Thursday, May 29

Continuing Education

[Continuing Education]

Over the past few years, I've been a participant in the unofficial Coach Stop Farm City Girl Outreach Project. The farm belongs to Darrell and Conni, and I've been visiting regularly since Keely [D is Keely's dad, and C is her stepmom] took me there a few years back for Thanksgiving.

On the farm there are several percheron, a few riding horses, a flock of sheep, two dogs, a few barn cats. Since my second or third visit I've been helping with chores whenever there: helping to mix the grain, getting straw and hay out of the loft, feeding and watering the animals, leading horses to or from the pasture, mucking stalls, etcetera. I even keep barn boots and clothes there. It really has been my city-escape haven.

This past weekend was particularly exciting.

On Saturday night, I witnessed the breeding of a mare, by their stallion, Crow's Pink Fury. I had honestly been a bit apprehensive about this. Why? Well, first, there's the breeding chute [see this one for miniature horses for the idea] and it took seeing it used to understand how it protects everyone — mare, stallion, breeder — from getting injured in the process. Then, there was the stallion [if anyone ever uses the phrase "hung like a horse" around me, I will disabuse them of their misconceptions]. The breeding was, well, demystified for me. I'm unsure that mare really noticed.

On Sunday afternoon, I actually got away from the farm for a while. Keely and I went to play bingo at VFW post where her maternal grandma, Helen, hangs out. Fascinating. Utterly fascinating. Angie, one of Helen's friends, was able to watch her own twelve cards, and keep an eye on my nine cards [upside down — she was across the table from me] and correct me when I missed something. Angie and Helen each won a game. Neither Keely nor I ever came close.

The most exciting part of the weekend was late Sunday evening. There was one pregnant ewe left. All the others had already given birth weeks ago. I'd never witnessed a birth of anything. We were in the barn, doing chores when it was mentioned that it was about time for the ewe to lamb. We got bales of straw from the loft. Darrell shooed the rest of the flock out of the pen, and put down a thick layer of straw. I stood beside the pen watching and waiting while Darrell, Conni and Sherri [dairy farming neighbor] finished the rest of the chores.

The three of them were behind me, feeding the three new baby horses and their mamas, when the first lamb was born. I excitedly muttered something incomprehensible. Darrell checked on the lamb, and then told me it would be okay to come into the pen.

Over an hour passed waiting for the second lamb. In the interim, the ewe licked the baby clean, and she took her first tentative steps. I helped Conni put iodine on the umbilical cord. The ewe, by smacking the baby on its butt, encouraged her to walk and nurse.

Conni became concerned that the ewe was having difficulty delivering the second lamb. I was petting the ewe while Conni checked her. Conni discovered that the knees of the second lamb were caught behind the ewe's cervix. Conni said she was going to have to move the lamb around. She told me to hold onto the ewe and try to keep her calm. I didn't have time to think about it. I did as I was told, and Conni managed to dislodge the knees and pull the lamb out. Within a half-hour, he was coated with iodine, walking and, with some assistance, nursing.

Wonder. Awe. Life.