As someone who has always done what I can to help the innocent creatures of this world, not being able to save a life might be the most difficult part of this homesteading lifestyle that I have chosen.
When I was a kid, I remember visiting a pig farm in Oklahoma. The place wasn't very well kept, and I was shocked at the conditions in which those pigs lived. As we toured the facilities, the farmer was gathering up the dead piglets, which he apparently would do every morning. He had a bonfire going, and was just chucking the little bodies into the fire without a care in the world. I was horrified, and that memory has stayed with me through the years.
Couldn't that farmer have done something differently to improve the conditions? Shouldn't he at least have been less cavalier about the deaths of his livestock?
Fast forward thirty years, and here I am with my own farm, responsible for the animals I have chosen to bring here, even more so for the new lives that are created. I do not take bringing new life into this world lightly. I don't see my animals are purely profit, and I don't measure their lives in dollars. I see myself as their caretaker, for better or worse.
On some days, the "worse" part of that phrase is just difficult to take without drowning in guilt over those creatures who might have lived if I had done things differently.
I haven't lost very many animals since choosing to travel the homesteading road, but those that I have lost stick with me. Unfortunately when dealing with the care of animals, learning how best to do so sometimes costs an animal it's life.
Sometime in the night, our French Lop rabbit gave birth to six babies. By this morning, three of them were not in the nest and had died from the cold. When my husband found them, there were three scattered randomly across the floor that were cold, and were not moving. I picked them up, wrapped them in a towel and tried rubbing their little bodies while holding them under a light to warm them up. No response. I ran them into the house where it was warmer and tried everything I could, but they were gone.
I can't help but feel responsible, and guilty, for their short lives that were filled with suffering. I was worried about this doe having her first litter in February for this exact reason, but because of her age she needed to be bred. I could have brought her inside to watch her more closely. She shouldn't have had as much room as she did. I should have checked on her more often, and sooner. On and on I go, knowing that things like this happen on a farm, but regretting that it happened on my watch.
And so, today I will be sad about the three that didn't make it, and tomorrow I will be happy about the three that did. I have learned some lessons, and while I am glad to gain the experience, it just breaks my heart that those lessons have so high a price.