Catching Up, Calving, and General Craziness

This past year has been a busy one. Not just with the new farm and lifestyle change, but also with the children. Lucinda continues to be busy, busy, busy, and sibling conflicts have been many and intense. Still, after Lucinda’s second birthday, back in October, Andrew and I decided to try for another baby. Because of my own relationship with my sisters, I’ve longed for Lucinda to have a sister. Much to our sorrow, I’ve miscarried over and over, throughout the winter. I still hope and pray for another baby, but it is more apparent to me than ever that this is beyond my control. So, I give thanks for these sweet ones, and I pray that God will grant me peace.

On a lighter note, you know what else is beyond my control? Silly cows. Our first cow, Galaxy, blessed us with a beautiful calf this past week. We think she’s a heifer, but we haven’t been able to check properly. Galaxy and last year’s calf, Buttercup, have a very strong bond. Once her mama calved, Buttercup was overcome with jealousy and attacked the calf. We were able to catch her quickly and separate her from Galaxy and the new calf. Phew! The next morning, we came back to the barnyard and discovered Galaxy, the new calf, and another cow missing. We looked and we looked, getting more and more anxious. (Galaxy has a history of milk fever, and we feared that she’d crashed somewhere.) On a second sweep of the barnyard, we noticed a few dark blobs down in our uncut hay field.

The hay field borders the pasture to which Buttercup had been relocated, and there is a nice, long shared fence line. Galaxy busted through a gate, and took her calf (and her friend, Morwen) down the field to visit Buttercup through the fence. Ever since, we’ve been waiting for Galaxy to bring the calf back. Galaxy makes repeated, furtive trips into the barnyard for water, but she’s hidden her calf out in the hay field. We’ve been giving her as much time as we can afford to get comfortable enough to bring the calf back, but it’s nearly time to cut the hay. Today’s jobs will include stalking Galaxy until she shows us her hiding place.

On a purely positive note, Galaxy did not have milk fever this year! For those of you who don’t know, milk fever happens when a cow begins to make milk but doesn’t have the required calcium in her blood. Cows strip the calcium for the milk from their bones, naturally, and happily go about their lives, making milk and feeding their babies. When a cow doesn’t, for whatever reason, she crashes. Last year, Galaxy went from appearing normal, to staggering, falling down, and nearly dying. The vet came out and gave her calcium intravenously. It was like magic. She was completely flat, and moments from death. A few minutes after the IV, she sat up, got up on her feet, and went back to grazing. I’ve been quite anxious about a repeat, for this calving, and another expensive vet bill. I’m so relieved to report that Galaxy has been hardy, healthy, and happy enough to plague us with her shenanigans.

We’ve been excitedly waiting on our other cow to calve. My favourite cow, Morwen, was artificially inseminated at the same time as Galaxy. Since we didn’t have a trailer at the time, we didn’t take her to the vet to confirm her pregnancy, and I watched her all winter long, anxiously, for signs of a heat cycle. I saw no such signs, and I assumed that we’d be welcoming a calf, and I’d finally be able to milk the cow that I’ve been working so hard to tame. Sadly, Morwen came into heat this weekend, and we won’t be getting a calf from her this year.

Life is a funny thing. Full of joy, excitement, sorrow and disappointment, all at the same time.

 

Welcome to the world, little one, and may you be much less troublesome than your big sister and mama!

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Catching Up

Now that the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over, the days are lengthening (at long last!), and the temperatures are rising, it is time for a Barley family update. We’ve been at Barefoot Meadows for nearly a year now, and I think we’re all finally feeling settled in. It has been a huge adjustment for our family, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’ve been struggling, personally, with a whole new way of grocery shopping and budgeting. There are no more “quick trips to the store” for that one ingredient I forgot to buy. It was much harder in the first months that we were here. Slowly, I’m getting the hang of things. We recently had our first pig butchered, so our freezer is full of pork. That has been incredibly handy, as I’ve gotten my van stuck, several times, on my way out to get groceries.

Andrew and I have also had to deal with frozen plumbing. December was a bitterly cold month, and many of our pipes froze. The worst issue was with our livestock waterers. When they work, it’s great, and we don’t think about water too much. When waterers freeze, however, then we have to try to locate the source of the freeze, fix it, and haul water by hand, using 5 gallon buckets, in the interim. It’s been cold.

