Thursday, August 28, 2008

give fleece a chance

The sheep have arrived. While the coffee's brewing on the stove and it's still too dark out to be morning, I'll tell you all about it. I'm writing this at 5:18 AM, I just came in from giving them their morning hay and grain. Sweet Sal, the most gregarious of the trio came right up to me. Marvin, followed right behind. Maude.... Well, Maude was hungry but doesn't trust me. (She's the one in the car photo post below.) She's the only purebred of the lot (the boys are half Romney.) Maude's a Border Leicester Ewe, and the only hope for lambs come spring. She's a true sheep too. Cautious, alert, and slow to trust the schmuck who loaded her into a station wagon and kidnapped her for some countryside joy ride. I can't blame her. Maude and I have work to do.

Waiting for the workday to end yesterday was pure hell. Of all the days to have to sit in a two and a half hour meeting, yesterday was the worst. I was wired all day. I just wanted to be in the car driving to Shelli and Allen's and loading wool into the car. When I broke out at 4 PM, I cranked up the fiddle music in the car and hit the road. In a few hours, I would be a shepherd.

When I did arrive at the farm, loading them up was easier than I thought it would be. With the help of Shelli, Allen, and a coffee can of grain we got them into the Station wagon. We had to throw on halters to do this (some poorly, as you can see by the photo of Maude below) but we got everyone in. Closing that back hatch with a car full of sheep felt damn good.

The drive home was downright pleasant. There was the occasional 'baa', but Marvin laid down instantly and Sweet Sal and Maude stood close to me, often sticking their head right between the front seats like Jazz and Annie do. I'd reach up and scratch their chins. Their sideways eyes blinked at me, confused.

On the drive home to Sandgate, I drove past a farm with a loaded hay truck and a few barns. I pulled up next to a blue pickup that I assumed was the honcho. He was. He saw me pull up with three sheep in the back and laughed. I yelled "Do you have hay?!" and he guffawed back, "Yeah, Do you have sheep?!" and we agreed I'd come back that same night to load up with some second cut hay for my flock. I had some first cut a friend gave me, but second cut hay is greener, richer, and fresher. I couldn't believe my good luck. The four of us puttered home.

Unloading went fine with the boys, but Maude, bless her heart, panicked. She bolted out of the car so fast I could barely hold onto the halter rope. Instead of giving into the leash like the boys did, she bucked and lunged, causing the poorly fitted halter to slip like a noose around her neck and choker her. The first of many shepherding mistakes. She gagged and fell to the ground like a roped cow in a movie. She laid on her back, legs in the air. She was helpless and I quickly ran aside her and undid the halter, fixing it like a collar instead of a torture device. I stroked her head and told her to calm down. She was passive as a pup on her spine. I felt horrible. But she stood up, recovered instantly, and ran into the pen to meet her men and dive into the grains. I doubt she was over it.

After the flock was safe, penned, and eating hay like they grew up here, I being ever the vigilant shepherdess, promptly left. I prayed my fences would hold and some dog wouldn't charge at them and cause them to bolt through it. Putting my faith in the day, I left my brand new sheep and went back to the Hebron farm for the hay. There I was introduced to Nelson Greene and another shepherd named Sarah. We talked and joked and Sarah egged on the retired dairy farmer (who hated sheep. I am quickly learning people either hate or love sheep.) By the by, If your curious how many large bales of hay you can fit into (and onto) a Subaru - the answer is 10. I was shocked too.

By the time I unloaded the bales into the garage, checked on the sheep again (they were still there), phoned friends and family, and walked the dogs - I was beat. I came inside to collapse with the dogs, but every few hours I'd walk back outside with my lantern, checking on the gang. They stood in the moonlight, chewing their cud. Observing the all.

Even though I wanted this so long, and was so excited to finally have it... it's too much to take in. The sheep are here but that reality is still so new and utilitarian I haven't soaked it up properly. But I do know walking out at 5AM to feed them under the waning crescent moon and the starry early Autumn sky was beautiful. Fall-down-the-stairs beautiful. And Sal came right up to me in the lantern light, and his fleecy face met mine. That felt good all over. There really isn't a better way to explain this. I am a happy woman.

