Grit Blogs > Ag and Culture

Nine Lessons of a Shepherd Intern

Number 9 – It is possible to back up a large truck with a sheep cage in the back down a very narrow dirt road without bringing harm on truck, person, animal or environment (you do end up with sweaty palms though).
 

Backing up the truck 


Number 8 – Setting up electric fence in parched, rocky earth takes a long time, a mallet, a good hat and some personal fortitude.
 

 


Number 7 – A tired shepherd and a determined intern can lift a large, sick ewe up a hill and into a truck – just barely.

Number 6 – An unexpected ladybug colony at first appears creepy, but makes your heart smile when you realize they are gentle ladybugs and not giant, pinching ants.

 


Number 5 – Blackberry bush stalks continue to reach out to rip your skin and clothes to shreds, even after sheep have relieved them of their leaves.

Number 4 – Crowding sheep remind me of what it feels like at the Outside Lands concert.

 

 
 
More than one similarity to sheep


Number 3 – Very important – DON'T open the gate unless you know the plan or Dan the shepherd tells you it's ok.

Number 2 – If you open said gate without a plan or ok and sheep make a run for the hills, two clever border collies and a confident shepherd can fix your mistake pretty quick.

Number 1 – Farming is an incredibly difficult profession that at times offers very little reward.

This weekend felt like a dose of reality to mix in with my idealized farming ambitions. Farming is physically, mentally and emotionally taxing and doesn't always provide the financial return desired for time, effort and labor put in. I can't help wondering, am I cut out for this? Can I be successful at this? Should I scale down my aspirations?

By late summer most small farmers in this area are run ragged from a long, hot season of watering, feeding, protecting and harvesting whatever their farm is producing. We can show our support for them by buying from them at farmers markets, sure, but what are some more ways we can show support and appreciation for our local farmers? The Sacramento Natural Foods Co-op has a program to raise money for local producers and to preserve future farmland; it's called Once Farm at a Time. If any farmers are reading, what are some ways in which you would appreciate support from your community?

 

twinoaksfarmer
9/16/2011 9:56:01 AM

Callie, you have jumped with both feet into a successful farming operation. Don't give up. My sister and I are starting a farm with chickens and goats, but we are easing into it...beginning with young chicks and kids when we get them so that we aren't overwhelmed with the workload, like it seems you are. We don't have income right off the bat, but we will be getting to know our chickens and goats personalities, feeding them and caring for them before we get to the heavy work stages of their lives. After we are used to the everyday workload, we will be able to take on the additional chores of milking and gathering eggs as the flock and herd grow into their new stages of life. Also, when the farm is yours and the dream is yours, you tend to be able to put up with alot more pain and suffering. Hang in there.


nebraska dave
9/6/2011 9:21:02 PM

Callie, farming is a lot work with no days off. Sheep don't take a holiday just because the calendar says so. My Dad once told me that farmers have to buy retail, sell whole sale, and try to make a living. It seemed kind of backwards to me but it's true. I always thought that I would like to be a farmer because, well, I just liked driving the tractors. Once I got a little older Dad bought a herd of milk cows. I still think it was to educate me as to just how much work farming was and that it wasn't all about driving tractors. Mucking out the barn stalls and chicken coop was not one of my favorite things either. It worked as I decided in High School to purse a career in technology which was in it's infancy in the middle 1960s. I never really lost the love of gardening but not as a living. Have a great sheep herding day.