December 12, 2012 in Raising Icelandic Sheep
Hello from our farm in Limerick, Maine! Our Icelandic Sheep lamb in April, To learn more about Icelandic Sheep, visit our resource section: Build Your Farm
We’re often asked how we came to build our farm. David and I came to Maine with no idea of building a sheep farm. David had built a small cabin in the woods of Limerick, Maine when I joined him there. No running water, no electricity, but a fantastic ever flowing spring of wonderful water… and a lot of dreams. By day, he was a machinist, I was a critical care nurse. By night we had a portable sawmill, and we worked together as sawyers… it was great. Do you know you can eat anything you want and never gain weight when you spend your days cutting wood?
As time went on, we cleared land and planted an orchard and grapes and an arbor of northern kiwifruit. We had solar power and a generator for electricity, a gasoline engine for the water pump…eventually power came closer to our road and was sort of affordable…we went on the grid. We expanded the original cabin, including adding a smaller cabin 40′ from the house as a bedroom for the teenage boys… I highly recommend a bedroom for boys 40′ from the main house!
And then… just when life was going so smoothly… I saw this picture…you may have seen it…in the old Raising Sheep the Modern Way. A white horned Icelandic ewe. She became an obsession. It just seemed that no other breed would do. It had to be Icelandic Sheep.
I met Barbara Webb at Jager Farm in Massachusetts..she was the first to import Icelandic sheep into the USA. I drove down to meet her and see her sheep in September 1995. I bought 4 ewes and 2 rams there and then. I had no barn, no fence, no truck…so we agreed that she would keep the sheep until the following spring in exchange for the lambs…then I had to figure out how to tell David that we were shepherds!
We just eased into the realization over the winter…we had 5 acres of woods cut and found that there are more rocks than dirt here. No wonder no one had farmed it before! we sawed up the lumber and built our barn, put up portable fences and portable shelters and by the summer of 1996 we got the sheep and more sheep from Canada and Montana…17 in all. They were everything I had imagined…it was crazy and wonderful, a fantastic dream come true.
Farming is work…no doubt about it..it wasn’t a shock, I had grown up in and around farming. We both had gone back to our machinist and nursing jobs…so now we had a fairly regular schedule and better income…and kids in college. As the years go by, and I am a grandmother, I do less nursing and more shepherding…life after tuition.
When it seems crazy and I start wondering WHY DID I DO THIS!!?? I go sit with the sheep and in an instant I know why. They are beautiful and real and honest.
The dogs…well they are as sneaky as the sheep about possessing humans. I first saw them at Stefania Dignum’s home at Yeoman Farm in Parham, Ontario. Stefania, an Icelander longing for sheep like home, brought the Icelandic sheep to North America . She had beautiful dogs..and our first fellow, Boti, came from her home. Well, then we needed a friend for him, so I was able to find a woman in Iceland to help me and I imported Goa, an 8 week old bundle full of love and dog kisses….she in now known as the “licking mother”, so named by Amelia, our granddaughter. A few more dogs followed us home from Iceland and some puppies were just to cute to leave us so now there are 11.
We breed a litter or two a year…they are such wonderful dogs that the world needs more of them. They are truly devoted to humans and silly happy companions will to work for food and friendship. We sell our dogs unregistered as pets and companions so the price remains affordable to the average family. There are always cards and letters and emails with pictures and stories of the pups we have sold…it is worth all the wet newspapers and getting up in the night that comes with raising puppies. Our pups are now in more than 15 states, from Maine to Alaska.
Then came the llamas…we traded sheep out to Michigan in exchange for llamas, not guard llamas, just stand around and look pretty llamas…I am still not sure what I was thinking on that occasion. But Harley who was just a baby has grown up to be a wonderful guard.
Last to make their home here were the Pygora goats. They came and then there were kids and more kids and being so vey cute…more kids. We are still wondering about the goats.
So now, with our th lambing soon to happen, what would I do differently…well, the “big house” still isn’t finished so I would have finished that project. I would have considered the land…we are a glacial dump…rocks and boulders, no way to use equipment in the fields, fencing is a heroic act. Maybe I would have learned to spin before I had hundreds of pounds of wool…but that is all just hindsight. I would never reconsider the breed or the life.