Voices From the Farm: Bringing in the Sheep

Lisa and Sean in the Windbreak(Photo: 1973)

Our first season on the farm was, if not hectic, at least very busy! Along with the planting of the windbreak trees in the spring, there were neglected vegetable gardens and flowerbeds to be restored. There was a great store of aged manure in the old barn, which I proceeded, with pitchfork and wheelbarrow, to dig and apply to the gardens. An old strawberry bed sprang to life and provided us with wonderful berries in June. In July we gloried in the bounty of a huge long established red raspberry patch.

We had been delighted to find we had a big old apple tree located just outside our house yard, however in a midsummer storm with strong winds, it was up-rooted. We mourned its loss, but consoled ourselves with the promise of planting an orchard the very next spring.

A centuries-old oak tree just east of the house, whose wide spreading limbs provided shade until well past noon, also became the source of hours of joy for Lisa. All through her growing up years she spent hours swinging under that tree. So many that she and her brother Sean wore out 3 stout swing ropes over the years.

As we moved from spring into summer there were gardens to weed, a large lawn to be mowed weekly, and when the gardens produced more than we could consume, the canning and freezing to preserve the fruits of our labor for winter days.

We had been tethering our “Mama” ewe in the pasture and, as the mid-summer heat began to descend on us, we decided that we could safely turn her loose so that she and “Sure to Go” could find shade to rest in and graze when they chose.

Fence and Windbreak(Photo: 1973)

Our fences were practically non-existent, except for a line fence running along our property line just south of our driveway and an old but still serviceable fence that ran below the road from the gate, where the circle drive approaching the house began, to the yard fence surrounding the house. These were the only barriers that kept the sheep from getting into the flower and vegetable gardens. That would have been disastrous!

They had access to more pasture in the quarter mile between the house and the highway than they could ever hope to consume. They were provided with salt and water daily and were by then quite tame. So, why would they leave?

As it turns out, the final sentence in our last segment proved to be prophetic. It read “… and everywhere that Mama went her lamb was Sure to Go.” And, go they did! They ran away from home – or rather, Mama ran away – and everywhere that Mama went her lamb was Sure to Go.

Little Lost Sheep

It was a sunny Saturday morning and we suddenly realized that our sheep were not to be seen. After searching around the barn, granary, and other out buildings, we returned to the house to figure out the next move.

The phone rang. It was our neighbor, a neighbor about a half-mile to the northeast by highway – a little less cutting across the fields. Our sheep were there, shut up in a shed.

The plan? I would drive my long-suffering husband Jerry, well equipped with ropes, to the neighbor’s farm and he would lead the sheep home across the field. How hard could that be?

I returned to await the homecoming.

Lisa and I watched anxiously for the trio to appear over the top of the long hill to our northeast. When they finally did appear, it was clear that things were not proceeding at all well.

A few steps of progress, then one – or both – of the sheep would abruptly charge off, generally in a different direction. Then… a long pause before any homeward progress could be observed.

I watched with some trepidation, knowing my husband’s Irish temper was being tested to the extreme. I was also very aware that he was not as committed as I to having a sheep flock in our future.

Now, it’s never been entirely clear why he decided to put a rope on the lamb, Sure to Go; she would probably have followed her mother. One sheep is much easier to control than two! However, I was not the one running this expedition.

Apparently Jerry was not taking any chances, so while he was pretty much dragging both of them, they were doing a good job of dragging him in alternate directions.

Mama weighed around 155 to 160 pounds and Sure to Go was, by this time, a stout and muscular lamb of close to 85 pounds. Together they outweighed Jerry, so it was a long and painful journey.

By the time they were finally within earshot, there was some pretty descriptive language filling the air. To this day, Lisa remembers, “His face was really red and he was swearing a blue streak!”

They finally made it all the way home and the sheep were safely tethered, however there was no doubt that those sheep were headed for the sales barn on the next sale day, less than a week away.

It was Saturday so there wasn’t much time for me to reconnoiter and for Jerry’s temper to cool. It was crisis time and my only hope was to build a fence as fast as possible!

