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Ian & Raven raveian@wolston.com 503-394-2021

 

The Education of a New Farmer: Part VII

by Raven OKeefe

Springtime on the farm! Spring is a time of changes and new beginnings for everyone, but nowhere is this more apparent than on the farm. The fields that have been dank mud puddles (when not totally flooded, in which case they're dank lakes) come alive with new grass. There are tiny baby chicks peeping up a storm in their little chick shelter. The sheep lose their grungy-looking old winter wool to the shearers' art, and the ewes fatten up with new life. Soon there are sweet lambies bouncing around the pastures like fluffy popcorn -- wild lamb races, sudden irresistible attacks of the skippies, little fluffballs curled up on their mamas' backs for naptime.

Here on our farm we have two special new beginnings. The first is one many of you already know about: we adopted a puppy from the wonderful folks at Wisconsin Border Collie Rescue! Young miss Chippewa (aka Chip, Chippie, Chippetydoodah, and Chipwillyoustopchewingthat!) came to us on January 28th, and immediately made herself right at home in our pack. She's a wild and crazy girl, bursting with energy, very intelligent (too smart for her own good, often), with a definite mind of her own. Our other dogs vary in their opinions of her so far. Ben, our sheepdog emeritus, is gentle and forbearing with her as he is with all of us. Hope marginally tolerates her (as she does all of us). Moss, our Main Farm Hand, is very indulgent of her, giving her silly "Aw, ain't she the cutest thang!" looks when he thinks no one sees. Kim doesn't much care for her because she sees Chip's arrival as moving her own status one rung lower. JoeKidd, our year-old boy, is delighted because (a) he has someone to play and roughhouse with, and (b) there's now someone the older dogs see as being more obnoxious than he is! The pack has settled into its new configuration now, and all get along with only the occasional scuffle.

Our other new beginning is more personal: Ian and I are having getting married on our farm on April 5th! We're excited, happy, and wondering how we'll be able to take enough time off to have a ceremony. I envision it going something like this... To begin, while our dogs and our guests' dogs wander around snarfing up wedding cake, snacks, and each others' food, our officiating clergyperson (none other than your own Rae Bloomquist!) says a few words about the sanctity of marriage and admonishes us not to mess it up this time. Then we take a break to go out to the barn to feed the bottle-baby lambs, also to see if we can find where the hens have secreted their eggs for the day. Then we tear the house apart trying to find our rings, do a couple loads of laundry, clean up a pile or two of dog poop, and resume the ceremony. I will start a solemn reading from "I Still Miss My Ex-Husband, but My Aim is Improving" until we are interrupted to help a ewe give birth to a lambie who got turned around and is coming out backward. As long as we're out in the barn, we might as well muck out a stall or two and haul the old straw and manure to the compost pile. Then we both have to run in and check our email to see if anyone has any Sheep Thrillz or BC Styleyes emergencies; if so, we box up their orders and the whole wedding party caravans down to the post office before it closes. Since we're in town, we can swing by the ATM to withdraw enough cash for us all to go to the Sunday morning all-community pancake breakfast. Then we go back home to keep getting married. Ian does a solemn reading from "Raising Sheep the Modern Way" until the audience starts to drift off. To get things back on track, Rae then reads some official wedding stuff, we say our vows including but not limited to "You're not the boss of me, but I love you anyway," and exchange rings if we've managed to find them. I go in and fold the laundry and put it away while the rest of the group helps Ian move the sheep across the Nile and into the closer pastures for the night. When that's done, Rae pronounces us spouse and spouse, we sign the legal papers, and we all eat and drink and party until something good comes on cable. All in all, a typical farm wedding.

Wish you all could join us!

-- Raven OKeefe