The kids have been hanging in, but they’re looking forward to spring. Much of the last month and a half has been too cold for outdoor play, and our little home has been pretty claustrophobic. I am extremely thankful for the warmer weather. There’s nothing quite like the endlessly repeated refrain, “I’m boooooored!” We got a pretty good dump of snow this past week, so Andrew got the tractor out to plow and made a nice snow hill. I imagine it will soon be burrowed into and become a magnificent ice castle.

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Lucinda, who turned two in October, is gaining new words daily. This may be my very favourite stage to observe. I love watching the babies learn to speak and join the rest of us in conversation. She enjoyed Christmas time so very much, and she just went wild for the presents. As Andrew had to work over Christmas, we drove up to Spruce Grove, for the day, and celebrated with my parents. Then we celebrated when Andrew was home. The kids just loved it – TWO Christmas trees! Lucinda goes by many names, these days. Her biggest brother often calls her “Beetle,” and I call her “Lu” just as often as “Lucy” or “Lucinda.” She answers to none of these names, and the best way to get her attention is to quietly sneak off to make a phone call. Alternatively, pouring a fresh cup of coffee is sure to bring her running with an urgent and time-consuming issue that requires immediate resolution.

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Elijah is well into his fourth year and continues to draw obsessively. He loves to draw pictures of his family going on adventures, fighting bad guys, and hunting for treasure. Submarines, ships, and castles are common themes, these days. Elijah is super chatty, and we spend many hours discussing his plans for the future (many of which centre around the castle he plans to build). This year is the first year that Elijah and Lucy have lived away from my sister, Patience (or “Baba,” as the kids call her), and brother, Nathaniel, as we all lived under the same roof in Fort McMurray. Elijah is especially confused, and continues to ask when Baba will be coming home. Elijah has been learning to read, this year, and he’s been doing so well. He has 11 lessons left in the 100 lesson book we’ve been using, and he is reading all the books he can get his hands on. Many of our picture books are full of tricky words, so I will soon be going on a hunt (through my book boxes) for easy-to-read books to encourage this new skill.

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Jude is half way through grade four (and his first year of public school), and he’s just loving it. He doesn’t care for the early mornings, and he especially dislikes catching the bus in the dark, but he loves his teacher, his friends, and the general experience. I couldn’t be happier. Jude is very excited about the reading program his teacher does. For every five or six books that the kids read, they get a fun dollar store prize. Already a voracious reader, Jude has really kicked it up this year, thanks to a competitive streak. He and another student have been pretty evenly matched readers, and he is determined to read more. There are definitely worse things to compete over!

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On a completely different note (shameless farm plug ahead!), we are just getting ready to sell some of our farm products. Namely, pork. Blackberry Lily’s piglets have gotten quite large and will be ready for processing in February or March. Having already had one of our pigs butchered, I can vouch for the fact that our pastured pork is delicious. If you’re interested in pork, please get in touch. Our first market is limited to 4 or 5 pigs (which can be split between families, if needed).

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Any other updates will have to wait. Elijah is drawing a picture, and apparently I need to watch the process.

 

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The Contemplations of a Lost Writer

As a young adult, I had a personal motto. Basically, if an opportunity arose, I would carefully consider whether it was something I truly wanted to do. If the situation in question scared me, or the amount of work deterred me, or I just had a general dislike for the task, I often found myself doing it. “Rose, if you don’t want to do this, you probably should,” I’d tell myself. Admittedly, I found myself in some pretty uncomfortable situations. (The one that particularly comes to mind is the time I agreed to step in and teach a Business English class for mature ESL students at the local college, only to find that they also wanted me to develop/invent the course.) The foolishness of youth, maybe?

Sometimes I look back on those days and shake my head. I no longer feel compelled to do odd and uncomfortable things, solely for the potential character growth. But I do think that young Rose might have been onto something. These last few years, I’ve really let my writing go. Perhaps you’ve noticed that my blog has seemed conspicuously quiet. So it has. Apathy is the great killer of creativity.

So, here I sit, ignoring the mountain of carrots that need to be washed, the laundry that needs folding, and the floor that needs sweeping, halfheartedly typing away, hoping to slough off some of the rust.

Writing is my first love. I love words. They have such a magical, musical allure. I love how certain phrases serve to transport one to past moments and memories yet still have the power to drive one forward. As a child, I always wrote stories. Terrible, melodramatic stories, but still I wrote. Somehow, that has changed.

