For those of you who don't speak British Commonwealth idiomatic English, a crocodile can also mean a line of school children. The relevance of this term to the real topic of this Yarn will become clear later. (If you are one of those who read the last chapter first, skip to the video at the very end of the Yarn.) The real topic of this yarn is "Do sheep work?" More specifically, do my sheep consciously choose to cooperate in the work of the farm?
We've had 3 ½ inches of rain in May (hooray!) and the property is looking better than it has in months. Admittedly, it looks better from a distance than at worm's-eye level, where there is too much bare ground showing. However, the lovely spring green look is most welcome, along with the beginnings of run-off.
Continuing my jazz and shepherding analogy (new subscribers click here for the previous Yarn), there’s a wonderfully apt line from “Birth of the Blues” (1941), set at the turn of the century. A ridiculously young Mary Martin is quizzing Rochester about how to sing the new jazz and blues. Rochester says, “Well, it’s like this. You listen for a note, and when you find it…you don’t play it. Instead, you listen some more, until you find another note…but you don’t play that note, either. Eventually, you find the right note to fit into the music.”
I used to think design was an endpoint: a place you could hold clearly in your mind, once you had it figured out. The easy part of the job. The hard work was then finding your way to whatever it was you had designed. Farming and knitting have, between them, blown that concept clear out of the water.
In his 1943 classic “The Little Prince” Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote (more poetically in French, mind you): "The flowers have been growing thorns for millions of years. For millions of years the sheep have been eating them just the same. And is it not a matter of consequence to try to understand why the flowers go to so much trouble to grow thorns which are never of any use to them?
Had I any idea of the pivotal role she would play in my life, I would have given my lead ewe a better name. Boadicea, for instance. Or maybe Elizabeth. Or even Frances Darlene after my difficult and undeniably contrary mother. But at the time I saved her from the usual fate of 5 year-olds on most sheep properties, I only knew that she was a pretty good leader, at least at times. So she became simply “Old Leader”.
This is not a "proper" Yarn, just a quick note to let you know that ABC Landline is running a segment on my farm and White Gum Wool yarn this coming Sunday, November 24th. The program starts at 12 noon, EDT. It can also be accessed for the following couple of weeks through http://abc.net.au/iview if you go to All Programs, then ABC1 and look for Landline.
In other news, Rangelands Journal in the US has recently published a paper by Fred Provenza and others (including me) entitled Complex Creative Systems. While formally technical, it is an easy read, and gives a good overview of what the nutritional wisdom concept is all about, and how people like me are putting it into practice. Here's the pdf file: Complex Creative Systems, which you can also find on the website under Science, Technical Papers.
Just to let you know, Felix, Clara and Sabrina are doing fine, and have been joined by Vicky-Victoria and Georgie-girl. The names, in case you are wondering, just come to me out of the ether. Actually, I got Vicky's name wrong--tried calling her Lizzie, but it just didn't stick.
And the last bit of news is that the new colours in the 8- and 4-ply yarns are here! The boucle won't make it until sometime in December- it still hasn't left NZ.
Oh, and if you've missed earlier Yarns from the Farm, you can find them all on the website--just click on the last menu item on the home page--Yarns from the Farm.