Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Life with the sheep
I repainted a couple of portraits I had done our first year here - over 9 years ago. We had just brought home our first three sheep - Daisy, Rosemary and Joe Pye Weed the ram. It seems like a lifetime ago now, but at times, it's like I blinked my eyes and a decade is gone. I know this decade has been so jammed pack with wonderful things, hard times too - but always the inner knowledge that I'm living the life I am meant to live, with the person I am meant to be with. This knowledge brings one a lot of strength in sad times - I don't take it lightly, as there were years where I didn't have that inner strength and was struggling to get on my path.
I didn't know my sheep that well when I first painted them, but do now, each of them. As the shepherdess of a small working flock of 35 sheep, I can say I've learned a lot about sheep behavior, and still have much to learn and explore. I'm very grateful I somehow did the research at the right time and ended up buying Katahdins - I just love this breed, and at the time they were a breed that needed help to keep them from going into the endangered category. We were and are pleased to have been part of that - now there are so many more small farms raising them here in the West and that is all good.
It's rewarding to raise your own meat - it is part of what we do here. We do not profit from it as we breed only enough for ourselves and to cover costs. We know what we are eating when we do choose to eat meat, and I know how the animal lived, and am with it the day it dies. It was important from the start for me to know the animals were not hauled anywhere on butcher day - my job is to secure the rams and hold them on that day. Martyn watches all butchering with the mobile butcher who comes here to the farm. We are grateful to have such professionals that can still come to the small farm. One thing I've learned on the farm - there are worse endings than death. Some might not understand that, or think differently, but that is my knowledge, from my experience.
Rosemary is gone now, buried on Sheep Hill with her triplets that we lost in the Spring of Death. But Daisy is still with us, going on ten, retired now and living out her life with her flock helping maintain the fields and fertilizing them at the same time. I miss Rosemary, she was truly my favorite ewe of all them - to this day - but she gave me so many wonderful daughters too, and color which to some isn't a factor but I love the markings and tones.
These paintings are in my living room, along with a portrait of the founding father, Joe Pye Weed, who now works on an Idaho ranch helping the milkers. I like looking at them closely from time to time - and they seem to look back at me.