If you've got more than a few animals then having some die is an enviable part of keeping them.
I know I've posted before about involving the children in every aspect of what I do here and yesterday was no exception.
The day before we'd had a triple born, the one wasn't going to be a very good lamb, it couldn't stand and faded pretty fast. I could have messed about with it and tried bottle feeding, but you get a feel for when these things will work or not. By the morning it was dead.
When I picked my eldest up from school I mentioned this and both girls asked questions about what had happened. Then later when they came to help me feed the ewes they asked to see the dead lamb. I got it out from where I'd put it and laid it on the ground. They both studied it very hard for a few minutes before going off and playing in the trailer.
When we came back in they both told their mum, very matter of fact, that the lamb had died because the mother sheep had had three lambs and didn't have enough milk to feed all three.
I was really pleased with how they dealt with the subject and how they reacted around the dead body of the lamb. I think children really pick up on the reactions of the people around them, around the animals I'm generally very calm, quiet and move softly (unless I'm trying to catch them) and the girls are the same, they make me really proud around the animals.
They also know they're not people, far too many people anthropomorphise animals, the children can see that they don't have human emotions. A sheep loosing a lamb will forget about it very quickly, sometimes in a few hours, a sheep in a lot of pain lambing will evoke no emotion from a sheep sat next to it.
They also know why we keep them and I tell them when we eat one that we've bred here, they seem to like to know where their food has come from even at their young age!
"The vegetarians point out it is cruel to kill animals. The non-vegetarians point out that some factor has got to control the population-increase rate of every species: either predators (such as non-vegetarians), disease, or famine and of these predators are possibly the most humane."
"Vegetarianism seems to be almost wholly an urban, or big city, phenomenon, and is possibly due to people having been cut off from animals for so long that they tend to anthropomorphism. The humane non-vegetarian says (and I am one) that animals should be kept in the conditions most nearly approaching those for which they were evolved as possible, treated as humanely and subjected to no cruelties and indignities and, when their times comes, killed instantly and with no long journeys to far-away markets or abattoirs. This is perfectly possible on the self-supporting holding, and the animal need have no inkling that anything is going to happen to it."
John Seymour - The Complete Book Of Self Sufficiency 1976
I always have an abundance of rhubarb at this time of year (although I've managed to sell quiet a bit this year) and my wife isn't hugely keen on it.
I decided to dry some and see if it's any good in my overnight oats that I've been eating. It's pointless to dry it if there's no use for it at the end.
We picked a huge amount and set to cutting it up fairly evenly to put on the nine trays (I think I used eight as I cut the top layer a bit thick), my two assistants laid them out on the tray for me, it's funny watching them stealing bits of rhubarb and then having to spit them out - they took ages to learn that it's quite tart!
I then set it to dry, I had no idea how long it would take so set the timer for 16 hours on the fruit temperature. I think in the end it was dry at around 13 hours. I don't mind if these go really hard as they're to be rehydrated before eating, not to be used as snacks like some dried fruit.
It's comical how small this stuff gets after it's done - rhubarb is a lot of water!
My eldest and me tried some in our oats yesterday morning (added in the night before) they had the texture of a currant as they weren't fully hydrated but with a sharp flavour, a really good and healthy addition to our breakfast with very little cost involved.
Today was the first day back at school after the Easter holidays. That means that my wife is back at work and I'm back looking after the children, whilst I've still got some ewes to lamb.
So Sunday night I went out to check the sheep that weer still to lamb just before bed time. There was a ewe struggling to lamb so I managed, after much running around, to catch her and get her into a pen I'd made in the field.
This ewe was not easy to lamb, it was a single and the size of a small Labrador, I really struggle to get him out but managed in the end (the difficulty lies in pulling the lamb out and hold the ewe down on your own). I then moved her off to the shed to a bonding pen and went to bed around 11.30.
My younger daughter then woke me up at 2.30 and I decided that whilst I was awake I might as well go and check them (I had considered not checking them that night as I have so few left to lamb). When I went out there one ewe had had a triple (no one want triples) and the lambs had wondered away from her as she was going a little crazy not being able to find them. I gathered them up and put them in the shed as well, then back to bed.
I had my alarm set for six but with three young children there is little need for an alarm in our house! I got up quickly (for me), I wanted to check on the lambs born the night before and do my other jobs.
When I went to check on the expectant ewes there was one lambing - damn I thought (or maybe something stronger). I could do without that during the school run. I managed to pen her up (again with much running around) and I had a "bit of an inspection" unfortunately she wasn't far enough on with her lambing and her cervix hadn't opened up fully. So I then sorted out the sheep in the shed, did the green houses, uncovered certain garden crops, fed the chickens and then went inside to see my wife off and sort the kids out, make their lunch boxes, get forest school kit ready etc, give them breakfast, clean teeth and get them dress.
I managed all that done by eight o'clock (we normally leave by 8.30 to get there with plenty of time to spare) so I got the kids to get their wellies on and marched them all down the field.
The girls were told to look after the boy and make sure he didn't wonder off whilst I set about lambing this ewe.
The kids were utterly transfixed as I put my hand inside her and after much effort managed to pull out two live lambs in front of their very eyes, my younger daughter told me there and then that she wanted to be a farmer (and a carpenter)!
Then with time against me I managed to get the sheep and lambs up to the shed (as it was raining), round up the children, get them in the car, change out of my overalls (and then clothes when I realised it had soaked through) and drive them to school. The road was then blocked so we had to turn round and go a longer way to school.
We got there just as the gate was closing, but to be honest in my mind what they saw and experienced in that hour this morning would be far better than what they'd see or do at school, so if they were late I wouldn't have been very bothered!
With the eldest dropped at school, the middle one then got dropped off at preschool and the youngest and me then went to the community church in the village where I volunteer at a playgroup to get set up for the mornings session!
In all it was quiet a full on morning!
It's funny I've always said I want to give my children a similar childhood to my own and I think I was doing just that this morning!