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: "Lady" is No Lady

Now, with 7 sheep… Missy, the dog… Cricket, the cat… Mickey, the canary… and the now pregnant Matushka… our menagerie was about to expand by leaps and bounds!
Read more: Voices From the Farm: “Lady” is No Lady

Voices From the Farm: A Busy Spring Continues

In May we had our sheep sheared, not a real big deal, as we only had 3 sheep to shear – Mama, Sure to Go, and Hercules. Since we had so few sheep, it was not worth hiring a professional shearer, instead we hired a neighbor who had a small flock and sheared his own sheep. He was not an expert by any means, and it was quite an ordeal, not only for the sheep, but also the shearer, and the onlookers.
Read more: Voices From the Farm: A Busy Spring Continues

Voices From the Farm: Building the Farm and the Flock, and Adding to the Menagerie

Little did I suspect, at that early date, that not too many years hence, I would be pasturing nearly 300 sheep. However, there would be lots of changes in store before that could happen!
Read more: Voices From the Farm: Building the Farm and the Flock, and Adding to the Menagerie

Voices From the Farm: First Ice Storm of the Year, 1967

Late one evening at the beginning of January, a big storm with strong winds and freezing rain was moving in. I suddenly realized Cricket was not around. At last, in a brief lull in the velocity of the wind, I heard a faint tiny meow coming from the big cottonwood tree just above the house.
Read more: Voices From the Farm: First Ice Storm of the Year, 1967

Voices From the Farm: More Lambs, More Puppies, More Battles With Mama

It did not take us long after bringing Charlie home, to discover “Charlie” was a female, and we rather suspected she was probably pregnant… Which, of course, would explain why the dairy was so happy to give her to us. That was okay, we were glad to add her to our menagerie!
Read more: Voices From the Farm: More Lambs, More Puppies, More Battles With Mama

Voices From the Farm: On Birds, Gophers, Horses, Fencing, Runaway Sheep Flock

I suddenly realized it was just a bit too quiet, and went to check the north pasture. There was not a sheep in sight. They were not there. They were gone!
Read more: Voices From the Farm: On Birds, Gophers, Horses, Fencing, Runaway Sheep

Voices From the Farm: Tracking the Sheep Gone Wild

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of a shepherd like having your sheep disappear! My mind immediately went into overdrive, with all sorts of questions and possibilities… “How could they get out of this pasture?” or “Maybe they’re lying down in the long grass at the end, and I can’t see them from here.” These mental gymnastics went on as I made my way to the end of the pasture, once there, I saw why they escaped!
Read more: Voices From the Farm: Tracking the Sheep Gone Wild

Voices From the Farm: Survival and Readjustment

Once again, we ride out the storm, it’s a rough ride, but I stay in the saddle, the sheep stay on the farm, and all is not lost! The rams, however, are locked in the ram pen in the lower barn, pending their sale within a month or so.
Read more: Voices From the Farm: Survival and Readjustment

Voices From the Farm: A Strange Winter for Minnesota - No Snow!

By February 28, there was still no snow on the ground. We’d had only only a few light skiffs of snow thus far in the winter, the ground was bare almost all of the time. We had never had our driveway plowed! By this time the previous year, we had been plowed out a total of nine times! It may have been a relief not having to battle the snow all winter, but according to my journals of that year, we were quite depressed with all the monotony…
Read more: Voices From the Farm: A Strange Winter for Minnesota – No Snow!

Voices From the Farm: Friends Visit/A New Bicycle/A New Horse/A Tragedy - All in One Short Month

It was a very big week for Lisa. In addition to having her Uncle Bob, Aunt Stacia, and Debbie visit, which was exciting enough, they had brought her a very nice bicycle, she had lost her very first tooth, and the day after our friends left, her new horse was delivered! How much more could one stand?
Read more: Voices From the Farm: Friends Visit/A New Bicycle/A New Horse/A Tragedy – All in One Short Month