Friday, June 01, 2001

I've finally had time to get some real gardening done. Ive cleaned away all the dead stuff from around the perennials , I'm still wondering how much of each rose is going to come back ditto for all the clematis which come back on last years wood. I have four.
The horrible dissapointment is the honeysuckle bush. I've had it for a long time. Last year as the snow melted it drained down to sit in a pool aaround its roots till I had the foresight to dig a ditch to drain the water, consequently it winter killed almost to the ground. However, it grew up 4 feet from the roots. Last Labour day long weekend we got a thick wet snow, coincidently that was when my inlaws chose to visit, the heaviness of the snow caused the delicate new growth to bend under its weight and this spring it appears to have winter killed again almost to teh ground. Bummer.
All my vegetables spinach, beets, carrots, potatoes, 4 kinds of lettuce 2 kinds of peas, calandulas sunflowers, dimortheca and parsley are all comming up. In the green house there are peppers, 4 kinds of tomatoes, 4 kinds of basil, cucumbers as well as dill and zuchinni waiting their turn to be planted outside.
email me I would love to hear from you.
melaniew@mac.com


Sunday, May 27, 2001

Ok so this does not have anything to do with gardening ..... sorry



Lambing On The Edge - A Chancy Adventure Into The Unknown


Outside it was freezing, I was up in the middle of the night. Flashlight leading my way up the dark path to the barn, half asleep I had pulled my winter weight coveralls on over my nighty, a wool sweater, wool socks, jammed my feet into sorrel boots, wool hat and barn mitts. As I unlatched the gate to the sheep pen the dogs pushed ahead of me, noses to the ground looking for placentas.

Although, it was snowing lightly, the stars were cold pinpricks amid a pulsating haze of light hanging down from the sky like a curtain, Aurora Borealis. But I couldn't stand and look too long I had work to do. Shinning my torch around the pen. I noticed a ewe had lambed. I went over to pick it up, lead the ewe into the barn. It is instinct that the ewe will easily follow her lamb if it is held at her eye level as it is carried along. I knew something was wrong, the lamb was cold and the ewe ran away from me. I followed her to find another lamb, a twin, frozen to the ground.

Bewildered I shone my flashlight, looking, hoping there wasn't any more. My last check had been 2 hours ago. The lamb in my arms was dead. I picked up its dead sibling and left the barnyard.

When the alarm went off at 4 AM I had woken freezing in my bed. My fumbled attempt to push up the thermostat had resulted in a frightening silence. I lit the wood stove in the kitchen part of our open plan house, stumbled into the frigid night to check the barnyard. I had noted the thermometer read minus 27, not really cold enough for the propane to gel. Finding nothing happening with the sheep and still puzzled about the lack of heat I fell into an uneasy sleep waking again at 6 to get the children up, the first bus arrives at 7, check the barn, throw another log on the fire.

I came back to the house blinking tears out of my barely focusing eyes. The left lens had fallen out of my glasses during my horrible discovery in the barnyard. Now, Jammed up against the wood stove, phone in my hand, I dialed the number of my neigbour, John.

A month ago I had naively agreed to take on the responsibility of John's flock of sheep, while he went back to school. The clincher was they started lambing on February the Third. It would be a cinch, I thought. I would check them every hour when I was awake and every two hours when I wasn't. After birth I would put them into the barn where the newborn lambs wouldn't freeze. It worked for 4 days.

For some reason I had failed to take into account the snow, minus 30 degree weather or the fact that the flock of 60 ewes did not fit comfortably into my barn all at once. I forgot, in addition to my shepherd duties, I still had to made sure my children got on the school bus every morning drive them 50 k into town to their various activities, make all the meals, do the dishes, run the household and sleep. I had particularly forgotten about sleep.

Lack of sleep was showing in the helpless phone conversation I was now having with John. "I can't do it anymore", I wailed. "Everything is going wrong".

For a fleeting few seconds I thought about returning to my former life in the city, there everything is easy. Nature is conveniently paved over, no bugs no mud. Meat comes wrapped in plastic, no blood no image of the former baby animal. A garburator digests my kitchen scraps out of sight out of mind .

Fifteen years ago city life was all I had known. We had came here to Northern BC chasing a bucolic dream. We bought a log house, I planted an extensive vegetable garden, freezing, canning and root cellaring all the produce. I got some sheep for the barn and toyed with the idea of chickens and maybe a milk cow. The children thrived in all the goodness, fresh air, clean soil, three room school house and the small close knit community. For me such a life is an unheard of utopia.

I grew up in cities all over the world Singapore, Perth, Vancouver, Kuala Lumpur, Went to Nine different schools and two boarding Schools. I had never known the gritty feel of warm earth on the soles of my bare feet, planted a seed, or watched baby Lambs gamboling on green grass on a May morning.

May is the usual time for lambs to be born up herein the Peace. But John has his own reasons for February lambing and now it was my problem. As always the sun burst through the dark on cue. I went outside and with the aid of a bucket of grain managed to entice most of the recalcitrant ewes into the barn. The furnace man came to fix the heat problem.

I made myself some hot milk and toast. It was almost half an hour before I realized the broiling element on my tiny confection oven, given to me by my mother, who worries about her eldest daughter being able to cope with only a wood stove to cook on, had broken.

Now that the sun was climbing higher, warming everything up and despite the fact the furnace man was taking hours to figure out what was wrong, all I wanted was for him to leave so I could sleep. I went outside to feed and water the sheep, clean the pens and watch the lambs. While the ewes munched hay or licked at the snow the baby lambs ran round and round the bale feeder like precocious children at recess. If only I didn't feel so tired, I thought.

I had put the dead lambs in the back of the pickup ready to be disposed of. I checked the barn frequently but there were no new births. I was worried because 45 sheep crammed into my barn left little room for moving about. When I appeared inside the barn the ewes all ran together, I cringed at the thought of a baby lamb getting squashed in their mad dash away from me.

The furnace man finally left, the children came home. It was Getting dark when John's truck came down the drive way. He said he had found someone else to take on the responsibility of his sheep.

It would mean no more 4AM checks, waddling up the path to the barn in my winter weight coveralls, flashlight bobbing, Freezing fingers, spilled iodine or warm woolly babies. No more lambs cavorting on the snow until my own sheep lambed in the warm May earth.

No I don't want to give them up I told him I can do it.

We improved the barn, putting up tarps over the Dutch doors to keep out of the cold. John showed me how to feel the udder, a hard tight udder meant lambing was imminent. We put those sheep into the barn.

Robert came home as always every weekend and did a few late night checks The Children help me feel udders, I'm getting more sleep and I haven't lost any lambs to the cold yet.
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