Captured at the launderette, I tell ya. I walked out of the laundrette angry for wasting our money and time on washing and drying our clothes for them to still not be clean. Jipped! Stomping out of the launderette with my brows scrunched, I thought, “Oh, geez. Who's Adam talking to now?” There was an enthusiastic, white haired man talking to Adam next to our van. I wasn’t quite in the mood, so I went to the opposite side to listen in from the driver's window. From the first moment of exchanging hellos, my mood transformed and David immediately felt like family.
David was drawn to strike up conversation with Adam, because he was eying our camper van, Bernie. David and his wife had traveled Europe in a refurbished ambulance (awesome!) and he was eager to reminisce and share stories.
“Oh, you could have done your laundry for free at our house. Come on home and stay with us.” Well, if you read one of our latest posts Just Say Yes, you know exactly what our response was. With a request like that, we were zipping down country roads following David and Nancy to their sheep farm!
Turns out, we had just been dreaming, praying and brainstorming how we could get to Alaska for five months to be a part of Calypso Farm's training program to learn everything from planting, harvesting, caring for farm animals, wool processing, wood carving, paper making, and metal work. Doesn't it sound amazing? This new farming pursuit started with a wish to learn how to knit and weave, but then became an excited curiosity to learn about every stage of making wool. I didn’t just want to know how to knit. I wanted to know the whole gambit of wool from raising sheep, farming, to sheering, to making the wool, to knitting wool products. Hey, let’s learn it all!
Well, God had something else in mind and answered our prayers immediately in the most random way, as usual. Turns out, we didn’t need to spend five months in Alaska to learn our interests and capacities in farming. We figured it out in just a week with David and Nancy. Boy, did they take us to school in all the subjects of life!
Now, hold your horses. The school bell hasn’t rung yet.
To get a feel, each day's main events were tea, tea time, and the biscuits (cookies) to go with the tea! Here's a general schedule of each day. Anything that wasn't tea, well, you do as much as you can before the next tea. We just thought this lifestyle was grand! We loved it!
- 8 am: Brekkie
- 10:30 am: Tea
- 12:00 pm: Dinner
- 3:30 pm: Tea
- 5:30 pm: Tea
Each tea time would consist of David telling stories, reciting joke after joke and ragging on us like any granddad would. The times I was fast enough to throw a joke back at David, he would throw one right back at me. We never got ahead of him. Gee, he was quick. Nancy continually gave David the eye, with a, “Stop darling,” and nailed him under the table in the shins. The continuous joke over the week was we were always shocked David still had shins after all these years. Celebrating fifty years of marriage, the two hug one another and say, “I love you” often. After tea, David would retire to the organ, Nancy would follow suit and begin playing and singing the old hymn, "He Walks With Me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own..." We still have the song running through our heads!
In between teas, David led us through lessons.
Lesson 1: Rounding 'em Up!
The most efficient way to round up sheep is in the morning when they are fresh, but the most important ingredient is with your trusty sheep dog, Jazz. What a girl! She would hear David’s holler, “Round da bout! Round da bout, Jazz!” and would jump over fence after fence to get to the sheep and round 'em up!
Lesson 2: Counting Sheep
No, not in your sleep. We found counting sheep to be a skill of experts. Adam and I needed more than one week of practice. Let’s just say, Adam and I both failed the task over and over. Turns out counting chaos is difficult and David couldn’t trust either Adam or I to get the job done, especially when I claimed 47 and Adam would claim 51. Thank you for grace, David!
Lesson 3: The Works
A part of sheep farming is sending sheep to the works (aka butcher). Jazz would round 'em up into the race. Then, the man from the works would evaluate each sheep by feeling their ribs. If you can feel the ribs, they aren’t ready and need more time to feed in the paddocks. If you can’t feel the ribs, they are ready and marked to head to the works. Did you know that the meat lamb is from young sheep, the lambs? The meat mutton is from adult sheep. Learn somethin' new every day, I tell ya.
Lesson 4: Jack of All Trades
Sheep farmers are truly Jacks of All Trades. You gotta be able to do everything from building sheds and fences, be artificial breeding experts, know how to shear sheep, be a pro at ear piercing for tagging, be an accountant to track production, have investing skills, and be environmentalists to care for the environment and the land you have. Oh, these are just a few skills to have in your tool belt as a sheep farmer. Don't forget the #8 Wire!
Field Trip: Making Homemade Jelly
On a trip to recycle, we met a neighbor Angie. Did we find gold! We were invited onto Angie and Gary’s dairy farm the next day to make homemade jelly of fruit, flowers, and rose petals all from her edible garden! Now this gets us pumped about permaculture! We were lucky enough to taste our first glasses of real, unpasteurized milk, too. Delicious and just like a milkshake.
Lesson 5: Shearing Sheep
Let's just say it's an advanced dance with the sheep and 35 blows should do it and she's back through the gate but naked:)
Lesson 6: Not Chickens, Hens!
How many times did we hear that? Ha! “They aren’t chickens, they are hens! Chickens are the chicks and hens are the hens." Okay, okay. Collecting the fresh eggs each day became a favorite task. Did you know farm fresh eggs don’t need to be refrigerated?
Nancy and David sell dozens of their farm fresh eggs each week to raise money for missionary children living around the world. Their commitment to praying for and supporting the children was remarkable.
Lesson 7: Love
Nancy and David became family within the week and through their immediate care, love, and hospitality, they have modeled a new way we want to host in the future. “We’re just us.” “This is us.” These phrases rang through our ears all week from David. Nancy and David opened their home to us spontaneously and have hosted 600 travelers from Israel over the last six years that are traveling New Zealand and need a night’s stay in Invercargill. They get a call, “Tonight? Tomorrow? Yes! Come on over!” Whatever the status of their home and whatever they are up to, their guests just jump right in as a part of the family and are included in every part of the day. Guy and Dor quickly became family, too!
After the week, our exam was to debrief and reflect on the overload of information we received. Now, we dream of the future days of getting up and jumping in our gum boots to go out to the hen house to collect fresh eggs. We have dreams of fruit trees and veggie gardens we can grow and harvest. We came away with an amazement of God’s love, His timing, and being able to meet His family on the other side of the world and immediately feel at home. We know we will look back and this week will be one of the most memorable experiences we have had throughout our nuventures. Thank you Nancy and David!