My Sheep And Me, Thinking Ahead

Photo by Jon Katz

Last fall when I decided not to get three more lambs from our former shearer Liz, I was making a decision about my future.

Thinking ahead about my life is not something I’ve done much.  I’ve never set goals for myself or even had expectations.  My life has been more of a series of reactions.

But at this point in my life, having sheep has changed that.

I wasn’t ready to write about it when I made that decision about the lambs.  I made my choice and then put it aside, letting the implications of it settle.

I have eleven sheep.  Five are over eight years old, and six are under five years old. Robin is my youngest sheep and can easily live for another ten years.  By then I’d be 68 years old.

Jon is 17 years older than me and already he has less and less to do with the care of the animals. I have no idea how I’ll feel when I’m 68 and things can of course change at any time.  But there’s a good chance I won’t want to have a flock of young sheep to take of care for years to come.

It’s true that I could always get more sheep now and give them away if I no longer want them.

But that’s not always an easy thing to do, especially if the sheep are old.  As I stood in the barnyard a few days ago, considering my options, I thought about taking my sheep to the livestock auction up the road where they would most likely be sold for slaughter.  I couldn’t even bear imagining it.

It’s a change, and one that makes me a little sad to think about, which is why it took me so long to write about.  But it feels like a good decision.  And accepting the reality of where I am in life and taking responsibility for my sheep in this way makes me feel I’m doing the best I can for them and myself.

Of course, I know that things may change.  That our plans are what give the gods the best laugh.  But for right now, this decision feels like the right one.

So there is a shift in the reality of the farm and her animals, but the change is a gradual one that will evolve with me, Jon, the animals, and our lives on Bedlam Farm.  And even if these are our last sheep, we still have many years on the farm with them.

I’m also aware, from experience, that when one thing in my life ends, another, often unexpected thing opens up.

11 thoughts on “My Sheep And Me, Thinking Ahead

  1. I do believe I’m on my last dog. When my dog-before-this-dog died a friend encouraged me to get a small white fluffy lap dog (and a rocking chair, I guess) but instead I got a hyper energetic terrier puppy who loves nothing more than playing frisbee (she catches them in mid-air) at all hours of day and night. She’s so fast the obedience instructor wanted to recruit her for their agility team. So she keeps me on my feet and moving but my ultimate goal is simply to last one more day than her.

  2. I don’t have words to express how grateful I am that you shared your thoughts and process through a conscious and compassionate approach in making this decision about how you want to live your life now with an eye on your future.
    I am inspired by your courage and passion to live a creative and whole hearted life.

  3. I have been thinking hard about this entry of yours ( Instead of having my quick response to what catches my attention) we came to the difficult decision of no more dogs when we moved to Delaware and an unfenced land area joining into a golf course and then a fairly major road and then woods behind that. We are too old to exercise dogs and would not want them constrained by a leash always anyway. At one point after this we had 3-4 cats and enjoyed them so much, ending with 2 indoor cats. Now we are down to one–Pancho, now 15 years old and showing it. watching our cats dying from old age or medical problems has been very difficult and we want no more pets. We did hope for chickens when we moved here but being just inside the city limits it was not then allowed. Now it is but we are too old for the work involved and can get really fresh eggs at out neighborhood Co-op.
    Reading about and seeing your animals is like a life line to the kind of life we led some years ago in Texas at the border of a small college city where we had a few acres, grew all our own vegetables and had dogs, cats, chickens and ducks, plus sometimes caring for our neighbor’s two calves when they went on holiday.
    Thank you for the pleasure you give us and now that you are beginning to face the hard decisions of animal-keeping, we wish you the strength to go whatever ways are facing you.

  4. Second comment–about life opening up in an unexpected way. I was asked to give a talk on my very big antique table games collection. This led to two more museum exhibits-something I thought had finished for ever and a wonderful 10 years or so of lecturing for the Delaware Humanities Association. This was certainly the most fun of my professional museums life, when I had not thought to work again because of ill health.

  5. We also have thought about keeping cats and dogs who will likely outlive us. Well, we are not letting that stop us now in our late 70’s because my awesome, animal loving nephew said not to worry. He will be there to give them homes. So happily, I was able to befriend 3 feral kittens last year and bring them into the house. They have been such a joy I would not have wanted to miss. You are being practical and realistic and why not??!!

    1. I love that Terri! If I live long enough,and can stay on the farm, I’ll have the donkeys till I’m 80. And since getting Bud, I think the older I get the smaller my dogs may get. Kittens are a joy! We should all have them if we can! :)

  6. I have taken on many animals….horses, dogs, cats and goats….over the last 43 years. I will be 79 in August and am still taking care of one horse, a pony, 1 dog and 3 cats. Hopefully I will be able to outlive them and it is very clear that I should not get another animal. Fortunately I have a daughter who is prepared to help if something happens to me. If you stick to your guns and don’t get any more sheep, your numbers may dwindle naturally. I had 6 horses at once for almost 25 years, and one that was born here died at 37 this past November. Very traumatic for me and I know I could never have sent any to auctions or slaughter. I had leased, then bought a horse, to keep her company and now I have the loan of my friend’s pony to keep him company! Planning ahead is so important.

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