We’ve had our barbado sheep, Bonnie and Clyde, for almost two years. We bought them when they were babies from some friends. We’ve watched as Clyde’s matured into a fine looking adult ram, complete with curled horns and “lion’s” mane. But we began to think that he was sterile. Several times we thought that just maybe Bonnie was pregnant, but no baby ever arrived. About two weeks ago we realized that Bonnie was milking up! Every morning we expected to see a baby or two – or – gulp – even three – at her side. She teased us for a week, through bitter cold and wet weather. Phil built her a little hut and put a heat lamp in it. One of the other sheep, Lucky, checked it out by licking the heat lamp. He decided that wasn’t such a good idea! Two days after Christmas, my daughter Suzie and her family came for a visit. The morning after they arrived, Suzie and her boys Caleb and Logan, walked up to the pasture to see how Bonnie was doing. A few minutes later, Caleb burst into the house yelling, “Grandma. Grandma! The baby’s here! The baby’s here! It’s a miracle!” My grandson Caleb, now 11, has Ausperger’s, a high functioning form of Autism. He’s never much been interested in farm animals, so his excitement at seeing a new baby sheep right after it was born is, in itself, a miracle. In his honor, we’ve named Bonnie’s baby “Miracle.” And, in many respects, that’s exactly what she is! Oh, and Bonnie has never used the little hut Phil built. She, like most Barbadoes, prefers to sleep outside. If it’s cold, she wraps herself around her baby and keeps her warm
We are adding a community garden to our place this year. Anyone who wants a plot of land to plant a garden is welcome. Most of the plots available will be approximately 5′ x 20′ – enough space to plant vegetables to feed a family of 4 for a season. The plots will be rough tilled and staked off. Plot users will be responsible for preparing the soil, planting, maintaining and cleaning up the plot at the end of the season. There is no charge for using the space, but donations to cover the cost of water would be appreciated. Please contact us through our website for more information. Organizational meetings are being held February 6 and 9.
Those who believe pigs don’t have feelings have never met Velma.
One hot Friday afternoon in late summer, Velma began to show all the signs that it was time for her babies to be born. She removed all the grass Phil had put in the stall for her and began pulling weeds to make her nest. She was very neat about it. She’d pull the weed with her snout, shake of the dirt and slowly waddle into the barn to carefully arrange her birthing bed. This went on all day and was still going on at 10 pm when Phil checked on her before bed.
The next morning Phil couldn’t find her. She wasn’t in the stall and the tomatoes he’d left for her hadn’t been touched. Harley, our Lab, kept looking out into the north pasture by the barn, so Phil went in search of Velma. He found her – and nine squirming, nursing babies – tucked into a hollow she’d made in the weeds. We’re not sure why she decided to have them outside. Maybe she got tired, maybe the barn was too hot, maybe the urge to deliver caught her out there.
Later that afternoon, storm clouds began to brew on the horizon. Phil and I decided we’d better get Velma and her babies into the barn before the bottom dropped out of the sky. When we went into the pasture, Phil found that she had moved her babies to a spot a little higher on the hill. Then we discovered why. She’d had 12 babies, but 3 had either been born dead or died shortly after birth. This is not unusual in pigs, especially with large litters.
By now the lightening was getting close, so Phil began gathering up the living babies and putting them in a bucket. Velma was very patient and before long he had all but one in the bucket. Off to the barn he went with Velma trotting along behind. I thought I’d be helpful and gather up the last baby. Big mistake! Baby squealed, mom reacted, and before I knew what happened Velma was headed straight at me, letting me know that she was very angry. I put the baby down just as she rammed me in the gut. She didn’t hurt me – she could have – but I took it as a warning and moved away.
As the storm built and got closer, we tried everything to get Velma into the barn. I picked up one of the babies, thinking that when it squealed, she’d head for the barn. Instead, she’d go to the place where she’d had them. Phil got the lone baby into the bucket and safely into the barn, but Velma insisted on going back to the birthing area.
Thinking maybe she didn’t want to leave the dead babies, Phil got a hoe and began covering them up. Velma helped with her bulldozer snout. When they were covered, her tail and her head drooped and she turned her face into the weeds. We realized then that she thought all her babies were dead.
Phil got the feed bucket and slowly got Velma to follow it toward the barn. When they were just a little ways off, one of the babies squealed. Phil said that if a pig can dance, Velma did! Her tail curled up, her eyes lit up and she and 9 cute little babies had a glorious reunion!
And then the rains came.