Animal tales

This week started on a sad note with the still birth of one of the lambs. Les had been losing weight for the last few weeks and we were pretty convinced that her pregnancy had ended. When she went into labour, the first part that emerged was the lamb’s ear, so Karen had to search out the two front hooves and try to get the head into position so Les could actually push the lamb out. It involved quite a lot of effort on many of our parts. Dave and Andrew held her on one side and I held her on the other so we could try and lift Les’ hips into a better position for her to push the lamb out and for Karen to be able to reach the lamb itself. When Karen finally managed to get the lamb’s head into position, I could see its tongue hanging out and knew that it couldn’t be alive. Apparently a living lamb will help in its birthing, so it’s just good that we managed to help Les get it out. The lamb was female and surprisingly large considering how small Les was during her pregnancy. Les still isn’t doing so well, so she’s being fed grain and I try to visit her a bit each day. I hope she gets better soon.

On Tuesday, I ended up milking Amber on my own. I was the only one who woke up in time and debated if I should go or not and decided that if I really wanted to be able to milk Amber, I shouldn’t wimp out just because I didn’t have company. It was a rather unsuccessful milking as I was quite nervous and still need a lot of practice with my milking technique. I think I only managed to milk about 500 ml from her before my hand got tired and I lost my teat to the calf who was suckling from the other side. So I wasn’t feeling all that good about my luck with animals when I left the barn.

As I was walking back to the kitchen with the milk pail, I passed Karen and Gavin in the pasture watching the newest lamb that was just born while I was milking Amber. She looks like a thorougbred horse, and is quite as skittish! She’s all black with a white blaze on her nose and a white foot. So cute! It was really good to see a new lamb born successfully after what happened with Les the day before.

Earlier in the week, I had managed to grab a few minutes to talk with Gavin about staying at Everdale for the whole season. So now I’ll be staying at Everdale until the end of October (with some weeks away in July and August for my sister’s wedding) and am a long term volunteer and can join the interns in their seminars and visits to other farms. So my first seminar with them was all day on Wednesday when we did a lot of creative farm dreaming, drawing out what our dream farms would look like and sharing them with the group. It was really interesting to see what everyone’s dream farm looked like. We ended the day with a walk around the various farm fields talking about the reasons why different cover crops were planted and the challenges of the various fields.

Thursday, I participated in my first harvest. We harvested garlic scapes, which are the flower stem of the garlic before the flower gets produced. If you want your garlic bulb to grow well, you need to break off the scape so the plant will put its energy into the bulb and not the flower. We also harvested lettuce leaves from the lettuces that had been damaged in the hail storm from a couple weeks back. Since the outer leaves were so damaged from the hail, the lettuces couldn’t be harvested whole for sale. Instead, we cut the whole, smaller, inner leaves to include in a spring salad mix. We also harvested the first round of snap peas, which was very sparse since its the next harvest that’s more plentiful. I then spent pretty much the rest of the day wheel hoeing, which was definitely a huge workout!

On Friday, Nyna finally had her twins. She had been having difficulties with her pregnancy so Gavin just kept Dave and Mark with him and sent the rest of us spectators away. They successfully helped birth 2 white females, Mark helping with the first one which he named Quiver, and Dave with the second, who has a black spot on one ear, so Dave named her Dot.

At the end of the day, Garrett mentioned that Aly, the goat with the twin kids, wasn’t acting herself, so I got out my goat book and went to take a look at her. She was lying down and panting and looked really bloated, so I called Karen over to confirm if she thought Aly might have bloat. Karen identified the stomach which gets bloated and we got Aly up and walking with me massaging her belly to try and get things moving. We definitely heard some gurgling in her belly from the massaging and she perked up and was able to eat the hay we put out for her, so I felt good that I had managed to help her feel better. It can’t have been a serious case of bloat for the walking/massaging technique to work, but really, I just wanted to avoid it getting to a serious case where you have to insert a feeding tube to add baking soda or vegetable oil to bring down the gas, or the worst case scenario where you have to puncture a hole in the stomach to let out the excess gas. And it felt really good to be able to try out such a non-invasive treatment and be able to see the animal perk up afterwards from it. And my reward…getting to play with her kids who sucked on my fingers and totally jumped all over me…probably because I smelled like Aly after massaging her so much ;P

Saturday, I got to work in the farm store for most of the day and see how the CSA worked. It was really encouraging to meet so many people who wanted to support local agriculture.

I spoke to Liz later in the weekend who updated me on the Aly situation. Apparently Aly had some sort of infection from the pregnancy/birthing, and when I saw her, had bloat on top of that. She’s being treated with medication now so she should get better soon. Her udder has dried up as a result, and the kids are now being bottle fed. I’m just glad that Aly’s going to get better now, as another farmer in the area had the same thing happen to her goat, but the goat died before they could start treating her. It’s sad that Aly is no longer producing milk, but I’m glad she’ll be getting better, and hope that I can help with the bottle feeding of the kids!

This coming week, I’m going to get on the Everdale computers and post some pictures so you can see what it’s like at the farm. And for those of you who are local, do come and visit!

This is the story of my journey into sustainable agriculture. From the streets of downtown Toronto, to the farm land of southern Ontario, I hope to discover the techniques and practices that work for me in both mind and heart.

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