Lynn Gillespie shares
her dream . . .
“It would be great to do an article about our farm. (thelivingfarm.org) I am currently raising milk sheep breed stock. I would like to get the word out to anyone who wants to have a small homestead flock of dairy sheep. Most dairymen (women) won’t sell breed stock but I think it is important to “share the wealth” and get more people doing sheep dairy in the US.” We agree.
I am an organic farmer. Our family runs a 210 acre farm. On our farm we raise hay, grains, silage, cows, chickens, turkeys, pigs and sheep. We also have 4 greenhouses and raise vegetables and salad greens for our local area and CSA. We had a milk cow for our family’s milk needs but found out that all 5 of us were allergic to cow’s milk.
Next we got a goat and I was allergic to goats milk and the kids didn’t like the flavor. Then, I was handed a piece of sheep cheese. It was soooo good, I was hooked.
Some friends and I bought a small herd (4) of sheep and we started milking them. This was in 2004 and we have never looked back. We now have over 60 ewes. We are currently milking 20 ewes and getting about 3 gallons of milk a day. We freeze the milk for use in the fall and winter and we make cheese, yogurt and ice cream, as well as drinking it fresh.
Our goal with the sheep is to produce friendly, organic ewes that we can sell to people who want to have a small herd of sheep for their families milk, fiber and meat needs. We raise the sheep organically and have not had any disease problems.
Note: On her website, Lynn says, “Our sheep are not so much herded as bribed: a handful of grain and a good back scratch seems to be a fair trade for a few cups of milk.”
We start milking around April 1st. The ewes will make milk for about 120 days. We do rotate some of the ewes in or out depending on the amount of milk we need. Our time constraint only allows us to milk 20 per morning. The ewes are on a staggered birthing cycle, so we can add new ewes in that have been freshened more recently. We are done milking around Labor Day. Then, we switch to using frozen milk until next April.
We have made Lactic cheese and put many different types of fresh herbs in it. The secret is to use about 1/3 less rennet. I make cottage cheese for using in Lasagnas. I have made Colby in the past with cow’s milk and that is the next cheese I will make with the sheep’s milk.
I make the cheese in my kitchen. I will age the cheese in a refrigerator with a pan of water. Our humidity is so low here that the cheeses need the moisture. For the yogurt, I use the Bulgarian starter. Sheep’s milk sets up perfectly with no filler added, just milk and starter.
There is rumor of a commercial cheese facility going in, in a few years, around here. I told the lady who is putting it together that I want to rent the facility one day a week. We would like to build a learning center with a commercial kitchen and are trying to raise enough money from the sale of the movie (their documentary-“Locavore”) to build our center.
To learn more about the farm, check out their website. You will have the opportunity to order Lynn’s two books, “Cinder Block Gardens” and “How to Grow All the Vegetables Your Family Can Eat, Right in Your Own Back Yard.”
By the way, Lynn cans, freezes, dries and root cellars the fruits and vegetables she grows, and, as if that isn’t enough, she dyes, spins and weaves the wool from her sheep!