I am a farm dog. I chase chickens, herd ducks, and growl at sheep. I roll in the grass, guard chicks, and dig holes. I am not scared of geese (I don't care what you heard) and I laugh in the face of danger. I don't care for leashes, but I'll tolerate them when we're in town. I am a farm dog. I ride shotgun in the truck. I like the way wind feels from a dashboard cockpit. I am so helpful. I am the lynchpin of morning chores (I don't care what you heard) and I think the geese may be evil. I run so fast. I run fast uphill, and downhill, and over streams and past the barn. I am a farm dog. I eat with joy. I play without apologies. I bark like the whole world listens. I sleep like I own gravity.
I am a farm dog.
There are other things to be. They are all rubbish.
My parents brought my great grandfather's kitchen table to the farm. It's one of those great 1940's metal tops and it's in divine shape for it's age. They also brought an old steamer truck that was sitting in their house when they moved in, so lord knows how old that is. Slowly through acquisition and attrition this place is turning into a home. In a few hours they'll drive over the to farm from their hotel in Cambridge (I don't have television or air conditioning) and we'll sit out on the deck to a breakfast of farm eggs and pancakes and then head over to Gardenworks to look at the dried flowers, food, farm animals, and groceries there. It's a local foods cornucopia, that.
Life here in Jackson is starting to fall into it's own rhythms. Morning chores are becoming the familiar dance steps I always knew. I am losing that puppy paranoia where you need to know where your new dog is every second and worry everything is going to kill him. Gibson is growing up healthy, spunky, and quick. I found out that the Merck Forest Sheepdog Trials are being held on my birthday this year. What a way to celebrate. Now, just three years after sitting on the sidelines I'll be there as a club member with my own up-and-comer. I can't wait.
I need to get pumpkins in the ground. I may not have a giant garden yet but the idea of not having my own pumpkins is sacrilege. This year's garden is small compared to last, but is thriving. My heirloom lettuces are looking wonderful, my la rattes are up, and my Amish snap peas are starting to climb. I put tomatoes in yesterday. I'd say the space I'm growing here is about 5'x18' and if it was up to me I's triple it to start. I just don't have a rototiller or much time till June 1 hits and all my manuscripts and edits are in. After that, watch out.
I have been drawn to sheep ever since farming became a reality in my life. I was pulled to them for the same reason most of us form relationships: affinity, tangibility, and proximity.
I liked sheep, always have. As a spinner and a knitter I find the fact that I can make hats and scarves out of what eats grass in the backyard nifty. And it’s not just the fiber fix either—sheep have always brought out a stillness in me. Their presence is stoic, but warm, like your Norwegian grandfather after Thanksgiving Dinner. So the pull to be around sheep was always there, but what made me actually acquire some was the ease in their care. Out of all the animals at Cold Antler, the sheep are the lowest maintenance. They need little more than grass, water, and the option of shelter. They are hearty and health care is basic and cheap. They aren't big like cows or horses, so for livestock they can make a backyard or a small pasture home if you're willing to buy hay. They don't eat much.
Their wool feels like October. Sometimes I touch them to remember when I am lonely.
When out in a field with my sheep I feel as if I am sharing some moment with the ages. A bond between two animals so ancient it’s engraved on pottery and stone walls. We have been living side by side for a long time, and they have been keeping us fed and warm since long before our great great grandparents rose for work. Sheep have been watching over us just as much as we have been watching over them. It’s a partnership I mean to honor and continue as a shepherd in the 21st century. We may have electric fences and ride out to the field on ATVS, but we still hold that crook in our white-knuckled fists and holler “Away to me!” to our fine black dogs. And the moment of tension and electricity when a border collie bursts away from his handler to gather is beyond me or them. It's everything. When a sheepdog runs from you, time gasps.
We are a part of a tradition and an oath. I will keep it long as I breath.
The blog of author Jenna Woginrich of Cold Antler Farm. Jenna is a 32-year old full time writer. She writes about her adventures following her dream life as a homesteader, archer, falconer, equestrian, hunter, spinner, and low-rent cook. Follow along, it never gets boring!
And when the children are safe in bed, at one of the great holidays like the Fourth of July, New Years, or Halloween, we can bring out some spirits and turn on the music, and the men and the women who are still among the living can get loose and really wild. So that's the final meaning of "wild"- the esoteric meaning, the deepest and most scary. Those who are ready for it will come to it. Please do not repeat this to the uninitiated. -gs