Now, soon as this coffee is down, I'll go out and take some pictures and feed the birds. Rufus Wainwright is wide awake, and crowing to be let out. Morning is a very busy time here.

16 Comments:

Blogger Sojourner Design said...

Congratulations Jenna! You certainly worked quickly on this.

My sheep are mainly Border Leicester lines and I used to have one that was also half Romney. Romney fleece is so wonderfully to spin. Not that BL is difficult; it's just that Romney's easier than any other in my opinion.

So... will you have a dog by the weekend?

August 28, 2008 at 7:13 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

haha, no. Waiting on the dog a bit!

August 28, 2008 at 8:01 AM  
Blogger david santos said...

Great posting JENNA!
CONGRATULATIONS.

August 28, 2008 at 8:22 AM  
Blogger Morgen said...

congratulations!!! I am so happy for you!!!!! You are a shepherd!! It makes my day to hear your story as I wait patiently for my house to sell so I can by my farm. Dreams do come true! Even if ours are more hard work than the typical American dream!
Congratulations again!
Morgen

August 28, 2008 at 8:26 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

hey morgen, don't forget, I don't own my farm! I rent it, so your closer to my dream than I am. Ihave a loooonngg way to go darling! but thank you!

August 28, 2008 at 8:29 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

you're closer*

August 28, 2008 at 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Congrats lady! Sheep are a lot of work but it sounds like you're ready.

P.S. The polish chickens are very happy and about to be parents

August 28, 2008 at 8:39 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

wow! seriously, Benedict and the crew are going to hatch chicks? Wow. The drama continues!

August 28, 2008 at 8:45 AM  
Blogger The Old Man and His Dog said...

Ok, I know I said all you need is the dog now, but I've revised that, you also need a PU truck! Dreams that come true are the stuff life is made of for those deserving! and you deserve it.

August 28, 2008 at 9:54 AM  
Anonymous RC said...

Reading your sheep tales is far more satisfying than reading the political convention blogs.
I hope you have a long range plan to save enough money to buy your own dirt {farm} when the economy slips further down. For the farming mania, owning dirt is an essential.
Meanwhile, happy shepherding.

August 28, 2008 at 12:36 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

Yup. My own farm is my faraway dream. I just need to save like a crazy person and fix up my college credit and someday a dirt farm will be mine. Wish me luck.

August 28, 2008 at 1:32 PM  
Blogger E said...

Good luck with your sheep. We've had 7-15 Icelandic sheep for 3 years and they are great.

How old are your rams? How are you going to deal with 2 males in one small space? We found it worked for awhile until the 2nd ram was about a year old. Then they started butting heads- blood, etc. I think they would have kept it up until one of them was too weak to stand. We separated them in different pastures and now only keep one ram at a time.

August 28, 2008 at 6:02 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

They aren't rams, they're wethers. And they grew up together their whole lives at their last farm. You're right though, the dynamics may change now that it's 2 males and one female and not three males and two females - like it was for them before. I know if things turn sour, Marvin can go back to his old home. I guess we'll see.

August 28, 2008 at 10:30 PM  
Blogger Jack said...

When I was out running last night I passed a large herd (200+) of sheep being moved (3 dogs and 1 shepherd) to a new pasture and couldn't help but think of you and your journey. I have no doubt that you will one day have your own farm, you have the drive and energy, its just a matter of time.

I congratulate you on your newest addition to the homestead and thank you for sharing your journey with us.

August 29, 2008 at 1:41 AM  
Blogger TheMusingMommy said...

Congrats, Jenna!!! This is so exciting to hear!

August 29, 2008 at 1:54 AM  
Blogger Sojourner Design said...

Hey Jenna,

You pointed out to someone that you don't yet own your own farm. I just want to say that I have 24 sheep, 3 goats, one donkey, some 15 chickens, one border collie and one terrier and only own one acre of land. All the grazing is done on adjoining land owned by a neighbor; temporary paddocks, fenced in only by moveable Electronet.

You don't need to own a farm to farm; in fact, Alan Nation (publisher of the Grass Farmer) says it's not good business sense to own the land. I've had more than to keep my sheep on their land.

Diane

August 29, 2008 at 5:54 PM  

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