Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Man in the Making

Since we don't have any retirement, etc, in the sort of work we do, Steve has been very strategic about the use of our own private, pre-living-overseas funds to build them up for later.  As part of that we have a small farm in a growing area not far out of Auckland as an investment property.  And since we're spending time in New Zealand right now, we've been working on developing it a bit as a family to add to it's value.

While a not good enough or big enough piece of land for a proper farm, it would be a great size for a lifestyle block--a place where someone who works in the city can live that's not too far away, but far enough out that they can have some aspects of the 'lifestyle' of a farm for their family.  Steve has dug some tracks around the place with a borrowed digger, we've been working on a shed (with materials given to us by a mate) with a gravel driveway coming soon.  Steve found some sheep quite inexpensively (as Steve does!) from some lifestyle block owners who didn't have enough grass for their sheep after the dry summer, to keep our grass down. As well as food for us and others later.  Yeah, we're not going to get as close to these sheep as the lamb we hand-reared recently!

Oh, and there's a calf coming from some dairy farmer friends soon, too.  This city girl is loving it!

Steve, kids, and Hannah's boyfriend Luke 

The land has become a real place of peace for us. A place to bask in the beauty of Creation, work hard together, and just spend time as a family. The boys like to take Adam's hard-earned slug gun out for target practice, too. Since we see this year as a year of healing for our family in many ways, hanging out at the land is a perfect context for that.  While we have other things going on as well, I find myself looking for any excuse to go to the farm!

It's also a place where we are strategically giving our boys opportunities to enjoy physical labor and learn 'manly' things.

An extra special season is happening right now as our little flock is beginning to lamb!  So sweet to see the lambs dashing around and playing on the hillside.

Yesterday on his way down to a meeting in the city, Steve stopped by the farm to check on a sheep who he knew had started lambing a few days ago.  Fully expecting to see yet another lamb on the hillside, he found a suffering sheep instead.

The boys and I drove out and met him on his way back in the afternoon to help catch the sheep to help her give birth.  To do add to the value of the place we'll put up interior fences for paddocks soon, but right now only the perimeter is fenced.  The four of us fanned out and drove the flock to a corner of the property where the sheep especially like to spend time.  After a couple of attempts to do this and catch the still-in-labor sheep from the rest before they bolted (sheep can look pretty big and move pretty fast as they're leaping down a hillside!) we thought it might be a lost cause without borrowing a dog from someone nearby.  Organizing that would take time, however, and we reckoned our sheep had suffered long enough without help already.

We decided to give it one more try and drive them up the hill again.

I found myself praying and asking that we would somehow catch this girl.  Being a girl myself, I really wanted the mama to have the help she needed (!) even though we knew the lamb would quite probably be dead.

As we drove them up the hill this final time, the sheep we were trying to single out stumbled on the hillside and headed down into the ravine by herself.


We followed her and found that she had slipped down by the stream with a steep, muddy bank on either side.  We knew in her condition that she wouldn't likely be able to get back up the bank, but Steve and Aaron came at her slowly from different directions while Adam and I blocked her only possible other escape route upstream.

Aaron held her and calmed her while Steve tried to help her remove the lamb, only there was nothing there. The lamb wasn't even engaged in the birth canal and must have been quite twisted inside. And she was so tired, swollen and bleeding that we felt nothing could be done outside of a C-section. But this was a farm animal, not a pet, and she was by far too heavily pregnant for us to get up the slippery slope from the stream bed without causing her a lot more pain---if we could even do it with her wiggling.

A hard decision had to be made.

I thought, "God, you answered my prayer about us catching her!  What's up with this?"

We talked to the boys about how much she'd already suffered, how she was headed towards a slow, agonizing death, and sent Adam up the hill out of sight.

I knew Steve hated the thought of killing her, but especially felt for our big son who can be crusty and tough on the outside but gooey on the inside.  Our boy who has already seen poverty, injustice, death, and is still processing things beyond his years. Yet I wasn't physically strong enough to hold the sheep still instead.

The thought came into my head, "But this is the sort of thing that makes a man."

Yes, this was hard, but sometimes enduring what you hate if it's right is part of being an adult.  Doing something that takes strength for your family and for something in your care is definitely part of manhood.

And maybe healing can come through the doing.

I had envisioned us catching the sheep, helping her, and having her trot away with great relief.  But obviously there was a different plan.

So my emerging man held her and comforted her as much as possible while my other man slit her throat and the blood drained away.

Strength with gentleness.  Compassion all around.  Careful, accepted responsibility.

Things were quiet as we walked out.  The day definitely hadn't turned out how I wanted.  Yet later when we all met up again at home, father hugged son, thanked him for his help even when things weren't easy, and told him how proud of him he was.

And our young man stood that much taller, strengthened and encouraged.