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.