Sunday, January 27, 2008


A while back, I asked The Farmer what's the most important job he plays as a shepherd during lambing season. I expected him to say something like pulling out a live lamb during a difficult birth. But no, not my calm, mild mannered, quiet Farmer. He told me his most important job is observing.

He spends all day and parts of the evening with the sheep. Lots of the time he is moving feed around - it takes a long time to feed 150 ewes and over 100 lambs. Once he is done with morning chores, he gets a little break for a quick lunch. Then it's back to the greenhouse barn to feed some more.

Often, when I arrive for a quick peek at what's going on, he'll be standing there, just looking. I think to myself, oh, he's doing the big part of his job - observing! He miraculously knows which ewe lambed the night before. He can tell you which lamb belongs to which sheep and if it is a single or a twin. He can tell if a ewe is in trouble and needs help with a delivery. It boggles my mind that he can tell them all apart. I can tell what breed one of the sheep is or perhaps about how old it is. I can guess how old a lamb is within reason. I can tell you if a ewe is having trouble lambing but the other stuff, not a prayer.

I guess it's a lot like a knitter going into a large yarn store. I can tell one fiber from another. I can pick out just the perfect ocean teal blue from one that is just not right. I can feel the difference between a superwash wool and a beautifully soft merino wool. I can guess which yarn might have mohair or alpaca in it.

I guess it's the same for all of us. We explore our passions and learn as much as we can. Then we observe and make decisions. But tell me, could you tell which sheep is the mother of which lamb?


martha said...

The Farmer is standing outside in the cold snowy weather 'observing' with hands in his pockets and no hat on his head. Doesn't he live with a knitter?

Liz in IN said...

I could match ewes w/their lambs when I was the shepherd, back in the last century. But then, we only had about 35 ewes at most. Does that extrapolate to 150? Maybe, with close association. BTW, loved the lambing pics from a while back. Glad I did it. Wouldn't do it again.

And call me crazy, but I just can't picture The Farmer in a K Nicholas creation. So, Kristin, how do you feel about knitting hats and mitts in C*rhartt baby-p**p beige? Or maybe a nice charcoal grey? Which he still probably wouldn't wear? Men. The little dears.

Suzanne said...

I believe you learn so much more by observing than studying books, expecially when it comes to nature and animals. Love his coveralls - Carhart?

- Suzanne, the Farmer's Wife

knittingiris said...

This is a beautiful post. I could no more tell which lamb belonged to which ewe than I could read a tickertape on Wall Street.
Yes. Everyone has their passions. Thank goodness for diversity.

Beth said...

I have had so much fun looking at the pics of your sheep. They are wonderful. I am not a knitter, I am a quilter and a bag make. But I have been loving your blog. Maybe knitting is in the future for me. And sheep are one of my favorite things. I guess they go hand in hand. Is there a book that would be good for a newbee.

Willow said...

Yes, we know our passions. I know the yarns and fibers, and interestingly, I can look at a student's unsigned work and usually know which kindergartener wrote it. Familiarity!

I look at the lambs and think, "Fiber factory!"

Diane H K in Greenfield! said...

The Farmer looks very GQ in that picture! Even with sheep-poopy clothes on! That ram lamb on his left completes the picture perfectly.

John is the same way about wearing hats and gloves out to the barn. Love our fellows dearly, but it is hard to get them to wear hats and gloves. Warm socks, yes, John will wear those!

Felicia said...

An excellent knitting analogy. And probably The Farmer is right that observation is one of the most important part of most things :)

ColorJoy LynnH said...

My man is also an observer. I'm so glad that one of us is more inclined to be that way... I aspire to quiet observation but it's not my nature.

Matching lambs and ewes? It seems impossible to me, but I've never lived on a farm.

However, you make a point. I can usually detect the fiber content of a yarn. Most of the time I'm right on, if it's an animal fiber or silk.

(Got your email, will reply very soon.)

Lora said...

Although I am a knitter myself, what I noticed first was not that The Farmer is not wearing a hat or gloves, but how dang handsome he is!

Shay said...

There's just something about a man in a Carhart.