My father had purchased a small herd when I was younger eager to see what type of livestock would do well on the small acreage of our farm. It was my sisters and my task to look after the sheep and keep their shed clean. You couldn’t have asked for a more fullfilling job as a youth. It wasn’t an overwhelming job, and spending time with the gentle animals was a pure joy, well except for the ram (but that’s another story).
Making sure they were fed every day, forking out the damp, soiled straw and replacing it with new stuff was satisfying work. Going to the extra effort of keeping track of which ewes bore lambs, which had twins and recording the gender of the lambs helped us make good decisions on how we wanted our flock to grow. All of the tasks helped us to become more responsible and to find and use different skills that bettered our decision making abilities. But the best part was in learning how to care for the other creatures who shared the farm with us, and about what an integral part they played in our lives.
My favorite memories with the sheep were when the lambs were being born and when the shearer came to collect their wooly coats. I always marveled at the speed with which the shearer zipped around the curves and angles of the sheep all the while trying to keep them calm and still enough that he might do his job effectively. I don’t recall if as a child I ever wondered this question, will a sheep’s wool grow forever? I knew that every year the sheep would get thick with wool, the shearer would come to clip it and weigh it and Dad would smile a big grin when he was given a check for the wool. As for me, I just thought the sheep looked silly, like they were running around in their long underwear afterwards.