When I was first feeding Jon’s sheep at the Old Bedlam Farm, (before we were married I was trading studio space for feeding the animals on the weekend) I couldn’t imagine being able to tell them apart. You know the idea of sheep is that they are all the same, they follow each other and do as the other does. I watched this again and again with Jon’s sheep, one sheep moves away from the flock and little by little they all follow. When ever I see this I think, that’s why they’re called sheep. Then, one day I took a sketch pad into the pasture and started drawing them. It’s then I began to see that they didn’t all look the same. All Jon’s sheep were white, and there were a lot of them, more than twenty, but as I drew them I could see how they all had different features, their heads and ears various shapes.
Now we have only five sheep and physically they are all very different, but, at first, I was surprised how different all their personalities are.
My first sheep, Tess, is gentle, friendly and trusting, with a rounded head and soft almost feathery wool. Suzy, has a pointer face and is quick and nervous, although she’ll now come to me if I have a carrot or cookie. Socks is the smallest, her wool is tightly curled. She’s as friendly as Tess, and is more likely to stray from the flock when I’m around. Ma is a giant a bruiser, she plows her way through the hay, her face covered in it when she eats. She came to the flock last and except for some trouble with Red (she didn’t know how to be herded) fit right in. She’s easygoing, which is good, because, as big as she is, she could cause trouble if she wanted to. And then, there’s Zelda. Different in so many ways. The only white sheep, with a proud face and watchful eyes. The trouble maker and independent sheep named after Zelda Fitzgerald.
And now, all these sheep have had their wool sent to different people in different parts of the country to be spun and knit and crocheted into scarves and socks and hats and sweaters. My friend Tess, (my first customer who I named the sheep Tess after) has some of Tess’ wool. Suzy (who I named the sheep Suzy after) is spinning some of Socks’ wool. Lynne at White Birch Fiber Studio, has begun spinning Zelda’s roving. (You can see that happening here). And Susan said she’s going to make socks from Socks’ roving. There’s a bunch more people who promised to send photos when they’re done knitting and crocheting the rest of the yarn.
When I first started feeding Jon’s sheep I never imagined I’d someday have my own. And I had no idea what a big role in my life they would play. Or how much I would come to know and even love them. And how they would help connect me to people all over the country. They remind me that until I get to really know a thing, my ideas and thoughts about them really are just that, ideas and thoughts.