the big day: part 2
Speaking of food...
I was prepping my kitchen yesterday for some cheese making with my friend Cathy when a large trailer backed into the farm's driveway. I caught a glance of it when I peaked my head out into the front room and saw through the windows a large, bulking, mass of metal making its way into the drive. I felt my heart race as I fumbled for my wellies by the front door. This is happening. Breathe. This is happening. Breathe. This is happening. Breathe.Gibson was right beside me. He wanted to see what all the fuss was about too. From inside I watched two women step off the rig and a flash of black and white jumped out with them. It's was Barb Armata's Meg. Daughter of her famed trial dog, Jill. They had backed the trailer close to the open pasture gate. We were going to unload straight away. With Meg crouched in their rear, and people on all sides, the five ewes darted from the back of the trailer into my field in about 90 seconds. I shut the gate. I thought unloading would be more of a hassle? Barb explained sheep like gates, and they like going uphill. Duly noted.
I paid, thanked, and waved the delivery crew off and then there was this moment when I looked at the turn in the road the trailer and disappeared into, and then over to the five new sheep, and then back to the road...and realized these were not rented. These were my charges. To have and to hold until death do us part.
I had separated my original trio of British longwools from the main paddock, moved them over to the other pasture and shut the gate.. I didn't want anyone knocking heads (or my knees) during that first unloading bit. But there wasn't any fuss. The Blackface ewes stayed in a tight clump and sashayed over to the fence line where Sal, Maude, and Joseph were. Noses met noses through the border. I was amazed watching Maude. She seemed to lose about ten pounds of anxiety. Finally, she wasn't the only woman on the scene. And Sal was so happy to see a harem I thought his curled lips would break the wire. Yikes, this might get scandalous.
I wasn't alone in all this. I was with the Daughton Family (Well, most of them). Tim was at the office, but his wife Cathy and her three boys were here with me. They arrived just as the livestock trailer was pulling in. I had asked if they wanted to come over to help with the new sheep (in case help was needed) and to learn how to make cheese. Cathy and I brought it up in conversation, but I thought a cheese making lesson would be a good excuse to have some familiar faces share in the excitement of the big day. I'd have some company, and we'd turn some Stewart's whole milk into mozzarella. It would be a win win.
...but right now the entire Daughton progeny (and their mother) were watching me climb the fence to let both tribes of sheep meet for the first time. I was hoping it wouldn't be violent, but expected some fireworks. I climbed the hill, opened the gate, and let my three good sheep meet the new kids. Scenes from Braveheart flashed through my mind. Would my Brits and Scots feel the need to reenact history?
It was amazing how calm they were. Both groups nuzzled and grunted, and that was that. No one butted heads, or hollered, or lifted a hoof to stomp. It was pretty anti-climatic acually. Within minutes the new girls were laying on the hillside like it was their home all along. Sal literally paraded around, in glory. The new ewes (newes?) didn't even bat an eyelash at him. They just sat down with their punk rock wool and acted like prep school kids being hit on by a pimple-faced barista. Or maybe it wasn't snobbery, but motherhood sinking in. They had no time to flirt anymore. They had big red and pink marks on their rears from recently being serviced by Barb's Blackface Ram. Proof positive there would be lambs in a few months.
As the day went on I got lost in sewing projects and cooking, but as it grew dark I turned on the lamp post outside and saw my new sheep all on the hill. As the snow and wind beat their faces, they just sat like great Buddahs. I worried they didn't realize they had shelter, so I bundled up and decided to give them a tour. I walked out to the flock with my big crook in my hands—a big, clunky, inexpensive, wooden job I bought for twelve dollars from Sheepman Supply—certainly not the classy ram's horn and cherry wood you see at the sheepdog trials. No, this was an everyday schlub of a crook and I was its handler. Together me and my humble crook walked up the slippery hillside (It was starting to really snow as the day grew darker) and I called the sheep over to me with some grain in a white bucket. All eight filed behind me, walking with their new shepherd in the lead. I poured the grain into the larger, new, shelter and when all of them were inside eating, I decided my work was done.
I walked down the hillside with my crook, a calm smile, and eight sheep behind me in a little brown barn. And that is how the first day of true snow on Cold Antler Farm ended.
And this story is just beginning...