Farm Life in Times of Stress

Yesterday afternoon the wind chill fell from 33°F to 17°F before I realised it. As dusk fell, I heard the goats calling to each other whilst I was journalling, and I thought that all was well. An hour later, fattening night ration prepared, I went to bring Calypso into the barn first, but found her lying prostrate on her side, legs straight and stiff, clearly hypothermic. It was that awful, sickening feeling, when you accuse yourself of being a horrible steward, and pray to GOD not to smite you, and not to lose the beastie you are responsible for.

I brought her into the house without a lead or a tieout, holding on to just one horn as I walked her around the house and up the stairs, and she didn’t even try to fight me. Wrapped her in my fleece barn jacket, laid her on the kitchen floor, and went to rummage through my bathroom stash to find a couple of clean syringes before turning up the thermostat, opening the vent, and shutting the bathroom door. With a quart jar of warm water shaken with a teaspoon of sea salt, I spent twenty minutes shooting water down her throat until I heard her stomach start to gurgle (thanks be to GOD!), and then I laid down beside her on the kitchen floor and started rubbing her down under the thick jacket to stimulate her blood flow and warm her up.

She didn’t really move except in shivers for about three hours and during that time, still lying on the kitchen floor, I called Nancy to let her know that I wasn’t really confident how things would go overnight, Calypso was still so listless; I didn’t want to have to call her later and tell her that I had managed to kill her miracle goat who had survived two months alone on her own in just one afternoon of carelessness….

I put an old down comforter down on the bathroom floor, carried her in, and then went back outside to get Butch, who had been yelling at me for hours since he had first seen me bring his girlfriend into the house. The dogs were very concerned, and whined as I brought pinestraw in from the barn, and a feedbucket in from my messy porch, filled it with bath-warm salt-spiked water and put it in a milk crate (to keep it from being tipped by Butch the Bad) before taking it to the bathroom for both goats which was, by now, the warmest room in the house. I could think of nothing more annoyingly stimulating for a stiff, cold nanny than to be forcibly snuggled by a hot, smelly billie.

It’s times like this that I wish I subscribed to a newspaper, and I made a mental note several times over that a cotton-clad down comforter can be composted, and all carpetless floors and walls can be scrubbed down and mopped clean. I spent the night cleaning the house and watching movies to keep myself awake, so that I could repeatedly set the timer to make hourly visits to the bathroom to check on the ruminants, swipe spinning spoonfuls of molasses under Calypso’s tiny silvery-grey tongue, and make sure there was more water gone from the untipped bucket.

The hallway reeks of goat this morning. My heart hurts from worry, and my head hurts from sleeplessness. We all made it through the night, and Calypso is standing on her own looking no worse for wear, though my bathroom will need to be fumigated, possibly burned to the ground. My nanny kid (I keep having to remind myself that she is not yet a yearling) will be spending the rest of the Winter locked in the barn unless the sun is shining and there is no wind; she just doesn’t have the fat layer she needs to sustain herself outside. Pity, too, because Alpines are so good at foraging in snow, but I’m not willing to risk it. I’ve lost too much the past few years to even take a chance, and the very real idea of losing an animal to cold is just too horrible to bear.

This morning, I put Butch back outside early so that he’d stop making a racket climbing the toilet to look out the window. I didn’t used to be sentimental about stock animals, but I’m obviously getting soft with age. So I sat in the stinky bathroom whilst the perplexed dogs whined in the hallway, and marvelled over the Wonder Goat who seems to be so nearly indestructible, and shed a few tears of relief before trying to sleep for a bit before moving Calypso up to the barn to be shut in for the duration, and feed the chickens.

I can do this. I’m tired, but I’ve still got it. I just need to remember that anything can happen, and being overprotective is always better than laxity. Just never trust the weather; it knows no mercy.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Liz
    Nov 28, 2018 @ 14:32:27

    Having brought a fair number of hypothermic lambs into the house, I can really sympathize. We only ever lost one of them, and we weren’t sure that one hadn’t been stepped on (the vet thought it looked like internal injuries). With labs we generally started by warming the up in water, but the most important thing is warmth and then sugar. You did good.

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