Thursday, January 1, 2015

Tangled Web

I have written two adult books about our sheep - Shepherdess: Notes from the Field, and From Sheep to Shawl: stories and patterns for fiber lovers. Shepherdess was about my learning curve as a shepherdess. From Sheep to Shawl  was a celebration of wool and the people who create beauty using wool as their artistic medium. I really didn't have anything more to write about, but I love to write. Writing instructors always tell you to write about what you know and sheep are what I know. So, over the last ten to 20 years, I have written a novel about sheep. Tangled Web - a novel, was finally published last month.

 Tangled Web joins Jenny Johnson at the low point of her life when her enjoyment and connection to her children, her husband and her sheep have lost all their charm; when even attending a New Years party feels like a string of bad decisions. In an effort to break out of the routines of her life, Jenny apprentices herself to a charismatic fiber artist and business woman. But the routines of Jenny’s life follow along behind her. She is still working on a sheep farm, baling hay and caring for lambs; and her children and husband do not disappear from her life just because she disappears from theirs.

Many women have midlife crises, even those living on sheep farms. But not every crisis involves being suspected of murder. 

The following is an excerpt from the opening pages of Tangled Web. The book is available at the Northcroft Store on my blog, and in Pelican Rapids, MN at Pelican Drug, Riverview Place, and Mercantile on Main. It is also available at Victor Lundeen Co. in Fergus Falls, MN.

"The chicken water froze. The sheep water froze. The dog water froze. Every day I hauled four buckets of water to the sheep, a bucket of water to the chickens, and a bucket of water to the dog. Every day I returned the frozen buckets to the house to thaw out for the next day. The snow in the air cut at my exposed cheeks and brought tears to my eyes that froze on my lashes. Even the truck was frozen. I hadn’t been able to start it for six days, ever since Michael left for work.

God knows a week of below zero temperature would do that. The wind rushed across the open fields carrying clouds of drifting snow around the corners of the house and produced a wind chill of forty to fifty degrees below zero. The wind had been blowing all week. Nothing worked in that kind of cold.

My main fear was that I’d go out to the barn one morning and find Stupid frozen. Stupid the goat learned early in life to stick her head through fences to eat greener grass or tastier hay just on the other side of the fence. She hadn’t unlearned the habit when her horns grew too big for her to slide her head back out. Today, Stupid was once again stuck in the feeder. She had managed to force her head through a six by six inch opening that was only inches away from a much larger rectangle designed for large sheep heads. Snow had drifted up over her back until she was lying almost completely covered. Her legs and feet had dug trenches in the snow, trying to wrench herself out of the feeder. The snow was scraped away to dirty ground and littered with her frozen feces.  She’d been there for a long time.

I walked up behind her and grabbed her horns. Stupid jumped to her feet and tried to ram her one hundred pound body through the feeder.

“Stupid, stupid.” I dropped my mittens into the snow and grabbed her horns again. As we struggled, the backs of my hands scraped across the frigid wires of the feeder. The horns that imprisoned Stupid in the feeder also allowed me to control her. I slipped one horn tip through the corner of the square opening. Then, I rotated her head slightly, lined up the second horn tip and… she surged forward, jamming both horns against the far side of the fence. Again.

“Damn you stupid animal.” Cursing under my breath, I sucked my bloodied knuckles and began again. First, I clasped Stupid’s muscular little body between my legs, holding her steady. Then, I grabbed her horns and maneuvered them one after the other through the feeder. When her head cleared the opening, I turned her to the left, released her body with my legs and let go with my hands. Stupid tore away from the fence, then stopped, and pawed at the snow, looking for food. She shook her body and her lustrous mohair curls reminded me of why I put up with her personality. Stupid returned to the feeder, slipped her head through the proper opening and began to eat ravenously, as if she hadn’t been trapped with her head in the hay all night long.

I picked my wool mittens out of the snow drift, shoved red and numbed fingers into them, and walked around the barn to make sure everyone else was content. The odor of warm sheep and manure washed over me as I stepped inside. Most of the sheep were here, out of the wind, patiently waiting for me to refill the feeders with hay. I climbed the ladder into the shadowy hay loft and disturbed four gray and white pigeons that fluttered around my head and then out into the cold air.  I threw five hay bales into the feeders. As I pulled the strings off the bales, the sheep and goats rushed around the corner of the barn, shouldered Stupid out of the way, and stuck their heads into the feeders. The sound of their chewing was loud, even against the wind."


1 comment:

  1. Tere formerly from PRAugust 5, 2015 at 11:43 AM

    I have your first 2 books.....looks like I will be buying your latest!