Keeping Watch is a memoir about our life at Shepherd’s Bay farm. Our involvement in the fiber business began when I inherited a spinning wheel and we bought a couple of sheep to provide wool for my spinning. Before long, our menagerie had grown to include more than thirty sheep, two llamas, three alpacas, a couple of sheepdogs, and far too many angora rabbits.
At about the same time—after decades of office work—I realized what I really wanted to do was to spend less time sitting on committees, going to meetings, and discussing things, and more time actually doing things, however bizarre or insignificant those things might be. I resigned my full-time office job to take the helm at home as head shepherdess.
The book is about a sheep who believed she was human, a llama gone berserk, a vindictive rabbit, and a farm boy who yearns to fly. It’s about living with animals, living within a family, working at home, and seeing the extraordinary in the ordinary.
The book was written in response to requests from knitters, weavers and fiber artists who have visited our farm. Visitors love meeting the animals whose wool will provide the fiber for their next project. Each animal has its own unique history and personality. We tell the animals’ stories when giving farm tours or spinning demonstrations, and so many people have asked, “When are going to write a book about your animals?”
Keeping Watch was published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press/Borealis Books.
Reviews for Keeping Watch
“Like a knitting project that cannot be put down, Keeping Watch sweeps the reader into a compelling engagement with small-scale farm life. The author deftly spins fibers and story, and her strong, warm, and resilient characters, both wooly and human, will linger as a welcome presence in your heart.”
Cat Bordhi, author of A Treasury of Magical Knitting
“I laughed. I cried. I wiped the tears away and felt joy. But most of all, I felt inspired. I bought this book for ‘research’ into my hidden passion of one day owning my very own furry, smiling alpaca. Instead, I ended up with an inspiring story of compassion and perseverance and the reason why we humans love (and spend so much time trying to figure out) our animals. A beautiful read for anyone—especially animal lovers.
Ashley G., reader/reviewer
“Kathy Sletto unravels the bucolic dream in Keeping Watch: 30 Sheep, 24 Rabbits, 2 Llamas, 1 Alpaca and a Shepherdess With a Day Job, an amusing living-la-vida-fauna memoir in which lambs think they are children and llamas go rogue.”
“People’s stories about their pets are often about as entertaining as detailed accounts of their dreams, or of sitcom episodes you didn’t see. Ho-hum. Guess you had to be there. But in Keeping Watch: 30 Sheep, 24 Rabbits, 2 Llamas, 1 Alpaca, and a Shepherdess With a Day Job,” Kathryn A. Sletto manages to make her animal stories compelling, funny, poignant and sometimes genuinely sad. . . It doesn’t hurt that she has a gift for comic pacing, spinning her tales with just enough exposition, description and touches of Minnesota color.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Living the Dream: This year-in-the-life look at animal husbandry is sure to interest knitters who’ve had the idea that producing their own fiber animals would be fun . . . and the heartwarming stories in Keeping Watch will make knitters who are so inclined feel the tug of an agricultural life.”
“There is a word in both Swedish and Norwegian which fits the book perfectly – it is the term Lagom. It means: just right, in balance, optimal. And Keeping Watch was exactly that. Lagom. Keeping Watch was funny; I laughed out loud. It was touching; I dabbed a tear. It gave such a sense of place – western Minnesota and Douglas County. She balanced the stories of her animals with the realities of living in a small town, the neighbors, nature, the challenges of farming and economy, and of course humor! Kathy Sletto’s Keeping Watch combined the Minnesota area reminiscent of Lake Wobegon and its Scandinavian farmers, with the engaging animal stories found in James Herriot’s book series All Creatures Great and Small.
Taryn F., reader/reviewer
“Keeping Watch: 30 Sheep, 24 Rabbits, 2 Llamas, 1 Alpaca, and a Shepherdess With a Day Job,” takes you through the seasons of a year on the farm and introduces the reader to many of the animals, neighbors, relatives, and colleagues, and their delightful and humorous anecdotes that reveal their distinct personalities. Among the characters you’ll fall in with Lamb Chop, the lamb with an identity crisis who prefers humans and dogs to sheep; Tony, the humming alpaca with a passion for newborn lambs; and Steve, the wayward rabbit who is ever escaping from his cage, only to be found mimicking road kill alongside the drive. From drought to breeding issues, challenges arise with Kathy working to veer the farm from financial loss. As the year closes and winter settles in, it’s clear that she values their small farm lifestyle and all it entails. Readers will be crossing their fingers that they’re in business another year.
Des Moines Cityview: Central Iowa’s Independent Weekly
“In her farm memoir Keeping Watch, Kathy Sletto recounts the long days of numbingly hard work, the abject financial realities, and the hands-on management of the back ends of various animals. But she clearly loves farm life, and in her anecdotes, which channel the emotional insights of James Herriot and the practicality of Mother Earth News, she makes small farming seem like a good idea – or at least a lot of fun.”
“Delightful critters ‘star’ in Keeping Watch: Like snowflakes, no two dogs or cats or any other animals are alike. Each has its own unique personality. Anyone who doubts that statement should read Kathy Sletto’s book, Keeping Watch. Hot off the press it’s a real hoot from the first page to last. . . Keeping Watch is a lively – often hilarious, sometimes sad – account of her decision to become a full-time shepherdess, the difficulties she faced, the joys and pitfalls along the way, and – most of all – it’s a story of the most entertaining menagerie of critters you’re likely to come across this side of Dr. Doolittle. . . . The result is Keeping Watch, a finely written book by a woman who knows her subjects through and through. Like all people living in the country, Sletto is a keen observer of nature’s ways and seasonal changes, which she describes so vividly you are there in the seasons, right with her and her animals. . .That supreme novelist Leo Tolstoy had a knack for writing about animals, even just in a sentence or paragraph, that brought them as alive on the page as his human characters. Sletto has that same rare knack. Her many animals, even the minor players, are so vividly unique the reader is in constant suspense about what goofy, wonderful antics they’re going to surprise us with next. This is one of those rare books that has you grinning ear-to-ear as you’re reading it.”