Cappers Farmer

Let’s Bring Back Bartering

Finally! The temperature here in southwestern Wisconsin rose up into the 50s! It was a wonderful day to enjoy being outside, so we helped Graham, a neighboring shepherd, and his wife, Margaret, who also operate a B&B on their lovely farm, to vaccinate their pregnant ewes. They raise Scottish Blackface sheep, as well as a Suffolk cross (can’t recall exactly what they’re crossed with) variety. These are good sized sheep, and feisty as all get out when they’re being wrangled and flipped onto their bums so they’ll stay still for the vaccination. That plus the pregnancy weight, and it was quite a workout for Bryan and Graham! I wish I could have taken pictures of the process, but my camera battery died the minute I turned it on, so I left it home to recharge.

Once we returned to Farm on the Hill, our 9-month-old Cockapoo puppy, Zoe, got introduced to a smell she will come to know very well once Bryan’s sheep join us in September! She couldn’t get enough of Bryan’s sweatshirt with its lanolin smell, plus the other “natural” smells one picks up when one vaccinates around 60 sheep!

My job was the easiest, by far … Bryan and Graham wrangled and flipped the ewes, Margaret gave the injection, and I colored the newly vaccinated ewe’s head with purple chalk so we’d know which ones were done. My barn coat absorbed a bit of that chalk as the ewes jostled and crowded around in the pen! Zoe enjoyed sniffing these new farm smells, so much!

Margaret served us a lovely lunch of sandwiches, fruit salad and tea, and then she “paid” us for our help in the best way I could have asked for … she offered us a dozen fresh eggs from their flock of layers! I’ve been wishing for some fresh eggs for the last week, so it was wonderful to receive these. They also loaned us a couple of books that they felt would be the most beneficial for Bryan at this point in time, and talked with us for over an hour about sheep and shepherding.

We don’t know for sure, but I would guess Graham and Margaret are somewhere near 70 years of age, and they’ve been working with sheep for many decades. They will be a fantastic resource for Bryan as he goes through his first year with sheep on his farm. We are so grateful to have met them, and for this new friendship!

I love our rural community here, and I love the way neighbors work together to accomplish tasks that would just be overwhelming if they had to be done alone. I look forward to being able to thank someone who helps us out with a job by giving them a delicious, pastured chicken from our freezer, or some lamb chops, or a dozen eggs. I’ve read heartwarming stories of times gone by where the doctor’s services would be paid for with chickens, or where the dentist’s payment would be covered with a season’s worth of free haircuts, or some other service. What a shame that doesn’t happen more often today. Everyone has something of value that they can offer to the community around them. Especially in these unsure economic times, I think all of us should be thinking outside of the financial box when it comes to helping a neighbor. Money isn’t the only thing in this world that should be viewed as valuable! There’s little else more valuable than one generation sharing its hard-won wisdom with the next, up-and-coming generation. Except fresh-gathered eggs, of course.

  • Published on Mar 12, 2014
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