Sunday, February 24, 2008

My Worst/Best Day as a Shepherd

Dear Friends,
You know, I have spent my whole career as a writer. I have written radio and television spots, network news pieces and hundreds of freelance magazine and newspaper articles. But I don't have the words to describe how spectacularly bad my day was yesterday.

I don't want to bore you with all the nasty details so I'll summarize:
It took me FOUR HOURS to feed and water all the animals, in the pouring rain, during which time every tiny and enormous thing that could go wrong did. By the time I got home I was completely defeated. I kept thinking "This is just too hard. I can't do this by myself."

When I finally got home I was so deeply cold that I got immediately into a hot bath but I was so deeply tired that I didn't realize I still had my bra and underwear on until I had been in the tub for five minutes. I went straight from the bath to bed, hoping to be able to take a nap for a couple of hours before I had to go out for barn check, but I was so strung out I couldn't fall asleep. I decided to check the etsy store, the blog and ravelry group to see if there was anything that needed my immediate attention. That's when I found this, posted by Glassneedles to the ravelry group:

"Please remember the name is “Community Supported Agriculture”. This group can be very important to our investment. We might not be able to stop in to help with the chores but our dsicussions might let Susan know we haven’t forgot her."

and this, posted by Jenibug:
"You are a hit Susieshepard and your blog is great."

And then I read through the email I keep on my desktop in a folder called "Happy Mail" and poured over all of the kind words you've sent me over the last few months. Admonishments to take better care of myself. Notes telling me how proud someone was of my work. Excitement over the birth of our first kid.

I had tears running down my cheeks and I suddenly realized I have a fan club. Surely I am the only shepherd in the world with more than 140 cheerleaders, amazing, successful women (and a few men) that believe in me and think I can do this. It may sound silly, but it was a revelation to me. Needless to say, my day did a fast 180.

Thank you. I don't say it enough. Thank you for believing in me and what I'm doing.

This morning I woke up to skies as sunny as my new attitude. I spent the whole day feeding, watering and hanging out with the animals and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Watering the animals became infinitely easier today thanks to the invention of the wheel. I had been carrying 5 five-gallon buckets of water the 1/8 from the truck to the pen since they moved to Felix Neck a couple of weeks ago when I got the brilliant (if belated) idea to use a cart. My local feed store didn't have any in stock but they ordered one for me. In the meantime, I borrowed one from my friend Mark Defeo and it may very well have changed my life.

Isn't is beautiful? I used it today to haul 85 gallons of water. That's 700 pounds of water!

I spent most of the day just being with the flock. I sat down in the pasture and scratched ears, petted dogs and took pictures. It was heavenly. Here are some photos I took.

Beatrice and her kid Peppermint Patty

Sicily, one of our Cormo ewes

Jack, one of last year's bottle babies. Jack is my favorite goat of all time. Next year he will be our breeding buck.


Cosmo, one of the Babydoll Southdowns. Cosmo gave me a scare this week when I got to the field to feed and found him flipped over on his back. This can be deadly for sheep. If they are flipped over for too long and can't right themselves they will stop breathing. Cosmo doesn't have the best fleece but he was one of my first four sheep and he is a love bug.

Cini and Sabine

Buck Fifty looking handsome.

I also spent some time talking to people who read the article in the Vineyard Gazette and came to see the flock. Then I headed back over to the kidding barn for some time with the nannies and kids.

We should start seeing some new babies tonight or tomorrow. I will send out an email as soon as one is born. In the meantime, start thinking of at least six more herb names. I suspect we will have a couple of sets of twins but I'm trying to keep my expectations low.

Things are shaping up well for the Martha's Vineyard Fiber Fest on April 19th. I am planning a couple of special "shareholders only" events and surprises, so I'll need to know how many of you are planning to come when we get a little closer. Please invite your family and friends, and any knitters you run into. I really want the other fiber farms on the Island to have the opportunity to show off what they do and we need to get the word out.

There is a thread about ride sharing on the ravelry fan club group but if you aren't a ravelry member yet and you need transportation from Boston or NYC, shoot me an email and I'll post for you.

Have a great week and check back here occasionally for mini-updates. And please email me if you have any questions you don't want to post here. Your emails mean the world to me.


NOTE TO MARGARET AND EDWINA: I tried to answer your email but my emails to your address keep bouncing back! Do you have a new email address? If so please send it to me.


Writer bug said...

So sorry you had such a crap day! I wonder if there's something in the stars--my weekend has been emotionaly draining as well, and I haven't gotten done any of the things I needed to. I'm hoping to have a change of disposition like you did! I am definitely a proud member of your fan club! I hope you get another nice bath--sans underwear--soon!

Quirkles said...

