A week with a new baby

On December 3, we welcomed a new blessing into our family: little Asa Cole.

I had been looking at name after name (after name), searching for something that meant “restore” or “healing” or maybe “hope.” Because that’s what I hoped for this new life due so close to the aniversary of Tiggy’s death. And we settled on Asa Cole before we even knew if he was a boy or a girl, with Asa meaning, “doctor, healer” and Cole meaning, “victory of the people.”

And his first week with us has been very full.

Full of siblings, begging to hold him.

Full of gazing into those beautiful eyes.

Full of night time cries from a baby who just wants to be held in his mommy’s arms.

Full of little kisses.

Full of the cautious snuggles of a toddler who wants to be close, but is a little afraid to touch him.

Full of questions about how Tiggy still fits into our family. And the heartwarming revelation of a small child.

And full of his tiny footprints across all of our hearts.

Welcome to our family, little Asa.

Posted in family | 18 Comments

I dreamed about Tiggy

It’s not something I do very often.

I remember every one. Some more clearly than my memories of him.

He was there, playing with his vroom vrooms, smiling that ornery smile. I went to touch his wispy hair, but he ducked and giggled.

He was there, lying under the table, and still that smile. I kneeled down to reach for him, but he rolled away and giggled.

And so the dream went on. With him happy and full of life and always just out of reach.

But it was different than my other dreams of him. In every other dream, I have been acutely aware of the fact that he is dead.

Some are strange and dark. Where he shows up and I know it can’t be him but it is. And I don’t know what to do because if I tell anyone, I know he’ll be taken from me because no one will believe it is him and that he is my son. And so I hide him in the basement, but I don’t even know how to tell my husband and how long can you hide a toddler in the basement, anyway?

Some carry such relief. I wake up and realize I just forgot him at the hospital. And there’s this mad rush to get everyone ready and I’m stressed and trying to figure out how to explain that I just forgot him there, but really I’m not a bad mother and can I take him home now?

But usually, I know I’m dreaming. Like the first one. The day he died. I fell asleep and was there in the hospital, sitting in the room the nurse had told us he’d be moved to, looking at him in the incubator I imagined he’d be in, listening to the ventilator they told us would be breathing for him. Holding his hand. And waiting. But then I started to wake up and I panicked, because I knew that Tiggy was only there in that dream and if I woke up, I wouldn’t be able to sit with him anymore.

Or the time I sat holding him in a chair in the center of the front room. The house was a mess. Toys and clothes and dishes everywhere. My husband came home and was upset, yelling at everyone. He started to clean and I just ignored him. “You’re not even going to help?” he accused. But I didn’t care. “I only get to hold him until I wake up,” I answered and laid my cheek back against his head where I could smell him for a little while longer.

But this time, I didn’t know. At least not fully. So I just followed, partly amused by the antics of this sweet little boy so full of joy but becoming increasingly distressed that he was always just out of reach. Until I suddenly woke up, staring into the darkness and knowing too well why I couldn’t quite reach him.

Posted in Tiggy | 18 Comments

On being diagnosed with gestational diabetes

So, I haven’t been around much recently. Mostly, I’ve been asleep. Or counting down the minutes until Mookie goes down for his nap or until the children go to bed so that I can go to sleep.

So much so that it began to worry me a bit. But then there’s the doctor’s inevitable response.

“Well, you have five children. You’re pregnant. You’re managing a small hobby farm. Your husband is gone a lot. You’ve lost a child. Any one of those things can cause your symptoms. All of it together certainly explains why you’re so tired.”

And all I can think is, “Yes, but . . .

Then last week I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. And while that generally progresses as a symptomless disease, I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t part of my problem. Because while I haven’t gone back in for my specific plan yet, I do have a provisional diet I am supposed to try to follow until I get more specific instructions on how to monitor my blood sugar levels. And after less than a week of reading labels, looking for one and only one piece of information — how many carbs it contains — and trying to space them out through the day, I am starting to feel a little more energetic.

