Wow it's been a great weekend!!! I went home to Saskatoon to spend some much-needed time with my girlfriends. Now I'm back at the farm, and it's time to work. Peas are finally coming up in my garden, as well as an army of weeds. We have one new orphan, so that makes three baby lambs to feed. And the mice... well I'm sorry to say they just didn't make it. I think they just weren't getting enough nutrition without their mama, and they were starving. I couldn't handle the sight of the emaciated babies, so I made the decision to put them out of their misery. It was the kindest thing to do, given the state they were in. I'll skip the details, but I will say that they had a quick and relatively painless death. I put them back in their box to ask my younger sister what she wanted to do with her deceased pets. When I got back.... the box was open and the mouse blanket was strewn suspiciously on the ground. Minx. The barncat. The hungry barncat. It seems that the painstaking effort I took in caring for these rodents was nothing more than a late lunch for Minx. She was laying on the porch belly up with a satisfied look on her feline face.
Of course, there is nothing unusual about a cat eating a mouse, and they were already dead. I guess she was just taking care of my disposal dilemma. R.I.P. baby mice.
Now, for a city girl, I think I have a pretty respectable demeanor when it comes to farm animals and the inevitable death they eventually face. I've seen my dad cut the head off a live chicken, I've actually held the chicken down as he did it. (**Interesting fact** Contrary to lore, chickens do not actually run around after their head is cut off, they just make a hell of a mess thrashing their wings around, spraying blood all over the damn place) I've helped my dad shoot sheep for slaughter. I was even in the car once when my dad hit and killed a fawn on the highway. It's not death that bothers me, but suffering. I hate that those mice suffered for days without their mother. I hate that the mother of my orphaned lamb twins spent the night with a prolapsed uterus. (You'll have to look that one up.) (On second thought, don't look it up, you don't want to know.) My dad eventually had to take her from the barn and shoot her. Again, it was the kindest thing to do.
Farmlife is a balance between life and death all the time. Just as a mother perished from giving birth, new plants were emerging from the ground. As a chicken is butchered for meat, a family is sustained. The role of a respectable farmer includes being an attentive care-giver. To respect your animals is to provide them with the best life within your means. There will always be suffering in life, but prevention is the best medicine. Take care of your animals and you'll have happy, healthy ones.
The Gibson family farm has been in our family since 1906. It has been a fully functioning farm the whole time. My Grandfather and Great-Grandfather grew mostly canola and durum, and for the past ten years my father has been raising sheep. Our farm is located in the south-west corner of Saskatchewan. I grew up mostly in the city of Saskatoon, spending my summers out at the farm. You could say I have a bit of farm-kid in me. The farm spans for hundreds of acres around the farmhouse, but the garden is just down a path through the yard. This is where the magic happens...