Jon and I are going to visit our new puppy Zinnia tomorrow. She lives about 2 1/2 hours away so we’ll be leaving in the morning and be back home in the late afternoon.
Jon has been writing about Zinnia for months. Her breeder Lenore has been sending videos and photos regularly. All of them are, of course, adorable but I still haven’t felt any real connection to the puppy we’re getting which has made it hard for me to write about her.
I imagine tomorrow when we see her in person and get to hold her for the first time that will change.
As we got Fate for me after my dog Frieda died, we are getting Zinnia for Jon since Red died. But I have no doubt that I will be as close to Zinnia as Jon is to Fate.
And I have been thinking about her as Fate and I walk through the woods, wondering what it will be like to walk with two dogs again.
Bringing Issachar and Asher, our two new sheep to the farm on Sunday felt like a renewal worthy of the springtime. Yet here it is fall and somehow just as fitting.
One of the concerns that Jon had about getting the new sheep was where he is in his life now. He worried about him getting older and even dying and leaving me with too many animals.
But this autumn renewal is also about Jon writing a new book. Feeling fulfilled and satisfied with the work he is doing on his blog, with the elderly at The Mansion and with the young people at Bishop Maginn High School, Jon was ready to let go of book writing.
But yesterday, after the new sheep came, he sent off a book proposal to his agent.
Like shearing the sheep, we’ve let go of some of the old to open ourselves up to something new. And with the new sheep and the possibility of Jon’s new book, we also found a new friend this weekend in our shearer Liz Willis.
It will be a while before I can easily tell our new sheep Asher and Issachar apart. But one does have darker wool and a white streak on his nose.
When we opened the gate and let the sheep out of the pole barn after shearing, Asher and Issachar seemed like they had always been on the farm.
Asher and Issachar are a mix of Cormo/Romney and Blue Face Leicester. They’re smaller than the Romneys we have. They’re only two years old so they’ll probably fill out a little more, but right now they have long legs that make them almost more like deer than sheep.
See them join the flock (with my newly shorn sheep) for the first time in the video below…
When Liz is done shearing the sheep she trims their hooves checking them to make sure they’re in good condition. Liam and Izzy both had small cracks in their hooves. Liz trimmed them to keep them from getting infected.
Liam was limping a few weeks ago but only for a short time. Now whatever problem he was having is sure to heal for good.
Liz also checks the sheep’s teeth and eyes. She found two ticks on Sock which she pulled of and I squashed under my boot.
You can watch Liz do all of this in the video below.
The way a good dancer makes it look like what she is doing is easy, Liz does the same when shearing sheep.
Sheep go still when turned on their backs, but even before Liz gets them into position for shearing, they are calm around her. Unless they’re trained (and our sheep aren’t) it’s not easy to get a sheep to go where you want it to. But as you can see in the video below, Liz gently leads Griselle to the board and seemingly effortlessly turns her on her back for shearing.
Liz makes it look easy, but it isn’t. I’ve seen many shearers struggle to catch the sheep and turn them on their backs.
Liz learned how to shear sheep when she was 8 years old from our shearer, Jim McCrea. Now she’s taken over his business. And soon she’ll be shearing and farming full time. She has plans to expand her wool business online and also grow lavender and other crops to sell.
Jon and I plan on visiting Liz at her farm when we bring the wool to the mill in Vermont.
Liz, our shearer showed up at 8:30 this morning with her mom Barb. In the back of her truck were our two new sheep. Liz told us their story.
Towards the end of their mother’s pregnancy, she laid down and wouldn’t get up again. Liz called her vet who told her she had two choices. She could shoot the ewe or do a cesarean. Liz said she couldn’t shoot a pregnant sheep so she watched as the Vet pulled one boy lamb after another out of the small incision. There were triplets. Liz, her mother and aunt bottle fed all three. One of them died and the three women became attached to the sheep.
But this year, because of some unexpected pregnancies, Liz found herself with 36 sheep. Usually, she sends her male lambs to slaughter, but she couldn’t bring herself to send the twins away. That’s when she thought to asked me if I wanted them.
Because they were bottle-fed, the twins are very friendly toward people. They came right up to me once the jumped out of the truck.
My sheep were all in the pole barn waiting to be shorn and the twins went right to the gate, seeming to want to be around the other sheep. Halfway through the shearing, they started to wander around and at one point they noticed the donkeys.
They did some sniffing, and followed each other around a bit then seemed to lose interest in each other.
We’re naming the sheep Asher and Issachar after the twin refugee boy from Afganastan that Jon and I got to know over the summer, who go to Bishop Maginn School. Like the boys, the sheep are gentle and kind.
I knew Jon really wasn’t feeling well when he agreed to get into bed after writing this morning. I turned the heat up, tucked him in with an extra blanket, got him a big glass of ginger ale and put a bucket and towel beside the bed just in case he got sick enough that couldn’t make it down the stairs to the bathroom.
Text me if you need me I told him and left for my weekly lunch date with my friends Mandy and Athena.
Jon was just waking up when I got back two hours later.
A few times a year Jon gets sick just for a day or so. It might be his medications rebelling, or something he picked up at one of the places he volunteers. But we pretty much have a routine down where he sleeps most of the day and I come in from my studio every couple of hours to check on him.
Tonight Jon was feeling good enough to eat. Bud spent most of the day in bed with him, but after dinner Fate seemed to need some time with him too.
She laid her head on his knee and we both knew what she wanted. She does this thing where she jumps up onto the ottoman next to Jon’s chair then kind of falls into his lap. Then they just cuddle for a while.