Wednesday, April 12

Hearts & Rocks & Numbers & Thoughts

Sometimes I think I need a heart of stone to live here.

One advantage to living on a farm in the middle of nowhere is that you can sit on the edge of a bunk feeder in the barnyard at sunrise and cry as loud as you like. Nobody is going to bother you.

I had planned to put this photo and its story up this morning, along with some thoughts that have been randomly connecting in my mind. About Lucky 13, who we lost a week ago today. About my brother, who we lost over 100 days ago and who was here on the farm when the first lambs were born last year. About the fact that Snugglebunny (whose eartag is #13) gave birth to the 13th lamb this year and should I give her a name that includes "Lucky" or "13" or would that feel wrong.

About the usual things—love, loss, life.

More below. . .
I jotted down a few notes and headed to the barn at first light. I snapped some photos of Rose trying to figure out an empty water trough, checked on the occupants of the three bonding pens who were all doing fine, and made my way into the fenced barnyard. BB, as usual, was crying loudly for her baby. Several times yesterday I had found the itty bitty lamb tucked in various cozy spots, sleeping so deeply she didn't hear her mother's call.

I looked around the barnyard as BB continued to wail. And then I began to look harder. And harder. Soon I was peering into nooks and crannies she could not possibly have been in. I started saying "Oh no oh no oh no oh no" over and over as I checked the same places three, four, five times.

She is gone. Most likely a coyote sneaked in and snatched her up in the night. Or an owl may have swooped down and grabbed her. I have never had this happen. Never lost a lamb to a predator here, even when Alison left Beattie tucked under a fallen tree, half a mile from the barn.

But there is always a first time for everything. I cannot believe it, but then again I still cannot believe that Natalie, the last remaining member of my original 1995 flock, literally disappeared without a trace a year ago. We searched and searched for hours and found nothing. It is very difficult to kill and eat (or carry off) a full grown sheep and not leave a speck of wool anywhere. But obviously it can happen. This also occurred during my brother's visit, and he was absolutely crushed.

"It happens," I told him. "This is a farm. Things like this happen." But of course that doesn't make it any easier.

Gladys Taber, who lived from 1899 to 1980, was a wonderful columnist and author who wrote 59 books, including several about her life at Stillmeadow Farm in New England. In one of her essays, she explained how she believed that there are people from The Other Side who come over here and essentially help themselves to our stuff. There is just no other logical way to explain the disappearance of so many things, like a giant dog door that simply vanished one day from Stillmeadow.

I often think about this theory, as I find the whole idea rather charming. And as I helplessly walked the barnyard fence line yet again this morning, knowing in my heart I wasn't going to find that tiny, helpless, darling little lamb, a crazy thought popped into my head. Is my brother stealing my sheep?

Last week I turned away from Lucky 13 for the last time and nearly tripped over this heart rock. Many of you know that I have a growing collection of found heart shaped rocks. Most of them are lined up on a stone ledge next to the front door, where I see them several times a day. They make me smile.

This heart rock is different from all the others. It is big and chunky and has a large slit running through it. It sits slightly apart from the rest. It is Lucky 13.

Today I went looking for information about Gladys Taber online and learned that, "She continued writing up until her last days and left the following poem as her epitaph:"

When I am gone
I beg no fanfare;
Indeed I shall not be there.
So no tears need be shed. -
They will not bring to me
Rock Harbor sunset
On a burning sea
Or Amber's purr-song, nor yet
Wild geese waking me at dawn.
For I shall be dead -
Then greet the new day
Pretending I am not away.

I'm sorry Gladys, but I need to shed some more tears. I'm going to go back down to the barnyard, sit on the edge of that bunk feeder surrounded by my flock, comfort a grieving mother who is wailing for her baby the best I can, and cry for all that has been lost—even though I do have many hearts of stone.

4/13/06 Update: The mysterious loss of lambs continues. It is truly a shepherd's nightmare.



  1. Oh FG
    That is sooooo sad
    I can't beleive the beautiful baby black sheep is gone.... I was so looking forward to seeing her grow up.

    I am thinking of u and BB


  2. Sorry to hear about your loss(es). My thoughts are w/ you.


  3. Susan,

    I hope no one walks into my office here at work in the next five minutes and wonders why I look like I'm fighting back tears. While I have no lambs, and haven't had a cat put to sleep before (the last one to be put to sleep was at my parents, and that was probably 10 yrs ago - so there was some detachment) - I can't imagine how rough this must be to lose one of your many, many babies... I hate to think of the day one of my cats is just too old to go on...but I'll know they lived a full life.

    That dark little baby lamb in the picture was so cute and cuddly looking. While you have all your other lambs, I understand that each one is precious to you in it's own special way, and that this has to be a very hard thing to go through.

    Sure, that's the life and risk of living on a farm - it could be a tough life. (My grandparents and uncle have always had cattle, pigs, farm cats, farm dogs, etc - something's often happening to one of the animals) But the way you write about your animals, I know they're family to you. They have a good life with you.

    Maybe there's a chance she got out somewhere else? I'll cross my fingers for you, but also know my heart goes out to you... :(

  4. "Bless the Beasts and the children". My thoughts and prayers are with you fg.

