Monday, December 29, 2008

Sometimes, there are no "right words"

Today has been a difficult day. A deeply sad and heart wrenching day.

Last night, we finished driving home from Nova Scotia. It was late when we came home, about 1 am. We knew that our farm help had been around to close up at about 6 pm, so we decided not to go see the animals. I also knew, from my farm help, that we had lost some chickens. I didn't want to go face that at 1 am. Selfishly, I wanted to go to bed, because 1 am Iowa time was 3 am Nova Scotia time and we had been driving for about 18 hours.

This morning, I went out to the chicken coops, sadly, to face more lost friends. Then I went inside the barn to check on the brooder. We left with about 60 or so chicks of various ages in the brooder. We had come home to 8 remaining. I lost penedesencas, light brahmas, bantam Sicilian buttercups, cuckoo marans, nankins, mille fleurs, porcelain millies, silkies, mottled javas, ameraucanas, frizzles, cochins, orpingtons, australorps...the list goes on and on.

Worst of all of this, was the loss of my dear, sweet Rosie. My rescued chicken, who followed me like a pup and always wanted to be with me when I was outside. She was gone, along with so many other adult hens. I was devastated at the losses. I did not count, but it was at least 30 hens, at least 6 roosters, and so many chicks I could not even begin to contemplate the losses. Rosie will be missed most of all. She was a treasure.

I suspect a number of factors combined to cause this sad result. Most likely the bitter cold combined with IB. I fear that our coop is not sufficiently insulated, even with the heat lamps in it. And meanwhile, I was at home in Nova Scotia, loving every minute of it, soaking up hugs and love from my parents, wonderful home cooked meals, the joys of the holiday. All the while, my chickens were dying and I was oblivious to the gravity of the situation. Our farm help did their best, but the conditions were bad. I cannot begin to express the guilt and shame I feel for having abandoned my flock in their time of need. It just makes my soul shrivel.

Then, I went into the goat barn. Two perfect, beautiful, babies -- pale grey and pale brown -- borne by dear Muffin, were lying dead in the corner of the barn. Frozen. I wept. When we bought her, we had been told her due date was November 27. I believe a mistake was made, and that in fact, it was December 27. We would never have gone if we had known. We thought she was just looking pudgy because we'd been giving her the extra grain, expecting babies in November. But no, she bore beautiful twins, most likely last night, while I selfishly trudged off to bed. Our farm help assured me he was in the barn around 6 pm and no babies were there at that time. Our sweet Muffin gave us our first baby goats, and all we cared about was falling asleep. We did not check on her before we went to bed, assuming she was well and warm, in with the other goats and the llamas.

So now, I try to face tomorrow, and the fact that life will go on on our farm, but the horror of this morning will live long in my memory, and the guilt that I feel will be hard to overcome.

The one saving moment today - we went to the Animal Rescue League and adopted two Sicilian donkeys. They are very small - smaller than our largest Nubians. There is a mother donkey, maybe 4 or 5 years old they estimated, and her son, about a year old. He is gelded. She is grey-brown with the classic donkey cross on her back. He is all dark brown and smaller than her. They are lovely. I will do my best to give them the home they deserve. We have named them Willow and Springfield. Springfield was a famous racehorse in England and has special significance in our family. Willow is named after the beautiful, graceful tree of the same name. I will blog about them more in the near future.

Today, I pray to Mother Earth to gently hold the souls of those animals that I have loved, and those that I never had a chance to know. May they rest at peace in her arms.


Anonymous said...

Oh Claire - I am so sorry to read about your losses. It is so hard to lose the special ones. I look forward to seeing pictures of your donkeys. Find peace in all of the critters you still have. I will say a prayer for your sick chickens and for you in these coming days.

Unknown said...

My heart is with you tonight as I understand how you feel. As many times as you can check on your barn, it is always the one time that you don't, something happens. These are times that make you stronger, not weaker. These "learning" experiences just suck but they are there for a reason. My thoughts are with you and so is a hug:)

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

How heartwrenching indeed. I'm sad so sad for you, Claire. I can't even imagine the horror and emotions that began your morning.

But it's a rare person who would have done any differently than you and visited the barn after such a long drive and at such a late hour.

