I look out in my pasture, and no matter what the weather is, I see sheep. Just a pair of them right now... Just a pair. One is named Darcy, who is a Blue Faced Leicester/Cormo cross wether. The other is a dark brown Romeldale/Cormo cross ewe simply called "Brown Sheep". In the stormy rain my goats are huddled in the barn, eating expensive hay that costs me an average of $16 per bale. Meanwhile the sheep are outside. Grazing. My cows would go through a bale of hay a day each. My goats would go through a bale a week each. My sheep? It's hard to say, since they're always out foraging. Maybe a bale every two weeks? Two and a half weeks? Either way, it's a boon when you find yourself in a position like mine currently is, where almost every hay supplier is out of hay until June. Oregon exported way too much hay to Japan in 2012, and now everyone here is seeing and feeling the effect.
I look out at my sheep who are grazing in the rain, and I eye their gorgeous wool that hangs heavily on them. They will be shorn soon, and then I will have fiber to work with. An art medium to design things with. I once considered pursuing a occupation as a fiber artist. Getting a degree in design... But now I'd rather be the one to supply that art medium. Although I still like the idea of taking my sheep's wool to the next step and creating designer/art yarns. Some of the longing to be in the artist world never left me, and I still have a crazy love for weird, wild, colorful art yarns. This is my desire for wool from my own sheep: to create beautiful yarns that most folks don't see in a common yarn store, but rather, in the upscale, ritzy ones found in Portland, NYC, Seattle, and Los Angeles. Hand-dyed, beaded, 100% pure wool yarns.
I think of the lambs that "Brown Sheep" will hopefully have next year. Lambs that will provide either a shearling fleece, and/or a nice lambskin, right along with their delicious meat to go in the freezer. I think of what I could do with that meat. Either saving it for myself, selling it to farm customers, or marketing it to local, upscale restaurants. Or maybe all three. :)
Then my mind turns to the sheepdogs that usually come with the territory of owning these woolly creatures. Sheep and dogs. Dogs and sheep. They go together. What an awesome tandem. In having a flock of small ruminants, a body can also have the amazing experience of getting to work with a highly trained canine who becomes your working partner. Whether you use a Border Collie, and English Shepherd, or a Bouvier Des Flandres, it's all good, and it's all amazing, getting to watch these dogs do what is instinctual to them. I've tried herding sheep by myself. It ain't fun. Those sheep have four wheel drive, and I sure don't. Watching a dog take my place and do the job with such fluid grace is pure poetry to me.
Oh and there's also those sheepdog trials! :) Someday I would love to take my dog and compete in that amazing and thrilling sport. Someday...
Let's not forget the sheep cheese either. ;) I'm not sure if I'll ever have a hankering to try dairy sheep, but I admit that I do love sheep milk cheese.
The other day I needed to check Brown Sheep's hooves. Had she been a cow, I would have needed a strong cattle chute for the job. Had she been a goat, I would have needed to put her in a stanchion and I still would have faced a hissy fit (goats *hate* having their feet messed with! Or at least mine do!). I caught Brown Sheep (I know, I know... She seriously needs a better name than that. LOL.) and she struggled while on her feet. We're both about the same weight, and were evenly matched in strength. Then in one smooth move, I flipped her onto her rump and my little ewe went completely limp and still. She became as feisty as a newborn kitten. I love it that there is an animal that a 120 lb. girl like me can handle with ease, without worrying about getting crushed. Yes, a ram can still do a lot of damage but if I had to choose between a ram and a bull, I think I would rather face the ovine, versus the bovine.
In those compact packages of walking baas, you have something that can provide meat, milk, and wool. Actually, it's more than that. A savvy marketer would look at a single sheep and see meat, milk, cheese, yogurt, soap, fleeces,yarn, roving, spinning lessons, sheepdogs, herding lessons, puppies to sell, started dogs, lambs to sell as breeding stock, stud service from the ram, sheep raising workshops, horn buttons, shearing services, skulls (seriously. Jacob sheep skulls sell quite well.), hunting trophies (newest fad; hunters stalk Soay rams on private property), renting out sheep for landscaping services (another fad; the "green" way to take care of brush), grazing a flock through a lavender field, sheepskin rugs, jerky, needle felted creations, and who knows what else... The sky's the limit.
I look out at my sheep grazing in the rain. Just a pair of them right now... Just a pair. And then I think of all the possibilities that come with sheep. How a single person and a good dog can run a flock by themselves. And I wonder, why don't I have more of these animals??