The reality of life on the farm is a constant experience of life and death. As natural as each other – essential even, but as great is the gift of every addition to our lives, so stark is the loss of those taken away.
Stardust dropped a perfect baby girl when Pamela last came to visit so we called her Pashe (pasha) in honour of the two extraordinary women who have shared their ‘paca passion with us and provided us with most of our flock.
Then our first lamb appeared. Another girl birthed on the river bed under the house so we could watch from the window. Ben is our eagle eyed spotter for birds, birthing, and anything that changes the gestalt! We were so proud but no longer had she landed than the alpacas told us that a dog was about one morning so Ged got his rifle, sighted and shot it. But the lambie was gone.
Next we had another little girl lamb born and both Mother and us were so careful and protective and locked them up at night for several days and watched like hawks – so far, so good.
Then Tinkerbell finally unpacked a little white boy on a grey and cold day. We wiped him down and warmed him up with the homemade rug because he was shivering so much. We left them alone to get on with the beginnings of life until we realised that Think was off foraging and the poor little lad was still unable to stand. And when we got him up we could see that his legs were all wonky. Still, we managed to get him under Tink for a couple of colostrum feeds before she flatly refused to do more. Her vulva was very stretched and she was clearly very sore so we left her to do her own thing and recover while we took over the bottle feeding. Firefly slept by the fire inside for the first two nights of his life, then I rugged him up and rigged up the old playpen on a deep bed of straw on the verandah and he slept there for ten days or so. During the day he was mainly just lying in the sun, healing, and getting up for his bottle.
We even had to take him to Port Macquarie one day because if you’re bottle feeding a baby you can’t leave them at home! He got passed around from pillar to post and surprised a few beach goers. I took him to the vet for splinting but after a few days a friend noticed that it was rubbing so we took it all off and then tried a few different configurations before finally those bendy legs started to take weight, Firefly took heart and his Mum had hope. Then he was back on the boob, off the bottle, and standing on his own four feet (finally!)
We had our first twin lambs but the runt wouldn’t get on the boob despite our best efforts and my first ewe milking (easier than I thought!). We had them in the pen on straw but he wandered outside in the night and died. We should have brought him in the house and bottle fed him but we thought he would be ok with mum.
I have been watching the alpacas obsessively for weeks as we have so many babies due, but last weekend I took off for a couple of hours of chainsawing (the noise of the chainsaw is sweet music to my ears after weeks of 4 year old prattle!) and when I came back one of the alpacas that I didn’t even know was pregnant had birthed and the baby had died in the attempt. A lovely white girl . . . gone.
And every day when I go to feed my beautiful horse, Baby, I wonder will she still be alive? She is in so much pain and can barely walk but I just can’t give the instruction for Ged to pull the trigger until we have explored every avenue and tried everything to make her well. I just can’t picture my life without her in it. And as much as I believe in spirit, as much as I see beyond the veil to the other side, I just want to be able to touch her, feel her warmth, stroke her mane and look into her big, brown, beautiful eyes.
At the moment she resides ‘on the other side’ of the farm and she can’t come home because she can’t walk that far. I know in my heart and soul that when she is gone it will be the thus, she will be ‘on the other side’, exactly the same. She will be running in the Elysian fields, full of life. I just won’t be able to touch her except in my mind, memory and heart.
The longer I am here on the farm, the more ordinary conversational terms have great meaning – bite the bullet, stay of execution, the circle of life etc
Harry is in the freezer and on the table and even I, vegetarian for 20 something years, have enjoyed him. Hector is gone and just alive in my heart where I miss him still. Christmas will forever hold a very special place in my heart and a feeling that we failed him. They live on, these lost ones, that we have loved, however briefly. And maybe, just maybe, we are being trained to prepare for death, to cease to be scared of it, to accept its inevitability, and even, one day, embrace it.