Ya'll. Thank you for allowing me time to rest… to remember… to reflect after Sal's passing. I'm most certainly not ‘over it'. Nor am I ‘healed'. But I am very much thankful for the time I had with my girl and that her passing was peaceful.
These last few days have been fairly peaceful on the farm as well.
The blistering heat has seemed to pass, replaced by those chilly mornings that remind you to put on your slippers and wrap both hands around your morning mug of coffee. Without milking to do now, I've been slinking out of bed a wee bit later than normal, barely finding my way to my favorite corner of our thrift-store couch before the littles come blaring out of their bedroom all-too-early.
Seriously. What is it about farm kids. Why do they get up so… dang… early. Always.
It's dark now until later, pushing back morning chores until at least the first rooster crows. And Stu is now home in the mornings to help with feeding and tending to the animals, which has allowed me even more time in the mornings for scrubbing children, flipping pancakes, and ya know – that whole drinking coffee thing.
I miss smelling a cow first thing in the morning. Honestly, I miss it much more than I thought I would. There were mornings I absolutely hated our decision to have a dairy cow, dreading the journey down to the barn in the freezing cold, pitch black, snowy mornings of the winter. But after 15 minutes of work, trudging back to the house with a bucket full of gallons of gold – it's one of my favorite feelings in the entire world.
I've spent a lot of introverted time since Sal passed thinking about this farm. Thinking about what each animal does, or doesn't, mean to me.
There are certain animals that “speak” to a farmer. And it seems this is fairly universally true for all of us homesteaders.
Goats have never spoken to me. I've never even been slightly tempted to bring one to the farm. It's not that I don't like goats. But they don't speak to me.
I've noticed, in listening, that my rabbits don't speak to me right now either. We've butchered many of the kits from earlier in the summer and while they're a tasty addition to the supper table, frankly, I'd rather raise more chickens. Or an extra pig. I think rabbits are wonderful and sweet and all those other pretty adjectives. But right now, they're more trouble than they're worth and they would easily be one of the first things we'd let go of. And we may. I don't attach myself to my meat rabbits like I do many of my other animals. It's just the way it is.
… I'll tell you what animal does speak to me. Loudly. Deeply. Down to my soul. The bovine, my friend:
Lyle is like a chocolate eclair – squishy, sweet, and full of cream. Okay, fine, that last one didn't work. But he is so wonderful. It's a little piece of Sally that gets to live on at The Elliott Homestead and I'm thankful for his juvenile bellows that make their way up to the house. I spend a lot of time with Lyle. He's a cuddler. Even despite loosing his Mama, he seems to be thriving. Alfalfa-grass hay, COB (corn, oats, and barely), minerals, and water seem to be keeping him happy enough for now.
And the silver lining, should you call it that, is that instead of raising Lyle for beef as originally planned, we've decided to keep Lyle intact (meaning he gets to keep his manhood) and we'll keep him on the farm as a bull for our future cows.
We weren't going to do this before, with the risk of him breeding his own Mom and all that. Eek. (Y'all, the farm is a freaky-deaky place.) But now that Lyle is all we've got left, it makes sense to train him, tame him, and utilize him for future breedings. Breeding a dairy cow ain't something to be taken lightly so this will prove an invaluable asset to the future of our farm.
I'm taking a step back to really think about what that really means now: the future of our farm.
Something about loosing Sal has made me ask questions of our farm… What is it that we're trying to do here? What are our priorities? What is our purpose?
These past 2 1/2 years on the farm have taught me invaluable lessons and each day that goes by, I feel like we're further honing in on what it is that we're supposed to contribute to this world.
My goal has never been to own a dairy or a giant herd of cattle. But if I've confirmed one thing from all of this, it's that our farm needs a family cow. “The Queen's” presence on the farm is not a spot to be vacant, but rather to be filled by a beautiful bovine. We're uncertain as to what this means for us exactly right now, especially heading into winter, but we're praying fervently about the return of a Queen.
And the sheep? Well, frankly, they are my joy. Though we haven't witnessed hanky-panky this summer (sheep are notoriously private), we're praying to have 4 ewes lambing next Spring. And Hamish pretty much has the best job in the biz. The two ram lambs pictured above are for meat.
Stuart loves the sheep. With his flat hat and wool coat on and staff in hand, he'll often walk their pen and spot-check the herd. If the ground was green and lush, it'd be easy to confuse the scene for something out of an Irish tale.
Yes. We've both spoken. The Katahdin sheep stay always.
And now that we've added some home-hatched heritage roosters to the chickens, we're hopeful that the Lavender Orpingtons and French Copper Marans will be here to stay as well. I could have 100 of just the Lavenders. Don't tell the rest but they're, by far, my favorite.
Chickens will always have a place on this farm.
Perhaps it's the weather that's making me feel a bit nostalgic and romantic about this life. Lord knows our journey this past season has been anything but idealistic. In fact, it's been grueling and rather grizzly. We lost Pocket. We lost another ram to a predator attack. And then, after the very best care I could possibly muster, we still lost Sal.
Think you want to be a farmer? Trust me, there are days when you'll regret that decision.
There are days I've been tempted to throw in the towel, move the family to a downtown apartment in Paris, and only eat baguettes for the rest of our days. Bonjour!
But this place. These faces. This life.
This is where I belong.