I never played stage mom to our daughters in hopes of turning them into child stars or beauty pageant queens, so I find it amusing that many of this year’s ewe lambs are about to become not only celebrities, but are also taking on a bit of American dynasty. About a month ago, a member of the Vermont Sheep and Goat Association put out a notice on the list serve that someone in the area was looking for lambs to start a flock. With eleven ewe lambs in need of a home, I jumped to respond and found myself in an email exchange with Tom, a man who makes his living on the meat side of the business. In our first phone call, he ask how much I wanted per pound. I told him I don’t sell ewe lambs by the pound like you would sell a lamb for slaughter. These are gorgeous colored Corriedale ewes that will breed beautiful lambs someday. Tom said, “I’m in the meat business, that’s how I buy lamb. But I get it.”
Apparently he was helping someone interested in raising sheep and when he came by to see our flock, he assured me he knew a lot about cows, pigs and sheep, but continued to asked a lot of questions about fiber, fleece, and shearing. No word on who he was helping, but clearly he had done homework on us. During the visit I learned he had spoken with Hampton Fiber mill, our fiber mill, about blending wool with alpaca, and was told to seek out Corriedale wool for such a purpose, the very breed we raise. And I have to assume he asked Michael, the owner who is extremely familiar with our wool, about our flock. In any case, a two hour visit concluded with a hand shake to buy six ewe lambs, a wether (castrated) lamb and two yearling ewes. Tom remained mute on the topic of who he was helping, and I just hoped his check would clear when it came time to pick up the sheep.
A few days ago, Tom arrived with a livestock trailer in tow, a few minutes before the vet was scheduled to arrive to do a pre-sale examine. “Tom,” I asked, “why are you buying these sheep?”
“I can tell you now,” he said. The folks he was working for had bought a flock of ancient Merino sheep that were a disaster. Tom stepped in to help, told them the old girls were in such bad shape that they needed to be put down before they died in the fields. He got most of their money back, and then told them he’d help find a healthy flock which brought Tom to us.
“Have you heard of the Hildene Estate, over in Manchester?” he asked. “It’s the Lincoln family home.” Later on line I found this description:
His father was born in a log cabin and called from the humblest rank in life to preside over our nation during the most momentous period of its history. One generation later, Robert Todd Lincoln, the only child of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln to survive to adulthood, became Chairman of the Pullman Company, the largest manufacturing corporation at the turn of the 20th century. He built his Georgian Revival mansion in 1905 in the scenic village of Manchester. It became home to only Lincoln descendants until 1975, longer than any other Lincoln residence.
Hildene is a magnificent Georgian revival mansion on over 400 acres, open to the public, and has just completed a state of the art barn in order to return livestock to the property. And in just a few hours, our sheep were headed there, assuming they passed their exam.
Dr. Pinello, our vet, arrived, checked teeth, took temperatures, listened to their hearts, counted their teats, and tested their eye sight. All the animals passed inspection. And after Dr. Pinello and her assistant, Elizabeth departed Tom, Todd and I got all the animals loaded into the trailer, and Tom handed me a check from “The Friends of Hildene,” the not for profit that restored and now runs Hildene, The Lincoln Family Home.
“Your sheep are headed to heaven. The barn they’ve built is spectacular, the fields are in mint condition, the fencing is the finest.” Tom told me. Not only will our sheep graze the fields for spectators to view at the estate, but the plan is to have the fleece blended with their newly acquired alpaca for yarn that will be sold in the gift shop.
So, if you plan to vacation in Vermont and Hildene is on your itinerary, wave to the girls, take some pictures, and buy some yarn. It’s as close as you’ll get to an autograph.