And I’m hoping mostly that means it is working. That the baby won’t suffer any ill effects.That I’ll be able to do more than coast through the rest of this pregnancy and enjoy more of the moments along the way. That I’ll be able to play with the children more and do things more interesting than telling them to go do their reading or start the next chapter in their books.

And I’m hoping just a little that I’ll again find the time and energy to write. The one thing I do just for me.

Posted in health | 5 Comments

The joy and the heartache of new life on the homestead

I have my camera back.

So I thought it was about time to share some pictures of our little adventure out here.

Especially since guinea keets are about the cutest thing there is when they’re newly hatched.

And it is particularly nice because this is a mama that disappeared about a month ago returning to the flock to show off her new babies.

After we oohed and aahed over the adorable babies, my husband said he was pretty sure he knew where the nest was. He saw a guinea hiding in the grasses when he moved the heifer. So off we went to search.

Except that’s not exactly what we found. What we actually found was a bit of an emergency. There was one dead keet and one who was quite cold as well as some eggs pipping. We gathered up the keet and the eggs that hadn’t hatched and put them in the incubator for the night, hoping the chilled baby would recover and that the rest of them hadn’t become too chilled to finish their hatching.

Mama bedded down for the night in the corner of the barn and I decided that was as safe a place as any for the proud mama and her ten little babies. Because even though I know guinea mama parenting isn’t that well suited to Nebraska, there is nothing sweeter than a mama and her babies. Especially to this mama who just couldn’t bring herself to take a baby away in the midst of mama’s joy.

Two of the eggs hatched overnight and the chilled keet recovered well. Three rescued from the abandoned nest!

Unfortunately, mama didn’t fare as well. When I checked on her in the morning, there were four dead little keets in the hole she slept in. Three other guineas were chasing each other around with another baby in their beaks. The other five were following behind mama and I decided there was only one thing I could do.

Wow can upset guinea mamas bite hard. But I could hardly be upset with her. I gathered up the surviving keets and united them with their siblings in the house.

Mama retured to the spot she slept in, called loudly and stared at her dead babies.

It broke my heart, but I wanted the others to live.

And they all knew they have a mama. They hatched under her and lived with her for a day. They called and called and called, trying to find her.

They broke my heart, too, but I wanted them to live.

And in a few days, I’m going to have to do it all over again.

Guinea hen on nest

Such is the joy and the heartache of raising animals and families in a world where all is not quite as it should be.

Posted in Rural life | 1 Comment

On becoming a shepherd

So we got sheep. Shepherds we are not.

At least not yet.

It takes a lot more than having a small flock of sheep to be a shepherd, I am learning. People keep telling me sheep are stupid. And I can definitely see how they might form that opinion.

After all, I did name two of them Dumb and Dumber.

But they’re not. Not really. They just see the world in their own bottom-of-the-food-chain way while we try to force them to conform to whatever management strategy we’ve learned. Or read about. Or made up all on our own based on working with cattle.

Who, I have also learned, aren’t much like sheep.

Take Dumber, for example. AKA Death Stare, Death Star and Cruella de Vil. You’d have to get to know her to understand.

But the day after we got the sheep, we fenced off a section of our yard so they could graze happily while getting used to us. Dumber and a friend immediately found a weakness in the fence and were gone before we even had a chance to go inside for a cup of tea. Looking back, I recognize a thousand mistakes and know things could have turned out better if I knew then what I know now. But then I knew only four things:

  1. Walk away from a startled ewe at a 45 degree angle in order to get around her.
  2. Never look directly at her.
  3. Move them slowly and they’ll make better decisions.
  4. All they really want is to get back to their flock.

But that I only knew from a book. Not from experience.

Now I know that I should have secured the other three ewes back in the pen, tied them, left the gate open and gotten out of the way.

Instead, we tried to get around them and chased them for miles through corn fields, bean fields and grazing land. Meanwhile, the other three got loose because no one went back to secure the fence or lock them up.

See. We were so not shepherds. Not yet, anyway.