What is it about the beautiful, mystical drudgery of motherhood that makes it so difficult to put pen to paper? There should be countless moments of inspiration, considering the events of a typical day. You want drama? I give you the toddler melt-down. Suspense? The child that escapes through the window, unbeknownst to anyone, and decides to adventure alone. Tenderness? The baby who kisses your eyes while you cry. Sadness and frustration? Sick livestock fit that bill.

Yet, somehow, the words do not flow.

And I think I know why.

It’s easier not to write. It’s easier to exchange one’s soul for the relief of the mindless repetition of familiar routines designed for comfort.

Perhaps there is wisdom in doing the uncomfortable.

Perhaps?

Undoubtedly.

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Five Years

It has been almost six years since Rose started this blog. We were a year into our lives in Fort McMurray and getting ready to start the process of buying our first home with Nathaniel. We were a family of four and outgrowing our two bedroom apartment. Those eyes staring out at you from the top of this page had changed everything. In the last six years so much has changed in our lives and this blog has served as a window into our souls as we ride the roller coaster of life. I could never write as profoundly and beautifully as Rose does but she reminds me that we’re in this together so I will try.

Five years ago we said our final goodbyes to Milo. Five years. There are people that say time heals all wounds but I haven’t found it to be true. Not this one. Never have I known a period of time to feel like an eternity and a blink of the eye all at the same time. What I have found in the last five years is that losing a child doesn’t fade or become easier to bear. Not after a year, not after three, not after five. Instead it lurks in the shadows, always in the back of your mind, waiting for such a time to come crashing back to the forefront of your every thought. I can only imagine that this might be hard for some of you to understand and that’s ok. Let me try to explain at least one example of the daily struggle(and some days are easier than others). You know those milestones in life that you like to celebrate? The ones that bring you great joy and a euphoric high that you don’t think you’ll ever come down from? They’re hard. When you have other children that you’re watching grow into wonderful little humans there are plenty of moments that make you proud and it’s hard. Because the imagination can be terribly vicious.

I often find myself wondering what Milo would be doing, what he’d be accomplishing, and the impact he’d be having on other peoples lives. He touched people deeply in 14 months and I wonder what kind of boy he’d be at 6. I wonder what kind of trouble him and Jude would be finding to get into on the farm. Would he play the piano, what would his favourite farm animal be, what tv show would he beg to watch in the morning, what would he want to be when he grows up, what would his relationship be with his younger siblings, and the list goes on and on and on.

The last time we went back to Ontario with Milo it was the fall and we went to Appleland, a beautiful farm outside of London, that is meant as a place for families to pick apples and enjoy time together. We took so many pictures there and at the time we had no idea we’d buy a farm someday. It just seems fitting, I guess, that we have such an opportunity to build Barefoot Meadows to be a place that we can bless others and give them a place to build memories. Because sometimes memories are all that you have left.

Miss you Milo, until we meet again.

Milo

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An Update

Hello faithful readers! I want to apologize for our absence since the end of April. As it turns out, May and June were pretty crazy months for us. As most of you are aware, Fort McMurray was evacuated on May 3rd because of wildfires. Though we don’t live there anymore, all of Rosey’s family and a lot of our friends still do. We have been richly blessed with plenty of land and so Barefoot Meadows became the landing spot for a lot of displaced people.

I won’t bore you with all the details but I do want to give a shout out to the following:

  • our neighbours, Harvey and Darlene Sharp, Scott and Dora Sharp and the folks from Dreaming Creek Farm
  • the community of Winfield and surrounding area
  • the shop students of Frank Maddock High School in Drayton Valley, as well as their teacher and awesome principal
  • Barbara White from Hidden Springs
  • Elisabeth from R Farm in Lacombe(and the huge list of people/businesses that sent stuff with her)

I apologize to anyone I may have forgotten. It’s not easy to have an unexpected influx of guests but these people and their generosity made it an easier burden to bear.

UPDATE

Since our absence from posting, our farm family has grown. Let me introduce to you:

Whitey(this is what happens when children name animals)

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Licorice who is pregnant (I’m very thankful she was named before she came)

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Even Jude has been getting in on the action, milking Whitey

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Of course one of the joys of having an abundance of goat milk is the ability to make cheese! Meet the cheesemaker:

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Yum!

We have some more updates coming soon but bye for now!

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An Udder Surprise

Dearest friends, please forgive me. My last post was extremely discouraging. We’re all in much better spirits, now. The spring has sprung, birds are singing, buds are opening, and everyone is feeling frisky. Jude has been in raptures over the many song birds we’ve seen (notably, the stunning mountain bluebird), Lucinda has been joyfully feeding lambs, and Elijah has been puttering around, “building” things with all kinds of found objects.

