Bringing the sheep back into the safety of the back pasture is both nightly chore (many steps to assure this) and a delight (time for mutual appreciation and thanks). Tonight was no exception, save for the fact that tomorrow we welcome four new flock members. That, on this little farm, is a very big deal.
Whatever vision I had for this little farm when we first signed the papers that made it ours, has shifted and morphed with time and what time has a way of doing: changing everything. The one constant has been sheep – the desire to bring sheep back to these hilly pastures to graze, clear our acreage, and recreate memories of the Cotswolds and the Lake District.
My first flock arrived as babies – just-weaned lambs from the farms of two shepherds I trusted and revered. They taught me everything I know about actually being a shepherd, and somehow we’ve made it through two harsh winters, and the gentler seasons in between. There have been many challenges, and many a time when I’ve questioned what the hell I’m doing even having a flock of sheep in the first place.
My flock, however, never seem to question me. I am their shepherd – they just expect that I will care for them, and they have faith in me because, I guess, what other option do they have? So, even on those days when I have the least faith in myself, their trust alone carries me through.
This evening, we gathered together before nightfall as we usually do. The sun had set, and southbound geese were crossing the lilac sky calling to each other with urgency: winter is almost here, after all. It was cold, and the wind whipped around with a bite to it. One by one, my sheep sauntered by for a chin scratch and a nuzzle. They seemed to sense that I needed the extra reassurance: good shepherd, I imagined them saying, we’ve taught you well for the new lambs arriving tomorrow. You’ve got this.