Winter Views

Snow gently falling, catching onto the evergreen trees and slowly covering the bland ground…ponds freezing over…fireplaces burning bright and warm.

I love looking at pictures of winter and imagining the aesthetic of a pleasant snowfall—ice skating, snowy parks, cozy knitted woolens, even shoveling sounds appealing in the beginning of the season.

But after a few months of driving in snow, slipping on ice and falling in poo (yes, that happened), and bundling up until I look like the little brother in A Christmas Story every time I step out the door, the shine has worn off and I’m wishing for winter to end and dreaming of spring.

Well, it’s not spring here in the Midwest and it won’t be for some time yet.

So, I thought I’d look through my photos that I took this winter and share some of the beauty of the season.

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The ducks never seem to mind the snow!  But do not expect to see any chicken photos in this post.  They stay inside their covered run.

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Hadley the Great Pyrenees pup loves the snow.  Less than a year old still,  this is her first winter.  She’s super fluffy with her thick white winter coat and seems to thrive in what I consider to be rather chilly weather.  She has a grand old time playing in the snow too.  While she’s in mid-run, she puts her face down to the ground and scoops up fresh snow for a drink on the go.  So far we haven’t had any predator problems, thanks to her watchfulness.  In her spare time, Hadley likes to go sledding with the kids.

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The sheep have no problem sitting outside of their shelter during the snowfalls.  The snow just collects on their backs, and doesn’t even melt off because their bodies are so insulated by wool.  I’m the one who brushes it off if there’s one too many inches piled up on top of them.  There was one day when Penny (the brown one) was so snowy that I had to look closely to tell her apart from the others.

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Maybe it’s the little things.

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This last photo is looking out my bedroom window.  I recently created a new Pinterest board for photographs of views from windows.  That pin board has no purpose other than letting me save pictures that I find beautiful.  I realized that most of them are in a spring setting, which is probably showing where my subconscious wants to be.  But when I stop to think about it, I already have a great view outside my own window.  Sweet animals, cheerful yellow chicken coop, lots of snow-covered trees are what I see at the moment.

These few photos are my views that I found amidst the dreary long winter.

But I had to look for them before I was able to see them.

 

A Mum & Her Lamb

It’s taken me a while to decide what to share with you this week.  I was in the middle of a huge waiting game the past few weeks didn’t know how it would all end.  Now that it’s over, I can finally sit down and tell you about it.

Chrysanthemum (Mum, for short), my light Moorit-colored ewe, was pregnant with a lamb or two.

When we got her in November, we had no idea if she was bred.  The flock she came from had a ram with the ewes for a few months, so if she was pregnant, there was a large time window for a possible birth. (Knowing what I know now, the date of intentional breeding is very important to me and is in the best interest of the well-being of my sheep.)

By late December, we were positive Mum was pregnant.  Her sides were so much larger than before, and her udder began to develop too.  We researched how to know when a sheep is ready to give birth. We equipped ourselves with all the tools, milk replacement, and (because the weather had been consistently below freezing) all the little lamb sweaters we might need.  All we had to do was wait.

Then Mum started spending more time in the shelter by herself, sometimes pawing at the ground and shifting around.  Was it getting close to lambing time?  This lasted for a few days, and she seemed more and more tired every day.  I realized that she refused to lie down and looked pained.  After calling the previous owner to see if this had happened in Mum’s previous pregnancy the year before, we were told that it was in fact not normal—call the vet, she said, and expect the worst…her lambs had probably died from a prolonged labor.

But the vet had the opposite to say.  Apparently she hadn’t been in labor, and probably wouldn’t be for days still.  While examining her though, he found an injury in her lower back/hip (the s.i. joint) that had probably occurred in the past, but was made serious by her added weight and loosened hips from pregnancy. So he helped her lie down, and prescribed an anti-inflammatory to help relieve her pain so she could be in a better state when it was time to lamb.

Each morning, I gave her the medicine—pills mashed up in some water—which she took stoically, even though I could tell she hated the taste.  I brought the small water tub up to her face several times a day so she could drink, and hand-fed her hay and minerals until she could stand up and get food and water on her own a few days later.

It was so hard to watch her lying there so helpless, with a little lamb inside of her.  I watched her heavy breathing and could see her pain.  There were a couple nights when she would rest her head against my hand and I thought she was telling me she might die soon, but the next morning I would find her still trying to keep going.  Mum easily could’ve given up, but was holding on and enduring it all for her lamb.

After almost a week she was getting up and down easier, though she was very stiff and a little unsteady.  She rejoined the other three sheep and was enjoying sitting in the sun and watching the ducks who hang out by the sheep’s fence.  Throughout all of this, I was constantly checking her rear and udder, looking for signs of upcoming labor.

Then yesterday morning, my mom went outside earlier than me.  She hurried back to the house and banged on the window saying, “There’s a lamb, get out here!”

I grabbed some towels, put on my overalls, coat, and gloves as quick as I could and ran outside, trying not to slip on ice as I carried supplies.  I could barely believe it.  After all those days of constant vigilance and care, Mum had begun labor overnight, with no prior warning.

