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Who are the Farmers?

Posted 8/29/2013 6:09am by Julie Hurst / Roy Brubaker.

When I called my neighbors to discuss hiring their sons to do some fence repairs, I got into a conversation with their mother about my life. Upon learning that I did not return to teaching after the girls were born and the farm had grown, my well-meaning neighbor told me she thought is was really important when a woman has a "hubby-farmer" that she be home to support him and her children. Roy isn't really "hubby" at all, I thought, he is actually quit fit. In fact, I thought quite a lot of things in the two seconds it took to say, "Well have them give me a call if they are interested in the job." 

Later that day when I rode up to check on the ewes and ewe lambs, I discovered three unfamiliar rams hanging around the outside of the electro-net looking in at our very sexy flock of ripening ewes.  We've worked hard to select good rams and time our breeding for an early spring lambing and those three eager-looking rams were one thin wire away from foiling our plan. I suspected the rams belonged to another neighbor who had a small flock of Katadin sheep and rode over to ask about them. Angela knew immediately that the three rascal sheep were her yearling ram lambs who escaped recently and she was unable to catch on her own. While she works as a nurse nearby, her husband spends his work week near Philadelphia where his business is located. She was very apologetic and the two of us set out with a bucket of grain to lure her boys home. 

Unfortunately a flock of ewes if far more enticing than a bucket of dry grain and the rams were totally uninterested so we moved to plan two: Mac.  I can work with Mac and Pip but... it isn't pretty.  The plan was to drive the three rams into a corral set up in the pasture till the pickup and trailer could take them home. But the whole plan was ill-conceived, which I realized as soon as I released Mac. Sheep instinctually flock together in the face of a predator and to add to fuel to fire, Mac is not very good at working on a split flock, which is what this essentially looked like to him. So upon releasing Mac, the three ram lambs split up and all found separate, but equally effective ways to run through the electro-net into our flock.  By this time I was really frustrated and angry at myself for not thinking this through more carefully and Mac for not listening to me when I tried to call him back as soon as I saw the problem with the plan. 

So there we were with a torn down fence and a flock of sheep with three young, strapping, ram lambs beginning to socialize.  We didn't have much time but the solution was just revealed to me in my earlier failure.  Isn't that usually how it works? Using Mac we moved the entire flock down into the corral.  Inside a catchment pen had been constructed and thanks to adrenaline and frustration, I was able to catch the three scared Katadin boys and put them into the pen where they stayed till Jimmy (yet another very helpful neighbor) arrived with the livestock trailer.  

It was satisfying to have worked together with Angela and Jimmy to solve a problem before any damage (read breeding) was done and it took me back to my earlier conversation with my other neighbor lady. In her mind I am a "farmer's wife", a support person, not meant to be demeaning to her mind, but not necessarily a decision-maker when it comes to the business of farming.  In my mind I am something quite different.