Lea McEvilly: Shepherdess, Retired

At 88, after writing for GoodFood World since January 2011, Lea McEvilly has had to put her pen down due to failing eyesight. We thank her for her tenacity, her courage, and – especially – her sense of humor.

A child of the Great Depression and one-room schools, Lea dreamed of having her own farm. And her dream came true in January 1965, when she and her husband found 80 acres of rolling hills in southeast Minnesota, not far from the intersection of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

In her articles for Farm Talk, Lea describes her efforts to build up her flock, create a co-operative that used telecommunications to auction sheep and lamb meat directly to buyers, and grow a successful industry in Minnesota and the upper Midwest.

For 46 years Lea raised as many as 300 sheep at a time with just the help of her dogs – and an occasional llama or alpaca. Farming is hard and letting go of a lifetime of farming is just as hard.

And now she has found new homes for her own unique breed of sheep (a 5-way cross she devised) and turned her beloved farm over to her son to choose the future for the land.

Enjoy Voices from the Farm and read Lea’s sheep-raising adventures and misadventures. We begin at the beginning – and the end – with It’s All about Sheep!

Voices From the Farm: It's All about Sheep!

From the frozen hills of southeastern Minnesota, not far from the intersection of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, we got an email recently from Lea McEvilly, 84, shepherdess. After nearly 46 years of raising and caring for as many as 300 sheep on 80 acres with just the help of her dogs for most of those years, Lea is selling her last remaining flock.
Read more: Voices From the Farm: It’s All about Sheep!

Voices From the Farm: How Lea Found Her Farm

In her first contribution to GoodFood World, Lea McEvilly described the decision process it took to finally sell her flock of sheep and retire after farming for nearly 46 years. In today’s contribution, we go back to the time when Lea found her farm.
Read more: Voices From the Farm: How Lea Found Her Farm

Voices From the Farm: Bringing in the Sheep

The “new” old farm had lots of surprises for a young mother, and the old ewe, “Mama,” and her new lamb, “Sure to Go,” delivered even more. It could have been an inauspicious start to sheep raising when Lea’s wandering sheep had to be brought home at the end of ropes.
Read more: Voices From the Farm: Bringing in the Sheep

Voices From the Farm: Good Fences Make Safe Pastures

Lea McEvilly, nearly lost her ewe, Mama, and lamb, Sure to Go, to the sale barn after the wandering sheep had to be brought home at the end of ropes. That didn’t stop Lea. Just barely outweighing the lamb, with no idea how to build a fence, and shorter than most of the posts, she simply did it!
Read more: Voices From the Farm: Good Fences Make Safe Pastures

Voices From the Farm: We Survive Our First Winter

In her last installment, our Minnesotan shepherdess, Lea McEvilly, with no idea how to build a fence and shorter than most of the posts, simply did it! This time we learn what winters in Minnesota mean for farmers; a good root cellar makes all the difference!
Read more: Voices From the Farm: We Survive Our First Winter

Voices From the Farm: Zip Lost and Lady Found

Our menagerie was down to only one dog and a canary, after our beloved old fox terrier, Zip, was run over in the summer. That was a very sad day for us. We had had her for over 15 years, and she had traveled with us all the years that Jerry was welding on water towers.
Read more: Voices From the Farm: Zip Lost and Lady Found

Voices From the Farm: The First Lambs Are Born

Early April, and we were on “pins and needles” awaiting the birth of our first lambs. Even Jerry had joined the ‘expectant’ group, but we did not really know what to ‘expect’ from our two ewes. We had no background information on them, other than that Mama was the “old ewe”, and came to us with only one lamb.
Read more: Voices From the Farm: The First Lambs Are Born

Voices From the Farm: The First Lambs Are Born (Part 2)

Now, I was going to have to learn to do tail docking, and possibly castrating. I had made a prior decision not to use some of the cruder methods of removing these appendages.
Read more: Voices From the Farm: The First Lambs Are Born (Part 2)

Voices From the Farm: The First Lambs Are Born (Part 3)

The morning after Mama’s lambs were born we arose early and went to check on our sheep. We found we were not so lucky after all. Mama had decided that she only had one lamb, and had totally rejected the little male. When he came near her, she bunted him away. He, of course, kept trying to nurse each time his sister nursed, but Mama would whirl and butt him with her head.
Read more: Voices From the Farm: The First Lambs Are Born (Part 3)

Voices From the Farm: Seven Sheep! We Need Another Fence... or Two... or Possibly Three

Spring 1966, we have 7 sheep: Mama and Sure to Go, their 4 lambs, and the old ram, Hercules. We need another fence, or possibly two, built. And thanks to the “fencing fund,” we can do it!
Read more: Voices From the Farm: Seven Sheep! We Need Another Fence… or Two… or Possibly Three