Trading his town shoes for work boots, pasture farmer Gilbert (Writing/Otterbein Univ.) contemplates nature’s works and his own efforts in his chronicle of raising sheep.
The author, his wife and their two children spent a decade breeding and selling sheep on the family homestead in Appalachian Ohio. Gilbert had a day job at a university press, and his wife was the university provost, but the farm was his obsession. Not at all a bromidic gentleman farmer, he was earnestly hands-on and farmed for profit. Though yearly profits, if any, were scant, he loved his farm and its resident animals. Gilbert ruminates warmly on his artisanal flock, seeing the hidden beauty of his sheep. He also recalls his collection of farm implements: an old post pounder, a used cultivator, a small tractor—accompaniments to the never-ending work that was especially backbreaking for someone with a day job in town. Gilbert is especially astute in his portrayals of his Appalachian neighbors, who were mostly good folk. His farm logs are studies in animal husbandry, proper fencing, house building, birth and decay. His prose is pungent: In a sheep barn, he notes, the air was humid with an amalgam of “mellow musk, tangy manure, bitter urine, sweet hay.” He writes of digging out aged offal, of tenant rats, and of the hundreds of natural shocks that man and beast may encounter. His bank balances diminished as he, in an effort to become a successful farmer, consulted his Sheep Production Handbook or the latest issue of The Stockman Grass Farmer. In a sometimes-earthy, sometimes-prolix and ultimately sagacious elegy, Gilbert speaks of descent into pain and fear as well as of the beauty of bucolic nature and the diverse traits of agrarian man.
A thoughtful memoir of rams and ewes, farmers and family, life and death.