Lessons in farming: Lost and Found

May 25, 2016

I have an amazing story for you. One that I thought when I began writing it was going to end sadly, but now has a VERY happy ending.

On Monday’s very rainy afternoon, we had a special delivery, our new Moorit Icelandic ram lamb. I bought him from a special farm, a couple who are really fantastic Icelandic breeders. I met them last year, when we bought our ram Henry from their farm. They are so great to drive a few hours to deliver, being that with still working remotely full-time, it’s a challenge to make full day trips off the farm. Plus they used to live near here so they enjoy visiting the area.

We set little Cornelius up in the stable with hay and water for the day and later that evening when doing chores we opted to close the gate on half the stable and keep the main door open so he could become familiar with the other sheep and get some fresh air. The wall that separated his area from the rest is a solid wood wall about 4ft high.

So the night went off without a hitch, and in the morning David did chores and mentioned to me that the little lamb really wanted out and kept jumping, but not to worry, he was jumping nowhere near the height of the wall. An hour after David left for work, about 8am, a neighbor pulls into our driveway and asks my mother if we were missing a little brown lamb, which they had seen running down the road. I was wrapping up Coltrane and I’s morning in the yurt and heard a commotion and once I heard what was going on, I took off down the driveway. By the time I reached the road, the lamb had disappeared into the miles of national forest across from our farm. I tracked his tiny hoof prints a 1/2 mile down the road and into the woods. I stayed out there for nearly two hours, walking a mile up and down the road, calling, whistling, baa-ing for him (yes, I was baa-ing). Earlier in the morning I had read a special passage, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” Psalm 46 verse 1 and as we looked for that lamb those couple hours, and later in the afternoon and again in the evening, I remembered that verse and although I was heartbroken at what felt like a definite loss, I just prayed and trusted, and knew that there was at the very least, an important lesson to learn in all of this.

The day went on, with design work and stressful work meetings, some more visits outside to call for the lamb, a migraine, a sick kid and a visit to the acupuncturist. As I drove to my appt late that afternoon with a heavy heart, I found myself dwelling on the negatives of the day, I lamented why the day had to be so crappy. I recalled how I had told a co-worker earlier that day that in spite of struggles, we must find the positives and dwell on such things. So I did my best to change my attitude and it’s not that hard to find the overwhelming positives in your life when you try. Places like Instagram paint a very glossy picture of life, but life behind the photos is much more raw.

We made signs that evening and nailed them to the poles down by the road. As I laid in bed I imagined the types of phone calls we might receive from our rural neighbors…”man that lamb was tasty” and “those coyotes had a feast”. I prayed that maybe somehow, against all odds and wild animals that live in our woods (wolves, bears, coyotes, cougars), that Cornelius would find a safe place to hide.

During the night I was awakened by the coyote pack that lives near us, an almost nightly occurrence, howling and sounding eery like they do. I was settled that our little brown lamb was their 5 star dinner and went back to sleep. Around 5:30am this morning, David was out doing morning chores and I hear “Where did you come from?! Come here little buddy!”. I leapt out of bed and ran outside with tears in my eyes, giving thanks and yelling “He’s found!”. David had the biggest smile and look of bewilderment on his face. I just stood in awe, completely amazed that he had not only made it through the night, but somehow found his way back to our farm after having been here only one night and familiar with only the stable he had been staying in. David came back to the yurt for breakfast and we just reveled in the events of the previous 24hrs. If you knew our woods and have experienced runaway, you would understand. 🙂

So I’m happy to introduce our newest little lamb, Cornelius.


Lessons learned and reinforced:

-Consider risks to lambs. Again, seems obvious, but not obvious enough. Did you know a 2 month old lamb could jump a 4ft wall? Neither did we.

-Build relationships with your neighbors. Neighbors, whether right next door or a mile down the road like ours, can be your biggest encouragers or discouragers. This is something we’re actively working on, it takes effort to overcome their ignorance of the normalcies of farming and consider them as part of your team.

-Fencing. I know there’s a quote out there somewhere about fencing and farming. Good fences, multiple fences will be your biggest ally. Animals will still get out and through and over fences, but it does slow them down. We have 4 strand barbed wire fences around our property and have finished our first pasture with field fence, but someday we will have field fence around our entire perimeter, something that will greatly diminish the chasing and hunting adventures we find ourselves so frequently on. We are just beginning to electrify our fences, that helps too.

