[Central North River, NS]— It's all blue skies and sunshine on this day as Ruth Mathewson strolls across her rolling, deep green pastureland amid a flock of bleating sheep.
© (Photo: Harry Sullivan/Truro Daily News)
Running a sheep farm may be filled with long days of hard work but for Ruth Mathewson it is a labour of love on her farm in Central North River. She eneterd a ram and a ewe in the All Canada Classic Show and Sale at the Agridome.
For certain, this is a far cry from the concrete jungle and skyscraper city she left a few years ago but, there can be no doubt, she is now fully immersed into her lifestyle and is pure farmer now.
And from the contented look and beaming smile portrayed on her face while calling out to her "girls," there is no doubt that Mathewson is doing exactly what she wants to be doing and couldn't be happier for it.
"I love it," Mathewson, 48, declares emphatically, when asked why she has chosen the life of a sheep farmer.
"And we have such a beautiful property here, that, what's not to love?"
The property is officially known as Upper Brook Farm and is located on Upper Brookside Road in Central North River (Nova Scotia). And it was here that Mathewson settled with her family when her parents, Bill and Greta, purchased the property in 1972, after emigrating from Scotland a few years earlier.
After growing up and finishing school, Mathewson went off to Toronto to take up a career in marketing before moving to Halifax in 2004 where she worked in the field of advertising.
Her long-term plan was to return to the family sheep farm in a few years time, given that her two brothers and sister had other interests.
"But then my father died and I moved immediately to the farm and my mother and I have been plugging away (ever since)," she said. "It wasn't even much of a choice. It was just the thing to do. This has always been home for me."
As beautiful as the land may be, it's not much for growing crops, perhaps, but for a sheep farmer, it's ideal.
"It's a really rocky, rugged terrain, that's why it does well with our North Country Cheviot sheep, which is a highland breed from Scotland," she says.
Mathewson and her mother, 83, also keep a few beef cattle on hand, along with some goats, chickens and ducks, a sheep-herding dog, a maremma sheepdog that patrols the property to ward off coyotes and, the latest addition, cute little Meg, a six-month-old Jack Russell terrier that struts around the farm like she owns it.
"Every animal here has a job to do," Mathewson says. "It's all about kind of making everything make sense."
All told, including this year's lambs, Mathewson has about 170 sheep on hand at the moment. Certainly enough to keep both women busy working long days and even nights, especially during lambing season.
Two of that flock, a ram and "my best ewe" are destined for this weekend's (June 16-17) Canadian Classic Sheep Show and Sale at the Exhibition grounds in Bible Hill.
Mathewson's mother also makes wool comforters and other woolen gift items that create value-added revenue for the farm.
"I want to use everything here to make something," she says.
To that end, Mathewson has also built a woolen mill - the only one in Nova Scotia - to which she has just added a wool washer, which means that she and other local sheep farmers who chose to use her services, no longer have to ship their product out of the province for processing.
"Being a sheep farmer, there's not much value in wool. You only get between 40 cents and a dollar per pound. So, really, a lot of farmers just push it to the edge the field or burn it," she says. "If you have wool, bring it to me."
And while a few hired hands are brought in to help with hay cutting and other maintenance-related duties, for the most part, the whole operation comes down to mother and daughter, both doing what they simply love to do.
Truro Daily News