Eventually, Dumber fell in a ditch. My husband leaped on her, flipped her on her back and dragged her up the hill where he threw her in the trunk of the SUV. I drove back for a rope with a vague plan to tie Dumber to the hitch and use her as bait to lure the other one in. Alone, however, a sheep is in a state of panic.

And she bolted.

My husband ran for two miles before he lost sight of her and that was that. No amount of driving about or talking to neighbors ever revealed another sign of her. I kept asking myself whether we did the right thing in tackling Dumber. If we had gotten her out of the ditch and let her go, would we have been able to eventually herd them back home? Together, they were a pain, but they weren’t in a panic. And they were generally predictable. But alone, that poor sheep had no sense of safety and hence no sense.

She was in a blind panic and we lost her.

Fast forward to today. It’s been a month and a half. Every morning, I have walked down to deliver feed and refill water. Every time I check on the other animals, I make a point to walk slowly through their grazing area, close enough to make them lift their heads, but never close enough to make them move. And every evening, I again walk down to deliver feed and check their water.

And in this time, none of the sheep have developed a particular affection for me. But Mira walks up to me as soon as she sees me coming. And while she won’t let me touch her, she will stick her nose in the feed bucket even while I’m holding it.

And Despereaux, the dominant one of the pack, also has no affection. But she also has no fear. She stamps her foot at me if I move too fast and is too dignified to stick her nose in a bucket I’m still holding, but she waits at her feed dish and will eat even as I stand there.

Dumb is still fearful. She hangs back and watches me feed the other sheep and watches me fill her dish, wondering what I’m up to. But as soon as she’s satisfied that I’m not that interested in her, she comes in to eat.

Not Dumber. She knows exactly how far her lead will let her go and she runs right at the end to keep me opposite her from the moment I step inside her area. She watches me fill her dish. She watches me leave her area. She watches me do the other chores. She watches me sit on the porch watching her. Or not watching her.

I have never seen her touch her feed dish. She always waits until I go back in the house.

Because she remembers.

And in the last six weeks, she has taught me a lot about what it means to be a shepherd. It takes more than having sheep. It takes more than confidence (even if it’s faked) and a knowledge of flight zones which served us through over two years of raising cattle. And it takes more than patience and a bit of sweet feed.

It takes getting to know the sheep. Each one individually and the flock as a group. It takes recognizing who they hang out with, who they follow and who they push around. It takes knowing who the leader is, who the confident one is and who the flighty one is. It takes knowing when they feel safe and when they’re getting ready to bolt.

And it takes a little respect. Because sheep are not dumb. They have very long memories. They remember being chased. They remember being tackled. They remember being sheared and they remember being vaccinated. They remember all these things, and the lessons they learn through rough handling can be very difficult for them to unlearn.

Poor Dumber’s fear is a consequence of our mistakes. But she is teaching us a lot about what it takes to become a shepherd.


Posted in Rural life, Sheep | 7 Comments

Being watched

So I’m sitting with a cup of tea after a long day of busyness without much accomplishment. I watch one more show than I intended on hulu and suddenly it is after one. And I realize I never collected the guinea eggs for the incubator. Nor did I lock up the ducklings.

So I arm myself with a flashlight and the dogs and go out into the night. The sheep are all lying in the glow of the porchlight. They turn their heads to watch me, but so long as I don’t walk toward them, they will stay put. The ducklings chatter as if they are happy to see me which starts a chorus of honking and quacking from the rest of the waterfowl.

The henhouse rewards me with nine guinea eggs and a couple pecks from the hens in the corner. The same four hens who have been hiding behind that board for several days. And I just now realize that they have also had all the eggs every time I go to collect. So I only take the guinea eggs and leave them with a few eggs to brood.

As I leave, Flee starts to pace and his barking changes. It’s deeper. More threatening. And Marley stands in front of the henhouse with his ears focused on the corn field.

A lone coyote starts to yip.

More answer in the distance, but this one sound close. I shine the flashlight across the cornfield and spot it running toward us, but I figure it is actually running for the cover of the tall grasses that divide the field.

