Since I got sick, almost two weeks ago, I have been watching the sheep out my bedroom window, counting them as they passed by on their daily rounds. We have twenty sheep, plus Boaz, the Jacob ram.
Last Saturday I only counted seventeen.
Since lambing days are coming along any day now, I sent the kids out to search for the missing three.
They looked through the barn. They looked all over our twenty acres, and the twenty-five acres we lease.
Patrick loves the job of searching for missing animals. Sort of.
So do I, sort of.
There is something nice about being forced to go take a hike through the woods and over the hills and across the stream. All for a good purpose.
Since Patrick has a broken ankle and I have been in bed sick with the flu/bronchitis, Maggie went out to look.
She went out looking every day, through Thursday.
You have to understand, sheep live in community. They never stray far from the others. It is part of their instinct. It keeps them alive, staying banded together. So for 3 sheep to go missing for that many days is very unusual. Maggie went over every part of our property and the adjacent property, searching high and low. She only counted 17. I looked out my window at the flock and only counted 17.
On Thursday, the coyotes were yipping, the dogs barking, and I felt horrible. The coughing was miserable, my body ached, the kids needed their mother and I was at my wit's end.
In exasperation, I cried out to the Lord for help with my children. And then I started to worry about the sheep. So I cried out to the Good Shepherd, and told him how I was too sick to be a good shepherd to my sheep and would he please intervene on their behalf, if they were still alive and hadn't yet been eaten by coyotes.
Then, mercifully, went to sleep, thankful that prayer is a wonderful way to shed stress.
Yesterday I felt a bit better and for the first time in days was well enough to walk out to the field to count sheep in person.
So then I loaded up the little girls, and we ran into town to take care of some necessary things.
When we returned to our driveway, we saw the sheep munching grass up on the upper fields. Nora, Rose and I quickly counted.
We pulled the car over, left it running and raced over the the fence to count again.
Twenty sheep, placidly grazing, content in the last rays of afternoon.
This afternoon I went out to throw hay and check water. All twenty were together, very thankful for the alfalfa pellets I gave them. No babies yet, but three of the ewes are starting to develop a little udder. Any day now.
I said thank you to my Good Shepherd. And then enjoyed a good hour of hanging out with those sheep, visiting with them, reminding them how good it is to stick together, sharing a bucket of healthy minerals with Thorvin Kelp.
And enjoyed the sun and the blustery wind that blew away the fog and howled through the trees on our ridge. And the strength that I trust will return to my body now that it is starting to feel a bit more healthy.
PS I am also thankful to my Good Shepherd for dear friends, and for the nice beef stew that fed our family so nicely the other night, brought over by Laura, and the turkey and mashed potatoes and asparagus from Linda. Those meals, and a friend to come wash dishes and to play with kids and for another friend to drive big kids where they needed to go were terrific boosts to this single mama.
PPS Portia, our queen milking goat, is SOOO huge, I will be surprised if she doesn't have four babies this year. She is due early March. The other does are looking pretty pregnant too, but not like Portia.