Nona and Deedee started life just as their mother lost hers. I don’t know if it was Nona or Deedee that I first swung upside down, back and forth, to get the fluid out of her lungs and her breathing started. Which ever lamb it was, she hasn’t held it against me. Both lambs were rubbed down and in a cardboard box with straw, placed in front of the wood stove, before they were even 15 minutes old.
By the time the girls were a few days old, living in the house with the dog and the cat had become customary and normal. They were given access to all the rooms during the day as long as they had on their disposable diapers. We cut a hole for the tail and, being girls, the system worked sufficiently well. At other times, Deedee and Nona were relegated to their cardboard box for lamb control.
The dog was interested in the babies. The cat wasn’t so sure. Cisco would clean Nona’s and Deedee’s wool and lick them all over, especially when they dripped milk down their chins and around their mouths. Similar to the ministrations of a mother ewe, this encouraged them to drink more. It also helped to keep their faces from getting crusty with old formula. Shortly, the lambs learned to climb out of the box and were thus sent back to live a lamb’s true life at the barn.
Deedee and Nona were named for ancient Greek goddesses or furies or something. Annie might be a vet student but her semester of Greek archaeology had proven interesting to her and thus influential in her approach to naming these babies. She did, after all, deserve first rights for delivering them. She picked names that reflected the goddesses who oversaw childbirth and fertility.
It seemed fitting but I had the hardest time remembering the names to start. Usually I let lambs name themselves. If it had been up to me, the lambs would have called themselves Laverne (Deedee) and Shirley (Nona). It was that obvious in their personalities.
So, here we are now, with lambs a month old intermingled with all the other lambs on the farm. Instead of being afraid of us, they push to the front of the flock and dive through the barn door at feeding for a bottle of formula and a scratch on the head. This has all been to the extreme delight of guests and their children. Who can’t love the smell of a baby lamb; feel the soft wool; oooh and aaah as they tangle around your legs pushing up for a bottle of milk? Like all babies, they are picked up and carried around. They are posed for photos. They are treated like pet dogs.
On a warm day when the doors are left open, it comes as no surprise to find them walking into the house, especially when the sheep are grazing the orchard close by. Our split rail fencing works for sheep but not so well for lambs. It’s an easy squeeze for Deedee and Nona, and they sagely know how to find the front door.
Without diapers, the lambs are not as welcome in the house. The cat is still wary and will run sit on the stairs. The carpet may be old, but lambs peeing on it are not appreciated. I wave my arms and scold until Deedee and Nona bounce out nonchalantly. “Who’s she yelling at? Us???” The lambs graze the lawn. Sometimes they check out the guests and totter up the steps onto the deck. When it suits their purpose, Deedee and Nona will squeeze back into the orchard to play with their kindergarten class.
I suppose I should just be happy they haven’t figured out how to use the dog door, although I did see them watching Cisco pass through it the other day. Quite intently, I might add.
Photos: (top) guest with Deedee and Nona on the bridge; (bottom) guest feeding Deedee. Photos by C. Anderson (father).
All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2011 Scottie Jones
The farmer’s kitchen. A place of warmth all year ’round when we used to cook on wood stoves. Still a place of warmth at meal time, but there are so many other parts to it, and it’s not all about food. It’s about the workings of the farm and the place where everything is brought: to be cleaned, to be cared for, to be stored, to be dried, to be warmed, to be processed. Doesn’t sound like your kitchen?
What’s in your dish drainer? I bet you don’t have a drench gun for wormer and rings for canning jars next to the baby spoon! Of course, when I look up from the sink to the window ledge, I see the injection syringes drying next to the potted plant, the dried poppy heads now devoid of their seeds, and my sheep collection given to me largely by friends in support of our farm name, Leaping Lamb Farm.
Turning around I survey the ‘animal rescue’ area of the kitchen. There is a turkey sequestered in a cardboard box in the window bay and a chicken in a cage, both with heat lamps over them. I checked with another farmer. “Where do you keep your chicks, your bummer lambs, your injured animals when they are in need of attention?” The basement. Hmmm, we don’t have a basement, but I know other farmers who use their kitchen just as we do and sometimes even for baby calves. I find the linoleum floor makes it easier to clean and the location (not at the barn) makes it easier to creep down in the middle of the night to feed the baby lambs their bottle of milk warmed in the microwave overhead.
It seems expected that there would be dried oregano, with its purple flowers, and sage and mint tied in bunches hanging from nails pounded into the wood beams of the ceiling and wood posts exposed in the walls. Then there is the colorful feed corn hung everywhere there is a nail, to dry with the heat from the wood stove when it is first shucked. And at some point these things become ornamental and no longer visible except when needed for cooking or to the guest passing through a room.
There’s more. Jars of dried chilies rest on the counter when there is no room left in the pantry. These sit a-top the cheese kit waiting for the time when the neighbor’s goats have kids and we can try our hand at making goat cheese from the nanny’s milk. The orange press waits for oranges that our move to Oregon can’t promise, at least not from our own trees. It adds a farm kitchen touch all its own, partly because it’s ancient, and partly because it stirs memories of my grandfather’s kitchen that was always warm and always promised fresh-squeezed orange juice from this very press.
All the implements of a farming life and more reside side by side as if there were no purpose other than to be handy. The needles, the tools, the implements, the artwork – they all tell a story of life on the farm. With all this warmth and goodness, I wonder whatever possessed the writer of the song about the three blind mice, the farmer’s wife, and her carving knife…that was likely kept in the kitchen. On reflection, that is one weird song and stories about the mice in our kitchen are best saved for another time.
Photos: (top) above the sink; (middle) orange juicer; (bottom) family photos mixed with sheep
All rights reserved. Copyright 2011 Scottie Jones