Musicians Farming Sheep Too (II)

The spring recital went beautifully, everyone performed well, whether they felt that way or not. And so disregarding the calendar, summer begins for us. I start teaching a summer schedule this week and taking more time to enjoy the beautiful Vermont weather...and continue on the road to owning sheep.

Because I have our border collies, Sam and Bronte, who I train at various friend’s sheep farms, I have access to tons of valuable information about buying/owning sheep. I have been wisely advised to join the Vermont Sheep and Goat association (I would join just for the sticker alone) and after chatting with my friend, Google, have been able to find many opportunities to learn more about our new endeavor.

Paul and I are signed up for a pasturing course through the University Of Vermont extension service. Good pasture = happy sheep. We are learning about soil quality, rotational grazing and basic anatomy of our ovines.

“Living With Sheep” was recommended to me and I am reading it religiously for the second time. I find (and annoy) myself beginning (too many) sentences with “the BOOK says.” The author has written a book intended to show us that owning/raising sheep is really pretty simple. I remind myself of this as I begin the chapter titled “The Four Concentric Circles of Fencing.” Paul often wakes up early and looks over at me, my glasses perched and nose pressed into “the book.”


Yesterday I went to the farm of a woman from the extension service who is retiring from farming sheep. In our (many) conversations via email in which she kindly (and patiently) answered our questions, she also told me that she had some wool sheep for sale. Sam, Bronte and I took a trip to her place to ask (more) questions and to be sure that we were able to herd these particular sheep. My border collies are very good at their jobs, but we have, on occasion, bumped into breeds that confound even my older, wiser, dog, Sam. Fortunately, both young and old collie were able to convince the sheep to take a stroll up to me on the hill. This was good news for everyone. At the end of the afternoon we decided to purchase 2 Black Welsh Mountain and 3 Dorset Cross. They are wool sheep and Kimberly showed me a couple beautiful rugs that they had contributed to. At this moment they are wandering around her fields quite naked as shearing season has come and gone. As I directed the dogs in the pasture it seemed the sheep ran past me quite quickly - I’m pretty sure the nakedness had something to do with it.

Today, with both steely preparedness and giddy anticipation Paul and I put lime pellets on our field to enhance the pasture (formally known as the lawn). Picture it...Paul is driving our ATV with our homemade (think Beverly Hillbillies) wood wagon attached to the back with yours truly standing, precariously in it tossing lime onto the pasture. Sam and Bronte enjoyed leaping in and out of the wagon as we rolled along. With my blue garden gloves on I think we looked rather like a regal royal parade going back and forth. We have no idea if this spreading will actually do any good but we felt very good doing it.

We have mapped out our pastures for rotating grazing and will tackle fencing next.

There continue to be many moments of apprehension joining anticipation. I woke up early with a slightly queasy stomach at the thought of this new stuff. However, as I told my students in their (preparation for the recital, fear is a real part of challenges. It’s important to acknowledge it, even welcome it for a brief visit and then send it on it’s way.

I’m reminding myself that everyone feels the fear in tackling something new and foreign to them and wants desperately to stop, to go back to what feels “normal” to them, but it is the brave of heart who face that fear and simply move forward anyway.

Here we go.

Melissa Perley