Except that when it gets there, it follows the grasses to where they run closest to our property and just stops. All I see are two eyes glowing in the darkness.

Flee goes nuts. A guinea fowl crashes into the run. The ducks and geese are raising a raucous and all the sheep get up. Though they’ve been with us for only a week, they run toward the furiously barking Great Pyrenees. They’re still under quarantine, but their fence runs within a few feet of the pasture and it is in that section closest to Flee that they huddle, moving back and forth with his pacing.

And I get that uneasy feeling of being watched. I am being watched, but I also have to turn around. I have to put the eggs down and collect the ducklings. But that means turning my back toward a coyote I know is watching me. And though it is still a quarter of a mile away and four dogs stand between it and me, I feel as if the only thing holding it there in the grasses is my gaze.

I back toward the garage where I put down the eggs and grab a dog kennel to shoo the ducklings into. When I come out, there’s no sign of the coyote. I’m not sure if it took the moment of darkness to take off or to circle around where it can approach under cover. But the dogs are more relaxed, so I am relaxed.

At least until I have to kneel down to collect the ducklings.

And I know it is going to be another long night.

Posted in Predators, Rural life | 4 Comments

The beginning of our shepherding adventure

I don’t know how many of you realize this, but my husband is Australian. And he was raised on lamb and mutton, apparently. At least, that seems to be what he goes on about most these days.

And have you priced lamb in the stores recently?


Due to a series of unfortante events, our grass is also a wee bit high. Like you could lose a not-so-small-child-in-it high.

So I did what any wife would do and ended up at the livestock auction. Where the auctioneer kindly told me I should listen to the small children telling me to go higher and higher because they wouldn’t steer me wrong. And ended up with three of these.

Except not nearly so fluffy. They are only barely weaned lambs, after all. But without the fluff, my drawings look rather like goats. Or deformed dogs. Or just about anything other than a cute little lamb.

I fell in love. Not so much with the fluffy cuteness. These little ones are meant for the freezer, after all. But how could I not adore a creature who runs straight for the bindweed and strips all its evil little leaves off with such amazing efficiency?

So my husband thought . . . WE NEED MORE!!!

And I dragged him along to the next auction where he proceeded to buy five full grown three year old ewes and one cute little lamb to replace the one that died shortly after we got her (the vet suspected a nutritional deficiency she came with so there wasn’t really any thing we could do. Especially since I didn’t notice anything was wrong until she was pretty much already gone.)

I hadn’t quite expected that.

Neither did our SUV.

But the lady who loaded them up assured us she’d seen everything. And that this was quite normal to be loading up livestock in the back of the SUV. She told us about minivans and Lexuses and Mercedes and even a convertible. I told her she needed a webcam. But I’m not sure this is quite normal:

The kids and I had to stay behind because we didn’t fit. So we ate cookies and drank pop and chatted with strangers about livestock while he had all the fun of driving home with our new mobile barn.

And apparently unloading the ewes went pretty easy. They were, after all, all from the same group and a nice little flock all on their own. Once he got one out of the car and pointed into the pen, the rest followed.

The poor little lamb, however, had spent the entire ride cowering under the seat in fear of these huge strange monsters who threatened to crush her if she moved.

And she took one look at that gate and those ewes standing in the pen and darted back under the SUV as if it were the only safety she had ever known.

I might go ahead and throw in here that the little lamb was black. And the sun had gone down. And it was my husband and ten year old son alone against her and the night.

So anyway, she was under the SUV and my husband was trying to coax her out. Or force her out. Or just yell at her until she came out. And then she did. At a full run into the windbreak.

And then at a full run to the top of the windbreak.

And then at a full run back to the bottom of the windbreak and across two lines of electric fencing where she ran headlong into Flee.

Who is great with cattle, but is yet to really meet any of our lambs since they’re still under quarantine. Whether he wanted to play or herd or kill the intruder, we don’t really know, but the lamb didn’t want to find out.

So it was back through two lines of electric fencing where my husband finally tackled all thirty pounds of her and carried her to the pen.

Thus beginning our shepherding adventure.