12 thoughts on “Voices From the Farm: Bringing in the Sheep

  1. Just reading the latest article by Lea the shepherdess with fond a fond smile and memories!! I chuckle when I think about how Lea would tell here sheepish stories with such a sense of humor and everyone around her oak dining room table would be laughing until tears would be streaming down our faces while clutching our stomaches. Tears of laughter, precious drops of salty water, healing our broken hearts. Thank you Lea for your “round table” healing! With Fondest of Memories, Love Always, Tina

    1. Tina,

      Oh you always write me the nicest comments! And bring back more memories!
      I still recall ‘kids in the Mulberry tree’, all one could see were the feet and legs standing on the lower branches, the rest was swallowed up by the upper branches, while the ‘munchkins’ were stuffing their mouths with berries!
      Lots of fun times,and some sad times, but we were always there for each other, whatever! Thanks for the comment, and memories. Much love,

  2. Aunt Lea,

    My family is enjoying your chapters immensely giving us “city dwellers” some insight into what the life of a shepherdess was like. Your stories are entertaining and so descriptive. I know I could not have survived and accomplished all that you did. You are truly amazing!


    1. LaDon,

      Thank you for the comments! It is great to know the whole family is with me in this attempt to recapture the past and put it on paper. I must say, it is enjoyable for me, I guess you could say it is a “labor of love”! It is also therapeutic, as I was a bit apprehensive about how I would deal with selling my beloved sheep. But I am actually surprised that I am so at peace with it.

      I’m sure that knowing they are not far away, and with people who care for them, and who are keeping me up to date on the lambing this Spring, has helped immensely. And I must admit, with this horrible winter we’ve had, it has been a relief not to have to struggle with going to the barn!

      So all’s well that ends well! And keep reading!
      Aunt Lea

  3. What a great installment! I can picture exactly what Jerry must have looked like when he was within hearing and viewing distance!! I don’t know how you stood your ground!! Can’t wait to hear the next chapter – and the next, and the next….. I say “hear” because I CAN hear and see you in my mind telling the story. I Love that you are sharing these memories with and for all of us.

    1. Jackie,

      Thanks for the great comments! When you say you can “hear and see me telling the story,” then I know I am achieving what I’m trying to do, and that is to really share the memories. So thank you!

      I feel so lucky to be doing this writing, as it really bridges the gap left by the sheep leaving the farm. I get to relive all those memories, and at the same time I can still enjoy ‘my’ sheep, which are at Jim Scanlan’s farm, and are being well taken care of. They are presently lambing, and Jim and Kyle Anne keep me up to date on the progress. So far, they have 7 lambs out of 3 ewes, so they are doing well, and enjoying the sheep as much as I did. I couldn’t have wished for a better person to pass them on to!

      Keep reading!

  4. I love reading these as it shows what will power and determination can do. Guess we know where Lisa got hers from huh? It also shows me how “easy” we do have it- I don’t know if I could do all that physical labor. You and your family are amazing.

    1. Sands,
      Thanks so much for your comments, and I’m happy you enjoy the stories. I have to laugh when you say, “it shows me haw ‘easy’ we do have it”. I think that what I did was much easier than what you do. You may know I was an escapee from the city, ten years of cities and I had had it. I needed some land, and good old dirt under my feet. So, I am very lucky, I am right where I was meant to be! It helps to be doing what you love!


  5. Lea, Writing for GoodFood World is yet another “chapter” in a most interesting and productive life. I presume you will now be developing another legion of fans to join those of us who know you from way back. I think I need your autograph to go with my favorite picture of you with your flock. Can’t wait for the next installment!


    1. Sandy,

      Thanks for your enthusiastic comments! You know, you may have brought this on by saying, in one of your emails, that perhaps I had a whole new career opening up. Also, you wondered how I really felt about giving up my sheep. Strangely, I am very at peace with it, they went to someone I know, like and respect … and I know they are well cared for. Actually, they are lambing now and Jim and Kyle Anne keep me posted on how it is progressing, so I am vicariously enjoying the lambing, with none of the stress and strain.

      Writing these stories is therapeutic also, as I get to relive all the memories, and as I say, “If you can’t raise sheep, the next best thing is to write about them!”


    1. Naomi,

      So glad I am continuing to “amaze” you, I will try to keep it up! With all the support I’ve been receiving, how can I fail?

      Writing these memories of the past has been both fun and helpful. It has
      bridged that gap which occurred when the last sheep were gone. Now, I am quite content that someone else is tending to the lambing, which is in progress. Jim and Kyle Ann, who have the flock, are not only excellent shepherds, but very good about keeping me abreast of the happenings with the sheep. So, I get to enjoy the lambing, but none of the stress and strain which goes with it.

      Maybe when things green up, and I look out , and don’t see any white lambs gamboling about on the green pastures, I will feel a bit sad, but on the whole, I am quite pleased with how it all worked out!

      Thanks for your comment!


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