It’s been almost a year now since our flock matriarch, Zoe, was put down peacefully in our West Pasture. Fifteen years old, she had lived a long, full life and had given us many beautiful daughters, both for our own flock and for other Romney flocks throughout the region. Crippled by severe arthritis, when the temperatures turned colder in late September of last year, I called the vet, and Zoe peacefully went off to the flock on the other side.
We buried her near a small tree in the Fire Circle Pasture, which had always been her favorite resting place in that field. My neighbor came to help me dig with her skid loader, and she left me to finish the job once we were deep enough. I lay Zoe there, knowing that it would eventually grow over with good grazing and that other sheep would frequent that spot. It somehow seemed right that her remains would feed the turf that feeds the flock. It was the circle of life in action.
Since then, we’ve had a number of farm visitors of all ages, coming to see first our young lambs, then the growing lambs, and most recently, the now-large flock of sheep who stampede across our hills, looking for graham crackers from the visitors. Surprisingly, a number of these people have asked about Zoe’s grave —where it’s located and whether they might walk out there to pay their respects. Although I had intended to place a marker at her grave last year, breeding season and the holidays and then lambing season interfered — and Zoe still had no marker. Now nearly a year later, the obvious dirt grave has grown over with grass and weeds, and there is little to show exactly where Zoe lies — but I know. Every time I pass her grave, we talk, just as we always did when I passed her in life. Yes, Zoe’s energy is still here, and I can feel it.
So a few weeks ago, I decided that it was time to get Zoe’s grave marker made. When the flock is in that pasture, several of the sheep have taken over her spot; and just like Zoe used to do, they help keep the grass and weeds short through grazing. I knew that if I added any type of grave marker, it would have to be strong enough that the sheep could use it as a back-scratcher. If it wasn’t tough enough to manage that, it wouldn’t last — Zoe has many sheep visitors over the course of a month, and a post at the grave would invite a good scratch.
As a result, I decided to wood-burn a grave marker. I used a picture of Zoe taken just after she delivered her last lamb, Maisie, when Zoe still felt strong and was an active leader of the flock. After I finished wood-burning the plaque, I soaked both sides with an exterior water sealer and then screwed it to a 2×4″ post, pointed at the bottom to make pounding it into the ground a little easier.
After so many months, the flock is finally beginning to identify a new matriarch. In the early months, it was obvious that the flock was leaderless — and, surprising to me, they seemed perfectly happy to remain so. More recently, however, I am beginning to see certain ewes move the flock forward. Particular girls are stepping up to help in the leadership of the flock. Perhaps in a few weeks, they’ll have come together to support one single ewe as the new matriarch, and I can then report to you whom that might be. Until then, I leave the final decision to those who know best: the ewe flock of Peeper Hollow Farm.