Regular readers might have noticed that, although I have historically been as predictable as the sunset with my blogs every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, I’ve recently been a bit forgetful, sometimes posting late and other times missing the post entirely. There’s a reason for that, which until now I haven’t been ready to share. I mentioned in a previous blog that Rick and I had been looking for some time for a home for our retirement. As it turns out, we recently bought a place in Virginia (much closer to our son and his family, who live in North Carolina) and closed in early December. Because it requires some work that is more easily done while it sits empty, we’ve been spending nearly half of our time working there, trying to get some of the to-do list accomplished before I am tied to Iowa for shearing, skirting, and eventually lambing. The return to Iowa from our most recent trip happened just two days ago, and we feel that it is now time to make it official: we will be retiring to Virginia later this year. Exactly when is still evolving, but a move is coming.
For us, this news is very exciting, a little sad, and more than a little scary. We’ve called Iowa home for over twenty years and feel very comfortable here. We have made good friends that we’ll hate to leave, and our lives are well rooted in this fertile Iowa soil. Besides that, I entered the world of sheep here, so I know Iowa predators and have Iowa contacts. Virginia seems a whole new world in comparison, and it’s a bit intimidating. Although we moved many times during our younger years, we’ve never moved dogs, miscellaneous barn cats, llamas, and a flock of sheep. We are entrenched here, with over twenty years’ worth of “stuff” to weigh us down. Honestly, I can only think about the move in small increments — too much more than that can send me into a panic.
The home we’ve purchased is admittedly perfect for us. Its twenty-one acres sit atop a hilly knob and have beautiful mountain views from the house in nearly all directions. Although we made the decision to scale back our flock a bit for the move (more on that in future blogs), we have enough acreage there to graze a reduced flock and to have someone cut our own hay, which will be a big savings for the winter months! We look forward to taking our morning coffee sitting on a pair of red rocking chairs on the big front porch and enjoying sunsets from the even bigger back deck that will overlook the grazing flock.
Although my focus for the past six weeks or so has been on the house in Virginia, I now need to bring my attention back to Iowa. We shear our ewes in just over a week, and shortly after that, we will welcome our first new lambs. There is no longer time for thirteen-hour one-way drives and long days of painting that continue well past midnight. I now need to be focused here in Iowa for the next few months, and I know from past experience that it will take all of my energy. From this point forward, I’m in charge of Iowa and Rick is taking care of Virginia — at least until the first of April, when all of our lambs will have arrived and I can once again take a bit of time away!
There are many things that will need attention at our new place before we can seriously consider a move. Right now there is little perimeter or internal fencing on the Virginia acreage, and what exists is barbed wire, a disaster for coated sheep! We can’t move them until we know we can keep them in place. We’ll need to have all of the existing fencing pulled up and replaced by high-tensile or woven wire fencing — at least in enough areas that our sheep won’t be wandering over the entire countryside! There is currently no barn or outbuilding — and if we intend on lambing next year, we’ll need some type of structure (not so much for the ewes, but for the comfort of both the lambs and me!). We’ve made contact with both a fencing guy and a contractor for a pole building, but both of these will need to wait for better weather before much real work can be done — and then we’ll be competing with others who are looking to hire the same people. Timing will be everything.
As I go about my work here in Iowa, I’ve been starting to think about how to accomplish the coming move. Because our retirement place has been a long time coming, I’ve had time to consider the best time of year to move the flock — between the end of May and the middle of September. During these months, the lambs are no longer so small that transport in a trailer would risk their well-being, and the rest of the flock will be in a low-risk period with no pregnancies to lose. As a result, we will likely move the sheep at some point this summer. Honestly, that’s as far as I’ve taken those thoughts — I have way too much going on to look ahead any further!
I know there are a lot of questions out there — and admittedly, I have quite a number of my own. As I keep telling Rick: it will all come together at its own pace; we just need to give it time. Meanwhile, I’ve suddenly come to realize that each of our events here in Iowa will now be our last: our last ewe shearing on January 20th and our last Iowa lambing beginning in mid-February, among other coming milestones. It is both sad and exciting. It is the closing of one chapter and the beginning of a new one — a new chapter that makes me want to peek ahead at some points and put the book down at others. Regardless, the ball is rolling and we need to just hang on. The one thing we know is that this ride will eventually end in Virginia!