Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Jet Planes and Tearful Farewells

I've been staring at the cursor on my computer screen for about an hour now, and still I am having difficulty beginning this post. So rather than beat around the bush, I'll cut to the chase. Today is really hard. To pack my bags last night took all my strength, and to hug my little Icelandic family goodbye was incredibly heart wrenching and there were many tears shed on my end. Helgi and Snaedis were the most gracious hosts and amazing people to work with. I cannot begin to put into words how phenomenal this experience was, but I will do my best to describe my current emotions...

To be 100% honest, I feel numb. I am ecstatic to my fiancé, family and friends, but leaving Iceland is like nothing I have ever experienced before. This place of fire and ice has become my home away from home for the last month, and will forever hold a special place in my heart and soul. The jagged mountains have provided me with comfort and shelter as the wind viciously whipped across the farm at night. The midnight sunsets gently kissed me goodnight at the end of every long day and greeted me with warmth as I woke. Lambs sang to me as I tried to fall asleep (they were really just screaming for their mothers after they got distracted by something and lost track of her, but I like to think of it in a majestic manor). I watched as the lambs grew magnificent horns in the short time they had been out on the fields. The lambs never ceased to surprise me with their quirks and playful demeanor, jumping and climbing, bouncing off their mom and each other. These creatures of the rough North have taught me to be soft and patient, understanding, forgiving (sometimes) and calm.

Now, to brighten the mood just a touch, the crew of Hestur farm has compiled a list of laws to live by during lambing season. I hope you enjoy - just remember, not all of them are super serious, because sometimes you just need to laugh.

Lambing lessons

1. Wear good socks
2. Make sure boots are waterproof….100000000% water proof
3. Shower frequently…seriously
4. Keep your mouth shut for more than one reason. No one wants birthing fluids in their mouths.
5. Sleep is irrelevant and nonexistent so just accept it
6. Don’t forget to brush your teeth
7. Sheep will ALWAYS inconvenience you
8. Deaths are inevitable, but hard to handle sometimes.
10. If you have a question, ASK IT!!!!!! There’s never a stupid question. Ever.
11. Don’t forget to say hi to your family every now and then to let them know you are still alive.
12. Ladies, don’t’ forget to brush your hair before it becomes dreadlocks
13. Drink water as frequently as possible.
14. Don’t’ forget to relieve your bladder at least once every 8 hours, before you know it you’ve gone 13 hours without peeing and that pain your feeling is your body screaming and cursing at you. 
15. Be sure to cut your fingernails often so you don’t slice the sheep’s vagina in half, cause they are already going through a lot.
16. Sweat pants are the sheep god’s gift to the dedicated farmers that serve them.
17. The necessity of quality music is a very real thing.
18. Lambs need to be snuggled and told they are cute in order to grow properly. Snuggles are at the top of their food pyramid, they thrive on this stuff!
19. Reading ear tags from a distance may seem impossible at first, but with some time, you gain super vision and can spot the numbers from a rather impressive distance.
20. Epsom salt baths are a perfect way to relax those bruised and beaten muscles from the days labor. Pun intended.
21. Advil
22. If pillows smell like milk replacer, all is good. Just remember it could be worse.
23. Koko mjolk (chocolate milk) is the best energy drink and can bring a nearly dead farmer back from the grave. I speak from experience.
24. If Helgi offers you coffee, say yes, you WILL need the caffeine boost.  
25. Swans may be majestic birds but they are assholes. You’ve been warned.
26. Nothing smells worse than digested colostrum stuck to the backside of a wooly baby with energy to spare.
27. Learning to knit may someday save you from freezing to death, and is a great way to pass the time during the midnight shift when the ewes just want to sleep and eat.
28. Wrestling the rams is a new sport I have invented. Why run with bulls when you could stare down, capture and restrain an animal with a skull like a cement wall.
29. Never be afraid to cry after a hard day, or from happiness. Emotions are beautiful. Express them.
30. Do the best that you can to provide the best life possible for the animals and no one will ask questions.
31. There will always be new challenges, so don’t be surprised when they crop up.
32. Love the life you live, live the life you love. It’s that simple.

This list could go on and on, but for the sake of the sanity of my readers, I will spare you. But I will say that this experience has completely changed my life for the better. I have found my passion in life and I cannot wait to design my own farm with a goal of creating a comfortable and happy life for my animals and my family, which are similar to the values I observed and lived while in Iceland. I am excited to fill my brain with more knowledge and to get back to Iceland as soon as possible to expand my talents. This will definitely not be my last time toIceland. It's never goodbye, it's see you later. 

Until next time Iceland.

All my love,

Friday, June 3, 2016

Day 34!

Hello hello!! My deepest apologies for keeping everyone waiting for another update! To be honest, I'm having a hard time putting sentences together today, I simply cannot fathom the amount of work we have done and the number of sheep that I have come in contact with.  Has my time in Iceland flown by this quickly? HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE?? I am fairly certain a mental breakdown will occur in the near future simply because it is going to be so difficult to leave this amazing place. But, I am extremely excited to share all of my stories in person and see my family and friends!