And who's to say that if you'd have stayed home that the same thing would have happened, with the same outcomes.
Sometimes these things just happens, Claire.

Hug those precious little donkeys (I'm secretly hoping you'll post some photos of them soon) and be grateful and blessed for all the critters that remain with you, care for them as best you can.

I'm so sorry, my friend.
New Mexico

Suzanne@ Panteg Alpacas said...

Oh Claire , I am so sad for you , Lisa is right - nobody would have done different , we had IB in our flock last summer and it is viscious . Try not to blame yourself . Your donkeys sound great - just what I would like .

Joanna@BooneDocksWilcox said...

So sorry Claire, just push on. I have a special affection for those of you who rescue, a big cyber hug for ya.

For your remaining poultry, have you used LA200 before? I'd inject 1cc high in the inner thigh. If the birds eyes are already caked it may be too late, I'd probably put those birds down, but on the others that look fairly well, I'd use the LA200.

Also, I appreciate K. J. -
Her poultry health articles have been great for me.

You had nankins? They are very rare.

Take care Claire

IsobelleGoLightly said...

So sorry to hear of your losses of the beautiful chickens and your little goats. Sometimes we are just ready to go.
I look forward to reading about your farm and family. My lady person hopes to have chickens someday soon!

diane said...

Claire I am so sorry for you. I have always loved this poem and thought maybe you would find some comfort in the idea that your precious animals are in a happy place.

'Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food, water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals that had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor. Those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by. The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing; they each miss someone very special to them, who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent. His eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together....'

-- Author Unknown

Claire MW said...

Thank you all for your kind thoughts and comments. Thank you to Diane for the lovely Rainbow Bridge poem too. It is a comfort to think that I may one day join them again.

I must learn from my experience and be at peace with these losses, difficult as it is.

My flock and my livestock all need me and I will do my best for them.

Katherine Dunn/Apifera Farm said...

Hi Claire- This is a learning experience, and you will learn many things from the loss. I really am so sorry. Many people have chided my husband and I because we stay close to home, and have left only for short spurts, but it always has to be timed around lambing, heat season, breeeding season, etc - which usually leaves one week in January. I get very cranky when people chide us and say, "You just need to find a farm hand or teenager to come care for everything..." Grrrr. One's flock and barnyard can not be known by anyone but the farmer I've found, and that's why leaving can have bad results. But you are human, and have a family you came from. I lost a hen my first summer becasue I didn't spread poultry dust, she died in my arms and was covered. I felt horrible, and you have lost so many - but you will now know and learn and be an even better chicken owner.

On our first lambing season, I learned everything from books and asking questions. To this day one of my ewes hardly looks pregnant. And having just driven home in ragin rains for 6 hours last night in the dark, after driving 6 hours up in ragin rains that morning, to pick up Guinnias, I know the 'so-tired-I can cry' feeling.

Take care of yourself now.

Donkeys? Well, you know how I feel about donkeys...Love to your farm from ours.

Unknown said...

Ahh, Claire, I am so very sorry. But as others here have said, it is NOT your fault. It could have happened if you had stayed home - you can't be with your animals or children every moment. And you had no reason to worry so it was best you headed for sleep. I'm glad you now have the donkeys who also need your love.
Nancy in Atlanta

Unknown said...

I'm still sitting at my computer, but I left the TV on in the other room. I think what is showing now is Ely Stone. I just heard his assistant remind a stressed mother-to-be of the airlines' instructions that, when the masks drop in an emergency, you put yours on FIRST before you can help anyone else. That made me think of you. Have a positive 2009.

sugarcreekstuff said...

Claire, I'm so sorry for your losses. I have had many instances of farm guilt over the years. The only thing you can do is learn from it and move forward.
Thinking of you.

Egghead said...

Claire I am so sorry for all your losses. I hope your heart heals soon. Please know that these sorts of things happen to the best of us and that those little souls knew you loved them. Blessings to you.

Paula said...

Oh no.... Oh Claire, I'm crying as I write this because I know how it feels... I am so sorry...

Lola Nova said...

I was so sorry to read this post. I am deeply saddened by your losses, I know how much you care for you animals. And to Rosie, an inspiration, she will be missed.
You are in my thoughts. Take care.