Today I am writing about sheep. No, I do not own any sheep. I’m not a farmer or a shepherd. I haven’t even pet a sheep since the local petting farm turned into a shopping center decades ago. What has prompted my sudden interest, at least metaphorically, is a book I just finished reading called sheepish by Catherine Friend (Da Capo Press, 2011). Friend writes about how she got involved with sheep farming and what sheep have helped her to discover about herself and living. It also gives lots of information about the animals, shearing, and working with wool. It’s a fascinating study and as a former city girl (as was Friend) quite a revelation about sustainable farming, yarn, sheep, “middles” and spirit.
My backyard isn’t large enough for sheep nor is it zoned for it but the book reminded me that despite the drastic attrition of farms here during the 80s there are still places reasonably close by that are available to reconnect with our rural heritage. Our township bought and runs the last farm within our borders to preserve, literally, our roots. Last summer we found an organic blueberry farm. For many small farms to survive, though, the price of continuing becomes an admission price for customers for hayrides, corn mazes, petting access to goats, sheep, and cows, and mini-amusements like trains, planes and automobiles for kids to ride. At least it keeps the farms working. Each spring and summer we have several areas where (reasonably) local farmers bring their produce to small, neighborhood farm markets. I like to frequent those markets – it feels good and somehow right.
The book also brought me back to one of my “middles” when I was sewing most of our clothes, knitting, and baking bread. I still have a woolen blanket I knitted to snuggle up with on chilly nights watching TV. It was in the middle of my family’s growing years and very satisfying. I am doing other things now, mostly writing, but I have a fondness for that time of my life and it has led me to where I am now. As Friend so lovingly demonstrates, every day is new with the opportunity to reassess and grow.
For anyone who would like to connect with Catherine Friend (and I hope you will) check out her Farm Tales and Sheepish Stories at http://www.catherinefriend.com/ You’ll learn about farming and persevering in a very personal way. Thanks, Catherine for sharing so much of yourself.