didn’t think I was crazy (well, not too much anyways) for wanting to tackle such a project on a harvest day. He dutifully helped me, amid a swarm of flies and stench, and patiently taught me some new skills. Bless him. (I put the hide in the freezer for later tanning, so expect some future progress report on this project another day.)
I hope this hasn’t left you readers longing for the story to be over. It’s not over. There’s more.
Saturday morning Ira and I (along with Hannah), head to Nashville for market in the pre-dawn hours of the morning. With so many chores on the farm right now, Eric or I, and a child or two, has to stay home from market to tend it all. Well. When Eric made the chore rounds that morning, and went to check the little flock, he was thunderstruck. Another ewe, this time one of Ira’s, had found the same fate. Tangled and dead in the fence. The very next day. We have no idea what happened. Maybe the mineral feeder was too close to the fence? Maybe with the dark of the moon, the ewes just couldn’t see the fence during the night? (But we have used this type of fencing for years with minimal drama.) While I am a fairly upbeat and positive person most of the time, this series of events left me feeling cursed. And to see Ira’s face when he saw his dead sheep. A sheep that he had bottle-raised, cared for, and loved for an entire year. It’s enough to leave a mama with her heart in her hands, wringing and squeezing, at the sight of that forlorn boy. And he had just lost a baby duckling to (we assume) a big black snake, his favorite newly hatched chick from a broody hen suddenly died, and he ran over one of his pullets when moving his chicken coop… all just days before. Mercy. To quote Ira: “Boy, things just aren’t going very good.”
I know these stories seem depressing and sorrowful. I know I could have just kept my mouth shut and instead focused on all the fine and good things that happen each day. I could have kept it sugar-coated. Full of rainbows and butterflies. That kind of thing. But I also want to be sincere. I want to be true and real and honest. Shadows pass. We all know that. We just never know for sure when, or what the light quality will be like when they do. I’m learning that it ain’t always easy… but it’s real.