Meet Azalea.

She joined our little flock yesterday which brings us back to four sheep after the loss of Oscar in August. She is a Navajo Churro breed. Our others are Dorset crosses.

Today got me thinking of our first serious discussion about raising lambs. We were renting a little stone house in Ballydavid on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. Our hosts were a wonderful family who lived up the road and invited us into their lives for that time.

We loved the two-worlds-colliding feel when Elaine welcomed us and then answered her cell phone and spoke in Gaelic. We learned that she came from 10 miles away and grew up speaking only English. It was when she moved closer to Dingle town to be married that she learned the language (mostly from elderly men in the pub!). She and her husband had three school-aged boys, a flock of sheep, and a comfortable house where they invited us to share both strong tea and glasses of wine on several occasions at their kitchen table.

My daughter was 6 years old and thrilled to hold and bottle feed baby lambs. My husband was just as happy to visit the lambs and got talking about the prospect of raising sheep in the coming year. And so it became so. Our property became more than a view, but also a living, breathing landscape with many lessons of both heartache and joy in store.

A little over a month later we got our first two lambs, and this has been our fifth summer to raise sheep. This year we are going to keep two lambs through the winter and onward as grazers. Ivan—and now Azalea—will be the two we know for longevity. You can guess the fate of the other two.

But back to Ireland.

With the arrival or Azalea we also have the misty moisty weather that I associate affectionately with many trips to Ireland. With our own flock of wethers in the field, I dipped back into pictures from the past trips and found L and R with the neighbor lambs. My daughter’s face is so much rounder and I see how much she’s grown and slimmed out into features that hint at the teenager, the young adult, and the woman she will become. One who cares about animals, loves Irish music, and has the gypsy spirit to travel like her parents.

A few years ago I learned a fiddle tune called Ca’ the Wethers to the Hill. I believe it’s of Scottish origin, and the version I know comes by way of Cape Breton Island. I think I’ll go upstairs and try to play it tonight to conjure up the feel of sea spray and salty air, hillsides dotted with white grazers, islands in the distance.