Wednesday 18 July 2012

What a difference a day makes....

I awoke last night and for a split second I was in that dream land where all is well with the world; there was sure to be a sunny, warm day ahead with no sign or rain and Queenie, the baby lamb was still alive.

Yesterday was not a good day.

It started well enough, as soon as hubby left for work I got up and let out the chickens, I moved the three hefty lambs, Snowy, Moon and Pink to the bottom field to graze and went to collect the baby, Queenie, from the stables.

Queenie was delighted to see me or maybe she was just delighted to see her bottle of milk! I fed her before she and I strolled down to the bottom paddock together, her padding along beside me like a dog. She was to join the big girls for the day.

I closed the gate to the field and gave Queenie and Pink a last scratch of the nose through the fence before heading back toward the house. Queenie and Pink see me as their mum and as Queenie is still quite tiny in comparison to her tubby adopted sisters, she managed to squeeze herself through the gap in the gate and, bleating with joy, followed me back up Home Field!

If I had been gardening for the day I would have happily let her follow me for an hour or so but lambs are notoriously bad at painting and decorating and this was my imposed chosen activity for the day, so instead I lifted her up and over the nearest fence, trapping her in the little paddock that is Queenie proof.

Unusually the weather was mild and back indoors, armed with coffee, I began to prep the walls and ceiling of daughter's empty bedroom.

Within an hour the 9yo, (temporarily housed in the attic room,) and the 7yo awoke and daughter and I mused over the colour she wanted for the chimney breast and opposite wall, (a vivid purple is high on her agenda which is why I've deemed that the rest of the room is white.) Boy, relishing the lack of my attention, was soon lost to Wii-World.

With the childen dispatched to breakfast and play, I began to paint the room. Periodically I gazed at the view across our fields, ocasionally I waved to a child as they ran by on the track below, on their way to the den, the swing or to pick some flowers. While they played, I used a compass and pencil to draw perfect, protective circles on the walls. These circles encompassing bees, bugs, birds and butterflies, exquisitely painted, are part of an inherited mural in the room. Although I will paint out the foliage, I couldn't bear to eradicate these creatures from the new scheme.

I heard the screams first then the 7yo came hurtling into the house yelling.

'Mum! Queenie can't stand up, Queenie can't stand up!'

I reached the 9yo in the tiny paddock in record time and there was my Queenie, this sweet six week old baby, thrashing about on the grass, her head twisted back at a hideous angle her legs cycling wildly. As her eyes flickered back in her head all I could think of was epilepsy or meningitis.

We tried our local farmer first to see if he knew what ailed her but he couldn't be sure, so we got back into the Discovery and raced to the vet, the children supporting the lamb on the floor of the truck. All told, from the start of her fit, which the 9yo witnessed, to our arrival at the vet, just 30 or 40 minutes had elapsed.

I made the children sit in the waiting room, concerned that they wouldn't cope with what might happen, as I went through to an examining room with the vet. I held her legs as he injected this and that into her tiny shaved neck but there came a point where her body was so hot, her panting so wild and her eyes so black, that I knew she wasn't Queenie any more.

The vet ran her out to a shed and I held her while he gently hosed her with cool water, desperately trying to cool her temperature, but I knew it was futile.

I cried when she left me.

The vet couldn't give a difinitive cause for her death but he thought it was cerebral, maybe bacterial meningitis or possibly grass tetany due to the levels of magnesium in the pasture, although he said he'd be suprised at this with such a young lamb.

The children were devastated.

We took her little body, towelled dry by the vet, and drove home. The children's chests heaved silently, boy was turned away from me in the passenger seat, his forehead resting on the cool glass window. The girl was sat the back, closest to the lamb's body.

They chose a peaceful spot in the garden under a magnificent Acer, a secret spot along a grassy trail hidden by six foot high shrubs. They dug with me and then we placed her, wrapped in a soft shroud, deep in her resting place and said our goodbyes.

While I planted Feverfew and Penstemon they found an unused wooden garden bench and placed it facing the grave.

Unprompted they said a prayer, the 'Our Father' and, for once, I joined in.


  1. So sorry, so sad. As the grandchildren of a farmer this is something the boys have been through. Very hard indeed

  2. Sitting here in tears while reading this, big hugs!


The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon