More than wool

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We first got sheep because I fell in love with the idea of knitting with yarn from my own flock. From there it spread outward into restoring our farm to something of what it was two generations ago, and putting homegrown meat on our table.

But mostly it was an emotional decision. Sheep! Lambs! Fluffy cuteness!

Yeah. I'm that person. (I suspect I'm not alone.)

But it turns out that keeping sheep is more than just the pastoral woolly dots on the hillside and a basket of fluffy fleece to spin by the fire. It's a big job. Or a collection of big jobs, spread out across each day and each season.

It's daily water bucket hauling in the summer and hay bale throwing in the winter. It's parasite management and pasture rotation. It's cutting and putting up hay until your arms itch and your lungs burn. It's mucking the barn and moving manure. It's heavy, hard work at times.

And sheep – being sheep – aren't normally cuddly sweetness and appreciation but are more often running the other way at your approach. (How's that for gratitude?) They're skittish and shy and aloof.

And yet truly, I can't imagine this farm without them.

We spent most of Sunday in the barn with the sheep and goats doing hoof care and looking over each animal to see how they're doing and check for signs of pregnancy. We have fourteen sheep and five goats, and it took us the better part of the day to care for them.

It's back breaking work I wonder how well Pete will be able to walk today after doing most of the heavy lifting. I'm thankful for sharing the flock with him, that's for certain. I'm not sure how I could manage this alone.

We don't get around to hoof trimming quite as often as we should. Without exception every time we do it we say to each other, "We need to get back to this again sooner." And then we don't.

But this year we're putting it on the calendar – devoting a full day to animal care every few months so we can stay on top of it. This is the year we get things done, and timely doses of herbal wormer and hoof trimming is on that list. It's a job to take seriously and so we are.

And while if you asked me yesterday morning if I'd rather spend the day knitting by the fire or wrestling sheep into a seated position for their seasonal mani-pedi I'd have certainly chosen the former. But at the end of the day I was so thankful that we got it all done and treated this flock to the care that it needs.

Pete and I shared some hard work, some serious belly laughs, and a day doing what needed to be done, down in the barn.




6 thoughts on “More than wool

  1. Caron says:

    Your blog is beautiful and I love visiting. Would you share your herbal worming strategy? I am fairly new to sheep keeping. Coming up on a year. I have 3 cormos and a little Shetland. I would love to move away from traditional wormers, but I’m not quite sure where to start… Thanks!

  2. Rachel Wolf says:

    Hi Caron. We use Molly’s Herbal Wormer and pasture rotation. (Ideally rotating every 3 days through small paddocks and not cycling back through that parcel for 60 days, except in winter.) Land of Havilah Farm also offers an herbal wormer that is supposed to be good. Hope that helps! We’re on year three and still learning.

  3. Kristina says:

    Gary and I were talking about what animals we want on our little farm when we get moved. I forgot sheep! But, cows will be my first intake, or pigs, depending on the land we buy. (I’ll get pigs first if the land is mostly wooded, since they can help ‘make’ pasture.) I bought my first cow in high school, and have loved them ever since. Oh, but sheep. I’ve never had to care for them, so they’ll be a new addition to my skill set, and I imagine quite a bit more work that beef cows!

    Do you have any recommendations for books on pasture rotation?

  4. Shell ~ says:

    ~ The photos of your sheep are so stunning & beautiful ~
    I dream of having a few sheep, or alpacas one day & its great to see the reality of what caring for them is like. Your sheep are loVed !! that’s easy to see. Even with having their hooves worked on etc., they are still calm in the eyes, what pretty breeds. I loVE the close up photos. I’m writing & illustrating a children’s book, which has sheep in it, would you be interested in talking about your sheep being “drawing models” for my book?
    Best days,
    Shell ~
    p.s. your goat photos ate * stellar * as well !

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