My first life has been as a teacher – and father and husband; my second life is that of a writer; and now my third life, a sheep farmer. I wrote about this, at one point, in “On Being: Lessons from the Farm …” Then, I said, “I don’t know how I got to where I am, where I’ve arrived. At my age, soon to be 59, we’re suppose to know, have some answers. I don’t. It’s as if life just happened and I went along, foggy.” I’m now 60 and here we are.
After working our way into the land for a few years, after some horses (9 years), the land spoke: Take me back to my beginnings, it said. Many moons ago, this little spot was a sheep farm – as was much of Vermont in and around the Middlebury area. When we set foot in New Haven, we had no idea. But we sat into the place, listened and learned.
Orchard Grass Farm grew out of our ruminations. In the past 3 t0 4 years, I’ve learned about grass, rotating sheep, and sheep themselves. And I’m still learning. I took about 6 months to decide on White Dorpers. In keeping with what I was learning I wanted easy care sheep that didn’t require shearing and had good maternal and carcass traits. I was attracted to the White Dorper because, besides scientific articles saying that it’s the best meat, they:
- White Dorpers are non-selective grazers that can utilize a wide range of forages. They are strong, active and have good appetites.
- White Dorper lambs are vigorous at birth, have good growth rates and are able to produce a quality carcass on forage alone.
- Dorper lambs have the ability to put on muscle and finish at an early age. This is an advantage over many breeds since it provides more marketing options. Dorper lambs can be sold at light weights for ethnic or “hot house” lambs or retained to heavier weights to fit the traditional market up to about 120-130 pounds. However they are not suited for extended grain feeding in a traditional feedlot situation.
The White Dorper is perfect for what I want and need, which is a small farm, approximately 47 acres, much of it wooded. I purchased by first flock from one of the best shepherds I know, Ulf Kintzel, White Clover Sheep Farm, Rushville, NY. Ulf is a wealth of information and guide. I read everything he’s written, which has helped guide me and truly saved me a lot of time and energy.
This is the 3 year of this experiment. I keep my day job – professor at Middlebury College. I don’t know where we’re headed. It’s a lot of good, hones work and we’re trying to gauge just exactly is the right size flock for what we want, which is a sustainable sheep farm, one where we can cover expenses and raise a solid grass-fed stock.
On this blog, then, I will do a few things: ruminate about what’s happening and what I’m learning, alert everyone to lambs for sale, and generally post ideas, things I’m learning, trying to be as transparent as I can about what we’re doing here.
I hope you enjoy the trip, this is the best part of the trip (something like that from the Doors).