Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I dream of sheep



Driven only by the aroma coming from the coffee brewing, was I able to get out of bed this morn. It was a long night and I'm especially grateful today for the hubby who sees to my caffeine need when I'm not even awake yet. Sitting at the breakfast table, still in pj's, sipping a piping hot cup of dark roasted java brewed just the way I like it and wiping the sleep out of my eyes, I begin sharing my dream with my cowboy. Even though I know he thinks I'm a bit over the top, he's a patient listener. While looking out the window into the ewe paddock and spotting a problem ewe, I then go into details of the revelation in my dream and how I will determine which ewes have been problematic this past year and why. Doesn't really seem like morning coffee talk but the beginning of every new year I'm reminded of the task that lies ahead and the culling of the flock presses deeply on my mind. The girls are due to start lambing next month and since we have found our balance with the right number of ewes to keep in our flock, the rest quite simply..have to go. So then comes the difficult task of deciding who stays and who goes. There are certain ewe lines that I in particular like alot - I had been keeping these lambs and culling out less desirable ones. But now that some of these lambs are now adults, I've run into some problems with them. So these lines who I adored in the past, our now thrown into the pot of possible culls. I can not express enough, how hard culling is for me. But..it should be hard. A shepherd knows their flock...inside and out. Personalities, health issues, lambing & mothering capabilities, milk productivity, color patterns that they throw in their lambs, wool quality and which number they are in the flock. There is a head of the flock and a tail..and all the ones in the middle have numbers. When they come in the barn out of sequence, extra attention is given to the ewe that was out of line and she is thoroughly checked for any issues that she may be having. When one is culled, it throws the entire balance of the flock off. Also sheep are very sensitive creatures, they absolutely know when members of their family aren't there anymore. They form relationships with their fellow sisters, without a doubt..they're a family. All of this is taken into consideration when culling. I have not been a shepherd that long but have been one long enough to know, that as difficult as culling is - it is absolutely vital to the longevity and sustainability of the flock. In order to pick up on even the slightest flaws, countless hours are spent being in the midst of these girls. While they're grazing in the fields, while they're lambing and feeding their lambs, while they're milking in the barn and while they nap under the trees..I'm watching. There are some that I have bottle raised and even seeing me walk by the window in the house catches their attention. They know my walk, my face and my voice. It's an incredible bond. These girls are not pets, they're a part of who I am.
Eve is our free spirit and the 2nd lamb born on our farm - she's a daughter to our beloved flock matriarch, Scarlet
 My cowboy sees this first hand and knows how pressing this is on my heart, so he listens and nods as I pour out which ewes are being added to the cull list. The cull list will be watched intently over the next couple months, while they finish growing their lambs - deliver them and nurse them - her udder and milk productivity being vital to our farm is at the top of the important list. Their lambs are also critiqued - their size, how fast they grow, health, personality brightness, color and wool. I dream of sheep. It's not always about their sweet, devoted eyes or the need to have their cheeks scratched but it is always with their best interest at heart. It's a responsibility I do not take lightly and am thankful it only comes around once a year. The end of this month marks a year since my Uncle Steve passed away. A couple months before he died, he and his wife gave me a sweet picture that now adorns my bathroom. It pictures a lovely flock of sheep, a couple of them are so happy their hooves are not touching the ground. And it reads, "if at night you can not sleep, count your blessings instead of sheep." When I read it, I smile and add my own version.. when at night while I sleep, I count my blessings when I count my sheep. While very difficult at times, being a shepherd is a labor of love..it's why I dream of sheep.

This great read is currently on my nightstand Love for the Leicester Longwool Sheep