Sunday, December 30, 2012

Parting is such sweet sorrow...

For those of you who do not already know, I will be leaving this week to head out to Iowa and then on to New Mexico to shear. This last month has been devoted to preparing for that trip. To be honest I have spent more time packing for this trip then I did when I packed for New Zealand! Maybe it's because Lydia is coming with me this time, but maybe it also has something to do with this being a transition phase of my life. I am now completely settled in my life as a sheep shearer, I really enjoy what I do and I like it enough to want to go find work when work around Maryland is slow. January and February are notoriously slacker months, so I find I enjoy the opportunity to see new places and meet new people on the road during these months. But with that it also means I have to figure out what is important enough to me, to justify taking up space in my little van. So this entire month has been devoted to sifting through my already meager belongings trying to figure out what I can leave behind. If you have never had to sit down and go through your things, laying out your life in objects, I don't recommend it unless you are prepared for a bit of emotional fall out from the weight of all those memories!
The first thing I did was to go out and buy bins, 10 Tupperware bins, that I put all my things into. One bin for Lydia's books, one for all the objects on the shelves, one with all my business papers, another two bins were devoted to my books, one bin had all my cooking things in. Packing it up wasn't the problem, my next task was to go through each bin to see if I felt I would need anything on the road. Do you realize that the first few times you sift through your belongings you can't imagine living without any of it!? I took several bins out at a time and stacked and restacked everything in them. I pulled out books and read them, looked through photo albums, shed a tear or two when looking over Lydia's baby things. It's nice to revisit those times in my life but it is hard to leave those things behind, even if temporarily.
Finally I got the "important stuff" narrowed down to 5 bins, 1 duffle of cloths and a duffle of odds and ends. But I still wanted to take even less stuff. Today was probably the hardest...I'm a book person, I love books with a passion. I have gotten together a tidy collection of shearing books that I just love, some of my favorite classics from when I was a kid, plus books I want to read to Lydia. The books had become my biggest hurdle. My sensible half tried to talk some sense into me..."your going to be working all the time, when are you going to have time to read?" Ok, ok, I know that but when your a book person you can't just leave them behind! It's like leaving a toe or ear off of your body. You just can't do it...but I did, sorta. I was able to narrow my books down to one small box. I know I won't read any of them but the peace of mind I have knowing they are with me is all that matters. Plus I was able to narrow it down to only my absolute favorites:)
So my journey now begins, after a few more shearing jobs I will be heading west. I have 3 bins of belongings, 1 duffle of cloths, 1 duffle of shoes, 1 backpack with a portable dvd player and some movies and Lydia has a bag of toys. I think I am ready to go. My life has been slimmed down as much as I'm ever going to get it. I'm looking forward to the adventures I will have this winter in the desert but I am already looking forward to coming back and reuniting with all I have left behind:)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

All is merry and bright:)

I don't know about all of you but I am really enjoying this stretch of warm weather in December! This is the kind of weather that really helps me catch up on all the back logged busy work I need to do. So in the last few days I have been able to wash all my mats and shearing tarps, clean out and reorganize the back of my van, grind all my blades, plus do a pretty major animal inventory at my temporary farm. It really feels good to be outside and really experiencing the animals in a way that I don't always get to when I'm just a visitor to your farms. I have really begun to bond with all the dogs and I know I'm really gonna miss them when I leave. I enjoy cursing the goats for finding every hole in the fence (have you heard of the Irish fencing method called willow fencing? That's what it's starting to look like out there!) I like calling the pigs back to the barn every evening...unaccustomed to admitting that I was wrong and that pet pigs do have there charm:) I am glad Lydia has this chance to see the day to day work of farming that our transient life sometimes neglects. Years from now I am going to look back on these two months with a whole lot of fond memories.
It has also been a good time for shearing. After thanksgiving is a huge rush of work as several of my larger clients shear now since they lamb in late December/early January. This gets the wool off before the lambs dirty it up and makes housing the sheep through the winter a whole lot cleaner. I am always a bit perplexed when people ask me about being concerned about the sheep staying warm during this part of the year. As we can all see the weather is a whole lot warmer now then it typically is in march when most people want to shear, plus one month of wool is plenty to keep them warm when the cold weather finally hits in January. Freak blizzards and freezing weather are much more common in march so I always enjoy converting as many folks to a fall schedule as I can. They are never disappointed:) So for the last few weeks I have been doing pretty consistent business shearing some larger flocks and finishing up my angora goat jobs. Most of the people I work for this time of year are wonderful and I really enjoy taking the time to really visit with people when I have the opportunity.  Today I had the privilege of shearing a few angoras for a long time friend. We had such a nice conversation, a fabulous lunch, and shared some good laughs. Days like today are such a blessing and I really enjoy them as much as I can. In the spring I can get so busy that I sometimes lose sight of the people behind the animals. I get so rushed and pressed for time that I can't fully enjoy each moment. It's days like today that really bring my work home and make me truly thankful for what I do.
At my visit today I was also able to really pick her brain about several issues that have been preying on my mind about goat care and livestock guardian dogs. I really am in awe of the vast amount of knowledge that is available to me through my clients and today was no exception. I was given some great suggestions about dealing with problem dogs, feeding goats and caring for goats that have traveled long distances. It was such an incredibly productive day. I really value the knowledge my clients are willing to share and love being able to pass it on in return to someone else needing advice. Another wonderful scenario is while I was shearing at a farm a while back I saw an unusual abscess on an animals chest. While chest sores and calluses are normal this abscess was large and circled the entire brisket of the animal. I had never seen anything like it. My client later emailed me and told me what the vets diagnosis of the sore was and also gave me the prescribed treatment. I was so happy that she thought about me and passed on that info because it means the next time I see a sore like that, I'll know it isn't a big problem and I'll know how to advise treatment. While I am not a vet the information I have gleaned through the years of wonderful people working in the trenches and seeing it all, I now really feel like I am more of an asset to people. I not only get to shear for them but if they need advice I can offer suggestions and experiences gathered from so many brilliant sheep and goat farmers. It really is an exciting place to be in. I'm truly grateful for so many people being willing to open their homes and barns to me and letting me handle their animals and being able to call so many of them friends:)