Farm moms, only different
It happens every year on our farm. Sooner or later it’s time for the four-legged babies to be born, and when that happens, life as we know it becomes only a memory.
I guess that’s true when babies of any kind are born. When our daughter made her entrance into the world, it was the end of sleeping all night, and the beginning of mountainous laundry, spit-up clothes, dirty diapers and pureed peas being washed from her hair, the floors, the walls and anywhere else as we learned what she would and would not tolerate for food.
From a barn view, we’ve seen many a mother come in and out of the lambing pens over the years. And just like we humans, mothers have all kinds of intentions. Some can’t care for their babies by themselves. Some make you feel the need to don your body armor in order to get near her baby. Other mothers have no intention of taking care of a lamb and will jump out of her pen at all cost, leaving her baby stranded with no steady food supply.
When I think of that, I think of our mother often threatening to get a one-way ticket to France in the years when we were growing up. It would have been fine, but she wanted to go without us-if you can believe a woman with seven growing children out in the middle of nowhere would want to jump ship every now and then.
I think she was secretly planning ahead for herself when she taught all of us how to cook for ourselves. When we were younger and out visiting people, my mother honed her skills as a France-bound mum, as she would tell someone we’d been visiting, “If we leave something behind, just feed it.”
She was a genius even back then.
This year as we have been feeding bottle lambs, we’ve come across one ewe that seems different than the rest. She needs help feeding her triplets, and rather than standing there being obnoxiously concerned that one of the humans has “captured” one of her babies, she takes a different approach.
When I pick one of the lambs up to feed it, she walks over to me slowly, puts her head up close to mine, and looks deeply into my eyes without even blinking. She does it the whole time I’m feeding her babies. It’s kind of creepy, actually.
If she was my mom, I’d freak out that she could stare me down like that.
But as I stand there feeding each lamb, she stands there calmly, too, watching me like a hawk. And when we’re done feeding each one, she nuzzles up to it and shares her love.
I find myself talking to her, and feeling like she’s listening. (Could I get put away for that?) If she could speak to us, would she say, “Thank you for helping me feed my babies?” or maybe, “The only reason I’m not head butting you is because you’re feeding my babies?”
Once again, attitude makes all the difference.
I guess mothers of all species are the same, but go about the job differently. For the most part, they are protective, loving and nurturing.
Except for that occasional ewe trying to be the rock star of the high jump, and abandoning her baby. I think my mother would understand that ewe. The ewe acted upon notions my mother tucked away – probably only following a couple of liquid shots behind closed doors out in the wash house. But I’ll bet that ewe would never make the trip to France, either.
Oh, she could disguise herself with some sunglasses and maybe a nice necklace, but soon would be exposed because everyone knows you don’t wear wool in the spring.
By comparison, my mother was way tougher. But maybe only because the wash house was never far away.
Schwaller is a Farm News correspondent from Milford. Reach her by e-mail at email@example.com and at www.karenschwaller.com.
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