Susie. I love what you do. I'm sorry you had a bad day the other day, but thrilled that e-mails and notes from some of my fellow fans have cheered you. Being a part of your CSA team and reading your blogs means so much to me and is really enriching my life. I think I've found a way to make it to the festival, at least until 1pm. I really can't wait! I'm excited to meet you and all the gorgeous and wonderful animals!

SeDress said...

oh the irony: finally at age 58, creaky old bones and all, I get to be a cheerleader!
I've told a lot of people about the fiber CSA. One recurrent comment is:'But how do you know how much yarn you're going to get? and what happens if....'. My response is usually just a shrug of shoulders and the phrase "You pays your money and you takes your chances". The real answer is hard to explain to some people. It's not just buying yarn. It's supporting someone who's working hard to make something wonderful happen. It's watching the yarn grow. It's seeing the pictures and reading your blog posts and realizing just how much work you are putting into this project. And thinking about how much we take for granted when we walk into a store, plunk down some cash and walk out with a hank of yarn. It's buying a story that's being written as we read it.
Now go get a hot cup of tea, and then get some rest!!
[borage, sweet cicely, rosemary, angelica, tarragon, sorrel, tansy, cowslip, primrose]

Maggie said...

We love you Susie, oh yes we doooo
We love you Susie, and we'll be true.

Sorry your day was so cruddy to begin with. If it helps, it thrills me no end that I "own" a wee little piece of your wonderful goats, sheep, chickens, dogs, and baby critters. I felt like a proud parent when I saw the first baby pics :)

If I'm ever back on the East Coast, I'll come by and help muck out stalls--it won't be the first time!

--Deb said...

Oh, Susan, I'm so sorry you had such a miserable day, but glad that we could do our tiny bit to help.

And, no, I've never been a cheerleader before, either! Rah! Rah! Rah!

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a bummer of a morning. But I think for me, reading about your journey and how you turned into such a positive day speaks volumes about what an incredible person you are! I am planning on coming to MV for the shearing fest! I'm 99% sure. Once I make my reservation, I will shoot you and email.


ps - what about Marjoram....sage...rosemary...

Amy said...

my mom, Glassneedle, is simply the best mom ever! Glad some of her good-mommy vibes rubbed off on you!!

themamajama said...

Oh, Susie
I wish I was close enough to give you a hug.
I would like to expand on the CSA concept. I was told this concept originated in Japan - it is "to give a face to the farmer". We don't need your portrait - your words provide the best description of who you are.
I am chairing a major fund raising event on April 19th so I have to regretfully decline you invitation.
You will probably have to contend with more rainy days but please remember we appreciate everything you do.
Thank you for all you do to make this possible.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the post, and for all the work you do. And for those pictures! Those babies are so sweet.

Spice names? Cumin, Cinnamon, Ginger, Oregano, Pepper, Corriander, Sesame, Anise, Paprika


Joan said...

Susie - add my rah, rah, rah to the group. You are amazing and so are your animals. Glad you got your day turned around. Although your cheerleaders can't be seen they're all behind you in spirit.

mira said...

Bad days can be so difficult. We all have them and it's tough to shake but I'm glad your mood has turned around.

I'm so grateful to be part of this group in any small way and can't wait until I can get up there and meet and greet you and the flock in person. You are an awesome and inspiring woman, never forget that!

Jan said...

Wow, I'm sorry that you had such an awful day, but it's wonderful that the "extended family" that you've built up was able to help cheer you up.

Okay, herb names. How about lavender, rosemary, verbena or chervil? Those sound fairly "name-like" to me, although there's also catnip, borage, lovage, dill, coriander, oregano, tarragon and parsley.

Leah B said...

Susan, I can certainly sympathize with you. This winter seems like it will never be over. I am slogging around in foul mud, 30 mile an hour winds, frozen everything, slick ice,
I'm not getting an younger, and I'm tired!
But any day now, the grass will be so green it hurts your eyes, daffodils will be shooting up, life returns in abundance until it takes your breath away.
then, it will be hot.

Susan said...

You all are so amazing. Thank you for all your kindness. I got a dozen email from members who aren't inclined to post here too.
(Christine, you deserve a fan club of your own. I'll be the first member.)
I know I've said this before but it bears repeating: I had no idea how much support I would get from you all when I started this project, how much I would come to rely on your emails and visits.
I thought writing the farm update would be a chore. Instead I plan my week around it, saving up little details and stories to share with you. It is amazing to have group of friends who are actually interested in what goes on around here! Most of my other friends get a glazed look in their eyes when I talk about hoof trimming and such. (Of course, when the babies are born it's a whole different story!)
I had intended for you to get to know the flock but you have really come to know me in a very real way.