Black Sheep have value!
Black sheep, in the past, were valued for their multicoloured fleeces, while people were valued for their individual creativity and skill. When yarn was spun by hand and clothing was a showcase for individual skill and design — expressing both the inner beauty and social position of the wearer, as well as their talent — coloured wool trumped white wool in value.
Black sheep have black wool at birth, slowly lightening over the years of shearing from chocolate to mocha to a silvery grey in older animals. Black sheep had individual characteristics that echoed the individuality of the craft person working with the fleece. Industrialization brought a decline in the value of coloured wool so that white fleeces had value (less than 30 cents a lb. today) and black fleeces were worth almost nothing. White fleece conforms to the market demands of the industry.
To people who have no personal relationship with sheep — sheep are the ultimate icon of conformity. Black sheep are nonconformists. Even in a flock of mostly black sheep, the individual sheep stand out in all their beautiful individuality.
I like black sheep. Living a life of radical nonconformity, I can identify with them and understand their value.
I have lived life as a nonconformist — in high school, I asked a lot of questions, mostly, “Why not.” I was a lower-class kid in an upper-class high school — near Oakridge in Vancouver. When my peers were smoking pot in the bush across from the school and skipping class, I worked a graveyard shift at a truck stop and went to high school during the day, to escape from my abusive, alcoholic home. I knew to have a different life I had to be a nonconformist. I was the black sheep of the family.
I got my first writing job, as an editor and copywriter for TV Guide magazine. by phoning up the TV Guide office in Vancouver and telling them I wanted to work for them. I was hired within 2 days and worked there for 5 years — taking night classes and even working full-time and taking full-time classes to finish my degree, in my last 2 years of university.
School teaches you how to be a good employee and university gives you the tools to benefit your employer. But I wanted more of life than a good-paying writing job offered. University doesn’t teach you how to create a valuable business working for yourself — Entrepreneurship — only how to conform to industry standards in practice, jargon and thinking.
Mr. Joybilee taught Business for 15 years at Trinity Western University. Christian colleges don’t pay their professors much. The adage was, for a person to work at Trinity their spouse also had to work. It was impossible to pay rent and food on the income. We didn’t conform.
I quit work when I had my first child and moved to a 5 bedroom house with acreage when my peers were buying townhouses.
When my peers were trying to get bigger houses and more money, putting their kids in daycare and working in Vancouver, I was being frugal, homeschooling my children and teaching them how to be nonconformists, too.
Sometimes I wondered if it was worth it. My middle child would ask, after rollerblade hockey practice, “How come the other kids get to go to MacDonald’s after hockey and we never do, are we poor?” and when my 3 kids got older they’d ask, “How come I don’t fit in.” How can you answer these concerns – except to say “We make other choices?” Nonconformists rarely feel like they fit in.
While our peers were amassing funds in RSPs, in preparation for the great market crashes of 1997, 2001 2008 and 2011– we made a plan. Pay off the debt, live frugally and save, grow a garden, learn the skills to provide for ourselves the necessities of life, work hard, then quit the day job and move to the country, where expenses are less.
Those around us were buying motor homes and sailboats, going out to restaurants several times a week. Often both parents were working and their teenage kids were running in gangs and getting into trouble. The year we left the city, one of our neighbour’s sons pulled a gun on another neighbour’s son right in front of our home, while I was weeding in the garden. Those two boys were conformists. Just like the mob that destroyed Georgia Street in Vancouver in Spring 2011, after the Stanley cup loss to Boston — conformists have voids that need to be filled, and some choose to fill them with violence.
By the time we were in our mid30s, we had a clear title on 1 acre near Vancouver, with a 5 bedroom house. 10 years later we owned 140 acres with a 2,000 sq. foot log house with a clear title — Joybilee Farm. We are still nonconformists.
While we pursued this life of nonconformity people want to label us — homesteaders, simple living, hippies, hobby farmers. Interestingly, for the 7 years that we sold yarn and wool at the farmer’s market, the market admin. referred to us as “crafters”. Even our insurance company couldn’t find the right label for us.
Nonconformity equals freedom. Freedom from labels. Freedom to build your own life, on your own terms. Freedom to value coloured Sheep. Freedom to create value and to help others find the same freedom.
People say to us, “What you do is a lot of work.” And I think, “life is a lot of work” — everyone has the same 24 hours in a day and you have the freedom to choose who you will work for — will you build someone else’s business or your own? Will you dedicate your time to an employer’s well-being or to your own and your family’s?
People say to us, “You are living my dream.” And I think, “What is keeping you from living your dream?”
Are you a black sheep, too? Or are you a purple sheep? In a flock of white sheep, a black sheep stands out, but a purple sheep is remarkable. Do you have what it takes to break away from the mediocre and embrace your own dream? If your dream is to live on acreage, be self-sufficient and actually make a living by doing what you love, I want to help you do that. Sign up for our free weekly newsletter by email to join my community. It’s a place where sheep-of-all colours “fit in”, without risking their individuality. Use the box at the right. When you subscribe, besides a weekly newsletter to encourage you on your journey, you’ll also receive my free eBook, “4 Keys to Food Security and Homestead Abundance, how to laugh at the time to come.”
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