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Finding Inspiration in Every Turn

The Sunday Read

  • Welcome to our new space, The Sunday Read:

  • a casual chat

  • an informative article

  • a collection of photos and videos  

  • a lesson in fibers, and in life

Enjoy several sample articles from The Sunday Read or start a free 7-day trial subscription


Lambing at Shepherds Lane Farm

Story and Photos By Linda N. Cortright

lc backyardgreenfilms.jpg
Watch my interview with Joy and Martin Dally here.

For all the obvious reasons, farming is a magnificent teacher of life. Children raised on a farm never query where milk comes from? They know hogs are one day sent to slaughter. And all the lessons other children learn from Sex Ed Class, farm kids witness firsthand before the age of three. By the time I became a farmer, I was nearly forty. Suffice to say I was relatively secure in my knowledge of dairy, meat, and sex reproduction. That is until I met, Eric, The Chicken Man.


Eric is the postman in Port Clyde, Maine; a teeny-tiny town at the end of a peninsula known for its oversized lobster rolls, inconspicuous waterfront mansions, and the occasional barroom brawl. It wasn’t until I was gifted a pair of Silkie chickens that I discovered Eric is also an international chicken judge, traveling to Europe and beyond — to judge chickens! As I stood waiting in line for my skinny latte one afternoon at the local coffee shop, the two of us were chatting-up chickens when he mentioned that I might want to consider getting some baby chicks. Being well-versed in the fact that roosters are the requisite path to little peeps, I politely explained that I wasn’t interested in a pre-dawn wake-up call in exchange for a few peeps that would soon outgrow their cuteness.


“No problem.” He said, in a monotone. I’ll give you some of my eggs for your chickens. “Silkies are great brooders.” And instantly, Eric grew animated.


Apparently, I didn’t know everything about sex education after all, and certainly not about Silkies. A week later, Eric, the Chicken Man brought a regular egg carton with a half-dozen fertilized eggs to the coffee shop. I treated him to a large coffee in return, and then went home and proceeded to remove the eggs Paris and Uma were contentedly sitting on, and replace them with the ones from the carton. When you are a "great brooder" your maternal drive is so strong, you'll sit on anyone's eggs and then happily raise chicks that aren't your own.  In three weeks time my two virgin girls were going to be mothers. It was a strange concept for a middle-aged woman to grasp.


Full confession, this sleight of hand egg swap left me feeling uncomfortably stealth and guilty. But as promised, twenty days later I had a half dozen peeps without once having been hurtled from bed by a rooster’s call.

A pair of pure Valais Blacknose lambs with a Teeswater ewe.

This past March, I was thrilled to visit Joy and Martin Dally’s Shepherds Lane Farm in Lebanon, Oregon. Joy and Martin are responsible for introducing a variety of new sheep breeds to the United States through AI (artificial insemination). Most recently, they spearheaded a complicated and costly process of importing Valais Blacknose semen from the UK (Wild Fibers Vol. 16, Iss. 1). And if you have never seen a picture of a Valais Blacknose, then you have never seen the cutest sheep in the world. It was going to take several years of breeding before they could produce a pure Valais in the States, but the Martins were prepared to wait. And then, something quite unexpected happened—they were able to get embryos from New Zealand. Instead of waiting several years to achieve their goal, they would reach it in a matter of months.


When I arrived at Shepherds Lane, I not only found a barn full of some obscenely adorable sheep, but I also found a rooster, and an ovine lesson in broodiness that would have made my local Chicken Man smile.  My wild thanks to Rick and Elara Brown of Green Backyard Films for filming my interview with Joy and Martin. They have a growing collection of award-winning documentaries (including The Holstein Dilemma which aired on PBS) and is a must-see even though Holstein's are decidedly un-fiberly.

Every proper farm has at least one rooster.
Part of being a broody includes exceptional tolerance.
Martin Dally not showing the slightest inclination of giving-in to his Border Collie's pleading eyes.
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