For the past 20 years I've kept sheep but today I am sheepless. It's difficult to write about the end of my flock but the truth is, this is a happy story.
Wait, before I go any further, I still have Angora goats and a lone Angora rabbit. Thank goodness.
Though I'm still feeling disoriented when I'm in the barn. That feeling of standing in a room and forgetting what you've come for.
When I first started out with sheep I had several years of animal husbandry under my belt. I'd completed my degree in Animal Science. I'd been driving tractors, birthing calves, tossing hay bales. The whole bit. I'd worked in wildlife rehabilitation and with exotic animals as well. I'd proven to myself that I could farm but my real interest was in something a little bit different. I started a flock with the understanding that no animals would be sold nor destroyed as a product. Which leads me to this post after many years of keeping an ever-aging collection of sheep.
So maybe what I've been doing all this time is not really farming at all. Call it what you will.
There is something very special in knowing a group of animals over what has been, quite literally, a lifetime. Knowing them individually. Knowing their habits, their alliances and their discrepancies. I have watched the colour of their wool, the way that they move about, even the expressions on their faces change over the years.
In the end I couldn't really have asked for better. I had wondered what to expect.
Their decline was gradual, stoic and graceful. As arthritis set into their joints and when comfort and quality declined we intervened. Along with the amazing empathy and kindness of our provincial agricultural vets decisions were made that, however qualified, are never easy.
But maybe the best way for me to say all that needs to be said is to add this note;
something that I wrote five years ago, in October of 2011...
My sheep are getting old. They are contented. They are trusting. They've never been
threatened, cold, wet or hungry. They have never been sorted through and selected to be sold or to be marketed. They have never been separated from one another or from their young.
They have come and, for years, they have stayed. A comfortable little group.
Not conventional, I know, but it fits me and I think it fits them as well.