Plus Five, Minus Three



There was a surprise waiting for me when I went into the barn the other morning.  One of my ewes had her lambs.  I ran for the house and grabbed my phone so I could take pictures of the first sheep born on my property.  I sent the picture to my daughter so she could rejoice with me.

Being a mother has never dulled the wonder of birth.  I have yet to tire from marveling about how the Creator causes life, from nothing to something in a few short months.  And baby farm animals are the promise of a future for the herd and increase for the farm.  I have yet to know a mother who does not like cuddling babies, either human or animal.  And true to my instincts, I cuddled.  The ewe was not happy with that, but that did not matter to me.  I fell in love.

A couple of days later, I was at work and I heard a knock at the door.  There he was, holding a box full of blankets wrapped around an almost dead lamb.  He had gone to see them and found this one laid out on the floor.  Not being sure what to do, he tried to call me, did call my daughter and his grandmother.  When they could not help him, he found the jobsite that I was working that day and brought the lamb to me.

I tried.  I checked everything and tried what I could, but I could not help him and he died.  Brokenhearted I went back to work and he graciously took care of the lamb.

A few days later while my daughter and I were working on the barn, I noticed the usual behavior of a mother about ready to birth.  My daughter ran to the car, got her camera and we filmed almost the entire scene of the second ewe having her babies.  My granddaughter was there and witnessed the miracle too.  Here we were my daughter and I….. both of us being mothers, watching the labor and having the sympathetic urge to push…..

The ewe had three; 2 males and a female.  The female was smaller and I was concerned for her chances of survival but she got up and all of them were eating and walking around.  I checked numerous times, the latest at 11PM before going to sleep and they were fine.

When I went to the barn the next morning, I heard the crying of one of the lambs.  Having been around goats for so many years, I know the difference between a call and a cry…..this was crying.  So I ran to check what was going on.

The female was dead.  Obviously dead.  The beautifully colored male was lying normally but crying.  One look and I knew something was horribly wrong.  His lower jaw hung loose and there was blood pooled in his mouth.  During the early morning one of the ewes had stepped on his face and broken his jaw.  There is very little hope for a baby with a broken jaw.  They cannot nurse now and if it could be set, the jaw may not align for correct chewing later causing starvation or malnutrition.  I held the crying baby until I found that there was nothing I could do to logically save him, so I had to put him out of his misery.  And my heart cried.

Nothing beats the magic of birth.  And nothing tears the heart out of a mother as the death of a baby.  I have had it happen many times but it never gets easy.  So I rejoice with births, grieve with the deaths and love the living.  That is life on the farm.

Well…….that is life everywhere, but it is ever more noticeable on a farm.

So I had 5 lambs born in the last week and 3 are dead. So I choose to live in peace and enjoy the ones that remain.

Where can you rejoice in your life……….in spite of the losses?


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About Janolyn

I am a mother of 5 wonderful children, 4 boys and 1 girl. During the years that my children were growing up, we grew most of our own food with a vegetable garden, many fruit trees and berry patches. I grew flowers for joy. We milked goats and raised our own meats and eggs. I learned to make my own cheeses, butter, canned foods, sourdough, and fermented foods. I made our own health products like soap, hand creams, lip balm, and herbal tinctures. We live off the power grid and have learned to do without conveniences that most Americans consider essential. The land clearing and building has been mostly accomplished with hand tools; some of them even the right tool for the job. After a couple of miscarriages between #2 and #3 due to “standard medical procedures”, I consulted a midwife and my last 3 children were born safely at home. That was when I was first alerted to the fact that doctors did not know everything nor would they have the time to share it with their patients if they did. As I learned the basic principles of heath-through-nutrition from my midwife, I learned alternative gardening practices from her husband. That introduction started a lifelong love of learning the practical life of our ancestors. I want to share what I have been learning with you and learn from those who are also living a sustainable life.


Plus Five, Minus Three — 7 Comments

  1. Dearest Janolyn,
    I so love reading your posts, but this one brought tears to my eyes. Yes, tears of joy for new life and tears of sadness for life lost, and tears of acceptance. Life on a farm really does bring you so much closer to living a genuine life full of hope, joy, despair, and reliance on the Lord to always be there in the good and the bad, and to see us through the valleys and over the hill tops. Keep on rebuilding those traditions.

  2. So sorry to hear! The inevitable losses are always a huge bummer; but you’re right, the successes make it worthwhile. It gives me an appreciation for those who homesteaded before us. For me, the losses are a sore disappointment. But for my great grandmother, they were a direct threat to their family’s food security, and a huge source of stress and worry!

      • Agreed, and for me it’s a financial consideration too, as I expect my farm to be profitable. I just meant that in my grandmother’s day, a lost chicken was a lost meal, they regularly poached just to feed their family, went hungry plenty, and stressed a lot over just being able to survive. I think most of us these days don’t have it quite as hard. 😉 I think farming is challenging enough nowadays, so I cannot imagine how they endured with all the risk and hardship they faced every day.

        • I agree Michelle. It is not as vital to us, but to me it is almost. I am wanting this farm to be profitable since I want to quit work entirely and do my farming and square dance calling only. And I agree, most have no clue what it would be like to live in those days. As close to it as I feel like I am, I still don’t have to worry about losing my hair to a tomahawk or not being able to get vital tools. I think about having to leave everything except what is in a covered wagon……and then losing some of it as I had to lighten the wagon for a river crossing or seeing the wagon crashed on a hill. No……we don’t have it bad at all.

          Thanks so much for this conversation. I was really stressing……and this brought it back to reality for me.

  3. This was hard to read and I’m still crying over it. After my dog died in 2010, I vowed to never get another animal. It just breaks my heart. My husband wants a dog, but I just can’t bear the pain when they die. I suppose one day we will get another dog. I lived on a farm and it was also too painful to see the animals die.

    I decided my homestead is going to have fruits and veggies. I’m not to the point where I can rejoice over the ones that live because my heart always aches for the ones that die.

    • Hello KJ,
      I know that our heart aches and it hurts to think of going through loss again. But I would like to encourage you to live in the now… There is nothing that can be done to change the past, but our fears will limit our joys today. And our fears will limit the joys of those we love if we allow it to control us….and we control our loved ones. I have lost a LOT in my life but I brush off the past and look for the joys that I can find in todays.
      Dear one, take one day at a time and let go of the past. You will be glad that you did.

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