The last two weeks here on the farm have been filled with beautiful, magical moments, and equally heartbreaking ones. First and foremost, I would like to take this opportunity to announce that I’m a grandma! Ariel finally definitively answered the is-she-or-isn’t-she pregnancy question by presenting us with a perfect kid, whom I immediately named Wesley upon seeing his cute little face. Ariel didn’t exhibit any signs of impending birth, so when we got back from the butcher facility (more on that to follow), I was startled to see her standing next to her baby. I think I missed witnessing the birth by just a few moments. Wesley already loves to cuddle, and has fallen asleep on my lap several times. Ariel lets me and Gene do whatever we want with him, but if anyone else comes near Wesley, she lets loose with an appallingly loud squall.
I spent hours yesterday sitting out in the pasture area watching Wesley learn how to walk. Considering he was born around noon, I think he was doing a pretty amazing job of getting around. Fiona, Buttercup, and Woolimina left the new family alone for the most part, except at feeding time. Fiona got jealous when I gave Ariel her very own scoop of grain, and her very own pile of hay, so I had to move them outside the gate for a bit. Buttercup got annoyed that Ariel was outside the gate and she wasn’t, so she started headbutting her through the gate. Good thing Gene builds things to last, because the two kept that up for about 15 minutes before I finally put Ariel and Wesley to bed in the old chicken coop. I figured the last thing Ariel needed after giving birth not even 6 hours ago was trying to win a headbutt competition.
I was exceedingly happy that Ariel picked yesterday of all days to have her baby, because prior to that momentous occasion I was pretty sad. In addition to Wesley’s birthday, yesterday was also Bacon Day. My intention was to say goodbye to the pigs in the morning, liberally dispense their parting treats so they didn’t enter the next life hungry, and then hide in the house until they were gone. Instead, after the pig hauler showed up with the horse trailer, I got to participate in the pig rodeo. Abigail and Keith had come down when the hauler arrived, since the plan was for them and Gene to go to the butchers with the hauler to decide what cuts of meat they wanted. And because everything on this farm seems to happen at once, the installers from Viking Fence got there at the same time to fence off the front of our property. One of the installers, a self-professed “city kid”, took one look at the five of us chasing snorting pigs around the mud-filled pen and decided he wanted in on that action. For many, many reasons, the pigs did not want to go in to the horse trailer, and Abigail had the bright idea of putting a fat kid step in front of the trailer so the pigs could climb up inside, rather than having to hop up. Apparently the only time the pigs like to hop is when they’re trying to bite me, but more on that later. Once they were safely loaded, I gave them some treats to munch on for the road trip, and we all set off for the butchers, with the exception of the fence installer. Once we’d picked out the different cuts of meat, Gene, Abigail, and Keith decided they wanted to go see what went on behind the scenes. I opted to stay behind, and found a sunny spot to sit by a picnic table which conveniently had a cute Boston Terrier named Gator tethered to it. Gator was a great distraction, and I’m happy to say I only cried once throughout the entire process. I have to admit I got pretty choked up this morning, though, when I got up at dawn to do the morning chores. Out of sheer habit I started to grab the hose to fill up the pigs water bucket, and the site of the empty, lonely pen made me sad. Luckily I’m easily distracted from my emotions, and letting Wesley out of his bedroom cheered me right up.
I figure I got off pretty easy during the five months or so we had the pigs, seeing as I only got bit once. Of course, Princess picked the worst possible day to take her chomp out of my leg. And I didn’t even do anything to provoke it, except for perhaps not dump the bucket of grain fast enough for her liking. That morning, about a week and a half ago, I had gotten up to let the ducks out. I knew something was wrong immediately upon stepping outside, because I’m usually greeted with impatient quacking as soon as the ducks hear the sliding door to the deck open. I ran over to the Duck Mansion, and five of them staggered out, all bloody and ruffled. When I opened the box, I found four poor dead ducks, including our three new ones. I was absolutely heart broken. I woke Gene up, and his daughter happened to be there that day as well. We did what country folk all over the world do when presented with that situation – we all grabbed guns and sat out there until the killer came back. Gene gets credit for the kill shot, of course. But in my defense, I was shooting one handed, non-dominant, and I’m pretty sure my bullet scared it into Gene’s line of fire.Turns out it was a mink, and it had gotten in through the roof of the Duck Mansion. Normally I abhor killing of any type, be it pigs or minks, but in this case I didn’t even feel a guilty twinge. Not only did it kill four of my beloved ducks and injure five others, the mink had also killed most of Abigail’s chickens several days prior. I was all for beheading the mink and sticking its skull on a pole in front of the Duck Mansion to serve as a warning to others, but Gene brought it down to Abigail’s instead, since she wants to have it taxidermied. (Did I just make up a word?)
The five wounded ducks were immediately checked into the hospital in the guest bathroom (again, visitors, best to bring your own towels to our house. I’m just saying.) and Abigail and I cleaned up their wounds. Actually, Abigail mostly did the cleaning, and I did my best not to throw up. I’m not a very qualified surgical assistant. Gene and his daughter put hardware cloth over the inside of the roof, so nothing is getting through it ever again. Three of the ducks got checked out of the hospital a few days ago, and I’m going to put the other two outside today. I think the poor Rescue Duck will always have a limp, and the boy Indian Runner will probably lose vision in one eye, but since they were eating and drinking and fairly content, given the circumstances, I couldn’t bear to have Gene put them down.
Although I’ve been a hobby farmer now for a couple years, the novelty has yet to wear off. I still get excited by the sight of a particularly beautiful flower bloom or tiny vegetable just beginning to form, and I still fall in love with my critters to an extent that I never thought would be possible. I know I can’t prevent every tragedy, and I can’t protect every one all the time, but the heartbreaking moments pale in comparison to the sheer joy of seeing a baby chick hatch, or a baby goat taking his first wobbly steps. I wouldn’t give up those moments for anything.