And my car still smells like a barn.

Posted in Rural life, Sheep | 3 Comments

Encouragement comes in the strangest of places

So, I sort of left you with a listing of failures. And with a bit of a temper tantrum at the faucet where I gave up.

Then I got an email. If I wanted the blue Ameraucana chicks I had inquired about, they were ready and I could come pick them up any time. My heart sank. Normally, such a thing would distract me just enough to start thinking about what our plans are for this place rather than all the road blocks and detours along the way. Normally, while I can have these horrific emotional crashes where everything seems lost and hopeless and stuck in the grave with my son, I can climb back out as my attention shifts to other plans or other projects that need my attention.

But I think the email came a little too soon after losing the ducklings.

Because as I got in the car to go pick them up, all I could think about was these ten little lives I was dooming to slow and random deaths as they were picked off one by one by ineffective heat lamps, predators, mysterious diseases or whatever plague might befall this attempt to begin again.

Until I got all the way out to Ashland and saw those little fluffballs running around in their storage totes, waiting for us to bring them home. That made me smile just a little bit.

And then the breeder and I got to talking. I about my challenges getting this flock of ducks started. He about his challenges developing his line of Ameraucanas.

And he has lost years and whole lines to predators, to weather, to incubator issues, to management mistakes.

And it helped me remember that this is normal. This life is a struggle and we make progress in small steps that often go the wrong direction.

It reminded me of a quote out of the Great Depression I once heard that could be the motto of these Great Plains,

“We are a next year people.”

A people who can come through economic collapse, a multiyear drought and massive dust storms covering multiple states on the simple belief that next year will be better.

A people who knows that each year all you can really do is put your seed in the ground and hope and pray.

And I think that is the kind of person I want to be.

Posted in faith, Gardening, Rural life | 4 Comments

From one father to another in grief

Troy, a grieving father who lost his son not too long after we lost Tiggy, left a comment on my post sharing some of my difficulties this year. My husband started writing a response to him, but when his word count ended up longer than the original post, I thought perhaps it should be a post of its own. So here it is, for Troy . . . and anyone else who has lost their temper because of other hurts in their lives.

Behemoth fits, yeah I’ve had a few. It’s never appropriate because the way I handle myself is wrong, and it grieves my heart that sometimes my children are present, if not the brunt of my wrath.

Sixty dollars spent on black PVC tubing that ends up kinking and leaking is not worth going nutzoid over; but it’s too close a memory to the sixty dollars I forked over for a television that toppled over crushing my son to death.

I thought it a good purchase, the T.V just like the tubing but both end in failure. The loss of Mattias, devastating; the hose not working, frustrating; but the response to the PVC is magnified because of the television. It’s an accumulation of failure upon failure.

There’s this realization I’ve come to, ‘my whole life now revolves around that night, that basement, that decision.’ It’s a never ending constant circle of torment: broken tubing equals broken T.V equals broken child; uninstalled windows equals broken T.V equals broken child; leaking bathtub equals broken T.V equals broken child; overgrown weeds equals broken T.V equals broken child; it continues over and over my purchase, my T.V, my broken child.

It’s dark at times for I’m a husband and a father. I’m supposed to fix and protect and make things right but I can’t. I tried making the hose, I tried fixing the bathroom, I tried keeping the garden but I just plain can’t. I can’t change my purchase as I so wish. I can’t fix the T.V as I want. I can’t save my child no matter how hard I want to try.

With all this in mind you’d think I could spare my children the manic outbursts. I mean they’ve got issues too. They all witnessed the accident, within feet and feel as helpless today as they did back then. I see it in the anger of my oldest son. It’s all rather depressing, all this brokenness, but there is one thread that remains and if you can hold onto that thread its enough to keep you from falling into a furnace that will burn anything you may think you have left, even your very soul.

This is what I proclaim. From the experience of my hurt I contend that this brokenness proves the validity and truth of the Christian faith. Though we deal with pain and suffering in very real human terms, this pain is best described by and dealt with through the prescription that is the biblical narrative.