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Lucinda is growing older, if not strictly “up,” and is getting into trouble constantly. After a brief stint of sleeping all through the night, she is getting up constantly. I no longer nurse her in the wee hours, but I do go in to tell her, firmly, “Go back to sleep!” Last night, as I went to the irate child, she climbed out of her crib. I caught her, upside down, by her hips. I am not sure what to do with her, at this point, but I’m leaning toward taking everything out of her room and leaving only her mattress. I’d welcome any sage advice, on that front!

Things have been generally pleasant here, since my last post, but not dull. My dear, dear sister came for a beautiful, luxurious visit (she stayed the better part of a week), and she was followed by a short, two day visit from my parents, who just left this morning. (Thought it was a short visit, it was full and wonderful – we even took in an auction!)

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And, of course, last Sunday, we welcomed our first bovine to Barefoot Meadows. She’s a beautiful Dexter cow. It has been our hope that she’d be a good family milk cow, so Andrew named her “Galaxy” (because of the Milky Way, naturally!). She’s been gradually settling in, over the last week, but she’s been more anxious than I’d hoped. Yesterday morning, we found out why.

After my morning chores (which involve feeding and watering our chicks, feeding the lambs and moving them from their secure shed to their day pasture, and putting more hay out for Truffle and Galaxy), I returned home for breakfast. My parents, the kids and I all sat in the living room, admiring the horse and cow out in the field, and began making some plans for the day. Then, all of a sudden, my mother spotted a suspicious black lump on the ground. Then the lump stood up and went frisking off after its mama.

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Wow! We had a calf! We hadn’t been expecting one until the end of the month, or possibly early May (she’d been running with a bull, so no one really knew when she was due to calve!). What a surprise, that was! Thankfully, after much hand-wringing and careful observation, we confirmed that the calf was nursing. It looked like a little bull calf, but since Galaxy wouldn’t let anyone near, that was only a guess. All looked good, and I was very, very thankful that calving was such an easy adventure for us. Or so I thought.

This morning, again, after chores, we looked out and saw Galaxy stagger and fall to her knees. She struggled up and fell again. She lay there, in the field, and looked very bad. I found a number for a nearby vet and made the call, pleading with God, all the while, “Please not another one. Please, no.” I left a message, as it’s a Sunday, and waited, agonizing, for the vet to call back. My parents had just been packing up to head back home, but they decided to wait until after the vet arrived. They’re great at moral support, and I was thankful to have them stay a bit longer.

The vet arrived and diagnosed it as “milk fever.” The treatment is simple – intravenously flood the cow’s system with calcium. He told us that this is one of the worse cases he’d seen and that she was at death’s door. He also told us that milk fever is one of the few conditions the vet can treat and see immediate improvement, almost as if he had a magic wand. It’s true. After tying her up and treating her, the vet released her. She got back up on her feet and has been acting fine ever since. It was amazing. I am SO thankful for modern medicine.

In other news, while Galaxy was lying there, unable to move, I was able to get a really good look at her calf. Lo and behold, it was not a “Stewart,” like we’d thought. What we thought was a penis was just where the umbilical cord had been attached. It turns out that we have a little heifer calf, and I get to use the name I’d picked out – Buttercup. She’s ridiculously cute and curious. In fact, while her mama was still feeling a bit off, she ducked under the fence and went to visit Truffle. How confusing for Buttercup when there was no udder! We caught the little critter, and brought her back to Galaxy. Truffle was so good. He just stood there, while Buttercup nosed about under his legs, and put up with it. I think he and Buttercup will be buddies.

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Thank God for happy endings!

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Goodbye, Slipper

I’ve been sharing a lot of highlights, lately, of our new life on the farm. Barefoot Meadows has been an exciting place. There have been things to explore, new animals, and fun. Tonight, though, I’m going to share something different.

Remember those lambs?

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Tonight we lost one.

I won’t get into all the details, but Slipper ended up with bloat. It’s a very serious thing that sometimes happens to lambs, particularly ones that are bottle fed. An abundance of gas causing bacteria accumulate in the lamb’s abomasum (the fourth stomach of a ruminant). The pressure can cause heart and lung failure, or even a rupture of the abomasum.