So, here are the events that have occurred:

Yesterday we had one of the last sheep deliver her lamb, unfortunately the lamb did not survive. The little lamb decided to come out backwards, and it was quite difficult to get her out. Her face was deformed, and she was never able to take a breath although her heart was beating. Poor little ewe. But, on a brighter note, we were able to take a lamb from a ewe that had a very serious case of mastitis and give it to the ewe that lost her lamb. All are happy and doing well now!

Snaedis and I have adopted a little lamb that we so affectionately call "Tiny" since she was only 1.2 kilos when she was born. Very rarely do lambs survive when they are born below 1.5 kilos, but this little miracle is a champion. Tiny spent her first week of life under a heat lamp and had to be fed through a stomach tube since the teat was too big for her to suckle! After a few days of tubing her, she gained enough strength to suckle on the bottle, which stood taller than she was! The ewe that gave birth to her was not very intelligent, and didn't want Tiny or her twin brother, so we gave Tiny to a ewe that lost her 5.4 kilo lamb at birth (MASSIVE LAMB!) and they have been inseparable ever since. Tiny has now made her way up the social ladder and is now outside in a group pen! We are so proud of her! She is very curious and must investigate everything surrounding her, testing the materials likelihood of being edible. Tiny is also known for loving snuggles and being scratched. We would dangle our hand in the pen and she would immediately run to us! Her little tail would wag so fast it looked like her back end would lift off the ground, and she would lick her lips to show just how good it felt! Her favorite spots are just above her tail, behind the ears, between her shoulder blades, and her chest! We were quite concerned that she would loose her mother and not survive the first night outside. But Tiny proved us wrong yet again. Her mother is very tender and caring and watches Tiny's every move. The ewe has also accepted that when there is a human, Tiny will inevitably find them. She comes over and sniffs our faces to make sure we are the good ones, then walks away and leave us to babysit. Not that we mind!


Another lamb we are keeping an eye on is Sir Bran, a lamb that was born a little over a week ago with both front legs broken. The vet came and set the bones, which was quite easy to do since he was just born and the bones were still quite soft. Bran and his mother, Lady Stark, are doing so well! Lady Stark will move over to Bran and position herself so he can suckle. He is plenty capable of getting up, but getting his clunky legs under him to suckle is quite difficult. We often give him milk replacer in a bottle just to top him off so he has plenty of milk in his belly to grow nicely. And for those wondering, the names are a direct reference to Game of Thrones. We thought it was too perfect and couldn't pass up the opportunity!

Most of the ewes and their lambs are outside now, since the weather has been so fabulous lately. The only ones left inside are the ones that are receiving antibiotics or some form of care. There are 4 ewes left to give birth. That's right, only 4!!!! So, with everyone being outside, I have been given the task of power washing the pens! I have decided that we need to get Mike Rowe out here to film an episode of Dirty Jobs, because this is one of the dirtiest jobs I have ever done! Example: whilst power washing there are many times where the water angle hits the flooring just right and sprays a large amount of dried sheep feces straight at my face. Now, I have tried goggles, but they get too foggy and I can't see, which is no good. So I have learned to squint...a lot. Another important life lesson I have learned is that no matter how good the music is that I am listening to, you should not under ANY circumstance begin to sing. Reason one: someone might hear you belting Beyonce at the top of your lungs, and reason two: poop will get in your mouth, I promise you that is not a joke. In case you need further evidence, here is a picture I took of myself yesterday after 3 hours of intense power washing of some of the dirtiest pens in the barn. (NOTE: pens are swept daily while the sheep inhabit them, but things still build up, hence the power washing requirement.)
Here I am sporting my blue coveralls, rubber overalls, earmuffs and headphones.
And poop...all over my face and hair.
Story time: A group of ladies came into the barn on one of the first days I was power washing, and they were doing a scavenger hunt for a bridal shower they were attending. They wore bright pink feathery hats and scarfs and needed to get a picture with a farmer and sheep. So naturally they asked me if they could take a photo with me. 'Sure, why not?' I said. Photo was snapped, and off they went. I resumed my power washing. Another group of ladies walks in, same quest. Except this time one of the women started speaking Icelandic to me, and when I told her I was American, they all lit up. 'We need to kiss someone who's not from Iceland, can I kiss your cheek?' I laughed and said 'Why not!' Little did I realize I had sheep dung all over my face, and I am not entirely convinced that they realized it either. They ran off after the photo was taken, and I had a lipstick mark on my cheek the rest of the day. I'm pretty sure the woman realized she had made a big mistake when she reviewed the picture, or at least I am hoping she did. So moral of the story, if you see someone in a barn power washing pens, don't kiss them on the cheek. It's just bad hygiene. 

More stories: There are Icelandic horses in the field next to our sheep, and one of them gave birth a few days ago to a beautiful little filly. Every day I make it my mission to get closer to the foal. The mare allows me to get to the fence and watch her and her baby. She is very sweet to her little one, and very protective, good momma!

Snaedis and I are going to be going horseback riding tomorrow once the feeding is done for the remaining indoor sheep, and to say I am excited is a massive understatement. It will be a miracle if I can get any sleep tonight! I promise I will take as many pictures as I can, and hopefully Snaedis can take a few as well! 

With another post down, I must say farewell for now. Time to go do evening cleaning and feeding for the hungry sheep. I will post again very soon!!

Much love,