My dad grew up on a dairy farm in Kentucky, and I have great memories of spending a week every summer there. He would walk the fields with us and take us down to the barn when they were milking. It was always a peaceful week with little routine. The pace was slow and relaxing.
Right now I have started leading a Bible study that is called Scouting the Divine; the first part focuses on the many references to sheep in the Bible. I wanted to know more about farm life and particularly sheep. Since sheep were also used for their wool to make clothes during colonial times, I thought learning more about them would help me with my writing.
Last week Clark Mizzel, the owner of Red Fern Farm, took John and me on a tour of his flock of sheep.
Rather than having a sheep dog, he has donkeys to guard his sheep. This is Lucy and her son Dilly Bean. Donkeys have a natural antipathy for canines, such as coyotes, dogs, and foxes, who are predators to sheep. Just their size intimidates coyotes, and they can kill with their hooves. As you can tell, they were both quite curious about me. At one point, Lucy dedided that Dilly Bean was getting too much attention and pushed him away. (I thought donkeys were much taller than this!)
Both of them posed for John’s camera, and here is Dilly Bean by himself.
The Mizzels raise Tunis sheep, originally from Tunisia, hence the name. They were imported to America in 1799. The two characteristics that make them stand out are their cream-colored wool and reddish/brown faces and legs. Twins are born frequently to this breed, and they don’t have horns.
Because sheep have a “flight zone,” they didn’t allow us to get close to them in the field. Clark said he starts talking to them before he enters their pasture, because they have excellent hearing. The zoom on John’s helped bring them closer to us.
The ewes teach their lambs about what not to eat in the fields; lemon grass, switch grass, and horse nettles are poisonous. This flock is grass fed, and there are fifty acres in pasture on this farm. With that much open space, they certainly don’t get bored with their surroundings.
There are portable shelters, as well as trees, in each pasture for their shade. Plenty of water is available, also. Ethel, Lucy, and Carmen are some of the names of the sheep.
As you can see, these sheep are content. Just watching them as they moved peacefully around the pasture and then lay down for a while, it reminded me of that most familiar Psalm 23 with the words of “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures.”
Clark told us that donkeys pick up on routines, and they don’t have a flight zone. I believe I can attest to the fact that they are quite curious, also, and like to be petted. In fact, Lucy pushed Dilly Bean away from me at one point; she wanted all the attention herself. Another thing Clark pointed out was that donkeys can be quite cooperative if they so choose.
They welcomed us into this pasture.
The sheep’s wool is made into blankets in a mill on Prince Edward Island, and they can be bought at the farm. You will enjoy looking at their web site at www.redfernfarms.com.
These sheep were more curious about us in their close quarters. In fact, the brown one came charging out to welcome us. Their names are Ricky and Fred.
Why they were less skittish than the ones in the large pasture, I don’t know. But this one enjoyed posing for John’s camera. Clark was kind enough to share some small bags of wool with me; some from the lambs and the adults. They are both soft and thick, but the lamb’s wool is softer.