Each summer for many years, we’ve hosted adults and children who want to meet our sheep. Children and sheep are a natural combination; children generally love animals, and sheep are gentle and can be fed graham cracker pieces without worrying about nipped fingers. Besides, we find that many of these young kids grow into teenage volunteer farm helpers. Once our own children had grown up and moved out, it was nice to still have kids here on the farm — even if they did go home at the end of the day!
So when I got a call a few weeks ago from one of those kids, I was really happy to hear from him. Michael occasionally came to fish our stocked pond, and he attended our church until he graduated from high school about ten years ago. He was calling me to find out whether we still had fish in the pond and whether we would mind if he came out “for old times’ sake” to throw in a line and find out. Although I secretly hoped he would come while I was here so we could catch up a bit, I told him I hoped he felt welcome enough to come whenever it worked for him, whether Rick and I were home or not.
Today Michael took me up on my offer and brought his fishing poles. Even better, he brought his younger sister too. The last time I saw Nicole, she was a baby just learning to walk — now she is an eleven-year-old young lady. Michael, all grown up, was looking forward to teaching his sister to fish and hoping that she would catch her first fish in our pond. The fish did not disappoint! It turns out that although we no longer seem to have any largemouth bass, we still have sunfish, and they caught several.
As they finished up, I offered to take them to see the flock, both the adult ewes and ewe lambs, who are currently in the Fire Circle Pasture. I grabbed a couple of packages of graham crackers, and we headed along our southern roadside boundary towards the sheep. Today was a beautiful summer day in Iowa — not too hot at about 80 degrees, with bright blue skies dotted with pristine white clouds. As we neared the sheep, I could see that most had found nice lounging places under the big trees in that field. Most were cudding or napping in the shade, surrounded by friends — a true pastoral scene!
As we approached, I mentioned to our visitors that the sheep really love graham crackers and would come running if they heard me call or saw the box in my hands. Michael and Nicole seemed a bit surprised at this, so as we approached the gate to the field, I began to call the girls, letting them know that we were bringing treats. With my first call, sixty-five heads perked up and turned in our direction. Michael exclaimed “No way!” as, within moments, all sixty-five ewes got to their feet and ran toward us across the lush pasture!
When we entered the field, the sheep swarmed us. Those who are not motivated by graham crackers soon lost interest, which was a good thing — it’s hard for the interested ewes to reach the cookies when they have to fight off the rest of the flock! Eventually we ran out of crackers and the sheep returned to their usual routine, some going back to lie in the shade while others went to graze. As we stood and talked about sheep, goats, wool, and various other related topics, only the “regulars” remained with us: January, Olive, and Patience. January stood still while Nicole rubbed her face and neck. Olive found that if she put her head against Michael’s hand, he would occasionally rub her face without even thinking about it. Patience was in it for the crackers and eventually left to find a patch of clover, only returning when we began to walk away. I think she hoped for one final round of her favorite treat, but by that time, I knew that they’d all had enough!
Today was a lovely day at Peeper Hollow Farm — a bit of a walk down Memory Lane combined with some peaceful flock time. It doesn’t get much better than that!