Herd Hurts, and Healing.

Some days on the farm are so fulfilling I feel my heart will surely explode with joy and gratitude.

All days on the farm are challenging. Most often that challenge is rewarded so many times over, the exhaustion, the sweat, the drama, the costs all somehow seem reasonable.

Recently we celebrated our third year of selling our cheese and we were openly embraced by our community who enjoyed our specials and our sales with great enthusiasm. It was as an anniversary should be. It was filled with joy and love and time with special people.

Behind our joy lurked a heavy heart.

On our farm we have quite the reputation for being foolish about our livestock. I believe the problem stems from the fact that we don’t consider our animals livestock. At most they are petstock. We love the animals of our farm. I have been told that local ‘real farmers’ don’t take us seriously because we are so soft. I find it easy to believe there is truth to that, and I can live with that.

We cannot keep them all, I know. But we do go to extraordinary levels to be certain they have the best lives that we can provide for them, no matter their individual limitations or fates.

This year the loss toll has been high. We lost our big, strong doe Yukitat, daughter of my beloved Camellia, to complications of a difficult kidding. As a matter of fact, this spring, over the course of two weeks we had a rash of challenging deliveries, stillborns, premature deliveries and complications. All of the mothers survived, except Yukitat. Our vet became a regular fixture on the farm, and I credit him with saving all of the does he could.

YukitatUsually by the time kidding season has passed, so have all of the health-related stress issues of the farm.

However, in May we lost the last cat we had when Tom and I met, Kitten (AKA Itty Bitty Kitty), had complications of her old age catch up with her.

This year summer brought more sorrow. In late May, Meeps, who had joined a local herd and was maturing well, came back home very sick. On June 2, one year to the date of his arrival, Meeps died in our arms. The special year we had with him has left an indelible mark on our hearts.

Then August brought with the surprising loss of Ollie. Ollie was healthy and fine in the morning, noticeably struggling while we were getting a hay delivery and gone within an hour. It was sudden and shocking. We had no time to prepare, call the vet, or even try to help. We were helpless.

Ollie spreading love.

Ollie spreading love.

http://www.southwhidbeyrecord.com/lifestyle/216217091.html (here is the link I forgot to add when originally posting)

This made it two losses that still bring tears just to think of them.

Now sweet and bossy (depending on if you were human or 4-legged) Layla has been laid to rest. This past week our lovely Layla, who had gone to retire on a friend’s farm, died. Our hearts are broken. That lovely doe provided so much for us here, and there. It couldn’t be helped, and the sweet old girl did not have enough fight left in her. Even with the best veterinary care, it was inevitable and the kindest and best decision to make. It doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking. I was fortunate to get to spend some time with her during her illness and her last day. It was her I went to go see after losing Ollie. Even in her illness, Layla laid with me, pulled me closer to her with her head and comforted me through the loss. She was truly a special soul.

My heart aches.

Layla and Coco

http://wabisabiwhidbeywife.blogspot.com/2013_08_01_archive.html (here is the link I forgot to add when originally posting)


This afternoon I got to take some time after chores, cheese care, visiting with guests, hoof-trimming, mowing (and before raising a shelter and finishing some fencing), and just sat in the pasture with my girls.

After the initial onslaught of attention, my Velvet Rose stayed by my side. She rubbed all over my head, shoulders and back, then she was satisfied to just stand over me and chase off any would-be interlopers that vied for my attention.

Velvet Rose helping to style my new do.

Velvet Rose helping to style my new do.

My herd breaks my heart. My herd mends my heart and makes it whole.

My friends, my supporters, my customers, yes, you… you are part of my herd. Thanks to you and my 4-legged herd for healing this soft heart and keeping it whole, and overflowing.

With affection,

Vicky, Chief Milkmaid


About Chief Milkmaid

A former executive, now goatmilker and cheesemaker, I am the Chief Milkmaid of the Little Brown Farm.
This entry was posted in About the Farm, Critters, It's Personal and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Herd Hurts, and Healing.

  1. My heart is happy and sad for you. I join you in the soft farmer camp. Don’t stop loving because it hurts so much when they die. Keep loving because it makes yours and their lives so much better, and it makes you human. These animals treasure you as much as you do them. Only time, and love will help you heal.

    • Thank you so much. I love our soft farmer camp. I can’t imagine working this hard, facing these challenges, and NOT having the pure bliss of a soft heart being rewarded to pull us through. I applaud farmers that can keep their livestock compartmentalized, it turns out that after 10 years it’s clear, I’m just not one of them.

  2. Dori says:

    Vicky…. You’ve brought me to tears… {warm hugs}

  3. You brought me to tears Vicki, Having lost Peabody, my precious Pixie Girl to tick fever, Ducks to eagles, Chicken to raccoon. It never gets easier. They are our family. You are such a gift to all of us. If I had directions I’d come on over and give you a great big hug right now. Know that I’m sending hugs and all the love from our little egg and berry farm to yours. Blessings dear one.

  4. Kathy Maxwell says:

    I know crab will be of little consolation, but the best I can do for you right now. Hugs always, Crabby Kathy

  5. Deb South says:

    A while back I received the news that the pain in my hip was Osteoarthritis. I could no longer do all the things that I normally do on the farm to tend to my goats. Coupled with the fact that I had to put down my beloved 22 year old horse that had been my friend all his life due to cancer, followed with the death of my herd sire, followed by the passing of my personal pet doe also from cancer. I had become inconsolable. Nothing could lift the sadness and doom that was surrounding me. I told my husband that I intended to sell the remaining goats in my herd and be done with it. My wonderful, sweet and caring husband gave me a big hug and said there was no way he would allow me to sell all my goats. My goats made me happy, which in turn made him happy.

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