Everywhere That Mary Went. . .

blackandwhitekarina.jpbby Laura Parker Roerden

When we first brought our lambs home, our plan was to pasture them with the cows. Cows and sheep have different foraging appetites, making their co-habitation in the pasture more efficient. Cattle are also great predator protection for sheep, aggressively attacking coyote and bonding with sheep within a two week period of time. Together they are considered a “flerd” —a conflation of herd and flock that is so silly it’s irresistible. Truth is we figured they would look like a real life Far Side cartoon in our pastures, with thought balloons fueled by coffee and written on the blank canvas supplied by winter.

But our lambs are still young and we want to keep a watchful eye on them for the winter, while they adjust to their new home. So we created a winter paddock, closer to the farmhouse and enclosed on all sides for warmth and protection from deep snow.

This week a small crew of farm camp kids (Ben, Zach and Sam) added finishing touches by painting the fence for the paddock, so a chicken wire apron could be installed.







Our handyman/carpenter Keith built a wonderful sheep door to the paddock, just their size. Or perhaps like Alice in Wonderland, it’s the world outside that has grown.


Just ask Juliette, as she ventures outside here at Jo-Erl Farm for the first time.


At first Juniper and Juliette were curious about the sheep door when I opened it. But it wasn’t until I crawled through the door myself that they followed me outside to the new paddock.

Later as I walked around the area checking for hardware in the grass with a magnet roller, they strolled beside me, at one point Juliette making two full circles around me as she scanned the perimeter and I hummed a joyful version of “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” And I thought I was imagining the bleated answer to my “Good Morning” today as “MAAAAA.”


Come spring, we hope both Juniper and Juliette and their newborn lambs will  join the cows on pasture.


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Yes, Sir. Yes, Sir. Two Bags Full!

7 Random Farm Happenings

by Laura Parker Roerdenblackandwhitekarina.jpb

  1. Juliette and Juniper have added a lot of excitement to our lives here at Jo-Erl Farm. We’ve been busy getting a winter paddock ready for them, one that will be safe from predators and close enough to the farmhouse for us to keep an eye on them. This is the beautiful handiwork of our ever-versatile and talented carpenter Keith. We can’t wait to paint it white. Right, kids?

IMG_92332. This past Sunday, we had Juliette and Juniper sheared. Or, maybe they were shorn?  “Sheer, sheared, shorn.” Though it says on the official Sheep Shearing 101 site that it’s proper to use either sheared or shorn as past tense. Who knew?

Here are the precious lambs before being sheared.

Here they are during shearing:

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Isn’t that table setup cool? The lambs seemed completely secure and comfortable throughout the process, many thanks to our skilled new friend Nancy from Lightening Ridge Farm in Sherborn, who volunteered to come out and help us hopeless novices with this important task.

Farmers helping farmers puts the love in this labor called farming.

Notice Junipers’ wool is bluish-black underneath. Isn’t it gorgeous?  The mocha-colored top layer of her wool was caused by bleaching from the summer sun.

Here is Juliette and Juniper shorn.


We are all surprised by how tiny they really are underneath all of that wool. (Did that wool dress make me look fat? Of course, not! You were just fluffy.)

It turns out that two lambs can give you quite a bit wool: two bags full!


Next up is washing the wool, spinning it, and dying it. We are dreaming of knitting projects for this coming winter and googling all sorts of felting projects and crafts for the Farm Camp kids.

3. Our annual Farm Camp Friendraiser was held this past weekend at the farm and was a huge success! Over 80 people participated and generously supported the Farm Camp Kids’ fund to purchase a flock guard llama to keep Juliette and Juniper safe from predators when on pasture next spring. Thank you to all who came out! We consider you family.

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4. Sometimes tradition gets in the way of progress! As many of you know, back in the day my great-grandparents and grandparents ran the farm as a poultry named Fairview, for the wonderful views of the church steeples in the valley seen from our perch on West Hill. During those days, we’d hand wash the eggs, using water and wet rags as to not disturb the protective membrane that not only keeps the egg fresh, but keeps chemicals and bacteria from entering the porous membrane of the shell. We have continued to do it the same labor intensive way until this day.

Leave it to a kind-hearted neighbor to point out that I could much more easily pressure wash the eggs with a hose through the vintage wire egg baskets we still use from those early days of the farm. It now takes me seconds to wash eggs, a task that used to take hours. Thank you, Nicole Haker! We might not have a very automated farm, but I can safely say we’ve now at least entered the 20th century.


5. One benefit of restoring the calf barn for the sheep is that my father had already set up systems to make caring for small animals easier. One such system is this manure barrel, which makes mucking stalls a quick ten-minute chore. The barrel travels on a rail throughout the center of the barn, so that you can easily reach it with a shovel as you muck. The heavy load is then moved with a gentle push to a porch off of the back of the barn. A simple shift of a mechanism on the pulley and the barrel dumps the manure through a trap door in the floor. Thank you, Dad! So many of your gifts were like this: simple, yet true and everlasting.


6. We are sorry to report that our beloved Farm Camp mascot Mucky, the white silkie chicken, died in September. Mucky was lain to rest in a private ceremony on the farm. We know Mucky’s special brand of magic will continue to inspire us, as has the kind gift of another white silky chicken from recently retired local teacher and farm girl Ruth Bandstra. The Farm Camp kids have lovingly dubbed our new silkie Un-Mucky.


7. And because we don’t want to leave you on a sad note, we are proud to report that our peafowl chicks are nearing the three month mark. They have grown crests and are wearing a necklace of iridescent greenish blue feathers these days. They have an air of mystery and prance regally though the barn or perch in surprising places. They remind me of vintage photos of travelers on cruise lines dressed in their finest, but frozen in a stance of being on their way to someplace else.


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