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A Little Help from my Friends

There’s nothing better than a farm friend when you need one!

January is conference season, even in a year where all conferences are virtual. I was lucky enough to attend a sheep chat hosted by Cornell discussing small ruminant management. While the content of the conference itself varied a bit, I was lucky enough to meet Lee, who runs a dairy and multi-species meat operation. He comes from the entertainment media world, and we had a long discussion about current thought in marketing. Marketing always sounds so cynical to me: I hate feeling like I need to convince people to buy yarn or lamb. Some of my hesitation comes from my own shyness and my cultural background of humility and modesty. Lee understood this and managed to convince me that bringing myself into my marketing doesn’t have to be pushy or obnoxious. It can look like opening up and inviting people in more. Mind, this is not easy for a repressed Yankee like me, but I think that after nearly 10 years raising sheep, I’m ready to welcome you all into my world a little more.

A blog post that’s uncomfortably centered on me. Here I am, attired in woolens and a shabby coat, ready to share myself more generously.

A hastily-composed bio:

My name is Katie Sullivan. I’ll turn 38 in October. I was born and raised in NH, went to college in Massachusetts, and then settled in Vermont after graduation. I came with dreams of working in non-profits. Though my dreams lay in working in social justice organizations, my skillset and personality didn’t fit in that world. I gave the field two solid attempts before quitting for good in 2010, heartbroken, traumatized and looking for a different path towards making a better world.

In 2011, I began an internship on a goat dairy farm that became a job, and that job turned into a new career in value-added food production. In 2012, I got my first sheep and began blogging. In 2014, I went through a divorce, left the goat farm, met Matt and moved in with him. My sheep were fostered that winter with neighbors back at the farm- I still feel tearful when I think of the generosity of the friends who kept my sheep dream alive during that difficult time. The sheep followed me in spring to Williston, VT from 2015-17. In 2017, with some inheritance money of Matt’s, we quit our regular jobs and bought our farm in Albany, VT.

More fun facts:

  • My favorite color is red, even though our home interior, cars, sheep trailer and one tractor are all blue.
  • People think I look just like my mother, but if you saw a picture of my paternal grandmother, you’d see the resemblance.
  • I am a former vegetarian/almost-vegan who made a full 180 shift into raising animals for wool and meat.
  • I am preoccupied with the flavors and textures of East Asian snackfoods. I can eat Gochujang until I breathe fire but I don’t love jalopenos. HMart is my happy place.
  • I speak France-French, but I am not always effective understanding spoken Quebecois-French. I am working on this issue.
  • I’m not a skillful knitter (all the good stuff comes from my mom!) but I’ve been knitting a bit more lately because I love the texture experience of yarn.
  • I have fine motor skills deficiencies, Sensory Integration Disorder and some other ASD goodies, so when I say I love wool and yarn, I mean REALLY LOVE. Unsurprisingly, I have a big chip on my shoulder about people telling me to “try harder” at things that I simply do not have the mental or physical ability to do. You asking me to write it again, more neatly = me asking you to flap your arms until you start flying.
  • I love most cats and some dogs. Matt has a parrot who mostly hates me.
  • My biggest strength and biggest weakness is that I am always intense, singleminded, and determined about whatever I am focused on, to the detriment of other activities and needs.
  • Matt has taught me a great deal about engines and electronics.
  • I enjoy casual birdwatching. I would like to improve my auditory birding abilities.
  • I’m a Public Radio nerd and a big nerd in general, so no one should ever feel bashful about demonstrating their passion about obscure topics around me.
  • Nothing better than exploring an old barn!
  • My favorite TV show is Rick and Morty, followed perhaps by OG All Creatures Great and Small or Law and Order. I enjoy Star Wars and Star Trek equally.
  • I can be very, very funny.
  • I normally swear a lot but I can clean up nicely.
  • I am the rare Millennial who likes mayonnaise.
  • Southern New England aggression is my native tongue, but Vermont has taught me to be nicer and kinder.
  • I speak with a strange mixture of Eastern New England R-less-ness with some adopted Vermont pronunciations so people here can understand me.
  • I read the entirety of Emily Posts’ 1967 etiquette guide, so I know what I *should* do but I don’t always behave
  • I don’t enjoy smoothies.
  • Several people have told me that I am the most “internal” person they know.
  • I do not know how to apply makeup.
  • I wish I could dance but I have zero rhythm.
  • I am uncomfortable with hugs or touch from strangers, so please ask first.
  • I have not had many opportunities to travel and haven’t really left the Northeast much.
  • My only “bucket list” task is to swim in a warm ocean before I die.

    If you have enjoyed this list, thank Lee at Moxie Ridge Farm in NY. You can stay tuned for a bit more “personalized” experience of Cloverworks Farm going forward, and I sincerely hope that you’ll enjoy it. I’m also happy to get to know you. What do you want to learn about, or see more of, or dive into more deeply, or share about your own experience?
A picture of me, the human, and #40, a BFL ewe who LOVES cuddles.
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Eye Trouble

We’ve been having a few eye issues in the flock of late.

Chloe,  a beautiful ewe from Maryland, developed a cloudiness in her left eye recently.  It looked like she managed to get a solid poke in the eye, and our vet comfirmed such.  So we are giving her some eye ointment that might increase her healing rate and comfort.   Unfortunately, Chloe is already on the shy side, and we were only able to sneak in and get her about four doses before she wised up and began to assiduously avoid us.   I have often wished that there were a way to communicate to sheep that they’ll be happier with the help.  We’ve abandoned chasing Chloe for now, especially as the treatments we did manage clearly helped a lot and she is still making progress.

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Warily watching us.  (she is the black ewe with the torn ear)

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Also warily watching us using literal side-eye.

 

The other eye case is a little weirder and more complex.  One of the lambs born last Friday had strange-looking eyes.  He was newborn and gunky, so it was hard to pinpoint exactly what was going on.  Gradually, it became apparent that he had some sort of eye issue.  Our first thought was Entropion, where the lower eyelid is folded inward so the eyelashes irritate and injure the eye.  But we couldn’t find any sign of lower eyelashes at all.

The vet came to look at both sheep.  Part of being Animal Welfare Approved is providing treatment when treatment is needed, not leaving animals to “fend” and suffer.  Our vet felt like the lamb had some defect or issue in-utero that is expressing itself outside.  The little ram does play with his friends and is active, but does behave as though he is not completely sighted.  So we have been treating him with ointments, drops and antibiotics, trying to improve his condition.  Like Chloe, he now avoids us like the plague and associates us with mean stuff.  It’s so hard to do what is right but sometimes uncomfortable for the animal.  He is on the mend, as demonstrated by his increasing ability to evade me, so I know that the medications are helping.

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Note the gray-blue haze.

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This one is reddish.  

Everyone else looks fantastic.  The lambs are bouncy and jolly, and I can see on the shorn ewes that most are in fantastic condition.  Fred has been showing off his lovely conformation and I finally got a good picture to show you the difference between 2 month old Agnes and a 5 day old lamb (probably the brother of our cloudy-eyed guy).