Valentine's is this week. As I was feeding the sheep this morning, I thought about all the sheep we've had in the last 17 years and I thought the story of Hilza and Jeffery would be nice to share for the holiday.
In the year 2000, our good friends and neighbors decided they could no longer care for their flock of mixed breed sheep, and asked us if we would like to have them. That is how sheep came back to Old Home Farm – my grandfather Felix having raised sheep many years before. It was a good flock to learn on, and consisted of a variety of breeds. Hilza was a Romney ewe and the lead sheep. Often it is the oldest or most independent ewe that becomes the lead. And Hilza was very independent. Our ram at the time was a Merino-Suffolk cross named Gregory (he was born on my husband's birthday). He sired many good lambs, but Hilza remained barren.
We assumed she was just too old to lamb, and Greg wanted to get rid of her saying she was a "drain on the grain." But I loved Hilza and insisted on keeping her. I teased him and said she was just picky like I had been. Greg and I met in high school during our sophomore year. I had never dated anyone, even though I had been asked out. I had an ideal in my head of what kind of a man I wanted and none of the boys fit the bill. Until Greg came along. It took him until our senior year to ask me out, then there was never anyone else for either of us. And, after 38 years of marriage, I can safely say that is still true.
One day a friend of ours asked if we would keep her Jacob ram Jeffery for a while so she could work on his paddock, strengthening fences and planting new grass. We agreed, and Jeffery came to stay a while. He was a beautiful Jacob ram with only one set of horns and with a very sweet nature. We put him in the front paddock so he could see the sheep, but not fight with Gregory, who was very territorial. (I never took a picture of Jeffery, but I did find a stock photo that looks very much like him.)
One evening, as we were putting the sheep into the barn lot for the night, Hilza refused to come. She stood by Jeffery's paddock and pawed at the fence. She would look at us, bleat, and paw the fence. I told Greg “I think Hilza wants in there!” So Greg opened the gate and in Hilza ran. She stayed with Jeffery the entire time he was our guest and seemed to mourn him when he went home.
That spring, Hilza gave birth to twins, one a little ewe an exact duplicate of Jeffery. The other was a ram that looked like her. I named them Jillian and Christopher. They grew into fine young sheep, and Hilza never had any more lambs. She had found her one true love, and no other ram was every good enough for her after that. Some of us just know what we want, and nothing else will do. Happy Valentine's.