Tuesday Tunes: The Glamorous Life?
This post is dedicated to our beautiful and resilient sheep: Violet, Hamish, Clover, Rosebud, Fern, Ivy, Heather, Olive, Button, and Daisy.
The glamorous life? Not quite. Farm life definitely isn’t glamorous, but that’s okay. It’s fulfilling. And, it means everything to us. Farmguy and I enjoy interacting with all of our sentient, intelligent, and sweet animals. We also love that each one of them has his or her own individual personality: friendly, talkative, piggy, aloof, curious, or playful. Our sheep, chickens, dogs, and cats enrich our lives immeasurably. Simply stated, Green Hill Farm is a source of joy.
Sometimes we think we know how much something means to us; however, we may not fully realize until we’re faced with not having it anymore. This brings me to last week. Everything was routine as usual, until Tuesday. I was feeding the sheep their afternoon scoop of grain, when I noticed Violet acting disoriented and not approaching the troughs. She was moving slowly and had an odd, wide-eyed look about her. I knew immediately that something was amiss, especially because our sheep NEVER turn down grain. I went straight into the house and looked through our reference books on sheep. I searched for her symptoms of disorientation and anorexia, and to my horror, listeria showed up as a choice. For those of you who may not be familiar with sheep illnesses, listeria is very bad. It’s a bacteria that lives in the soil and can sometimes be found in contaminated food. It’s most easily contracted in the winter and spring months due to wet conditions. It basically acts as meningitis, and once a sheep starts showing symptoms, they are usually gone within 24-48 hours. It’s also contagious to other sheep.
My concern quickly turned to worry as I telephoned my local veterinarian….and then to panic, when the receptionist informed me there were no appointments available for 36 hours. I accepted the first thing she offered, hung up, and took a deep breath. I called Farmguy at work and explained what was happening. We talked for a minute, and he assured me that everything would probably be okay, suggesting that maybe Violet had a respiratory infection. I didn’t disagree, but I doubted it was a respiratory infection secondary to her odd behavior. Plus, I hadn’t heard her sneezing. I walked back down to the pasture. Although everyone but Violet ate the grain, they all seemed to be a little off—just standing and staring. Prey animals, such as sheep, are stoic–never showing fragility or illness until they’re about ready to expire. This is because they don’t want to attract predators. I searched their faces, concentrating on every little nuance to see if I could observe any tiny change in appearance or behavior. As I stood there, a sense of helplessness washed over me.
When Dr. Knapp, the veterinarian, arrived a day and a half later, Violet was looking even more unsteady and wild-eyed. She wasn’t eating, and she wasn’t with the rest of the flock. (As prey animals, sheep flock together to look bigger. You don’t normally see one sheep hanging out by itself, unless it’s not well.) Dr. Knapp evaluated Violet, and although it was difficult to be 100% sure, she agreed that the issue could be listeria, due to some of the neurological signs–weird eye movement, uneven facial expression, and unsteadiness. Violet also had a high temperature of 104.6 F.—normal range for sheep is 101-103.
I was upset about losing one of our sheep, but the thought quickly flew through my mind that we could lose more. I asked Dr. Knapp if she could come back the next day, when Farmguy would be home to help. I wanted to take the temperatures of the rest of the sheep and preventatively treat any having high fevers with antibiotics. She agreed that this would be a good course of action.
So, on Friday, Dr. Knapp returned to Green Hill Farm and took the temperatures of all of our sheep as well as administered antibiotics to the five exhibiting temperatures above 103. At this point, Half of our flock was showing possible signs of illness. Before leaving, Dr. Knapp and her assistant filled syringes with antibiotics for Farmguy and me to administer to the sheep over the next three days. Fortunately, we had decent weather and a long weekend ahead.
I was beside myself. Concern about our sheep seemed miles away now. Instead, concern had been replaced with despair. Our beautiful, Black Face sheep are the image I see in my mind’s eye when I envision Green Hill Farm. They’re the first sight and sound I experience when I walk outside: a sweet, woolly face standing at the gate, hoping for a little grain. Or, a distant “Baaah” of hello. I felt sick to my stomach, and my heart ached. After going around and around in my mind and feeling numb, I stopped. I was powerless to know the outcome of this situation, but I knew we were going to do everything we could to save these sheep. I let go of my despair, and instead, carefully embraced hope and my faith that everything would be all right.
On Saturday, using a rectal thermometer, Farmguy and I diligently took and recorded the temperatures of ten, beloved sheep as well as administered antibiotics and anti- inflammatories. The sheep’s temperatures were within the normal range for the most part. We were especially concerned with Violet as well as Sweet Hamish as both were exhibiting high temperatures on Friday. Farmguy and I repeated this routine on Sunday, and again on Monday. Thankfully, each day our efforts were met with good news. The temperatures were coming down, appetites were increasing, and our sheep were beginning to act more like themselves.
Here’s the thing: I really enjoy travel and everything associated with it. It’s wonderful to experience different countries and cultures. But, I’ve noticed that whenever I’m away, my heart is always at home. I never fully realized how much our sheep—and our farm meant to me, until I thought I may lose some part of it. So, if I had to choose, I would choose farm life over the glamorous life….every time. It’s not because I don’t enjoy travel and everything exciting and enriching about it, because I do. It’s just that I love our animals and farm more. And, in the words of Prince, who wrote lyrics for “The Glamorous Life,” —-without love, it ain’t much.
A whole lotta gratitude and much love to Farmguy for always being by my side…in all seasons.