Why is there pain and suffering in general? Because we are rebellious! Genesis 3:6

Why do marriages fail? Because we are stubborn! Mark 10:5

Why is there poverty? Because the poor will be among us! Deuteronomy 15:11

Why is there religious chicanery? Because of the lust of the heart! 2 Peter 3:3

Why do the nations rage? Pride! Psalm 2:1

Why do our loved ones die? For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God! Romans 3:23

We have seen our children die, the heinous cost of sin that good theology can explain, but human emotions still remain. The death of our children have broken us in a sense, changed us. In our hurt we lash out. We work hard to recognize the trigger points so not to transgress in our anger (Psalm 4:4). Some may condemn us for our actions, for being so honest, but I have this perspective:

When I read your comment Troy I see a father acting in truth and great in his faith. I see a broken man, who can’t fix what is broken; his environment, his health, his son, himself, yelling and screaming forth the sorrows of his shattered soul, pleading as David did (Psalm 109), in brutal honesty.

I see a Heavenly Father who is not surprised by His child’s weakness and the cries of his heart. I see a Heavenly Father who does not condemn His child but One who meets broken humanity at the individual level, right where it hurts. I see Abba Father ministering to a hurting soul, and an earthly father teaching his children that life carries degrees of brokenness, but in all its’ sadness there is healing, there is understanding, and ultimately restoration (Revelation 21:4)

I have told my own children, often:

You have seen your dad hurting, in deep sorrow and acting at times quite wrongly. Though I fail, look at my life, it does not lie. No one loves you more on this earth than your mother and I, but we are human and you will see us in our folly, and we will disappoint you and fail you. That’s why you need to first look towards God in life. I will try my best for you, but there is a Father in heaven who will never fail you, never forsake you. Though I fall short at times, you know you can come to me in times of need, but never forget that it is in Jesus Christ you will find fulfillment, it is in the Holy Spirit you will find the wisdom, and in the Father an everlasting hope and love. His mercies do not fail (Lamentations 3:22-23).

This has extended well beyond the limits of a recommended blog post, yet from one grieving Father to another I wanted to give you my best, from the heart. Recently I came across this song by Gerry Asmus, Hard to Say Goodbye. I was going to pull out what meant most to me, but everyone gleans differently. While listening to this I’ve changed names and situations, I’ve cried, but when all is said and done, the good news is there:

I had an older brother so I know how it feels
He’s with the Lord now I know his faith was real
Sometimes I wonder if he’s watching over me
And if he is, is he proud of who he sees

Some people say God’s children shouldn’t feel the pain
That we should understand we’ll see our friends again
But I know how the angels felt after the last words Jesus said
The sky grew dark, the land shook from the tears that they shed
And though I know my brother was in the Lord on the day he died
My eyes grew dark and my hands shook as I stood by his side
And I may say I have no fear and I don’t ask God why
But it can still be hard to say goodbye

Now you’ve lost a dear friend you loved more than you knew
You never know until they’re gone how much they mean to you
There’s an empty feeling and an aching in your heart
That’s how it feels when friends are pulled apart

I guess by now you know believers feel the pain
Don’t be afraid to let it show and don’t you be ashamed
For you know how the angels felt after the last words Jesus said
The sky grew dark, the land shook from the tears that they shed
And though you know the one you loved was by our Father’s side
Your eyes grew dark and your hands shook as you broke down and cried
And you may say you have no fear and you don’t ask God why
But it can still be hard to say goodbye

When the tears start to flow you know it isn’t wrong
Just remember Jesus wept when Lazarus was gone
and if you think I’m over it because years have passed you’re wrong
God is still the only reason I can carry on
Now you must carry on

With God’s blessing I’ll grow old but some day life will end
And when it does I know I’ll have to part with you my friend
Sometimes when I think about the day I say goodbye
To all the ones I love it makes me want to cry

Some people say that Christians shouldn’t feel the pain
That we should understand we’ll see our friends again
But I will know how Jesus felt and how it must have weighed a tonne
When he said John behold your mum and mum behold your son
And if you’re there I’ll say these words on the day I’m set free
I hope my friendship meant as much as yours has meant to me
And I may say that I won’t fear and I won’t ask God why
But it will still be hard to say goodbye
Yes it will still be hard to say goodbye

P.S. Carry on dear brothers, Carry on dear sisters. In Christ, Tiggy’s dad.

