Talk of the Town - Dolly need not apply May 06 2004

Old-fashioned lifestyle meets modish creativity in Conyers

In the beginning, there were sheep. Thriving in a remote pasture on the edge of Rockdale County, a band of up to 85 sheep have called Conyers home for 15 years. Unaffected by the repugnant urban sprawl and occasional syphilis outbreaks in proximate neighborhoods, the sheep graze on.

Unlike cloned English imitators, Roger Foster and Susan Mickey, the sheep's caretakers, live an unparalleled lifestyle, blending nature, creativity and country-chic decor inside their farmhouse. A sculptor and costume designer, respectively, the couple chose to bypass the 45-minute downtown commute and work out of their home in separate studios. The living room is garnished with a collec-tion of Foster's wooden sculptures, while Mickey's mannequins watch her work in the basement.

Creative Loafing: Explain a little about the overall design you were going for in your home.

Susan: Just a place to live in and work at the same time. That has really always been our driving energy, having the space and privacy, too. It definitely helps your work.

Roger: The main part of the house is older furniture that we've collected over the years. I've made a lot of the furniture. It reflects our similar tastes in terms of the clean lines.

Tell me a little about the sheep aspect of your life.

Roger: The sheep are just kind of a way of life, a thing we enjoy having. We got them about 15 years ago. These are the grandchildren of those. Susan was thinking maybe we could do something with the wool in a fabric way. We tried every way we could to break even but you just can't.

Where do you learn to tend to sheep?

Roger: You read books and they actually had a weekend workshop on sheering and training and I went over there. I went to several different workshops at Mississippi State University. But the birthing thing, you kind of have to experience that.

So you've helped birth sheep?

Roger: Oh yeah, too many to count! I feel sure I could deliver a child at this point. There's a lot of pleasure in seeing something born. The bad side to it is that sometimes a lot of them die. But that's one thing about having animals on a place like this, life and death are very near to you at all times.

I noticed the ram and ewes stay in separate pens. Do you ever bring the two groups together for mixers?

Roger: Yeah, actually, when we have a breeding on purpose, we usually have a party!

Susan: If the ram was with the ewes, they'd be having babies all the time.

Roger: You actually put a harness on the ram and it's got a big crayon on its chest so when he mounts a ewe, you know it by the red marker.

Do you give them privacy?

Susan: They have total privacy.

Roger: We sit on our porch with binoculars.