When I first met Jon he had about 25 Tunis sheep. Every year the barn would fill up with giant black plastic garbage bags of wool that no one wanted. Tunis are meat sheep, not wool sheep. Then Jon gave his sheep to Daryl, a farmer in Vermont and we both thought that was the end of sheep at Bedlam Farm. But every summer after that Daryl brought a bunch of the sheep back to graze, so he could grow his grass for hay. It worked out well for all of us, Daryl got to feed his sheep for free, Jon got to herd sheep with Rose and take pictures of them and the farm was full of life again.
It was between the time that Rose died and Red came to us that Jon and I decided to get our own sheep again. It was really my idea, I had a good feeling that I’d be able to sell the wool. It was my contribution to the farm (besides Frieda, which has not always been seen as a good thing) and a good thing to do for my business. It actually seemed to make more sense to have sheep than not, especially since Red would be living with us soon.
Today, as Jon and I picked up the wool from Vermont Fiber Mill, I could see how the sheep have become more important in our lives than I would have imagined. So much a part of our daily lives, they also mark the rhythms of the farm with their own rituals. We’ve only had them a little over a year, but in that time, they’ve been shorn twice and we’ve been back and forth the Mill four times. Dropping the wool off and six months later, picking up the yarn. By now, we know the small Vermont town of Brandon, well. We have the routine down, lunch at our new favorite restaurant, then off to the Mill where Deb, the owner, remembers Red even if she doesn’t at first remember us.
And although I see the sheep and wool as mine, the rituals that have evolved with having the sheep are something that Jon and I love to share. From shearing to herding, to caring for them. They’ve added another dimension to Bedlam Farm. Not 30 sheep, acting like sheep, unknown as individuals, but 5 sheep, each with her own name and personality. And it keeps evolving. A few days ago Jon and I started thinking about lambing.
I thought I was being practical when I first suggested that we get sheep. But it’s become so much more than that. I’ve become attached to them and they’ve become an integral part of the farm. They’ve connected me in a new way to my readers and customers and have made me a part of the farm in a way I wasn’t before.
Right now, I think all the wool we picked up today is sold. I have a long list of people who want it. Whatever isn’t sold I’ll be selling here during the week.