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A few years ago, I picked up a guide to raising sheep. I go with Storey’s guide books every time. They are a beginner’s crash course on your animal of choosing. I own ones for rabbits, cattle, pigs, and chickens too. I own one for dairy goats, but goats are still just far too good at getting out and causing trouble for me to head down that road just yet. I always pick up at least one book about the animal I’m looking to start raising before I get that animal. I need to know what I’m in for!
So I got this book on sheep. It took me a little while before I really figured out the direction I wanted to go and made that leap though. I spent some time yearning, some time online researching breeds, learning about what they needed to thrive, and yearning some more. I then spent weeks searching for the perfect sheep.
Finally, I found Cindy and her two lambs, Tippy and Fawn. I drove all that way out to Elizabethtown in the middle of the countryside and found Cindy with her adorable little twins. Of course, I knew I wanted her as soon as I saw her. After getting some background info on her and learning more about her and her little ones, the couple loaded the trio into the back of my truck. Nervously, I ventured back towards home. As I drove, I nearly watched the shadows of those three sheep more than the road! I attempted to stop gently and start rolling slowly, but it seemed they were more than able to keep themselves upright regardless of my sometimes necessary less careful stops.
Having three living creatures with free reign of the back of your pick-up truck is a nerve-wracking experience. I could hear their hooves stomping on the bed of the truck as I followed the winding country roads towards their new home. They shuffled around, attempting to understand the predicament that they suddenly found themselves in, having gone from a comfortable straw-filled barn to a loosely hay-covered truck bed.
After nearly two hours, I arrived home in the dark of a cool spring evening. It took two people to get Cindy into the truck and now I was alone with three sheep. I never do think about this portion of things. Suddenly flustered, I simply stared at my three new beautiful sheep. Eventually, I figured I could likely set up a ramp on my tailgate and with a halter on Cindy, walk her down and then take the lambs out and they would follow her. Now, normally, this sort of thing never works out quite like that for me. I set up something that seems perfectly logical and the animals give me the middle hoof and do anything that seems to be in complete opposition to my plans.
It went okay this time! The lambs didn’t run off, Cindy didn’t leap away and break a leg. Getting Cindy and her lambs from the driveway to the field was a different story. Cindy wasn’t used to wearing a halter or being told where to go by means of a rope attached to her face. I’d never lead a sheep anywhere, ever. I pulled, I pushed, I cried with frustration and concern that I might be hurting her. Inch by inch, we worked our way down to the field before I could finally shove her through the gate.
With that tiresome bit finished, I took the halter off of Cindy, made sure she had some hay and grain and fresh water. I watched them for a moment with a tired smile before reluctantly retreating back to my truck to drive myself home. My first night with sheep. There’s a sigh that fits the end of a successful day of farming. When the farmer can finally stop holding her breath for something to go wrong or something to go right at last, and take that big, deep, slow breath in to let it back out with a mixture of relief, pride, and hopeful satisfaction.