Tuesday, August 26, 2008

white knuckles and a tarp in the back seat

So the sheep arrive here Wednesday night. After work I'll load them up in the station wagon and drive them the short twenty minutes back to my place. This will involve pulling the seats out of the back and laying down a tarp so the two (three?) of them can hang out. The animals will be restrained and hopefully calm. I guess we'll find out. I was assured transporting them in the car would be fine long as they can lay down and it's not a full day on pavement. It should be an interesting road trip. I am tempted to stop at a drive through and order four salads.

I have gotten quite a few emails from people asking me how I knew shepherding was the thing for me. I don't know if there's a satisfying way to answer that. I do know that ever since I've been making a concentrated effort to become a shepherd I've felt profound relief. For some people they might get that same feeling from a hard-earned promotion, a wedding ring, nailing the 4 minute mile, or anything that gives them a sense of milestone accomplishment. For me, that comes from focusing on a life outside with these animals. Yeah yeah yeah, marriage and a 4-minute miler's body would be nice. But it wouldn't be satisfying, comforting, or make me feel content in the world like shepherding can. How and why that is wired in me - I'm not sure.

I kinda like not being sure. It gives the sheep an almost supernatural ability to give me purpose and joy other lifestyles can't. Hell, that other lifestyles hinder. Their simple presence at Cold Antler will wash calm over me like dulcimer music did in Tennessee. Ever since the barns been I've even slept better.

A giant weight is being lifted off my chest as fences get installed and hays loaded into backseats. Just knowing hooves are hitting dirt here feels like I'm finally moving forward with my life. That feeling hasn't been attained for years. Not from jobs, not from writing a book, not from moving around the whole goddamn country. The lack of forward momentum has been shutting me down and off from the world. Not in a scary way. Subtle.

But with their arrival in my life I'm more happy, alert, plugged in. There's an irony in all this because people keep telling me livestock traps you in one place. For me, keeping lifestock is a release from so much. And If you can get that from anything that doesn't involve hurting yourself or others, hold onto it as tightly as you can with everything you've got. My knuckles are white.

So there's that.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now you need to add "sheep" to the sentence under your picture. What a cool sentence. I wish I could have that sentence under my picture!

August 26, 2008 at 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well put, and 'nuff said! It is from this sort of "trust in the Universe" that one acquires happiness...white knuckles be damned! You go girl!

August 26, 2008 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Renee said...

I am so happy for you...i cannot wait to see how you and they co-exisit...

August 26, 2008 at 1:48 PM  
Blogger Kathleen Stoltzfus said...

On the slim chance that you haven't heard of or read them, here are some books you might enjoy.
Nop's Trials, by Donald McCaig
Nop's hope, also by McCaig
Herding Dogs, Progressive Training, by Vergil Holland
Bones Would Rain From the Sky, by Suzanne Clothier

August 26, 2008 at 3:39 PM  
Anonymous RC said...

I just found your site yesterday through Ms. Arianna and I feel lucky that I arrived at the point in the adventure when the thing you always wanted arrives. That kind of story always gets very interesting right about now.
Your writing is worth taking the time to read. If the shepherding is half as good as your story telling those sheep won't be straying. I'm on my farm with my own lovely plants, I do understand your motivation. Birds gotta fly, Shepherdesses need the sheep. It's not that complicated. Not very many people I have ever met in life are all that happy. You are very lucky, so don't waste the energy questioning Fortune. Congratulations and try not to burst with pleasure at least until the drive home with the woolies is over. Bet you'll be up really early on Thursday!

August 26, 2008 at 6:37 PM  
Anonymous Sean said...

The acquisition of livestock is the realization of a dream, and a dream doesn't have to have an explanation, or even make sense to the rest of the world. That's part of what makes it your own. Realizing your dream is the best experience anyone can strive for. Enjoy your success. You earned it!

August 26, 2008 at 9:30 PM  
Blogger Jenna said...

rene - thank you! Let's hope the next door neighbor's dog doesn't scare the crap out of them.

kathleen -! thank you! I'm looking forward to some of those I haven't read. And heard of them? Are you kidding me? I'm so new to herding and sheep dogs all I heard of is Jon Katz, and that's mostly because he lives fifteen minutes away!

rc- thank you and tell your friends! I'm trying to build readership. And it was a huge kindness to say my writing is worth reading. That means a lot. I'm riding a lot of hope on it.

sean - are you still visiting this Saturday? Are you pumped to clean hooves?! I bet you are.

August 27, 2008 at 5:54 AM  
Blogger Jack said...

My dad used to carry bull calves to the market in the trunk of a stationwagon. I recall that he tied their feet together with bailing twine to keep them from kicking each other. He would first tie the two front and the two back feet together, then the front and back. The twine is soft enough that it doesn't hurt there ankles. I guess it would work for sheep too.

August 27, 2008 at 7:42 AM  
Blogger Tara said...

Hooray! I'm considering sheep myself, so I'm anxious to hear how it goes.

August 27, 2008 at 10:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But there is the problem, Jenna. My friends don't care about sheep or farming, even if they are well written about. I will send the info on to a half dozen I bet would like your blog {and who have blogs}, but the mass interest in your pursuit may not be there. Surely, you may discover readership amongst the sizable number of young farmers who are raising animals on their parents farms, you know, those kids I see in the photographs in your very own archives. Best to find some readers there I would think, but my knowledge of how things work in blogville is rather limited. I usually study Seth Godin for advice along those lines. I think your cross posting at Huffpost is the kind of thing that will gain wide response. Perhaps name one lamb McCain and the other Obama to get more attention from the politics crowd. Getting people enthused about husbandry is not my forte, but if anyone could be enthused about a husbandry blog, they would definitely be enthused by yours. I know I am.

August 27, 2008 at 12:27 PM  
Anonymous RC said...

above comment, mine

August 27, 2008 at 12:28 PM  
OpenID Christa said...

That was nicely written. I can definately hear what you are saying!

September 2, 2008 at 11:52 AM  

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