Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tuesday Farm Photo: Goodbye to a Good Ewe

Martha and her twins in front field blue sky 5-5-06
Martha and her twins in the front field on May 5th, 2006

When I moved in with my hunky farmguy Joe 11 years ago, I brought 14 sheep (and a bunch of other critters) with me from my old farm. Martha, who died today, was the last surviving ewe.

She was 14 years old, which, as Joe reminded me, "is probably longer than sheep are supposed to live." (My 15-year-old pet wether Big Chip, the last of the original 14, is still miraculously with us, and still loves to give hugs. His brother, Skinny Chip, died last year. I called them The Chippers.)

Martha, who was sometimes known as the World's Best Pillow, had about the best life a sheep could ask for, though I'm sure she would have liked a few thousand more pounds of grain. A couple of months ago Joe started referring to her as Every Sheep because she demanded a treat whenever any other sheep was being fed—and she could hear the rustle of a grain bucket from half a mile away.

She was the loudest sheep I've ever known—which is saying something—and she was never one to keep her opinions to herself. Basically she never shut up. But in a good way. Mostly.

She'd been around so long that nothing freaked her out or fazed her, and she often came in handy. Whenever we had to separate a ewe from the flock (because they were sick or needed extra TLC), Martha, who knew there would be more treats and less hiking around the fields involved, was always a willing bunk mate.

Despite having retired from breeding several years ago, she spent each winter living—and eating—with the pregnant ewes (Big Chip is in with them this year, too). But despite all that extra food, by this winter she was down to skin and wool. When we sheared the sheep last month, we skipped Martha and Big Chip because they would need their coats to help keep warm.

It's always hard to lose an animal, even one who enjoyed such a fantastic run. I'm thankful that up until yesterday she was getting around fine and seemed to be feeling okay.

Two mornings ago, Martha sneaked into the barn when she knew I would be giving extra grain to three very pregnant Katahdin ewes who have been living separately from the rest of the girls. (She constantly reminded me that she really should be living in there with them.) Always a sucker, I grabbed one of the hanging plastic feed buckets, poured a little grain into it, and attached it to the fence panel in front of Martha.

"You'd better eat fast and be really quiet," I warned her. If she bleated the treat alarm she'd be trampled by a stampede of enormous pregnant sheep within seconds.

She buried her head in the bucket, and, for possibly the first time ever, she didn't make a sound.

I'd forgotten about this photo I posted back in November, which is one of my favorites, and which pretty much sums Martha up.

Goodbye, old girl. Your presence is already missed.

Want to see more of Martha?
(Click here to see all these posts on one long page)
1/30/06: So do you think Martha is pregnant?
1/19/10: Oh, Look - More Snow (scroll down to see a not so thrilled Martha)
11/18/10: Roadblock

The Daily Donkey 52: Need a smile? Go see Dolores

27 comments:

  1. I'm sorry for your loss. Losing an animal is one of my biggest worries about starting a farm. At least, clearly, she led a great life.

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  2. That was a wonderful memorial. She sounds like she was a sweetie.

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  3. Thanks for giving Martha a great life!
    I can relate just about everything you wrote about Martha to our old ewe April, who will be 15 on April 1st. I know she doesn't have a lot of time left.

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  4. I know just how you feel - my sweet old doe, Crybaby, died last fall and I miss she moaning around the pens. Day to day her noises were remarkable but during her birthings - Oh My Goodness - she almost always had at least twins and it was dramah queen deluxe. Her last two kids are so sweet - Lanny and Fanny. I try to pretend my animals are "livestock" - well they are but also living companions in our day to day life. Farewell Martha - glad you snuck some extra grain in there!

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  5. Aww, I'm sorry. My sister found that she had lost one of her bunnies this morning. One of her friendliest and long time friends. It's hard. Farm life can be merciless. As they say, if your going to own livestock, your going to own dead-stock as well. :(

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  6. What a beautiful and touching story. I'm sorry for your loss.

    Not shearing your older two sheep reminds me of the book "A Sweater for Amos". It is a children's picture story book, and if you haven't read it you definitely should!

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  7. So sorry for your loss. It is always hard to loose an animal.

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  8. Oh my she had a good life. I'm glad she was with you all for so long. I'm so sorry..makes my heart sad. I love coming here to your blog and always a life story to see...and smiles to smile because it's so fun to see. There has to be some sadness sometimes. Hugs to you!

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  9. So sorry, Susan... *sniff*
    I lost one of my favorite hens to a fox yesterday, so my emotions are still raw over losing a member of our "family".

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  10. So sorry for the loss of sweet Martha. It is always hard. I love all our animals and cry everytime we lose someone. Unless you have farm animals ones cannot know how dear they each are...

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  11. My tears fell while reading as yours must have while writing; most animals have got to be loved dearly while here as their lives are so short as to ours. The new ones will be coming along soon.

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  12. Susan, I am so sorry to hear of your loss of dear Martha. Very sorry.

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  13. I am so sorry for your loss. I cried when I read your post. She was lucky to have you as her Mom.

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  14. Susan,
    I am so sorry to hear about Martha. She was such a dear "friend" and that void will linger long, I am sure. I, too, love that photo of Martha in front of the car! Hilarious.
    Hugs to you!

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  15. I am so sorry to hear of Martha's passing. She clearly had a wonderful life. We will all miss her. Thank you for sharing her with us.

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  16. So sorry to hear that she passed. I think I like the animals more than people. Your post made me cry. I am having to come to terms with possibly selling some of my ewes and I don't like it one bit. What if the other people don't take good care of them. I have a problem letting go of my girls. I know you kept Martha there to protect her and let her rest. She had a good life.

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  17. Weep, weep. Nature is hard, but it sounds like you did a beautiful job with your Martha. RIP, dear.

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  18. Hi Everybody,
    Thanks so much for all of your kind words. And I love hearing about your beloved animals, too. :)

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  19. So sorry for your loss, and yes it is always hard to lose an animal. We have a lot to learn from them, and especially one like Martha :) How nice that she had such a wonderful life, and such great parents too. Thanks for sharing her and all of your farm friends with us.

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  20. Oh Susan I'm so sorry. What a wonderful animal to have shared so much of your life with.

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  21. By the way I love both the photos of her - the one at the top and the roadblock. x

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  22. I'm sorry for your loss. We raise goats and it is very hard when we lose one as they each have individual personalities. I'm glad she had a long, happy life.

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  23. Hi Susan. I'm sorry to read about the loss of Martha, too. You obviously gave her a wonderful life and were richly rewarded for the care you gave her. It's always hard to lose our animals - we love them so much!

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  24. Dear Sweet Susan...I was so sad to hear about your precious Martha...it doesn't matter if we've had the priviledge of sharing their life for just a few moments or 14 years, it still hurts and leaves a terrible, empty hole in our hearts....you were the best Mom she could have had, be comforted in knowing that you did your best for her and at some level she knew that...life can be a bitch sometimes. Jeanie in Upstate NY

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  25. It is so sad to hear Martha has gone. It sounds like she had an incredible life and she will be thankful for all the treats you have given her. Take care :)

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