  5. This is such a sad very sorry...I remember when Squirt disappeared as a tiny kitten and I found him in a totally crazy place in my closet after searching not only the house but the whole neighborhood. I hope this is the case with your lamb. Interesting idea about "the other side"

  6. You know I'm with you on this one. I'm devasted. I have a small enough flock I put everyone in at nite, but strikes happen in the day and I'm always relieved to see everyone if I have to leave the farm for a short time. I can just feel your anxiety when you couldn't find her. I'm so sorry. Do you have any streams or rivers on your property? I thought the Tabor story is rather chilling and yes magical. And I think i like to think of your brother taking her, he did I think. Hold onto that thought. My dad and I used to trade heart rocks. He is 82 now, and when I was near his desk one day I saw he had one large on sitting there, it sort of broke my heart. Sit on a hay bale and cry all you need - I did it just yesterday. Do it as long as you need too. You've had an emotional week.

  7. Tough year, farmgirl... I'm so sorry for your losses. I actually love the idea of your brother taking your sheep-- I have brothers too, and I cringe at the thought of losing one of them, but am comforted by the thought of one last brotherly prank...

  8. Oh, no. I am so sorry. I was just telling the s.o. about the beautiful baby lamb with the airplane ears. What a rough week you've had.

  9. so sorry about your baby. We have taken in several rescue goats - and lost them to the plagues of being a rescue goat. So very terrible to lose them when they are so young.

  10. I'm glad you're blogging about it, even if it makes us out here sad.

  11. Oh FG, you amde me cry again. I know that sick feeling when you lose one of your animals ` I lived on a farm in the middle of nowhere till I was 11 and I remember crying my eyes out when the owls got my favourite chick or the cougar got one of our baby goats.
    It sounds like you have so much emotion around you right now, just wanted to add my hugs toa ll the others.

  12. FG-
    I don't know you or your sheep and yet I cry each time I read about one of them dying or going missing. The thought of your brother stealing your sheep makes me smile though. Perhaps you could ask him to help you look after your sheep while leaving them on the farm.

  13. Oh no. And poor BB.

  14. FG-
    I know what your going through. We lost 004 calf, two weeks ago, we had a big snowstorm, 20-30 inches of snow. Her calf was with her one day, and then gone, we looked and looked through the tree belt, rode the pastures, skimmed the small pond with a pitchfork, and he's just gone.

    She wanted a calf so bad, she'd let other calves nurse her, so when our old #58 cow calved we gave #58 calf to her.

    I still think about #004 calf, and look for him whenever I ride out through the cows.

  15. Oh this so sad and must seem almost overwhelming at times. It's hard to know what to say at a time like this, words can seem so insignificant. But, so many people send you their lovein those words.

  16. Grieving will bring back the smiles for those that we have lost. Their love & memory is with us, a part of us for ever.

  17. My heart goes out to you. I am sorry that BB's baby has gone missing. I wish I could be a shepard to watch over the flocks to prevent such losses at times like these. I know there is only so much you can do as a farmer to protect them all -- all the time. I hope your day is blessed with things to ease your grief.

    Many blessings.

  18. I join in everyone's sadness for you and BB and at the same time I'm praying your precious baby lamb will be found.

  19. *hugs* Thinking about you and wishing you well.

  20. FG,

    I am SO sorry for you loss. I am a HUGE animal lover and if anything were to ever happen to my pup I would just be as devastated as you are. I know that words right now probably don't mean much, but you are in my thoughts!

    Stay Strong

  21. Oh Farmgirl, I'm so sorry about all this. I hope you can find some solace in your new heart rock. Thinking of you, and sending you good thoughts. Hang in there.

  22. I've always found a great power is just crying.

    Thinking of you, the moms and their babies.

  23. I think my heart just broke. So sorry. It's one of those things that happens when we have animals, but it doesn't seem to ever get easier - especially with the young and helpless.

    Poor lamb. Poor BB. Poor you. You deserve a good cry.

  24. Oh no! I'm so sorry. And poor BB, she must be so confused.

    {{{{{GIANT HUGS}}}}}

  25. my thoughts are with you .
    I am in tears.This is so sad.
    Hugs from across the Mountains.Take care.

    Ps. You inspired me to go looking for 'Heartrocks'

  26. Oh, Susan, I'm so so sorry.

  27. Oh FG I am there with you. I am a former city girl who has lived on a farm in Kansas over 20 years. These losses hurt to the core. Let your cries soak into the earth, the sky, and the stars at night. I grieve for you and with you. Blessings, Kansasrose ps. I am a Gladys Taber fan. Her books are comfort... and hugs for the farmgirl in us.

  28. You brought back many memories with the mention of Gladys Taber. I read all of her books and even bought all her cookbooks. She had a wonderful outlook on life.

    Please know that you are never alone in your sorrow......


  29. I know this is an old post in your blog but I am working my way through from the beginning. So much sadness. Yet seeing Gladys Taber's name was a bright spot. So few people seem to know about her. I have read many of her books and own as many as I can afford and can locate. She was wonderful. When I need to pull away into myself I pull out one of her books. It sort of gets me back on track. Thank you too for what you do here. While I do enjoy your recipes, I really just like to read what you have to say. The humor and honesty shines through.



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