Death on the Family Farm

“Mama, why is that sheep laying like that?”

My three-year-old and I were checking ewe lambs in a field and he spotted the same thing I did. A ewe lamb laying bloated, feet up in the air. Then, we spotted another. In the end, we lost three ewe lambs that day.

Braun sheep

And my little boy learned a hard, but important lesson. Death is a part of life on the farm. I’m not a believer in hiding that from the kids. Of course, we are careful to keep things age-appropriate, but I think that it’s important for them to know what goes on here. They’re a part of things–good and bad.  My parents and Gran took this same approach with us, and I think that it is part of the reason my brother and I remain so involved in the farm to this day.

Braun had a lot of questions. Would the sheep go to Heaven? When would they leave? Why did they die? What else might die? We tried to carefully walk through each one, mindful of the need to both form faith, not scare him, and let him understand that animals don’t live forever.  At one point, my Dad finally thought we had done enough and responded with, “Let’s just talk about ANYTHING else.”

It’s easy, I guess, to only post happy photos of farm life. Kids riding horses, three generations irrigating in a green field. Healthy new baby calves.

I think it’s important to share the hard days too. This was one for us. But lost ewe lambs, hard conversations and all, there’s no other way I would rather raise my kids that right here on our family farm.

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