Wool Ranching

04.9.2015

My wife, Sacha, and I are fortunate to have a small acreage here in the Comox Valley. It is a great home for our horses and our donkey.A year ago, I made a pitch to Sacha.

“Let’s buy some sheep and try farming,” I said.

Sacha looked at me quizzically. “Are you nuts? Farming is hard work and we are already busy enough.”

I decided to sweeten my proposal. “Could I have some sheep if I build you a new tack room for your horse gear?” 

“OK that would be nice,” she replied. “But are you sure you want sheep?”

“Oh yes, they are very easy to keep,” I explained. “And will also turn a profit.”

My Dad who is a carpenter flew out from Nova Scotia. He and I converted part of the barn into a tack room. Sacha was pleased.

Next, I procured my sheep. I bought an assortment of sheep from here there and everywhere. I even drove to Enderby to purchase some purebred North Country Cheviot ewes and a ram too.

Thus began my ovine education.

I soon realized that two of my sheep were pets. They followed me everywhere obnoxiously bleating non-stop. Their previous owner had said something about feeding them a diet of mostly bread but I failed to grasp that these two ewes had never learned to eat grass. I have been buying them molasses sweetened grain to keep them from perishing.

Oddly my two pet sheep have a fetish for blackberry leaves. Once in awhile I am not greeted by their bleating when I get up in the morning. I go looking and invariably find them tangled up in blackberry vines to the point of immobilization.

My dad grew up on a sheep farm in Nova Scotia. He gave me some advice one night after a blackberry extrication. “Son,” he said. ” There is nothing worse than a pet sheep.”

I don’t have the heart to get rid of them. I’ve given them names – Dweedledee and Dweedledum. At least I have not yet baked bread for them.

I have some other sheep that are the opposite to the pet sheep. These sheep are feral. I believed I was buying some sheep for a very good price but I did not really understand what I was buying. Whereas Tweedledee and Tweedledum are pets, the feral sheep are wild animals.

One of the feral sheep was lame a couple of weeks ago. I decided to use my lariat to catch it. Wanting to impress Sacha with my Marlborough Man savvy, I said, ” Watch this.”

I tossed my loop and just as it fell over the lame ewe’s head another feral sheep ran alongside. So I ended up catching two feral sheep at once. Instead of letting go of the rope, I decided to hold on. Thankfully the mud was soft. Sacha is still laughing.

Recently we got the flock sheared. After all was said and done, I paid the shearer $200.

“How much is all this wool worth?” I asked.

He explained that the wool from Tweedledee and Tweedledum was worthless. The blackberry vines had turned their wool into useless dreadlocks. He figured the rest might fetch $75.

And I did indeed luckily find a weaver who bought my wool for $75.

I also set aside one nice soft fleece. I used it to make a bed for my barn cat, Rawhide.

One day I found Rawhide nestled in his wool-lined bed and we had a talk. “Rawhide did you know that your bed is worth $125?”

He purred happily.