-Attitude. Attitude is everything and farming is hard. When you have a day where things just keep going awry, in spite of it all, dwell on the positive and know that tomorrow is a new day.

-Have grace with yourself and others. You will make mistakes, sometimes deadly or costly ones. It’s not a matter of if, but when. So learn from those mistakes, make changes and forgive yourself.

-Be thankful. It’s easy enough to let the tough things of farming get to you, but keep your chin up and recognize the beauty and incredible gifts you’re surrounded by. And give thanks for the lessons, the hard ones and the happy ending ones.

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  • Reply Anna May 25, 2016 at 10:09 am

    Oh goodness! I am so happy to read of Cornelius’ return!! Your strength and perseverance through an incredibly trying event is so inspiring. I am familiar with loosing a new member of the pack in this way and those feelings are beyond difficult to overcome. Bless you, your family and this little lamb for finding its way home!

  • Reply Laura May 25, 2016 at 11:08 am

    Thanks for sharing your story. It’s funny sometimes what can give us encouragement and I found some with your story of Cornelius. I’m also reminded to take risks and follow dreams, even if they are challenging and unexpected.

  • Reply Irina May 25, 2016 at 11:55 am

    Oh I’m so happy that Cornelius is well! Lambs under a stressor of a new environment can be so rambunctious. I’m so glad that there was a happy ending.

  • Reply Elaine May 25, 2016 at 12:47 pm

    I’m so happy your Prodigal Son came home!! Perhaps the Big World wasn’t so exciting after all.

  • Reply Becky May 25, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    You know, your writing was timely. My family is struggling through some tough times right now – my sister and my husband both lost their jobs and it’s been so hard to trust. But you are right – the blessings far outweigh the heartache. We have so much to be thankful for, don’t we? So your words were an encouragement to me and I love those verses! And I am so glad Cornelius came home!

  • Reply Lauren May 25, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Yay! I love happy endings. It’s been so much fun reading about your farming adventures in addition to the fantastic podcast. I’ve had a longtime fantasy of doing what you’re doing (living in a yurt, building a farm, dying wool!) so it’s a nice reality check to hear about the not so perfect aspects of this lifestyle. I never even considered the challenge of neighbors! Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Reply Elaine Vandiver May 26, 2016 at 7:06 am

    I couldn’t agree more! The one thing that grows incredibly well on my farm — humble pie! Just when I think I have it all figured out, it gives me another slice! Thanks for sharing your story, a good reminder for us all!

  • Reply Rachel McKee May 26, 2016 at 10:41 am

    I’m so happy you found him you guys! You are such a good story – teller Ashley. I miss you guys and I’m glad to hear you are doing well!

  • Reply ElisabethWK May 27, 2016 at 11:04 am

    What an encouraging story and much-needed reminder this post is. Thank you!!

  • Reply GailJ May 28, 2016 at 9:07 am

    So glad to hear that little cutie found his way home! I have sheep too and one thing I have learned is to never have sheep alone if at all possible. They will be happier, calmer, and less likely to want to jump a fence! I always keep a wether or two around that can be with a new ram if I don’t want him in with the ewes or want to segregate for a time. Nice post with a happy ending!

  • Reply Dee Karlson May 28, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Oh, it was hard to keep reading slowly thorugh your story, and thank you for letting on from the start that it would end well. I am so HAPPY for you.

    Having lost (don’t worry: it ends well) my puppy that way, I felt your heartbreak in every line. We lost our husky girl puppy just after a few months after getting her and across the street, literally, was the Cape Cod National Seashore where coyote packs howl and sing every night. We got neighbors involved and searched the area for a couple of miles over hours. A very similar story to yours. Gave up after an eternity of calling and whistling and walking through every trail. Finally, we headed home and I was trying, not too successfully, not to cry like a baby in front of everyone.

    But wait! Who should be sitting on the front porch, and looked up and smiled as we came back after our last try. Yup. She managed to get out of the National Seashore forest, find our house, across a road and there she was. Hey, where have you been , (she said with her eyes) and then she said, I am thirsty, can we go inside now?

    Life can surprise you with gifts of infinite kindness sometimes.

  • Reply Maureen May 31, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    Wow, what an amazing story! If you don’t already have one, consider getting a wether as a buddy for Cornelius. It will keep him from feeling so frantic to escape. I wonder how he survived without becoming coyote snacks.

  • Reply Mun June 13, 2016 at 2:32 am

    Once again a testimony of God’s faithfulness 🙂

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