Our modern times are filled with technology that promises to make our work more efficient so that we will have more time for what matters. Unfortunately I have come to realize over the decades that this technology only seems to free up time for more work. At a certain point in my life, and after much soul-searching, I gave up my office job and began to work with sheep full time — and it has made all the difference for me.
I will admit that I am a big fan of technology. My barn records are kept in a computer program dedicated for that purpose. I use a digital camera to record our lambs and a tablet to interface with the program on the computer. Most of my interface with customers is via email and text. All of our invoicing and 99% of our payments occur online.
Yet there is a percentage of my work that must, by definition, occur out among the sheep. And that’s honestly what I live for. No matter how much physical labor is involved in what I do, I always stop before I leave the barn or pasture. This pause in my day can last mere seconds, or I may spend a half hour or more. Regardless, I stop and look over the flock around me.
This time spent observing the flock is invaluable. The pause is the only way to recognize hidden illness or injury — it’s the subtle change in behavior that gives me a hint that something is amiss. If I didn’t stop to look, those subtle signs could quickly turn to tragedy.
Stopping my activity and looking over the flock also serves a more selfish purpose. Although I’m concerned about the welfare of my flock, this pause is also for my own well-being. Standing among the ewe flock and listening to 40-50 ewes calmly chewing and swallowing their fresh allotment of hay is incredibly peaceful. There is a satisfaction and calm that descends both over the flock and over me as well.
As my days become more hectic, I extend my pause with the flock. Sometimes I simply stand and watch and absorb the calm. Other days, knowing I have more time, I sit on the end of a feeder and wait for my sheep-friends to leave their hay bales and come to spend a moment at my side. Some look for treats, others want a quick scratch under the chin, while others want a full head and neck rub. The young lambs suspiciously watch the older gals come to me. I can see in their faces that they do not yet understand. But in another few months, some of them will be coming to my side too.
Eventually I must get up and move on. Duty calls; there is much work to do. But as I leave the barn, I am filled with the peace of the flock. Bit by bit over the next 24 hours, I’ll lose that sense of calm and begin looking forward to the next day’s visit. It is this daily piece of serenity that keeps me sane in what can be a crazy world.