Although I grew up around agriculture, my mom and immediate family were one to two generations removed. I’m always anxious to discuss food production with my family because they essentially are the target of all fear-based marketing of the industry. We are their only connection to the farm so I feel an obligation to share how we live. My grandfather in particular has always had his interests pique by sheep farming. Until recent years, my gramma & grandpa spent nearly every fall in the UK. He was fascinated by the number of sheep compared to the number of people, loved driving the countryside and running into ovine traffic jams.
A wake-up call
About two years ago I received a disturbing phone call from my mom. My dear, precious 88 year-old grandpa had been put in the hospital for a pacemaker. At the same time my mom was having uncertain health issues, was unable to drive and needed someone with her at all times. My aunt and I tag-teamed-she took care of my mom while I drove 3 hours to be with my grandparents. It was bittersweet trip that I still cherish…from spending hours visiting with my grandpa to going out to supper with my gramma. It reminded me of the week-long trips I spent with them as a child. While I had wished it would have been for different reasons, I am thankful for the time we had together.
During our discussions my grandpa shared that while he is quite accomplished, he still had some items on his bucket list that have yet to be checked off. He was hopeful that the new pacemaker would revive his health and he could continue his bucket list. One item on his list, which was considered unachievable, was to become a sheep farmer. The reality of this happening was pretty slim-they live in a suburban area and had plans to move to an assisted living facility. And, let’s face it, at his age most do not set out to farm.
Fast-forward to last May
With his improved health, Grandpa was approaching his 90th birthday. Not a surprising accomplishment for someone who had retired three times and continues to work a full-time job for his church. He loves his Lord and loves to keep busy so its a perfect combination. He has traveled near and far, acquiring the most unique treasures. He attended college, something that’s rare for their generation and he fought in WWII. After 90 years, three children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, its hard to find something for someone who seems to have it all.
However, it didn’t take long before I remembered that precious conversation we had just a year before. While he didn’t have the means to house or raise sheep, I did. After some convincing of my husband, we purchased two ewes from a dear friend. I snapped a photo, framed it and wrapped the gift. On his 90th birthday, he realized his dream of being a shepherd.
It has been such a fun journey, documenting the growth of his ewe throughout the last year. He has become even more involved that I had expected and we’ve co-purchased a ram in hopes to produce lambs this fall. We all get a kick out of emailing them photos to view on their iPad.
To most, he might not be the ideal sheep farmer, but to him he’s been given an opportunity to realize what seemed like a far fetched accomplishment from his bucket list.