Once it starts, it all happens very quickly. Slipper was running all over the place, this morning, and fighting Fluffy for his bottle. Around four, Jude and I noticed that Slipper looked really, really fat. I started googling home remedies for bloat, but it was to no avail. By 6:30, I’d gone from mildly concerned to very worried.

Jude and I had been praying for God to save Slipper’s life, and after I put the boys to bed, I heard them discussing Milo. Elijah doesn’t understand, which frustrates Jude immensely. I went back out to the lambs with a heavy heart, and came back in to a very worried 8 year old. We cried together, and then Jude cried himself to sleep. It has been a long time since he’s done that. He’s growing up..

I fought with Slipper all evening, trying to massage the gas out, trying to keep him moving, and trying to get a home remedy into him. He died just before 10:00. Fluffy has been baa-ing, piteously, since I moved Slipper’s body.

I am dreading tomorrow morning’s conversation with my tender-hearted sons. Please pray for us. I am weary of watching small, helpless creatures die.

Jude is not the only one who will fall asleep on a wet pillow, tonight.

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Introducing Truffle – A Post by Jude

I’ve wanted a horsie for years. When I’m with horsies I feel happy. So I started collecting cans, bottles and milk jugs and once a week brought them to the depot. The Starbucks ladies were the biggest help you could imagine. They helped by giving  us milk jugs. This morning we got our very first horse!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Meet Truffle!!!!! This evening we went for our first ride on Truffle!!!!!

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Updates

Hello, friends! As you’ve probably noticed, this blog has grown. My dear Jude has been upgraded from a guest blogger to a (semi) regular writer. Look for the “posted by” tag at the top of new posts, and you may just notice Jude listed as an author. Last week’s blog, about our new lambs, was his carefully crafted contribution. He tells me that he much prefers writing little updates on the computer to doing an identical paragraph on paper. At least he’s writing, right?

Speaking of Jude, I feel I really must pat myself on the back. I finally figured out a way to get him excited about his annual haircut (hey, when a kid has curly hair, you can get away with a lot!). After months of dreading the springtime cut, we realized that his hair can serve a valuable purpose. If he cuts his hair as the snow is disappearing, say, in late March, he can leave the locks out for his little bird friends. No more sullen frowns when scissors are mentioned, just dreams of eggs nestled in amongst his curls. And we now have one less thing to fight about – not bad for a Friday afternoon.

So, to completely change the topic, did you read Jude’s latest post?

We have lambs.

Each time I say this, the city girl in me laughs. On the inside, of course. It’s an odd, nervous laugh, borne out of too much googling and not enough experience. You know how mothers stereotypically diagnose their children with many a terminal illness after googling symptoms? This past few weeks, I learned that this can happen with livestock, too. (If you want to get really freaked out, google “bloat in lambs.” Yikes!)

Just to keep you all in the loop, our lambs are fine (I think!). Fluffy was born with a cloudy (presumably), blind eye that was constantly irritated by eyelashes that curled inward, and Slipper developed an eye infection within a day of his arrival. Thankfully, after washing their eyes, carefully, with warm salt water, both lambs are looking pretty good now. Slipper’s eye look bright and beautiful, and Fluffy’s eye, though still dull, is no longer swollen shut or irritated. And the bout of scours (lamb diarrhea) cleared up quickly once we diluted the lamb formula.

The lambs are about 3 and a half weeks old now, and the snow is melting. There is light at the end of this tunnel. I’ll feel much better once they’re weaned and are grazing out in the sunshine.

Birds are chirping, and boys are getting restless.

Gardening fingers are itching, and the breeze is delicious on warm afternoons.

Spring is coming!

*****

I asked Jude to write me a short, five sentence story, this afternoon. I told him it could be based in reality, or not. This is his story:

     One time I went out to feed the lambs, and something strange happened.
     Slipper didn’t finish his bottle (Slipper never finishes). After that, they
     chased me around the shop. But they did not catch me. Before I went to
feed the lambs, I took the dogs for a walk 
and beat them home for the
bottles.

What do you think? Fiction or factual?

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Lambies and Barleys

Yesterday we got a couple of bottle lambs!!! Meet Slipper and Fluffy!!!image image image

A bottle lamb is a lamb that has to be bottle fed. Fluffy is the one with more black on it’s face. FYI Fluffy is the nibbler. I named Fluffy and Elijah named Slipper. They are so cute, and they keep saying, “MMMMAAAAAAAAA.” Marshmallow is like, “What are you doing in my kennel?!”

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Barefoot Meadows is happy to have its first livestock.

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