The joys, sadness of raising livestock

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“There is a deep satisfaction in scattering clean yellow straw knee deep for the animals to sleep on and then feeding them in the still of a wintry eve. Sheep give the most contented little sighs when they nose into their food. Horses snuffle in their hay, and the soft munching sound of cows chewing their cuds rises serenely to the hay mow where I sit and listen. The mother ewe with coaxing grunts encourages the new lamb to nurse and finally the smacking sound of the lamb sucking vigorously reaches my ears. All is well.”

— from The Contrary Farmerby Gene Logsdon

Each time I reach for one of my Gene Logsdon books, I again feel stunned that he is gone from us.

His strong personality, his legendary contrariness, and the intense love of his farm and his barn leaves me with the sense he was too vibrant a light to be extinguished.

His opinions and ideas live on forever through his treasure trove of writing, and there are times he helps me look at a farm predicament in a new light.

Legacy

That, my friends, is what a writer hopes will come of his work, standing the test of time through all the waves of change and fads that come and go.

Pick up any Logsdon book, and you will find both a chuckle and a lesson that can be carried out in to your own acreage.

Thirty-plus books to his credit, he completed another just a few weeks before his death last May, Letter to a Young Farmer. I look forward to it like a note from an old friend.

Sheep

My husband and I never envisioned ourselves raising sheep, but it has proven to be a very good fit for us.

Logsdon writes that sheep fit in to his small farming for many reasons, not the least of which is they accomplish several things on a farm without any special work on the farmer’s part.

A couple of my favorite points: the sheep mow and fertilize fields as part of a non-herbicide weed control program, because they munch every living thing, so pastures and fencerows are kept almost weed-free.

Sheep manure is second only to poultry in fertilizer value, providing nitrogen, phosphorus and potash, offering incredible soil fertility.

Lambing has started in a big way for us. The work is intense but pleasurable, and I see my husband’s joy in the lambing as the best medicine on the planet.

Raising livestock

Logsdon wrote of this, too: “Even suggesting that happiness should have a monetary value draws gales of laughter from those who think of themselves as hard-nosed economists…happiness does have a very practical value because stress and unhappiness are known to cause health problems that can result in astronomical medical bills. Industrial economists have no way to measure that value so they ignore it.”

Livestock bring a mix of joy and sadness for anyone with a heart. A tiny ewe lamb, one of twins, stayed overnight in the coziest room in the house; we awoke this morning to the realization she was not going to make it no matter what more we tried.

No matter how many times I’ve been a part of this process, it never gets easier. But I wouldn’t trade our experiences for any other life being lived anywhere.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college.

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