Tuesday, September 2, 2008

david bowie covers and escaping sheep

The weekend delivered on its promises. All three evenings had me in front of campfires playing music well into the night. Saturday night being the greatest night of all. At a Hebron bonfire there was a full string band assembled by random participants from all over the Northeast. I had my fiddle, another gal had an upright bass, and other folks had brought a mandolin, guitar and banjo. We played for hours till the kids went to bed and embers burned in the grass. My favorite musical moments were bluegrass renditions of Leroy Brown and Bowie's Under Pressure. I laughed and laughed.

Sean was also there, the friend from Illinois I had mentioned in an earlier post. He seemed to have a fine time Saturday night, and had a front row seat for all the music and festivities. Sunday morning we had a giant brunch feast of farm omelets (thank you chickens and garden), pancakes with Vermont maple syrup, and copious amounts of coffee in large mugs. The morning was far from ideal though, the B&B style breakfast was interrupted when we realized I was out of milk (yay me). So we jumped into the station wagon to pick up some at the Wayside store. Upon returning into my driveway, I was instantly greeted by an unsettling site. A giant wooly body entered into frame and trotted across the lawn to the cabin. Oh shit. All three sheep had escaped.

Sean and I reacted quickly, like a decent brace of border collies. He ran one way and cut them off at the pass, stopping them from walking down hill into the neighbor's property. I ran back to the sheep shed to grab the coffee can of grains. soon as their giant ears heard the rustling of grain in metal they turned on a dime and ran at me at a full charge. Sheep aren't cows mind you, but seeing three 140-pound animals running toward you, eyes locked on the can in your hands was intimidating. I slowly walked backwards into the pen. All three followed. When they were back inside heads deep in the grain bucket, I checked out the escape route. They had learned that one side of the gate rested on hinges. So they simply lifted it off them till they were free. Whoever says sheep are dumb animals doesn't live with them.

Sean headed back to the Midwest on Sunday, and the rest of the weekend involved smaller scale neighborhood cookouts. But I found the most enjoyable time at home was spent out in the pasture with the flock. I set up movable fencing in the field closest to the pen, giving them an extra grazing room. I'd bring my fiddle, some books, and my alpaca wool blanket and lay out with them for hours at a time. I'd play a few tunes or read a few chapters, sometime I'd doze off or sip a mason jar of lemonade. It was relaxing as it sounds. Every now and then I'd be interrupted by Marvin's nose if my elbow or fiddle was in the way of his foraging. When the sheep had eaten for a while, and I was ready for something a little more active, I'd get up and call them inside the gate. They'd come trotting in, expecting grain for their amazing diplomacy. I delivered.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


September 2, 2008 at 11:08 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great story Jenna. I have to admit I am a bit envious about the sheep adventures. I cannot wait to have sheep of my own someday.

September 2, 2008 at 11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hard to know where to start...your (writing) voice has kept me company these past few days, ever since stumbling onto this blog via a search on Mother for sheep shelters. I have smiled and laughed and shook my head in amazement through every post. Feel like I know you and am so stinkin' glad to hear a funny, well-spoken girl make no bones about loving this life. In fact your descriptions of how you feel - about sheep, chickens, gardening, dogs, singing old-time music, living in that excellent community - all of it, are so achingly honest and joyful. God what a breath of fresh air you are. I so enjoy hearing you. Now I really must get back to studying for tomorrow's final exam!

September 2, 2008 at 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the musical selections, not what I expected, although, one imagines that Bowie singing "Let's Dance" in that "serious moonlight"
would be a more bonfire type tune than Under Pressure. So, do the sheep appreciate the fiddling, or do they just ruminate while you saw?
Also, for extra points, are you going to sheer the sheep in the spring for weaving wool, or will you hire someone to do that?
With all that lanolin in the wool, how do you get it ready for spinning?
Or do you plan to just skip all the Gandhi business and just sell the sheared wool?
What's the long range plan? Cheese, high grade mail order composted manure, lanolin balm or lamb chops?
I think you need a hammock to suspend yourself slightly above your sheep realm. At least until the snow falls.
Don't you love that sound of the teeth tearing and grinding the grass? It seems so perfect and efficient a cycle, at least until they run out of areas to graze.

September 2, 2008 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

The plan for these guys is to learn from there. I'll hopefully get Maude knocked up and give me a lamb in the spring, inbetween that there will be hooves to trim, worming, feeding, fencing and other sheepy skills to learn. Not to mention a herding dog to train.

I will take a shearing class and hopefully learn how to do it myself. If I can't, I'll hire someone and then save the wool for processing. Some of the wool will stay here at the farm so I can wash, card, spin, and knit it all by hand for some special gifts and projects. The bulk of it will be mailed to a professional processor that makes the wool into yarns and blankets at a cost. But all of it will be put to work. I plan on wearing my sheeps wool next fall!

the long range plan is Cold Antler Farm - Lamb and Wool. A full fledged sheep farm of dual purpose sheep for fleece and meat. I want to have a hundred sheep or more and train and keep border collies to help out. It's getting from a rented farm in vt to that actual farm business of the future that scares me. How that will ever happen, I have no idea?

I'll have to hope for a miracle. I'd have to sell A LOT of books to buy land close to my family and become a farmer full time. But a girl can hope.

September 2, 2008 at 9:23 PM  
Blogger Tara said...

A girl can and should hope! Don't worry - when you want something enough, you find ways. And ways find you.

September 3, 2008 at 12:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have a good plan. That's "Z". And at one time, owning sheep was just a concept and desire for you, very nebulous and far off. Now that was point "A". So, on the continuum you are perhaps now at "E" or "F" already. Write out the rest of the letters and assign each another distinct and comfortable step between "E" and "Z". Do each one. Don't waste time hoping. The secret to farming and husbandry is to continue to make steps all the time.
There are steps that can be taken when you have no money, but some time, and other steps to take when you have money, but not much time.
What you don't want to do is be 50 years old and be hoping. That isn't farming. I can't wait to see what you are selling. Good luck and make your list of steps. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

September 6, 2008 at 1:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for your info -- in Puerto Rico very large tracts 50 to 100 acres can be rented extremely cheaply, so cheaply you would not believe it. Insanely cheap leasing. Your major expenditure for sheep, cattle or goats would be the fencing.
Yes, on this island {Vieques} we have all of those being raised, but there is a vast amount of other grazing area still available. Isn't it possible that you could lease grazing areas in the US? This way you could build up your stock. Live on the lease in a trailer. Save money for your own land that way.

September 6, 2008 at 1:32 AM  

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