Posted in faith | 5 Comments

Perserverence and hope

For some reason, I started off this season optimistic. Maybe it had something to do with the rain. After watching the crops wither and die, the ground crack under the unrelenting sun and scrambling to get hay for winter, rain was life.

And though the cows didn’t get pregnant on their last trip to the bull, I had some encouragement that the bull’s fertility could have been affected by the drought and then by extreme cold and their lack of pregnancy might not actually have anything to do with them. And that gave me some hope that when we try again in June, we might finally have calves to look forward to.

And in early March, as spring finally arrived, the bees in one of my hives emerged. I had finally seen a hive through winter and I was optimistic. I ordered a replacement package for the other hive and felt like we were finally getting somewhere with all these plans.

But then winter hit again and for three weeks there wasn’t a single day warm enough for the bees to fly nor warm enough for me to open the hive to check on the bees. And in those three weeks, my second hive starved to death. I added a second package to my order.

Only the entire shipment got stuck in a snow storm in Wyoming. Apparently, when the truck driver checked on them, he thought the bees looked a little cold so he turned up the heat. And cooked them all.

While doing evening chores, I saw a coyote run up the road. The dogs had flushed it out of the ditch across the street. Thinking about it crouching there, watching and waiting sent chills up my spine. But it took off and the dogs stood in a line just beyond our property, seeing it off with a chorus of angry snarls.

I can’t help but think it was the same coyote that came back later that night, while I was sound asleep, and woke me with its yipping. Right down by the henhouse. We have’t had coyotes on our property since we got Flee, our Great Pyrenees. Yet, this one walked right by him to get to the chickens and therefore knows he has boundaries he cannot cross. And though Luke ran it off before it could get in, it sent the birds into a panic that resulted in three geese and a duck killing themselves in their terror.

We lost Bunny (whose full name is Sally Bunny LE’s Bunny Hanley) and I had to hold a very sad little six year old who cried for her friend. Her very first pet. Her comfort and companion after losing her little brother. We don’t know what happened but we also don’t know how old Bunny was. We got her as a full grown adult and had her for over two years.

I lost my drake. My almost perfect drake whose breeding plumage came in so lovely and I was so looking forward to showing him this year. Not to mention hatching his little ducklings, but his death left me with three females and no hopes of breeding until next season.

A cold snap coupled with a string of heat lamps burning out within days (three in a week!) took out half of my ducklings I was so excited about.

When I found the sixth little body, I couldn’t take it any more. I stormed out of the garage in a temper, yelling at ducklings. Yelling at circumstances. Yelling at God.

“I can’t take any more.”

“I can’t do this.”

“I am done.”

“I. Give. Up.”

And I did. Right there on the porch waiting for the ducklings’ water dish to fill up.

Because all the failture was too much: the bees, the ducks, the geese (all two years in a row), the dog I had to give up, the dog that got hit by a car, the cattle and my son. Because whenever I feel like this, it always goes back to that night because all loss hurts a little deeper and stays with me a little longer and seems a little more hopeless because it brings up the feelings around losing Tiggy.

And somehow, when everything is going wrong, you can’t help but wonder why.

Is this not what I am supposed to be doing?

Or is there something I am supposed to be learning through all of this?

My judgment is a little too clouded to see through the frustrations of the present to really figure out the difference. But one passage of Scripture keeps going through my mind.

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope.And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

~Romans 5:3-5

I’m just not totally sure it applies to farm animals.

But this also isn’t quite the end of the story. The rest will come . . . hopefully . . . tomorrow.

Because I have a lot to write about and some of the nausea surrounding this pregnancy is finally abating.



Posted in faith, Rural life | 14 Comments