Motherhood in the spring time

If it weren’t common knowledge that the seasons changed on September 23rd, I don’t think I would have known that Spring had arrived in Uruguay.

The weather is still frigid, going outside is a chore, and I find myself desperately waiting for summer. But in the two and odd years I’ve lived in Uruguay, I’ve learned that I can’t judge the seasons solely based on the weather.

Spring has brought new life to our small farm! Lambs, piglets, and a new calf are currently grazing and playing wherever they can. Their mothers call for them whenever they wander off a little too far for comfort. Paloma, my mom and I find ourselves bundled up on the porch most mornings watching them interact with one another.

Belle and her daughter.
Belle and her daughter.

However, even with the picturesque scenery of galloping lambs and rambunctious piglets, there is always a bit of heart break. This year we had a couple of mothers reject their babies. One of the sheep rejected her lamb and one of our three pigs killed all of her piglets. We’ve gotten used to the accidental casualty but we’re finding that the deaths this year are higher than normal.

00A455EB-F528-420E-AF7F-8714C9C63ABD_1What really got to me this year was the sheep rejecting her daughter. I guess it’s pretty naive of me, but I always thought that mothering was just instinct in ALL animals. But I realized that like with most things nothing is 100%.

For awhile we kept the abandoned lamb by our house. I named her Hope, bottle-fed her and cuddled with her to keep her warm. I grew fond of this little lamb. She would follow me around outside and called for me when I wasn’t close enough for her.

But one particularly cold night she passed away. We tried our hardest to keep her warm and well fed but I guess it wasn’t enough for her. Her death affected me and caused me to grow angry at her mother. I couldn’t understand how a mother could just reject her baby like that.

And then something inside of me clicked. Just because they’re animals doesn’t mean that all of them are born with a mothering instinct. From there I quickly started thinking about how not all human women accept the role of motherhood.

Seeing this sheep reject her child showed me that even with animals mothering is a choice. You can carry a child in your womb but it doesn’t have to mean anything if you don’t want it to. The difference in this situation being that the other sheep don’t really care if you choose to raise your child or not. They’re too busy grazing for their own stomachs to worry about what some other sheep is doing.

New calf.
New calf.

Just because someone or something CAN get pregnant, does it mean that they should automatically be expected to be a mother? No. Should we push our individual beliefs on someone else just because it bothers us? No.

I’m sure you can tell where I’m going next with this. I’m not really sure where I stand on the topic of a woman’s right to choose. Some days I’m adamant about a woman’s right to her own body, and other days I cry for the loss of life.

One thing I do know for sure is, you can’t force anyone to be a mother just because they CAN be a mother. As with all things in life, it is a difficult and personal choice. No one should be persecuted for making a choice that differs from what you would personally do.

Living on a farm: Chacra Canaan

When we decided to move to Uruguay, my parents had it in their mind to live on a farm.

You see, my dad was born and raised in a small town outside of Havana, Cuba. He grew up around livestock and crops. My mom was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She grew up in the concrete jungle. Two TOTALLY different upbringings. But throughout my parents 30+ years of marriage, my dad had been planting seeds in my mothers mind that when they retired they should end up on a farm, that only those who are self sufficient will succeed at the end of the day. I mean, yeah sure he’s right but whatever let’s be real you raised your kids in the sprawling suburbs of Miami. Does it look like we were prepared for farm life?

I’m sure living on a farm in the States–along with most industrialized countries in the Northern hemisphere–is a little bit different. Cold weather probably means snow and all sorts of weather conditions I am in no way accustomed with. You probably have barns to keep your animals in and to be honest I don’t really know much else about farm life except for the animals or barns.

On our “farm,” which is really just two houses on a plot of land with eucalyptus trees, bamboo, and fruit trees, along with 20+ sheep, 6 cows, 5 pigs and 25+ piglets. Our fruit trees bear apples, pears, persimmons, figs, plums, peaches, and guayaba. While yes it is nice to grow our own fruit, my goodness it’s annoying to have a surplus and have to get rid of them. We normally gift to our neighbors or people in town but even then we can’t get rid of them fast enough.

View of the little eucalyptus forest in the back
View of the little eucalyptus forest in the back
These are our yellow plums. So sweet and delicious!
These are our yellow plums. So sweet and delicious!

Right now we’re trying to really focus on organic farming. We are composting and have a farm breeding area behind the pig pen so the chickens and birds won’t try to eat them. Our plans for the next few months are to build greenhouses to then grow our own vegetables and try to be as self sustaining as we can be. It’s not going to happen over night but I feel confident that we will reach that goal one day.

Some of our sheep. We named the texel (the white faced sheep) Belle. She’s a milking sheep. She always answers when we call and just so happens to be my favorite. She was pregnant with her twins here.

I’ll update on how our farming is going throughout the year. I’m still learning as much as I possibly can. It isn’t easy but new beginnings never are.