Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Quest For Sheep

The next task in my master plan of turning our acreage into a real farm is Mariah's Quest for Sheep. The easiest way to do that is to win them!

Recently I entered a online contest at Juniper Moon Fiber Farms to win a flock of Cormo Sheep and Angora Goats. Out of all the folks who submitted videos and essays, I was chosen as a finalist. Please check out my essay, and vote for me here.

Contest runs until March 1.

Edited to add actual Essay Text to blog post:

My name is Mariah and I was born in the year of the Sheep. As a 4 year old who spent nearly every waking moment in the barn with the family's lambs, discovering that fact was way cooler than the first taste of Chinese. I knew sheep were part of my destiny. My parents' raised sheep, hogs and one calf a year for meat in western South Dakota. I relished in all aspects of raising sheep: guarding gates, moving the flock along the chute when we were worming, helping herd them to greener pastures and even washing glass soda bottles and feeding bum lambs. I celebrated the miracles and mourned the losses alongside my parents. I had my own ewe – Melody.

As with a lot of farm children during the early 1980s, my parents' were forced to leave in 1984. We sold Melody and the rest of the flock. Melody became a nice nest egg that eventually helped pay for college. We moved to the city and I never could shake the love for the smell of wool or the comfort and friendship that the lambs provided me.

That probably explains why this city girl convinced her even more of a city boy husband to purchase seven acres of Iowa farmland. One thing that drew us to our acreage was the restored prairie adjacent to our property. I've always wanted to re-establish our land as a working farm – a challenge in a county where the average family farm consists of 350 acres and where hogs out number the human inhabitants 32 to 1. The surge of small, niche operations intensified my desire. Learning to knit and spin focused it.
It's taken eight years, but my husband is actually excited about the idea of sheep. I tell him it will be great for our family (now consisting of 5-year-old twins, an almost 1-year old and two dogs the size of small calves), but really I think he likes the idea that we won't have to mow as much.

In the last two years I've begun to consult with my shepherd friends, natural resource conservationists and other area experts. I've tried to learn as much as possible about the best mix of pasture grass to sow in the “Back 40” to provide proper nutrition throughout the growing season, where to find feed in the winter, what fencing options are best and how to contend with parasites. Recently, there has been great focus on developing a business plan and picking the right breed of sheep that will thrive in Iowa's hot summers and cold winters.

By establishing a flock here in my little corner of the state, I hope to not only create a niche of high-quality fiber animals producing more than enough fiber for me to spin but to develop a business selling yarn and fiber for fiber enthusiasts in the upper Midwest. I also hope to instill a similar work ethic and education in my children that I received in the barn as a child.

Here are the photos I submitted along with my essay, in addition to the one at the top of the blog.

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