For a bunch of years, I lived on a sheep farm. It start off rather small - we had 15 ewes and my mother had the bright idea that we would we breed champion Suffolks. We lived on a small farm and bred those 15 sheep with a champion, registered ram named Brit-Can-Am. This ram was ENORMOUS. I was only 8 when I met him and he scared the crap out of me. I distinctly remember being cornered by him in the barnyard - he had me right up against the fence. The only thing between him and me (he and I?) was the oat can. He was, in a word, virile. He impregnated all our ewes. In two days. And, then he promptly dropped dead. We had only rented the dude for the 'process' and let me tell you, there was hell to pay when we told the owner that his prize winning stud needed to be picked up by the dead-wagon.
However, his offspring were sensational.
My mother decided that this first bunch of lambs were all going to be named properly. They were, after all, championship material and were going to be the foundation of our stock. She also decided that they would have respectable and memorable names. So, she pulled out "The Complete works of William Shakespeare" and named the first lamb Ophelia. Next was Desdemona. Then Portia. Sweet Rosalind was my favorite - she had the softest face and gentlest dispositon. We were surprised with twins and named them Isabella and Imogene. You may wonder why all girls? Well... we kept the females to breed and sacrificed the males to the Easter lamb market. My mother had big ideas- she was going to breed winners.
Eventually, we moved to a much bigger farm and my mother's plans got larger, too. It really was my mother who was the brains and brawn behind this venture. My dad had a full time job ( so did she for that matter) but my mother was the force behind the flock.
As I look back now on those days on the farm, it seems like it was someone else's life. We all worked really hard - particularly my brother. He seemed to get the rawest deal of all the chores. And he very rarely complained. There are so many memories of our family time together on the sheep farm: trudging down to the barn in below zero weather, breaking the ice on the water buckets so the sheep could drink, checking the pregnant ewes for progress and adjusting the heat lambs over top of the newborns. It was difficult and wonderful all at the same time. And, we have my mum to thank.
Trying to explain this time of my life to Bill is challenging. He really has nothing with which to compare it. I know that those of you who had the privilege of growing up on a farm will understand that push and pull of emotion - of resenting the responsibility but loving the results and feeling that connection with nature. It is a feeling that I miss. It's probably all tied up with being with my family and having that time together.
Today, the big sheep breeder, mum, lives a life of relative leisure. But, she manages to keep a few sheep around. One such example was unearthed today. She asked me to take a picture of her garden before I left Florida today. I think she must still yearn for those days, too.