Legacy and stewardship summarize the work of Curre and Lotta of Sigsarve Lamb in Gotland, Sweden. Working the very land he was raised on, living in the very house he was born in, Curre, along with his wife Lotta, devote their lives to shepherding one of Gotland’s most lovely flocks of sheep. When asked why they chose farming, Curre replied, “My wife liked animals, especially sheep. I like machines and to grow things with my hands.” But it is more than just growing things that interests Curre. He takes much pride in sustainable management and stewardship of his farm, understanding the relationship between the soil, the plants, and the animals that graze there.
Together, Curre and Lotta have worked hard to establish themselves as an organic farm, and in 1989, they reach certified organic status. While we visited, Curre went out into the field to gather plants to show to us. He explained that the health of his sheep depend upon a varied diet of grasses and herbs. Through careful management of their pastures and flock, they are able to control parasite loads without the use of medications. Lotta said that she relies heavily upon a book by David Henderson titled, The Veterinary Book for Sheep Farmers, to problem solve issues in their flock. Henderson’s book not only includes treatment plans, but also stresses the importance of understanding the cause of and prevention of disease, an important component for organic farms.
Curre understands how our environment and growing conditions have changed over time, altering the very crops we grow. He is concerned that the nutritional value of some of these grains has been compromised and is not what it was 100 or more years ago. In an effort to preserve some of the grains at risk, Curre cultivates ancient varieties of wheat and corn in his fields. Curre shared with us some crisp crackers made from the spelt he grows and some sour-milk cheese.
True to most shepherds I know, Curre also feels a responsibility to help the younger generations as they follow their dreams to farm. “We need more young people to start raising sheep. We need to make it easier for them to learn how to do things.” So Curre volunteers his time during the winter months to teach at a local “farm school” on Gotland. He teaches young farmers about lambing season, and mentors them along the way. In exchange, he is rewarded when someone comes up to him, after having taken one of his classes, and thanks him for the knowledge he shared.
Curre acknowledges the important role his wife has played in their farm. Gently placing his arm around Lotta, he said, “She do all the thinking. I just fix the fence.” To this, I looked across the table at Lotta and we exchanged a knowing smile, while my husband felt a bond with Curre in knowing what it is like to live with a wife who is a visionary. I watched Lotta all afternoon, wearing a green hand knit sweater. She was instrumental in starting the spinnery on Gotland which now spins most of the wool raised on the island. Her work at the spinnery has given her much insight into wool quality and processing. Lotta understands the importance of the connection between nutrition and fleece, and fleece quality and the pelt. I am sure Lotta had much to do with their farm store, which was filled with not only her own pelts, yarn, and handcrafts, but those of neighboring women as well.
We spent one of the most delightful afternoons with Curre and Lotta and their border collie. We sat around a table outside of their farm store, sharing tea, coffee, and crisp crackers. “Gotland sheeps are fantastic animals,” we heard multiple times. We shared stories of run away sheep, and neighbor’s gardens gone awry. We ate. We laughed. We talked….until late in the day when Curre said, “well, I must go see about a fence,” and Lotta encouraged him to show us their sheep first. We followed him down the country lane to a field where his ewe lambs were grazing. Sending in his border collie to bring them closer to the fence, he shared their flock with us.
As we got into our rental car to leave, Curre shared one last bit of shepherding wisdom with us. “People may have different cultures or religions-but underneath, the people are all the same. You just have to find something, some–what is the word?–connection, and you are all the same. The connection bring people together. Just like having sheeps,” he concluded, looking out into the pasture, squinting into the sun, real pride in his voice. “Sheeps bring people together, too. And that’s a real gud thing. Real gud.” With arm raised high, he waved to us, turned back and said, “keep dreaming, keep dreaming.”
Connection-we had made a connection that afternoon-one that crossed language and cultural barriers, and it was our sheep which brought us to this tiny island and this farm. Indeed Curre, I shall keep dreaming and my husband shall keep mending the fences, and our paths will cross again, as I still have much to learn from you and Lotta!
For more stories about shepherds on Gotland read: