animal kingdom, life (on the farm), sheep

    The beginning of sheep story

    Today’s live sheep shearing on Facebook got me all nostalgic. Before the shearer arrived, I found myself flipping through the files in my big, brown metal filing cabinet searching for the folder where I tucked away all the information on our sheep. Inside I found the registration papers and receipts I’ve tucked away for the last several years. Mostly, I was digging around for birthdates. In my head I’ve known that Penny was getting pretty old for a sheep, but I wanted to remember exactly how old. Nine years. The sweet girl–grandmother to some of the lambs on our farm–is starting her ninth year. You can see it in the sag of her hips and the softness of her eyes. She’s the one each morning who stays by my hip when we make the walk from the stalls in the barn out to the pasture. While everyone else runs ahead rebelliously to get a few mouthfuls of grass before we get to the field, she keeps her pace with mine. Always right beside. Quiet. Calm. She’s my sweet girl. 

    Flipping through those papers and birth certificates and and sheep association memberships, I decided I needed to revisit how the lambs came to live with us. I’m so glad I took a moment to look back. Because some days it’s hard to see past much more than the morning chores and feed bills and middle-of-the-night worries. It was good for me to remember how long I patiently (and not so patiently) waited for my girls to have a small flock of sheep all their own. Just like me, when I was a little girl. 

    Here’s the story of how it all came to be. 

    There’s an old VHS video clip I have of my grandmother, walking out to her sheep in the pasture, “Hello, girls.” she calls to them in that voice I miss hearing. Immediately, they respond–a mix of warbled baa’s from lambs who have their lips pressed to the earth ripping out clumps of grass and others strong and clear who already noticed her coming. Deep throaty baa’s of mama ewes who know her voice so well.

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    My first lamb, when I was eight years old, came from my Grandmother’s flock of Hampshires, Dorsets and Southdowns. I remember well, picking out Buttons that day. I picked him not because he was going to win blue ribbons in my first county fair, but because he came up to me and started nibbling and tugging at the hem of my sweater. He had been one of her bottle-fed projects. Now he would ride home with me purely for the fact that we’d become immediate friends–standing in that barn while sheep and lambs swirled around us and a border collie crouched anxiously outside the gate.

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    For the next ten years I would show lambs in 4-H and state fairs. We’d win some years. Other years we’d learn lessons the hard way–like never tie your lambs to Japanese Ewe bushes while they wait in line to be sheared. All will be lost.

    When I would graduate and go off to college, my mother would still keep a few lambs on the farm. She loved them as much as we did. She was the sheep lady whenever she’d speak at churches, garden clubs, and women’s groups.

    But eventually, the farm would be sold. I’d get married. And have children of my own.

    But somewhere in the back of my mind, maybe the back of my heart, I’d dream and hope for the day, when things would fall in to place again. When the time would come again, when my children would get their first lambs.

    Once we moved to Thomas Run, I’d try to figure out ways to make it work. Ways to afford the fencing we didn’t have anywhere. The buildings we’d need, that didn’t seem to exist.

    Then a pony would come in to the picture and horse fence would go up. Fence that wouldn’t work for lambs. And I thought maybe we’ll end up being horse people. Maybe lambs won’t be their thing. The pony was definitely meant to be.

    My husband, who likes to remind me that I should just trust him on this, has always said that I need to just sit back and wait. That the right things, at the right time, will fall into our laps. The doors will open when we’re ready. When the time is right. We don’t need to force anything.

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    So I sat back. And waited. Sometimes I let it go. Other times a sight or sound or memory would make me want to work and work to make lambs happen again.

    But then, in a matter of weeks, the door would open. Out of nowhere. I’d look at a building on our farm in a completely different way and suddenly see potential. I’d get drawn into a conversation at a 4-H meeting that would get me thinking. I’d make one mention of it out loud, that I almost didn’t say, because it just seemed too impossible to admit.

    Then, there’d be an email. A blog reader turned dear friend who was at the other end of the journey. Who’s girls were grown, who’s life was starting to move in a different direction, who wanted to give some of her flock to a young family just starting a journey of their own.

    There would be phone calls and emails. Questions and some worries. Plans and roadtrips. Excitement and disbelief and gratitude.

    And here we are a few months later.

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    I waited. Not always patiently, I admit. But now it’s here. It’s happening. And it couldn’t have arrived in any better of a package. At any more perfect of a moment.

    I am in love. We all are.

    Hello, girls. Hello.

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