Rams We Have Loved: The Story of How I Came to Love the Unpredictable
I used to hate sheep. A lot.
Growing up, my dad rented some neighbouring land from a family that owned a farm two doors down, but lived in the city. They always kept a collection of sheep and would come up a couple times a week to look in on them and putter around the farm. As dad had always maintained a strong, neighbourly relationship with them, we would keep an eye out on the sheep when they weren't there. I have many not so fond memories of chasing these sheep all over hell's half acre and back because they realized a gate had been left open. I helped my dad with early lambs in cold weather, where neither of us really knew what we were doing. One summer, 3 of them got into the fresh alfalfa field, ate so much that they bloated and unfortunately died(one of them even being unceremoniously humped by the ram POST mortem). Oh yeah, those times were greeeeeeat.
On the home farm, we did not have any livestock, or even fences for that matter. Dad grew up first on a ranch out in Moosejaw, Sask., and then on a small dairy farm just outside of Keene, Ont. and had had his fill of cows and livestock, so when he and mum bought the farm, it would be strictly cash-crop(growing various crops to sell directly to market or the local elevator).
Plants are easy. Plants don't run away when a gate is left open. They don't gorge themselves on fresh alfalfa, bloat and die. They don't have their babies in a snowbank, in the middle of a blizzard in January and then walk off because who really has time for that. There are a whole lot more 'they dont's' that make cash-cropping a good way of life as far as farming goes. There's a lot of risks too, but that's another story for another time.
And so this is how I was raised farming. I LOVE plants. I love plants so much that while studying Canadian Studies at Trent University, I did an unofficial minor in Botany/Biology. They are predictable. You can easily anticipate what environment they need to germinate, what conditions, nutrients, light concentrations, etcetera they'll need to become the biggest and best they can. They are predictable and I love that.
SHEEP ARE NOT PREDICTABLE.
David's first ram he ever owned was this stunning Suffolk fellow named Clarence. If there's ever such a thing as a 'heart sheep', he and a sweet speckled-faced ewe by the name of Belle, would be it for David. I think it was our second or third date; David took me to his barn to meet the sheep(there's some real country romance for ya's!). It was here I met the regally poised Clarence, as he sauntered over to us to see if we had any grain we may indulge him with. Clarence's attitude and swagger were unassuming; he knew David was the bringer of the snacks and chin scratches, and he was just fine with that. Likewise, it was clear from the way that David spoke to him and about the 'girls', that he loved them the way I love my plants.
But sheep are NOT predictable.
Over the next few years, David and I purchased another flock of sheep and with them came a new ram, named Rambo. Where Clarence held the grace and poise of an old Scottish gentleman, Rambo's looks left one... wanting. He was a dopey guy with one horn, oddly enough in the middle of his head like a unicorn. However, he got his job done and quite well I might add. He and Clarence actually reached a mutual level of respect and spent a couple good seasons as 'homeboys' in the barn.
That was, until CHUCK came along. Chuck, more formally known as Charles, was a purebred, registered Charolais Ram from out west. David took him to the Fenelon Falls Fair that year where he won 1st prize in his class... actually on a default for the other ram, but we won't hold that against him. For all his fancy papers and what not, he was totally out of his element when he rolled into the barn with Clarence and Rambo. We figured for sure that the dream team, would have 'covered'(bred) all the girls and Chuck would be left in their dust, but low and behold about 5 months later, there was a surprisingly large group of pink eared, Charolais lookin' lambs launching themselves around the barnyard come that next spring.
These 3 rams did well for us, producing literally hundreds of lambs, but they soon made way for Eugene.
Remember how I said sheep are unpredictable??? EUGENE was unpredictable.
In the spring of 2013, David and I bought our farm and were finally able to have all of our livestock in one location instead of renting barns here and there and having everyone spread out. Clarence, Rambo and Chuck had since moved on and we were in need of a new ram. I can't remember where Eugene came from, all I know is where he was going and that was anywhere but where he should have been.
You see, Eugene liked to jump. He could clear gates like a horse, front feet tucked up, arse wigglying with wooly joy as he boldly went where no sheep could dare to go: out the barn door, up on the back lawn and oh yes, right up on the back deck. Eugene's escapes were such a hoot, that my class of grade 8s at the time tried to convince me to put a live-feed go-pro on him, and we'd be able to call it SHEEP cam, and watch his adventures all day long. He was a good ram; friendly and not aggressive, and one hell of a lawn mower, but alas... unpredictable.
Since Eugene we've had a slew of one-season boys: Deacon, Duncan MuttonHead and Watson. All unpredictable, wooly arsed fellas. And the most unpredictable part of them...I've loved them all.
You see, sheep are unpredictable if you don't take the time to get to know them. They are skittish, initially untrusting and totally devoted to 'flock' mentality. Where one goes, they will all go... but not always. When you take the time to slow down and let them come to you, they are inquisitive animals who can make you laugh in the simplest ways.
Clarence loved David, and it was so clear that the feeling was reciprocated. David would walk into the yard and Clarence would leave whatever he was eating, whichever ewe he was wooing, to come over and check out 'his boss'. He knew David's voice and would respond when called. It took me a bit to understand this, to see that 'a dumb sheep' could become more, but I certainly get it now.
Rams have a quick turn over on farms, it's just the way of it. But if they are good they will help you build your flock and fill your barn with so much 'unpredictability' you'll start to question why you ever disliked them at all.
I love plants, but they don't come when you call their names. I love plants, but they don't let lean against you, while you huddle down in the corner of a pen and have a good cry because it's been a hard day of just 'life'. I love plants, but they don't give you stories to laugh about years after they've gone.
And now as Georgia begs almost daily to 'work on her 4-H lamb" (a wee ewe she picked out that I begrudgingly catch and then put a halter on, for her to 'walk' around the yard) and Sawyer hops into the lamb pen to 'Wuv his Wambies', I know I am right to love the unpredictable.