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Keeping Sheep | The Accidental Shepherdess

Keeping Sheep | The Accidental Shepherdess
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There were cows and calves aplenty on their dairy farm when Diane Young was a girl growing up in South Albany, Vt., but for some reason her baby brother Alan had his heart set on getting a lamb.

Seaver, the Ram. Diane calls him "The Greeter"

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
Seaver, the Ram. Diane calls him “The Greeter”

One day their father relented and brought home the pined for lamb, but it was white, and not black, as Alan had wanted, and so Diane, scarcely 10 years old became its caretaker, bottle-feeding it throughout the summer.

waiting for grain

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
waiting for grain

Later, after Diane was grown and married and living about 10 miles from her parent’s home farm, a similar opportunity arose. One night a neighbor phoned and asked would she take some bottle babies. “Well, I suppose,” she replied, and a day later she was farming again—feeding her three new charges every four hours.

tending the yearling ewes

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
tending the yearling ewes

Twenty- six years later she remains a shepherdess, and presently her flock of Dorset tops off at about 100.

the lambing chart

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
the lambing chart

Each November 1st she introduces her ram to the adult ewes, and starting about March 28th in the midst of sugaring, lambing season commences.

For a few years, after the lambs are weaned in mid- June, (a noisy affair, as the shut off lambs bleat mercilessly for milk), I’ve driven over to the Young’s to buy and load up three or four wooly lawnmowers.

This ewe disowned her lambs so twice a day Diane helps them nurse

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
This ewe disowned her lambs so twice a day Diane helps them nurse

This morning I joined Diane for her morning chores as she fed handsome Seaver, the ram, named for the road and brook near her childhood farm. Then I trotted after her as she tended to the group of yearling ewes, and then out to the pen of 60 lambs, and then I tagged along as she led them into pasture. Afterwards we ventured way out to a far pasture to check on the ewes, who are “on vacation.”

headed for pasture

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
headed for pasture

Watching over the field Diane says, “Yesterday there was a deer just lying in shade.  I stood on the knoll to see it, at first all I could see were its two ears sticking up. She just laid there, taking in the day, and finally she got up and bounded into the woods.”

Pasture!

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
Pasture!

The ewes are fanned out, avidly grazing; they barely notice us.

Diane Young

Photo/Art by Julia Shipley
Diane Young

“These lucky creatures,” I think, as Diane and I head back to work.

Please Note: This article was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

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Julia Shipley

Author:

Julia Shipley

Biography:

Julia Shipley is the author of three poetry chapbooks and most recently, a prose collection Adam's Mark: Writing from the Ox House, supported by a 2010-11 Vermont Arts Council Creation Grant and published by Plowboy Press. Her Vermont Rural Life blog showcases the people, land and community of her unique corner of Vermont-- a mix of mountains and fields, daisies and delphiniums, Holstein cows and eight point Bucks, snowmobilers and cross-country skiers, newcomers and old-timers all making their way in one of the least populated places on the east coast
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2 Responses to Keeping Sheep | The Accidental Shepherdess

  1. Lori Pedrick June 19, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

    Wonderful and beautiful photos Julia!

    • Julia June 23, 2014 at 8:31 am #

      Thank You, Lori!

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