“You’ve got to sell those lambs” Micheline told me again and again over the course of the summer. “We aren’t animal farmers.”
A bit of background. A few years ago, we became enamoured with the idea of having tiny sheep in the vineyard, eating leaves away from the grape vines and weeding the rows. They would be a huge labour-saver, we thought, since we spend an inordinate amount of time manually plucking leaves to improve grape quality. The leaves that needed removing are right at Babydoll eating height and they likely would enjoy the task.
The intention was noble but what we didn’t think about is that sheep require either fencing or a shepherd. They aren’t very focused. Rather than efficiently completing the leaf-pulling job, they taught me the definition of grazing, wandering into the vegetable garden to try some cabbage, and into Micheline’s flower garden to munch the hostas.
So while the sheep are cute, they have yet to fulfill their potential as vineyard workers. A couple of years back, I started to think, well, how can these sheep be productive on the farm? They were rather costly to purchase…perhaps I can get them to make more sheep!
And so we added two rams, James and Julius to our flock of five ewes, Blanc, Mocha, Houdini, Clementine and Baby. Yes, they all have names.
You may be starting to see the slippery slope we stepped on.
A year later we had the wonderful experience of welcoming five Spring lambs to our farm.
“We’re not farmers Tim, we have to sell them,” Micheline said. In my mind I thought, ‘Um, did you see what just happened? I think we are farmers.’ But I didn’t say that, I just smiled and nodded, “Yep, right away.”
But somehow, after helping them get started in life and getting to know their unique personalities, I became attached to the little critters. It became easier and easier to delay selling. The lambs, too, acquired names –“Jet”, “Rose”, “Sophia”, “Darling”, and “Flower”.
So the Fall blew in and then Winter froze the ground. The grass became covered in snow and ice and the flock started eating a bale of hay a day. I started to think, ‘Well I’m not much of a farmer, I should have sold these lambs. This hay is costly.’ But they are so cute.
Then I started thinking about what would happen if I kept them. They would multiply further and I might have a flock of thirty in no time. In particular, Jet the little ram still had to be fixed. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about that job so I chatted with my neighbour. He seemed quite enthusiastic about it. “Yep” he said, always helpful when we had a problem. “I have the tool! I will come over tomorrow and we’ll get ‘er done!”
True to his word, he showed up the next morning. By then I had misgivings. Poor Jet! He has so much potential. Maybe I’m not such a farmer after all. A farmer would just get ‘er done, and not feel sorry for the animal.
“Uh,” I said, “I’m going to try to sell Jet this week, and if he doesn’t sell let’s do the job next weekend!”
So, to save Jet from the operation I quickly made a posting on Kijiji to tell the world about the lambs I had for sale.
I was feeding the lambs yet another bale of hay when I got the notifications on my phone. Almost immediately there was interest and I struck a deal with two buyers to sell all five lambs! Jet’s destiny was saved. I expressed to one of the prospective purchasers how sad I would be to see them go. “Yep,” he said via email, “it’s tuff times!”
I poked my head in through the sliding door to tell Micheline “I sold the lambs today!” She looked up at me from the kitchen table, where she was doing a puzzle.
She looked devastated. “You sold the lambs?”
Tim, you continue to validate the very positive opinion of you I developed over the years you were in my classrooms at JDSS. Your wine is excellent—now you are dealing with even more complex problems.
I hope to someday live up to that opinion. Thank you for contributing so much to those classes, it was a special time. I hope to see you again if you ever wander our way.
On the contrary! I think your compassion for the animals makes you a better farmer than someone who wouldn’t think twice. Best to focus on making wine than fixing sheep, though 😉
I’d love to see more blog postings!
Laughed out loud a few times while reading this. Didn’t I just see a picture of Micheline with a lamb? 🤔