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The Author Speaks

Interview With Catherine Friend, Author of 'Sheepish'

Her way out of a midlife (and sheep farm) rut

We've all been where Catherine Friend was, yet not likely in such an idyllic setting.

See also:  Excerpt from Sheepish.

Fifteen years into her career as a Minnesota sheep farmer, Friend found herself in a midlife rut, questioning whether raising animals on 53 acres of pasture was for her. In her laugh-out-loud memoir, the 54-year-old author shares her struggles through mishaps in livestock mating, shocking encounters with electric fences and zealous pursuit by the "fiber freaks" who want her flock's wool. Amazingly, it is these freaks — and the sheep themselves — that ultimately dangle the yarn Catherine grasps to climb up out of the quagmire.

She explained how she did it in an interview with the AARP Bulletin. (Read an excerpt from Sheepish.)

Q. Your first farm memoir, Hit by a Farm, was about starting a farm, whereas this book, you say, is much more about "middles" — both your own midlife and the farm's. What's going on when we join you for Sheepish?

A. The farm was up and running, and my spouse, Melissa, and I were making fewer mistakes — like the time I planted 200 grapevines upside down. The story starts about the time of my second midlife crisis. I have one every 10 years, so I had one when I turned 40, and another when I hit 50. I hadn't quite reconciled the face I see in the mirror with the 37-year-old in my head.

Catherine Friend author Sheepish - sheep and wool

Author Catherine Friend, 54. — Courtesy of Da Capo Books

Q. And what started happening with the farm?

A. There was a slump: We lost customers, expenses got higher, staffing became difficult. Our finances were starting to suffer, and so Melissa and I thought, "OK, it might be the time for a change."

Q. Many people today are in that same boat.

A. Yet I was attached to the farm: We raise animals humanely, we make great meat, we take care of our property. So that's what happened to me when I turned 50; I thought, "Do I want to be on the farm? A writer? In this relationship?" It all sort of hit me at once.

Q. You also found yourself crying about Elvis Presley a lot. Why?

A. I didn't understand what was going on, because why, 30 years after Elvis' death, would I start bawling over him all the time? Of course, I finally figured out that my hormones might be a little out of whack. I went to the doctor to fix that, and I'm not crying about Elvis on a regular basis anymore.

Q. Why do you think it happened with him, specifically?

A. He's so beautiful, in voice and looks. My life was chaotic, and I was looking back at him with fondness, and with regret that I didn't pay more attention to him when he was alive. I really admired something about Elvis' story — the fact that he kept reinventing himself, which I found very inspiring.

Next: Finding a way to make life better. >>

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