Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Book Report: "Trafficking in Sheep"

I enjoy reading about raising sheep and I just finished Anne Barclay Priest's book entitled Trafficking in Sheep.

Over a period of years, Anne bought an island in Nova Scotia, and decided to keep sheep on it.  I thought about this and it made sense, natural boundaries and all. (It of course put me in mind of the on North Ronaldsay in Scotland).  And, as it turns out, lotsa people around the world keep sheep on islands.

Anne kept Scottish Blackface sheep, which I saw in Scotland.

Not very soft, but practical.

Anne later build a home in Greenville, in upstate New York, where she would take her first year ewes to prevent the ram on the island from impregnating them, as the girls needed to be two years old before having lambs.

I googled Anne's name, hoping to get in touch with her, and discovered some information about her on this lovely blog. Here is another entry with great photos of sheep handling and shearing.

Anne later kept Border Leicesters on her farm in Greenville, enjoying the softer wool for knitting sweaters for herself.  She  mentions briefley in the book that she also was a spinner and weaver.

Another google hit, revealed Anne Barclay Priest's brief obituary in the New York Times, which indicates that she passed away last November (2010) while feeding her sheep.  So lovely that she published this memoir for us.

This book probably would be most interesting for those of us frustrated by not being able to be a real shepherdess ( a genre entitled agrarian fantasy by goodreads.com!), and also by those who already are. 

This all puts me in mind of my favorite Billy Collins poem


It has been calculated that
each copy of the Gutenburg Bible
required the skins of 300 sheep.
I can see them
squeezed into the holding pen
behind the stone building
where the printing press is housed.
All of them squirming around
to find a little room
and looking so much alike
it would be nearly impossible to count them.
And there is no telling which one of them
will carry the news
that the Lord is a Shepherd,
one of the few things
they already know.

Billy Collins

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