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'Scouting the Divine'

My Search for God in Wine, Wool, and Wild Honey

Lynne had enjoyed knitting for many years before deciding she wanted to spin her own yarn. Her husband, Tom, challenged her to go one step further and raise an animal that could provide the raw fiber for her knitting. Starting with a pair of fiber goats, she eventually switched to sheep. She had a special breed in mind, which weren't readily available. Lynne found a farm in Michigan that sold the sought-after-but-hard-to-find Shetland sheep. She ordered three.

"My first sheep were mailed to me sight unseen nearly 20 years ago," Lynne told me. "Looking back, I didn't know how to do basic things like trim hooves or give shots, so I had to call the vet for almost anything and everything. Over time, I picked up new skills. When it's midnight and your sheep is having an abnormal labor and the vet can't make it over, you learn how to get the lamb out. A bunch of years go by and you end up being 65 years old and having a lot of young shepherds calling and asking, 'What do I do?' You wake up one morning and realize you're a shepherd of shepherds."

As we followed the trail to the lower pasture, Lynne introduced me to particular sheep. "That's Opal," she said, pointing to a silvery ewe. "She's a great mother, though this year she's more possessive of her lamb. This is Iris. She is self-controlled and goes her own way. That's Jovita; she's just the sweetest. Dove, who had a difficult pregnancy, abandoned her, but Iris adopted her. Love that Iris. There's a lot of flock drama, you know."

I didn't know, but I was quickly learning. Sheep and people have more in common than I ever dreamed.

I noticed a tiny ewe lamb the color of fresh snow. I wanted to cuddle the lovable baby lamb, but its protective mother, Opal, intentionally kept it away ...

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