The lamb had just been born.  It was warm and Mum was turning around to start licking away the lining.  My mom picked it up and I cleared the lamb’s nose and mouth.  But there was no breath.  We tried and tried to get it breathing, but nothing came.  After thinking back, my mom realized that she hadn’t felt a strong heartbeat either when she first picked it up.  I don’t remember how long we spent trying to warm up and revive the lamb and make it breathe.

Mum was baaing softly the whole time, licking her lamb and nudging it.  It never took a breath.

I went inside to call the vet.  He gave instructions on what to do if Mum still had to deliver a twin, and to call if there were any issues.  The first lamb was most likely a stillborn, he thought.  The rough pregnancy could’ve caused a premature birth, or her labor may have been simply too long and strained.  We will never know how long it lasted though, because it started too early in the morning.

When I went back outside, Mum had her head resting on the lamb, now clean and dry—perfect-looking in every way.  It was a ewe lamb.  She had black and brown markings, probably what would’ve been considered moorit, like her mother.

It was awful to take the lifeless lamb away from Mum, but it had to be done if she was going to deliver a second lamb.  I got a lawn chair and my hat and set up camp to wait for another lamb that I was hoping Mum had still inside her.  I waited for over two hours after the lamb had been born, but she passed the afterbirth and nothing else happened.  Frozen and heartbroken, I finally gave up hope that she would have another baby and went back inside.

Today, Mum is doing better.  The weight of the pregnancy finally off of her hips seems to help her stand easier.  I can’t tell if her quiet attitude today is because she’s worn out from labor, or if she is still feeling the loss of her lamb…maybe it’s both.  It was obvious that she would’ve been a good mother.  It’s just sad that because of her injury and all the complications she had, she will never be bred again.  That sweet little ewe lamb was her last one.

We will continue to care for Mum and help her heal as best as we are able.  While this experience was very difficult and sad, it is all a part of life.  My grandma wrote a sweet consolation to my mom and me this afternoon:

“Remember that everything is ultimately part of God’s plan, as awful as it sometimes appears. He had a reason for putting all of you through it. That’s not a copout—how could it be otherwise? I sure don’t want it not to be true!  Where would we be without His constant presence in our lives! And that baby lamb is with Him in Heaven now. I think He has a special love for lambs, since they were present at the birth of His Son, along with the shepherds. I thank Him for these experiences; and I pray that I understand what he’s asking me to learn, share, say, see, do.”

All life is precious.

The connected life of a Mum and her lamb was very special to me.

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Thank you to all of you who were keeping up with Mum’s hardships as they were happening. Though this was my first experience with lambing, I hope it will not be my last. I enjoy my sheep very much and hope to share the joy with you all through Driftless Woolens.

Katherine

Wednesday, Jan 31, 2018

Meet The Sheep – Penny

When we were visiting the flock that I got my sheep from, this girl was the brave one who came up to say hello.  Penny is still the first one to come up to the fence, and sometimes puts her front legs up on the fence, just like our dog does when she’s excited (they’re friends by the way).  Penny’s spunky, kind of bossy, likes to chew the snaps on my coat, and always has something to say.

And…she always seems to get hay all over her face no matter how often I pick it off.

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Creation + Courage

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I’ve been thinking about the creation process of Driftless Woolens and what it took for me to actually believe I could start something like that.  My dream business wasn’t born overnight.  There was a lot of back and forth going on inside of me before I had the confidence to pursue my goal.

Creating is something we are all meant to do.  Making, designing, even thinking about ideas are the most basic forms I could think of for creating.  Everyone creates, whether they realize it or not.

I am an avid knitter, but a casual one.  When I was young, very few of my friends knew I liked to knit.  I created quietly, for my own personal enjoyment and satisfaction.  Not many people knew that the scarf or hat I wore was something I made myself.  I was content with keeping it to myself, though.  It was my own little world of creativity where I could try new ideas and play with color and texture, but not worry about what someone else might think of what I made.

When products or ideas are shared, it is not only the creation that is on display, it is the creator as well.  Suddenly it is now being seen by someone else who will have opinions of it. It is now being judged, and those judgments are a reflection of its creator, well received, or not.

I didn’t want to be graded on my work because I had created for myself, not for somebody else.  But then as I got older I realized how I felt connected to others’ creations.  There were songs, books, artwork…ideas that someone had shared with the world…that made a significant difference in my life.  Did I care about anything I had created enough to want to share it with others?  Maybe, I thought.  But someone’s already done that.  Will what I create even matter?

What?

And this is where creation goes along with courage.  If the creator truly cares about and believes in their work, why wouldn’t they want to share it with others so they can enjoy it too?

Staying away from creating because of a fear that it’s already been done before is a lie we tell ourselves.  Thinking that we simply lack the courage to produce something worthwhile restricts our natural need to create.

C.S. Lewis said, “Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

Don’t be afraid of sharing something you love creating.  I tell that to myself, and I offer that to you, fellow creator.  We can’t keep our gifts to ourselves (well, I guess you could, but that would be considered selfish, don’t you think?).

We have to create and have courage to show the world, or maybe just our own small corner of it, what we have made…and what we are made of.